Finishing school with a newborn wasn’t in my original life plan… This is my experience after having a baby in college…
I remember talking to my roommates, when I was engaged but not married yet, and here was my ideal plan for the next few years:
Get married, really focus on my relationship with my husband, graduate college with my Bachelors degree, secure a job that is both fulfilling and pays well (clearly ;)), maybe travel a little bit and go on some adventures with hubby, and then we’d have a baby.
Ah, so neat and picture perfect, I thought.
I didn’t want to wait too long to try for kids, but I figured everything listed above would happen over the span of about 1 ½ -2 years, exactly in that order. Silly me.
Instead, what actually played out was:
I got married. After about 3 or 4 months, my husband and I felt that we would be quite happy growing our family sooner. We weren’t in a rush or anything, but maybe we could just give God the reins and see what happened.
So, we relaxed our precautions for birth control, and… we got pregnant on the first try!
We were thrilled. A little nervous, but thrilled. I hadn’t expected to be pregnant that soon. But now, I could not wait for a sweet little baby of my own.
And then… it got a little tricky.
Looking at the logistics, I realized my newborn would arrive at almost the exact same time I was starting my final semester of college. Yikes!
If finishing a degree isn’t stressful already, add a helpless tiny baby and postpartum recovery to the mix. Of course, I knew that would be a possibility from the start… I just… hadn’t expected things to happen so quickly, if you know what I mean.
I needed a plan.
Here are some things that helped me successfully navigate college with a baby.
* Everyone is different, and what worked for me may not be the best solution for you. But if you’re also trying to earn your degree, hopefully at least one of these suggestions will inspire you to attempt that exciting endeavor of college with a baby!
1. Take as many online college classes as possible!
Try to keep your semester home-based. This was so important for me. Not only did I want to be with my newborn as much as possible, but taking online classes:
- saved us money in childcare (my husband was still in school and working, so he couldn’t just drop everything to take over baby care)
- allowed me to do a normal breastfeeding/nap schedule
- gave me the flexibility to recover from childbirth, be a mom, and continue my schooling on my own schedule
If you go this route, I highly recommend setting up a good study spot at home. Something that accommodates your new mom life. (I’ll have another post on that soon!)
2. Recruit a friend to babysit just outside of your campus classes
Even though I would’ve preferred to just take online classes, it was my final semester, and that wasn’t really an option. So, I had a few classes on campus, and wondered what to do with my newborn during those hours.
Luckily, I had the BEST friend who was willing to sit right outside the classroom with my baby. I always packed the diaper bag full of everything she needed, and then if my baby was inconsolable, my friend would text me and I’d step out into the hall for a few minutes to help calm my baby down, and slip back into class afterwards without much of a disturbance. I also didn’t feel anxious that my baby was so far away. That postpartum attachment can be intense.
Some professors will allow you to bring your baby to class, but honestly, I tried that a few times, and it was hard to stay focused and keep my baby content. It’s doable, but I definitely recommend trying other options first.
3. Ask your husband for help
Remember, your spouse signed up for this journey too!
Even though my husband was still in school and working to provide for our family, there were plenty of things he could do to help.
He couldn’t watch our baby while I was in every class, but he could plan his schedule to be on baby duty while I was in one class.
He obviously couldn’t breastfeed our newborn every two hours, but he could help me catch up on sleep by doing one of the nighttime feedings with frozen breastmilk or formula, or getting up with baby first thing in the morning while I slept-in a little bit.
Even seemingly small efforts from him made a HUGE difference in helping me not get totally overwhelmed as I finished up school, after having a baby in college.
4. Establish a good routine for college with a baby
I know it’s so, SO hard to have a routine when your newborn just doesn’t understand this whole schedule thing, and you’re exhausted and at your wits end. But (as I’ve mentioned in other posts) having a well established routine is essential, especially for successfully navigating college with a baby. The routine doesn’t have to be anything super detailed or intense. Just be consistent.
For me, it meant waking up at the same time nearly every day (it was usually 9:30 or 10:00 am), working hard to help my baby learn nap/feeding indicators, and planning my coursework into very specific windows of time each day. So, lots and lots of time management.
I wasn’t perfect at following the routine, but when I knew the plan and tried my best to follow it, I found it much easier to balance life with a baby and schoolwork.
5. Give yourself some grace!
Before having my baby, I was very organized and a major perfectionist in school. I always wanted to go above and beyond with projects and make a great impression on my professors.
During that final semester, those tendencies didn’t go away, but I did have to learn to let go of some of the pressure that I put on myself, and acknowledge that my priorities had shifted.
As a result, my projects weren’t perfectly polished and innovative; they just met the guidelines. My assignments weren’t submitted far in advance; they just got turned in on time, and sometimes a little late. Nothing was above and beyond, and my grades were lower than other semesters.
But that’s okay! Having a baby is a big change! It’s amazing that you’re even trying to continue on with school after having a baby in college, so give yourself grace to find a balance that prioritizes whatever you feel is most important.
There’s no way for school AND your baby to have your full attention 24/7 during this time. Find the balance. Choose where your priorities are, make a plan based on that, and then stand by your decision, with lots of forgiveness and compassion for yourself.
Moving forward, however slow or stumbly it feels, is still an accomplishment!
You’ve got this Mama!
I hope these suggestions are encouraging and help you feel a little more prepared to take on college with a newborn! Whether it was in your original plan, or an unexpected surprise, you’ve got this!
Let me know in the comments which suggestion you’re most excited to implement, or if you could use some extra help/encouragement in one of these areas! I’d love to support you in your adventure of motherhood!
Are you new to the blog? Check out my other posts on road trips with kids or childproofing essentials and safety in the home for kids!