I recently had one of my readers reach out to me because she wanted to know if I had any advice regarding taking care of a newborn alone. She’s in her third-trimester, may be raising baby (mostly) alone, and feels pretty overwhelmed and scared.
I can’t say I blame her.
My partner has always been incredibly supportive of me. He would be the first to admit that raising babies isn’t his favorite thing in the world, but he also truly believes that we are a partnership which means we SHARE the heavy lifting.
Unfortunately, I know this isn’t the dynamic for every family.
Growing up, my mom was an off and on single mom. Although I haven’t had to live the life of a single mom, I have lived the life of a child to a single mom.
If you aren’t a single mom but your partner works, I feel you.
Our society gives preference to the mother when it comes to newborn care. I think a baby’s relationship with BOTH of their parents is important, and I hope (eventually) our society will agree with that.
Related: How to Keep Your Marriage Alive After Baby
This could easily turn into an article about the issue with prescribed gender roles, but let’s not digress (for now anyway!)
Regardless of whether you will be raising baby alone because your partner works, or if you aren’t sure how to cope being a single mom to a newborn, here are some tips that I think may help.
There are affiliate links in this article. You can read more about this in my disclosure.
BE READY TO BREASTFEED
Most hospitals have a lactation consultant you can talk to while your there, and sometimes you can go back in for a reevaluation if you are really struggling with breastfeeding.
Related: Beginner Breastfeeding Tips
But…if you are handling a newborn baby alone, going back up to the hospital to see the lactation consultant may not be an option for you.
Consider taking a course like Stacey’s Milkology course if this is your first time breastfeeding. Trust me – it does NOT come as naturally as you would expect..and her course is incredibly thorough.
GET A SWING
When I asked my partner what was the most helpful when he was alone with the baby – he said our swing was a serious lifesaver. You will need to put baby down sometimes, so it’s important to have a safe place to do that.
Related: Top Baby Products for 2019
It’s never considered “safe” to leave baby sleeping in a swing, but there were times that I would leave my little ones in the swing while I watched them and did my homework.
We personally used this swing with both of our babies. It worked great for what it was, and seems pretty sturdy considering it still works perfectly after being knocked around by a toddler.
If I had the money and could justify the cost, I would have gotten a Mamaroo (this one). One of our babysitters had one, and our babies seemed to like this more than a traditional swing (plus they are super neat!)
HAVE A SCHEDULE
In order to not lose track of time or your sanity, make yourself and baby a schedule.
You don’t necessarily need to stick to it precisely, but having a schedule can help you keep some semblance of normalcy and structure in your life.
Make sure you give yourself buffer room in your schedule – because EVERYTHING will take much longer than you think it will. If you think getting ready to go to the store will take you 15 minutes, give yourself at least a half hour.
Related: Stay at Home Mom Burnout
If you can keep track of how long things actually take you, you will be able to build yourself a more realistic schedule.
GET A PORTABLE BASSINET
While a swing is not a safe place to leave baby sleeping unattended, this rock n play bassinet is. In order for a space to be safe for baby to sleep, it needs to use the word bassinet or crib.
Loungers, rockers, and swings are NOT considered safe sleep spaces.
Related: Baby Products to Keep Off Of Your Registry
We loved this bassinet because it folds up easily and is super portable, so I could take it into whatever room I was going to be in and have a safe place to put baby down.
STOCK UP ON POSTPARTUM SUPPLIES
When taking care of a newborn alone, you won’t want to have to worry about postpartum supplies. Unfortunately, what you need is not always super cut and dry.
There were plenty of things I never used, and a few things that I had to go out and buy during my postpartum period.
I think a lot of us drop the ball when it comes to purchasing what we need postpartum. I know for me, our little baby was my first priority so that’s where my focus was (plus baby stuff is way more exciting than anything you’ll get for postpartum care!)
Here are the following postpartum items that I feel are non-negotiable. You can also see a more complete list in this postpartum necessities for moms post.
- Dermoplast (this kind)
- This breastfeeding ice pack
- A couple of peribottles
- Stool softeners
- Maxi-pads (the HUGE ones!)
- These nursing bras
- These nursing tanks
Everything on this list you can get from the hospital (with the exception of nursing bras), but you will STILL need to buy extra, as they usually only give you a limited amount (or at least my hospital did).
You’ll notice most of these things are for pain relief. Your comfort is SUPER important mama – because you need to take care of yourself alongside taking care of a newborn alone.
MAKE MEAL TIME EASY
Getting postpartum freezer meals ready in your third trimester is useful, but it’s not for everyone.
I chose to do this with one of my kids and I certainly don’t regret it – but realistically we don’t ALL have time to make a bunch of food to stick in our freezer for two months.
Make things easy on yourself. If you have no interest/time in making a crazy amount of freezer meals, pick up some easy meals instead. It’s not the healthiest thing to live on Ramen for a couple of months, but that’s the reality of motherhood sometimes.
We are all doing the best we can with what we have.
Another great tip I got from a friend is to pick up plastic/paper dishware. Dishes are NOT worth stressing over, and if you know it’ll bother you, pick up some paper plates and plastic forks instead.
