When do babies get easier?
This question usually comes from new parents who are tired, stressed, and did we mention tired?
So, the first thing you need to hear is “Don’t worry – they do get easier.”
I won’t ever forget the distress I felt when I asked that question of older parents. I was looking down at my two-year-old and twin babies, all stuffed in a triplet stroller so we could safely leave the house, only to be told, “Oh, it never gets easier, you just have different problems at different ages.”
I heartily disagree. There are different problems of different ages, but you don’t have to face them in a state of sleep-deprivation to a creature that can’t live without you for more than a few minutes.
So let’s break it down: Does babies get easier at 3 months? 6 months? Do babies get easier after one year?
Babies are really draining, in more ways than one. Yes, newborns are challenging because you’re sleep-deprived and baby needs constant care and attention. 3-6 month olds are hard because they still struggle to sleep predictably, and now they need a lot more entertainment! 6-12 month olds might sleep better but now they can explore on their own and wreak havoc.
Along the way, some of the burdens of each phase ease up, slowly but surely.
Do not despair, it gets easier. That said, let’s break down some of the joys and challenges of different stages of babyhood:
Newborns at 0-3 Months
How can something be delightful and terrifying at the same time?
Not sure, but that’s parenting a newborn baby for you.
So what’s hard about this stage?
- 0-3 month newborns need constant care and attention
- Almost no regular sleep schedule = exhausted parents
- Feeding is a round the clock job (breastfeeding, sterilizing and preparing bottles, etc.)
At this stage, they’re completely useless and it’s on you to keep them alive!
They’re also so beautiful that you’ll find yourself just gazing at them and marveling that they’re yours.
Newborns need to nurse or have a bottle every few hours, they have no regular sleep schedule, and the more physical contact, the better.
Some people love this intense closeness, others feel trapped by it.
You literally cannot give a newborn too much attention. The goal is to give them as much comfort and affection as you can.
This is a great time to have a baby because there’s so much good equipment for keeping them close – slings and backpacks and carriers of all kinds that leave your hands free while giving your baby the contact they crave.
This is the stage of parenting when you should never turn down an offer for help!
If someone says, “Let me know if you need anything,” you say, “Thank you. I’d love a meal this weekend!”
Or “Could you hold her while I clean my bathrooms?”
Or “Could you clean my bathrooms while I hold her?”
This is especially important in the first few weeks, when mothers are recovering from birth.
After a few months, a few things will already be getting easier.
Your baby will gain more head control, so you won’t have to support their neck as much — that makes it a little easier to carry them around.
They’ll start looking into your eyes, smiling at you, and responding to your voice.
It’s nice to get a little acknowledgment from this person who has upended your life!
That small morale boost makes things feel a lot easier.
At the tail end of this stage, your baby might even start sleeping through the night — which is a huge cause for celebration!
Babies 3-6 Months
This is a fun age.
They coo, they babble, they laugh, they roll over.
They’re getting stronger and exploring whatever they can reach (and stuff into their mouths!)
But, like most phases of parenting, 3-6 months is still hard!
- Baby probably won’t crawl yet, but will need more engagement and exploration — that takes effort from tired parents!
- Sleep is still hit or miss, with lots of sleep regressions (including 4 and 6 months)
Infants learn so much every day.
Talking with them, reading to them, playing calming or happy music – all these things help them develop.
While this is more work, it’s a lot more fun than the 0-3 months stage.
You’ll also want to keep an eye out for developmental milestones. Again, hard work, but extremely exciting!
Checking a good site that tells you what to expect from different stages of development is one way to make sure you’re staying ahead of your baby’s needs.
Your baby will now need more entertainment and amusement.
It’s tempting at this age to stick them into a swing or other contraption that amuses and contains them.
That’s great for a few minutes, or maybe longer while you’re getting dinner ready, but remember how much they need to move and explore the world.
My sister called her baby swing “the neglectomatic,” but she was careful not to overuse it!
It’s best to have lots of different seats, swings, bouncers, mats, and other devices so baby always has something new to check out.
Do babies get easier at 3-6 months?
- They’ll sleep better overall, though it’s still spotty
- They’re a lot more fun to play with — a big morale boost
- Feeding gets more regular and predictable
- Closer to 6 months, you might be able to introduce soft foods like cereal. Messy but exciting!
