Parenthood: Life After Baby
"How exactly does life change after a baby?"
Sleep Schedules Vary
A typical newborn sleeps 16-20 hours in a 24-hour period. It sounds like a
lot, but it doesn't feel like much when that sleep is broken into bits and
pieces throughout the day -- 20 minutes here, 40 minutes there, maybe three
hours at a stretch if you're lucky. And a newborn's schedule may change from
day to day, making it difficult to make plans or schedule appointments.
Don't expect to get much done during baby's nap time. During the first few
weeks, you may find you need that time to nap yourself. "I always recommend
that when the baby sleeps, the mom should rest, not do lots of chores,"
Stein tells WebMD. "Mom's main priority should be survival and getting
sufficient rest. And trying to relax and enjoy her newborn -- they change so
As your baby matures, he will not need to be fed as often and will start to
sleep for longer stretches at a time. There's no way to predict when your baby
will sleep through the night, because there is tremendous variation in when
babies reach this milestone. But the American Academy of Family Physicians says
a typical schedule for a 4- to 7-month-old might include seven hours of
uninterrupted sleep at night and at least two naps during the day.
Freedom Will Return
Once your baby adopts a regular routine, you may find it easier to plan
outings or work on projects around the house. But older infants and toddlers
require constant supervision, so free time will remain scarce. Whether you stay
at home with your baby or return to work, psychologists say it's essential to
carve out some personal time.
"Almost every minute gets spent either working or doing things for or
with the babies," says Charles Winick, PsyD, a psychologist and father of
10-month-old triplets. "The only nonwork/baby aspect of my life I have
retained is going to two or three baseball games a month. My enjoyment of these
games is maximized because so little of my time is now my own."
This feeling that your time is no longer your own can be one of the toughest
adjustments for first-time parents. Kovacs recommends comforting yourself with
the knowledge that your baby won't always be so dependent. "The moment the
infant comes out of the womb, a process is starting," he tells WebMD.
"The infant becomes more and more self-sufficient... By the time they start
elementary school, children are relatively self-contained and can entertain
themselves for hours at time. Freedom is coming back slowly."