When you first bring your baby home, life can be a bit hectic while you try to figure out how to manage life with a newborn. This is especially true for first-time moms who have never had a baby before—finding just the right balance to take care of everything and your newborn takes a few weeks or even months.
The truth is that the first few weeks with a newborn is tiring even for an experienced mom. Between the frequent feedings and diaper changes, your newborn baby needs lots of care and attention in the beginning. But don’t worry. The newborn stage will pass, and your life with a new baby will become a lot more balanced once you’ve passed the infant stage. All the parenting books and classes in the world cannot fully prepare new parents for that whirlwind first week at home with their newborn.
Once you arrive and place your precious baby down, panic may start to creep in as you realize that you’re now fully responsible for this human being and no longer have a professional team of nurses and paediatricians to step in. Online baby product directory at My Baby Nursery
It’s normal to be overwhelmed at first, and you will experience a mixture of feelings from nervousness, confusion, anxiety, fear, laughter and joy. You’ve got some hard work ahead in what will seem like the longest week of your life, but the trick is to lower the expectations on yourself and trust that your instinct for parenthood *will* kick in. Here are some essential tips for surviving week 1.
Your baby is examined by the pediatrician at the hospital, who will explain to you any apparent curiosities (for example, birthmarks or a pointy head shape). After you get home, however, your baby may produce some unexpected sights and sounds; most are average.
The Umbilical Cord
The stump of the cord may seem very black and unwieldy for such a tiny infant. This is OK; it will disengage within three weeks. Until then, keep it clean (fold diapers down clear of it) and dry (give Baby sponge baths only until it falls off).
The Spit Up
Not to worry, keep lots of cloth diapers at the ready. Two effective ways to diminish returns are to burp your baby every three to five minutes during feedings and to place the baby in an upright position in an infant seat or stroller right after feeding her. Or do what comes naturally: Hold her.
In the very beginning, Baby’s poop is blackish green, and then it approximates certain shades of green, yellow or brown, and it can be runny, pasty, seedy or curdy. Unsettling as this may be, it’s all normal. An early breastfeeding bonus: Baby’s poop usually doesn’t smell at all.
You won’t believe how you’ll crane to hear your baby respire. Any fewer than 60 breaths per minute is expected, as are pauses of about six seconds. Take note of any wheezing or rapid breathing since this could indicate a respiratory problem.
Bathing a newborn can be a challenge. You can either do this by holding her in a big bowl or plastic tub or wetting a washcloth and washing her on her changing table. Here are some other tips: Baby needs a full bath only about once or twice a week, but she needs to be “topped and tailed” (a term from child development expert and author Penelope Leach) every day. This means washing the baby’s head, face and bottom.
Make sure she’s been fed (but not right before the bath), that the room is warm and that you have everything at the ready (you can’t leave her for even a nanosecond).
Shampoo the scalp first (only once or twice a week), shielding the water from your baby’s eyes. Supporting her head, start washing Baby from the top down, using a soft cloth and tap water or mild baby soap. Moving down, be sure to get in all those nooks and crannies. Be sure to wash her face well. Left around the mouth, milk and spit-up may cause a rash—Wash eyelids and under the chin. Rinse your baby well and pat her dry with a towel.
Getting Through the Night
Since their tiny tummies cannot hold much milk, newborns must be fed often, which is why they wake so frequently. Still, you can begin the process of getting the whole household on the same schedule.
- Establish a routine early on: Bathe, dress, play, and stroll around the block simultaneously every day.
- Place your baby in the crib while drowsy. This way, he learns to fall asleep on his own and associates the crib with bedtime.
- Swaddle him. An unswaddled baby’s movements may startle and awaken him. At night you want him so securely wrapped that he will not wake even during the regular periods of light sleep. Keep him face-up to reduce the risk of SIDS.
- Keep night feedings as sleepy and brief as possible. When he cries, go to him immediately, so he has no time to get into wakeful misery. Don’t play or talk while you feed him.
A sleeping baby need not mean a peaceful household. Ordinary sounds and activities will not disturb him at this early age. However, if everybody creeps about and talks in whispers while he is asleep, there may come a time when he cannot sleep unless they do. Therefore, it is essential to let him sleep through whatever sound level is average for your household so that he does not come to expect a quietness that will make all your lives a misery.
Calming a Crying Baby
Crying is the only means an infant has to communicate. Your quandary: What is she telling you?
