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Parenthood: Life After Baby

"How exactly does life change after a baby?"
By Sherry Rauh
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

If you're about to begin maternity leave and looking forward to all the free time you'll have, WebMD is proud to offer you a reality check. Don't count on finishing home improvement projects, catching up on leisure reading, or watching all those programs stored on your TiVo. Here's how new parents really spend their time.

"Feed, change, soothe, feed, change, soothe -- all day long and all through the night." That's how first-time mother Lydia Lizano sums up life with her 4-week-old daughter, Katelyn. "The toughest part was when she cried and cried and cried and I didn't know how to soothe her. It took time to get to know which cry meant what. Nobody ever tells you how hard it is the first few weeks."

A Time of Challenge

Psychologist Arthur Kovacs, PhD, says expectant parents would be better served by a bigger dose of the truth. "There are a lot of myths about becoming a parent in our society," he tells WebMD. "The first step to good adjustment is to understand the reality. The biggest myth is that this should be a time of idyllic happiness. It's really a time of terrific challenge."

"I feel like I no longer live for myself," says Lori Freed, a pharmaceutical sales representative with a 2-month-old son, Luke. Freed is on maternity leave and says staying home with a baby is "a lot more work than I realized. You can't imagine how much attention they need. Even though you know you will love them, you can't imagine how hands-on it is."

"New moms are always amazed at how much time one little baby takes up," says midwife Elizabeth Stein, CNM, owner of Ask Your Midwife, PC, in New York. "The mother is at the mercy of the baby's schedule."

Typical Day

What might that schedule look like? Every baby is different, so there's no way to predict a typical day with your newborn, but Freed says a typical day with Luke goes something like this:

7 a.m. Feeding
8 a.m. Play for an hour
9 a.m. Feeding
10 a.m. Nap
Noon Feeding
2 p.m. Feeding
3 p.m. Nap
4 p.m. Feeding
6 p.m. Feeding
8 p.m. Feeding followed by bath
9 p.m. Baby goes to bed
10 p.m. Mom goes to bed
1 a.m. Feeding
4 a.m. Feeding

It looks like Freed has a couple hours between each feeding, but in reality, Luke nurses for 20-30 minutes, leaving her with only an hour and a half between feedings. That time is quickly filled with preparing and eating her own meals, doing dishes and other chores, and changing diapers -- five or six wet diapers and a couple of soiled diapers every day.

Freed says she's glad she decided to breastfeed, but it takes up far more time than she had imagined. "It's hard to get things done with a baby who eats for 20 minutes every couple of hours," she tells WebMD. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, Freed's experience is typical for a nursing mother -- breastfed newborns usually nurse 8-12 times per day. However feed your newborn as often as she wants to be fed, they write.

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