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Expecting moms have nine long months to read books, scour the Internet, and quiz their mommy friends in preparation for life with a new baby. But do their impressions of newborns match reality?
our site surveyed more than 2,000 pregnant women to find out what they assume about sleep, diaper changes, and development in newborns age 3 months and younger. Then we asked the experts – moms of newborns – what the real scoop is.
Moms-to-be revealed they were prepared in some important areas, but they're still in for a few shocking surprises. Find out what they're ready for, and what they're not.
16 hours of sleep? You're dreaming.
There's nothing wrong with a healthy dose of optimism when it comes to predicting how much your newborn will sleep. But the pregnant women we surveyed might need to lower their expectations a little.
Sixty-nine percent expected newborns to sleep 16 or more hours at night. Surveyed moms of newborns reported back with a reality check: Their babies sleep an average of 14.3 hours per night.
It's no shock, then, that 71 percent of the moms of newborns said lack of sleep is the hardest part of having a newborn. But there is good news for expecting moms: You predicted you'd get four wake-up calls at night from your little one. Roll over and get a few more winks: Moms of newborns said they're only up 2.3 times a night, on average.
One reason new moms may be so tired is that 70 percent of you get up solo to check on your newborn. Twenty-five percent take turns with your partner, and 1 percent of partners are the exclusive nighttime caregiver.
Lights, camera, action
When we asked expecting moms what newborns can do, they guessed, "Slobber and pass gas!" and, "Grasp your finger."
While all of the above are certainly true, prepare to raise your expectations. Your baby will be far more versatile than you expect!
No need to loll around – 87 percent of new moms said their baby can lift his or her head when placed tummy-down. (Only 9 percent of pregnant women thought a new baby would do this.)
And your baby will be keeping a closer eye on the world than you might expect. Only 39 percent of expecting moms thought a newborn could follow an object with his eyes, but 81 percent of new moms found this to be true.
More good news: You won't have to wait months on end for some positive feedback. While only 37 percent of pregnant women think babies 3 months or younger can smile, 88 percent of new moms said their baby flashes a gummy grin. In fact, 64 percent of moms said theirs smiled before 5 weeks.
With the smiles come the giggles. Only 7 percent of pregnant women thought a newborn would be up for a laugh, but 38 percent of new moms said theirs belts one out.
Here's where expecting moms were on target: 67 percent thought newborns responded to sounds, and 83 percent of new moms agreed that theirs did.
What expecting moms know for sure
Pregnant women may have a bit of a learning curve in some key areas, but our survey shows they're well informed about two of the most important components of babyhood: poop and feedings.
Expecting moms anticipate their newborn will go through an average of 8.6 diapers a day. This line item of their budget is in good shape: New moms say they use 8.1 diapers every day.
All those diapers can only mean there'll be a whole lot of eating going on. Pregnant women expect their baby to eat every 2.4 hours, and they're on the right track: Surveyed moms say their baby eats every 2.6 hours.
A not-so-big surprise: The hectic schedule takes its toll, with 38 percent of moms saying that the constant feedings are one of the hardest parts of having a newborn.
Delivery room surprises
Proving that you can't be totally prepared for your newborn, the first shockers often happen the moment you lay eyes on your baby.
When asked what surprised them most about how their baby looked after delivery, 60 percent of moms said how "squished" their baby looked. The runner-up: The little peanut that moms were imagining wasn't so little – 28 percent reported their baby was bigger than they expected.
Here's what some new moms said surprised them:
"He was so fresh, so smooth, blemishless."
"[He was] so alert."
"The gray goo [that covered him]."
Changes and challenges
Your life began to change as soon as you found out you were going to have a baby, and new moms report their life kept right on changing after their baby was born. Fifty percent said they were surprised by how much their daily activities have altered.
The other big change? You! Thirty-nine percent of moms were surprised by how much their body has changed and how tired they feel.
Sixty-four percent reported that the biggest challenge of having a newborn is the lack of time for themselves or to get other things done. Just over half of new moms said having a newborn is harder than they expected.
One mom finds "living in two-hour increments" between feedings the most challenging. Another described how simply leaving the house is such a big production: "Getting the baby ready, getting myself ready, packing the bags, loading the stroller and the car seat."
Here are some other challenges new moms spoke out about:
"Being lonely during the day."
"It's time-consuming. And I question every decision I make related to my baby."
The rewards of newborns
Clearly, having a newborn is going to throw some zingers your way. You can research and plan, and prepare yourself for having a baby, but you can't imagine how it will make you feel. Thirty-four percent of new moms were surprised to feel an instant bond with their baby.
And there are other surprising rewards that come with newborns.
Twenty-five percent of new moms said what they enjoy most is watching their baby grow and change. Another 16 percent said it's how small and perfect their baby is.
Here are some new moms' words on what they love most about their new baby:
"How attached we are."
"Knowing I'm his mama."