Check her out. Is she hungry? Too cold or hot? Is her bedding or clothing tangled? Is her diaper dirty? Are the lights too bright, noises too loud? Is burping in order? Is she ill?
If you’ve run this gauntlet and put things right and she’s still inconsolable:
- Experiment to discover the most comforting way for her to be rocked (side to side, back and forth), spoken and sung to.
- Pat or rub her back.
- Walk the floor with her.
- Offer a finger, a breast, or a pacifier to suck on.
- Swaddle her.
All babies have their fussy period during the day (for many, it’s between 6 and 10 p.m.); there is nothing you can do at a certain point. Although trying to calm a distressed infant can be exasperating, always respond to the cry. You cannot spoil a young baby by giving him attention, and if you answer his calls for help, he’ll cry less overall. Our exclusive range of baby nursery products will help create the perfect baby nursery for your baby.
What to Do for Yourself
The physical recovery from giving birth, along with sleep deprivation, can conspire to make significant dents in your maternal self-esteem. Particularly for a new mother who has previously spent years being independent, the realization that you are responsible for another human so dependent on you can throw you for a loop. To help you get through this period, you owe it to yourself to:
- Get enough sleep. Yeah, right, you’re probably thinking. However, the way to avoid sleep deprivation is to know the total amount of sleep you need per day and get that sleep in bits and pieces. Go to bed earlier in the evening. When your baby naps, you must also nap.”
- Take breaks. Take a walk, no matter how short; run your errands to get away. Of course, this involves asking your spouse, other family members or friends for help. If you have to, hire someone. Consider it money well-spent.
- Get Dad into the picture. Allow him to care for the baby so that you get time alone. (You might even be able to enlist him, another relative or a friend to prepare a meal for you.)
- Continue to eat correctly, and keep taking your vitamins. Accept that progress now is incremental. Break projects into smaller tasks. Wash a couple of dishes at a time if you have to.
- Wear a snug-fitting, non-pendulous front baby carrier so you can work while holding the Baby. Being close to you is familiar; she’ll love the sounds and sensations and maybe even nap.
- Delegate more. Enlist any visitors. Remember what they say: It takes a whole village to raise a child.
- You may be vulnerable to unsolicited advice as well as the most well-intentioned misguided comments of friends and family. If someone doesn’t approve of your mothering techniques, lend him or her a parenting book that supports your philosophy (then soliciting a discussion about the differences in your opinions).
Recovery from birth
Regardless of the birthing method (vaginal or c-section), there is no such thing as an ‘easy labour’. Childbirth is trauma on every woman’s body, and you will be feeling the physical and psychological impacts for at least several weeks. This is especially the case for mothers who have endured more traumatic labour or didn’t go the way they wanted/planned. In addition to nappies for your baby, ensure that sanitary pads make it onto your shopping list for postpartum bleeding.
Alongside physical pain, your hormones are in overdrive, so expect your first week to be an emotional rollercoaster – perhaps even more so than when you were pregnant. You may even get the ‘baby blues’ as your hormones stabilize, and the enormity of parenthood sinks in.
Mums are troopers, and your instinct will be to keep moving as ‘baby comes first, but you must also take care of yourself and let your body heal. Don’t be afraid to share responsibilities with your partner and practise a little self-care! It might be as simple as prioritizing a shower first thing in the morning, which makes a world of difference in giving you the strength to face the day.
Despite how natural it may seem, breastfeeding is a challenge for the majority of mothers. It will take some time for you and your baby to develop the techniques for successful latching, and it’s normal to feel discouraged along the way. That being said, getting the hang of it during this first week is crucial in nourishing your baby and establishing a healthy relationship with breastfeeding. Newborns will want to feed a lot – generally 8 to 12 breastfeeds in 24 hours – so you’ll get plenty of practice.
Many new mums worry they won’t produce enough milk to nourish their baby, but this is not the case. Within 72 hours of birth, you will notice your breasts have become fuller, filled with a sufficient milk supply that will be ‘topped up’ after every feed. Don’t be so concerned with a feeding schedule at this stage – your baby will instinctively tell you when they need a dinner by crying, moving hands or fists to their mouth, making sucking motions, smacking their lips together and nuzzling against you in search for your breast.
If problems breastfeeding persist after the first few days, or you’d like assistance from the get-go, reach out for help. A doula or lactation consultant can visit you at home for the first couple of days to ensure things are progressing.