Yep, it’s wasteful. It’s temporary though, and will save you a lot of stress – which makes it worth it in my opinion.
In addition to postpartum supplies, you’ll want to make sure you stock up on other things you will need as well. An outing to the store is easier if it’s a “choice”, not a necessity.
There was once that we went to the store because we were out of diapers. My oldest child (she was almost two at the time) smacked heads with her little sister.
Related: The Only Baby Gear List You’ll Need
The toddler was melting down, the baby was screaming, and I was kind of a mess. We needed diapers so we still went into the store.
It was definitely the worst store experience ever – but after that I tried to make sure that I never let us run out of something that was a “need”.
Some things you can stock up on before baby arrives include
- Paper towels
- Toilet paper
- Clorox wipes
- Hand Sanitizer
- Diaper rash cream
- Baby Tylenol
- Paper plates
- Plastic cups & silverware
AUTOMATE YOUR BILLS
Most financial experts will tell you to NEVER automate your bills..but I think this is an exception that makes sense.
The goal here is to make sure you don’t add additional things you are going to have to do once baby is here.
Also, some accounts will charge you LESS if you set up automatic payments. Our phone bill is twenty bucks cheaper every month because we have it automatically come out.
SLEEP WHEN BABY SLEEPS
When you are NOT taking care of a newborn alone, you have the luxury of taking turns with your partner to sleep.
You have to be more strategic with your sleep when it’s just you though. It can be difficult to sleep when baby sleeps in the beginning, unless you are like a cat who falls asleep anywhere.
Related: Newborn Sleep Tips (that really work)
But..it’ll get easier. Honestly, you may be exhausted enough that you WILL fall asleep rather quickly.
If you don’t already have one, grab a swaddle (this was our favorite after trying a ridiculous number of swaddles). I am pretty sure this thing is the ONLY reason why we got any sleep in our house.
Related: Best Swaddles for Newborns
Don’t expect to get good sleep with a newborn (because you won’t!) Eventually this season of life will end, and you can go back to sleeping more regularly. Hang in there!
GRAB A PLAYARD
Full disclosure – we did NOT have one of these with either of our children. It was something I had every intention on purchasing, but it never happened.
A single mom I spoke to said that this playard was one of the most heavily used baby products she bought. These will give your baby more room to move around than a bassinet does, and it can double as a sleeping space.
Related: Safe Sleep Recommendations for Newborns
Personally I feel that the mattresses in playardss are too hard, but they do sell these now that can help with that.
Go out on a daily walk. You will benefit SO much from a little fresh air every day.
I spent the first couple of months at home with our first baby. I was so nervous about her contracting RSV (she was born in the winter) and so we limited outings to the bare minimum.
Bad idea (kind of).
I mean, she didn’t contract RSV, or any sickness for that matter. But that can (mostly) be avoided anyway by being smart about your outings.
You need to go out and engage with real humans. We are social creatures, and we thrive off of interactions with others. We seek comfort from the people around us.
You NEED comfort and support – you are dealing with a HUGE transition.
Related: Self Care Ideas for New Moms
You can safely take your baby out. If possible, try and stay away from crowded stores or shopping malls, as this is where your baby will mostly likely contract something.
If nothing else, make it a point to get out to the grocery store a couple of times of week. Consider going outside (weather permitting) and taking a walk in the park.
With my second baby – we went out a lot more. You can’t really keep a young toddler cooped up in the house for months, so we cautiously began going out a few times a week.
It made a HUGE difference in my mood. I was less stressed and felt more ready to handle the day. I was rarely social on my outings (I am pretty introverted), but a change in scenery and just being around people was a huge help.
You do not need to isolate yourself just because you are taking care of a newborn alone.
HAVE A COPING PLAN
There was a night where my three-week-old baby screamed for hours. And hours. It was maddening. Nothing I did worked and she continued to scream despite my efforts.
After almost two hours of hearing her scream, I couldn’t do it anymore. I was mentally and physically exhausted.
I put my baby down in her bassinet and stepped away for a few minutes. I moved out of earshot of her screams and took a few deep measured breaths and began to cry.
I spent probably five loooong minutes away from her before I went back.
When I picked her up next, I felt more capable of handling it. I listened to the screaming for another hour before deciding to take her into the doctor.
The doctor said she was fine and to keep offering support. So I did.
I felt so guilty – like I had abandoned my baby. I wanted to bring this up because I want to make sure you don’t feel shame if you go through something similar.
Related: For The Mother Struggling to Bond With Baby
It’s okay to need to a break – and it doesn’t make you a bad mother. It basically just means you are human because we ALL get overwhelmed.
Either way, be prepared for this (especially when taking care of a newborn alone) and have a plan for what you will do if you need a break.
GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK
On that same note, be open to taking a self-care break. If you have friends or family nearby, see if someone can come sit with baby while you take a long nap or bath.
If you don’t have family or friends close by, see if there is a sitter who would be willing to come help you with your baby for a couple of hours while you take some mental health time.