Babies at 6-12 Months
Okay, full disclosure – things might get a little harder before they get easier.
Think of the easiness of babies going in a generally upward line, but taking little dips sometimes, like when they start crawling, climbing and walking!
All these things start happening around now.
What’s hard about babies at 6-12 months?
- Babies start to crawl and explore on their own. They need LOTS of supervision.
- More sleep regressions. Yay!
- Baby is trying lots of different foods — most of it ends up on the floor and their face — so meal time can get intense.
It’s stunning how quickly an unsupervised crawling baby can make a horrendous mess.
My personal favorite was when a baby opened the pantry door, opened a bag of flour, and proceeded to cover the floor, the lower shelves, and his whole body with it.
Then there was the kid who climbed onto a chair, then onto the table, then plunged his little hands into a new coffee cake.
Not to mention the awful day when I rescued one twin from falling out of his pumpkin seat, only to have the other one crash to the floor from a doctor’s exam table at the same moment. ‘Keep an eye on them’ is an understatement.
The more your space is babyproof, the easier life gets.
- Cover up electric outlets
- Put up little gates at the bottom and tops of stairs
- Keep the floor clean
- Make sure you don’t have lead-painted decorations they can reach
- Tie up your blind cords
- And have accessible toys and books that you don’t need to get for them.
Oh, and in all your spare time, make sure to read to them daily!
This is fun and a good investment — the more they learn and develop, the faster they’ll get easier.
At this age, babies will start to show some negative emotions like frustration or anger.
They don’t know right from wrong yet, so it’s not time for discipline.
Model staying calm and figuring out how to solve problems.
Redirect them if they’re doing something you don’t want to do. Minimize saying ‘no’, though you probably want to say it a lot!
So what gets easier at 6-12 months?
- Baby doesn’t need to be carried all the time anymore
- Sleep steadily gets better and more predictable (though there will be setbacks)
- Baby is VERY fun and adventurous.
- Close to 12 months, your baby might start saying words! Things get easier the better they can communicate with you.
Toddlers (One-year and older)
Once they can walk, everything changes!
Don’t think of it as harder, it’s both harder and easier.
What’s harder in the toddler phase?
- Toddlers can move around well on their own — and will destroy EVERYTHING
- Temper tantrums and meltdowns
- Getting them to eat can be a nightmare
- You’re still extremely tired
They can get away from you faster, but they can also keep themselves amused at home for longer periods of time now that they have the freedom to move and play.
Not to mention that toddlers are adorable – their movements, their expressions, their joy in discovery.
It’s an exciting time for everyone!
Another plus – sometime in the next year or two, you can begin potty training.
Maybe not your idea of a good time, but it sure is wonderful when you no longer need that diaper bag!
Toddlers test our patience. They’ve figured out that they’re a different person from us, and that they have wants.
They’re also clueless about how to get those wants met, so there’s a lot of fussing, crying, and the occasional tantrum.
We do them a great favor by teaching them to handle their emotions. We do this by handling ours.
When a toddler sees that they don’t have the power to make you lose your temper, they feel safe.
When they see that they can’t get their way by throwing a fit, the fits get fewer and further between.
Staying in control of our negative emotions, being firm with our decisions, and being reliably kind are some of the greatest gifts we can give our kids.
So what gets easier in the toddler phase?
- Sleep should really level out after 12 months, though you’ll still have bad nights and regressions
- Lots of fun playtime! Your toddler can play on playgrounds, go for walks, and more.
- Your toddler can mostly eat what you eat — formula-fed babies can be weaned off around now. No more bottles!
Babies get easier when we relax.
That sounds simplistic and annoying, but some of the frustration of parenting comes from trying to do too many of the things we did without kids in the same amount of time.
Everything takes longer, and new parents have less energy.
If our self-esteem comes from achievement, we’ll need to talk ourselves into realizing that keeping this little human alive is the most important job right now, and we can cut ourselves slack on everything else.
It’s okay if your space is a mess.
It’s okay if you’re not scrambling up the corporate ladder. It’s okay if it takes all of Saturday to get to the grocery store and back.
Chill and enjoy the cuteness, because babies aren’t babies for long!
For more, check out:
- A newborn shopping list that makes everything easier
- The best daycares if you need extra help
- How to be a better dad, according to science!
Hope this helps!