Related: Warning Signs of a Bad Daycare Provider
I was not faced with taking care of a newborn alone, so I was able to take a break once my partner was home from work. These breaks were SO important and left me feeling much more capable of handling life.
After years of growing up in a disgusting environment as a young child, I have become pretty neurotic about keeping my house clean.
With my first baby, I was worried about germs so I still tried to keep up on the cleaning. It didn’t work.
I was constantly stressed about the dirty house, and missing opportune sleep and quality time with my baby because I was trying to keep things clean.
Related: Important Things to do After Baby is Born
With the second – I let it go. And lemme tell you, that was a relief.
Although life with a newborn can feel like it’s going to last FOREVER – it won’t. You will blink and it’ll be gone – seriously.
So allow yourself to slack off on the chores, and do the bare minimum until you FEEL ready to handle it.
Keeping in contact with your support system is extremely important ALL of the time, but especially when you are taking care of a newborn alone.
Pinpoint a couple of people that you can call when you are struggling, and make sure you follow through with it.
For me, I found it extremely helpful to join some local mom Facebook groups. Although you WILL get some judgy people in places like this, you will more often find other moms struggling with the same things you are.
Related: Newborn Hacks
Getting additional input and advice regarding your struggles can be enlightening and help you feel more understood.
PREPARE YOUR HOME
If you want to feel good about slacking on cleaning, add cleaning your house to your third trimester checklist. We deep-cleaned EVERYTHING in our house.
The more you get done now means the less you will have to do after your baby is born.
Here are just a few of the cleaning tasks you won’t want to forget about (or I have a whole post on organization hacks for new parents here).
- Professional carpet cleaning
- Deep cleaning all rooms that baby will be in
- Clean all doors/light switches
- Put harmful chemicals/objects on tall shelves
- Organize baby clothing
- Make a couple of changing stations
- Pick up one of these mesh bags for baby laundry
- Baby-proof cabinets and outlets (this won’t need to be done for six months, but you can do it now and not worry about it later)
Organic cleaners are EXPENSIVE. If you can’t afford them (I couldn’t!) just go with the cleaner that has the LEAST amount of harmful chemicals.
LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS
You are going to make mistakes. A lot of them. Please go easy on yourself during the postpartum stage, and remember that all new mothers struggle.
Related: Strange but Normal Newborn Behavior
What you are doing is HARD. If you are overwhelmed or scared because you will be taking care of a newborn alone, know that you are not alone in this.
Keep your expectations to a minimum. Really, the most important thing is to take care of you and your baby. Everything else can wait.
WRAPPING UP TAKING CARE A NEWBORN ALONE
I truly hope you found some value in this…and know that I definitely feel for you. I cannot begin to IMAGINE how difficult this parenting thing would be alone.
You are not the first nor the last to not know how to cope with a working partner or being a single mom to a newborn, and I promise that you can get through this too.
Stay mindful of where you are at emotionally, and make sure that you are meeting your own needs too. Most importantly, remember to tell yourself in the hard moments that this is all temporary.
This is really helpful! I was a new mom all by myself in a new city! Needless to say, the postpartum anxiety was weighing heavily on me. If there are any other military wives out there – hi! We are some of the strongest women I know!
I can’t even imagine the struggles that you face being a military wife – but I think you’re amazing for it. 🙂 It’s funny how much we truly are capable of when we give ourselves the chance.
Thank you for this.
I’m a single mom with a 3 week old. Fortunately I have my grandma that comes by for a few days a week to help take care of her and my best friend stops by when she can as well which is a big help.
When I’m alone tho I am super anxious and scared. My lil one is super clingy too and hard to put down so I don’t always have time to do basic things like pump or even go to the bathroom right away.
Your comment about baby screaming for hours hit home with me as I had that happen last week and was losing my cool. There was nothing needed or wrong and I had no idea what to do. It went on for hours. I not fond of those moments.
Everyone tells me I’m strong, but I don’t feel like it. Your article helped reassure me. Thank you.
Isa – Oh I am SO glad you found it helpful! That is so good that you have help..that is so important when they’re that young.
My best advice is to make sure you keep communicating with the people around you. Don’t be afraid to reach out, and take a step back when you need to. There were a few nights that I had to leave my baby screaming in the crib so I could step out of the room for a few deep breaths. Take that time, remind yourself that you CAN do it, and know this season will pass.
You ARE a strong mother, and I am confident you are doing a good job. Take care <3
Penelope Smith says
This is some really good information about newborn care. It is good to know that you should think about not being a super clean freak with a newborn. It does seem like you should think about helping them build up a good immune system.
Penelope – yes, if you are a clean freak you will probably be disappointed lol. There is not enough time in the day to keep everything clean (although I do want to differentiate, I think CLUTTER is fine, but you should try to avoid letting things get gross). My kids are still under five, and unfortunately, a clean house is STILL not a thing..eventually, we will get there I’m sure. <3
courtney prejean says
Great article! Very helpful tips about taking care of your newborn child.
Courtney – thanks!
Excellent article for all mums highlighting the most common and essential points. Thanks!
Thanks – I appreciate you saying that!
How old is your baby?