Deciphering his/her cries
Babies can cry for 2-3 hours out of every day, and this first week will be your crash course in decoding what each of those cries means until you get a feel for what they need. Understandably, you will want to soothe them immediately, but give yourself time; babies are pretty resilient and can cry for a little while without any harm. Parents’ sleep deprivation from such cries will also hit hard, but soon enough, you will learn to distinguish the ‘I’m hungry cry from the ‘I’m tired cry to the ‘I need a nappy change’ cry. In addition to those ‘basic needs’ cries where your first port of call is to offer a feed, asleep, or a nappy change, expect that your baby will also get bored or just plain fussy.
In such cases, try these techniques:
- Soothe with white noise
- Sing a song/play music
- Try a gentle massage.
- Rock in a chair or glider
- Walk with them in a front pack carrier.
- Entertain them with visual stimulation
- Bonding with your baby
Cuddle time with your baby is magical and certainly the most enjoyable part of the first week home. It makes all the soiled nappies, feeding complications, and crying worth it and will cement a lifelong bond between you. Physical contact is essential for a newborn’s development and will help them settle into their new environment. Remember that your baby has just undergone a massive upheaval by leaving the warmth and comfort of the mother’s womb, so you should mimic those conditions as much as possible.
Do this through plenty of skin to skin contact and by placing them on your chest so that they can hear the familiar reverberations of your heartbeat. Swaddling is another way to recreate the feeling of the womb and will help soothe them. Spend time talking and singing to them so they can learn the tone of your voice. This is also an excellent opportunity for fathers to get that one on one connection to catch up with mum and give her a much-needed break.
Equipping your home
While there are many things you can’t prepare for in the newborn journey, there are certainly some things you can. It’s going to be a lot easier to cater to the baby’s demands if you have everything you need at your fingertips, and don’t forget things to keep mum (and dad) comfortable too!
- Create baby supply stations: Don’t just stockpile baby supplies in the bedroom. You’ll want to strategically store some nappies, baby wipes and odour-neutralizing nappy bags in multiple rooms so that when there’s a nappy changing emergency, you don’t need to stroll back and forth to the bedroom.
- Pre-prepared meals: Forget about cooking any elaborate meals (or even basic ones) as you won’t have the energy. Pre-cook big batches of food (soups, casseroles) and freeze them for later use. Being able to reach into the freezer and heat a meal within 5 minutes in the microwave will be a lifesaver.
- Pillows and snacks for feeding: Newborns alternate between long or short feeds, with a single breastfeeding session ranging anywhere from 10 minutes to 45 minutes, so mum will want to have pillows, bottles of water and snacks on hand by her favourite chair.
Asking for help
There’s no shame in asking for or accepting the help of friends and family. Focus on your baby’s immediate needs and learn to rely on others (your partner/family friends) to handle the rest. Forget doing housework and laundry for the first week – it won’t negatively impact your baby in any way. If the state of the house is getting you down, family are usually more than happy to assist.
Suppose you find you need more baby-related help. In that case, professional service is always available, so don’t suffer in silence – mainly if you live far away from extended family and have a limited support network. Be sure to check your hospital’s postnatal services before you get discharged, as they can usually organize a midwife to visit during the first couple of weeks.
Extra tips for coping in the first week after birth
- Make yourself comfortable. Find a good chair and give your back lots of support with cushions.
- Drink plenty of fluids. This will help you to heal.
- Wear comfortable clothing. Loose, stretchy clothes are your friends right now. Even if you are not nursing, wear a maternity bra as your milk will “come in” naturally and cause some discomfort.
- Limit the visitors. You’re tired, so you are probably not feeling like the perfect hostess right now. Don’t overdo it on the visitors, and try to keep visits short so that you can rest and bond with your baby.
- Do not expect too much. You may not feel like you have a clue what you are doing. That is normal! Just go with it and remember, as long as your baby is fed, warm and loved, they will be fine.
Take Things One Day At A Time
Sometimes during the newborn stage, you can feel so overwhelmed and stressed about how everything is going. This is why you have to try to take each day one at a time. Having a newborn around can turn a house upside down, but this will not last. You will get your life back to normal eventually.
Stop and Enjoy It
The newborn stage will not last. So stop and enjoy it. Your baby will not be this little for long, and over time you will start to look back on and miss those days when your baby was so tiny. Take lots of pictures, and get plenty of snuggles in while you can. My Baby Nursery is your one-stop baby product store.
Hang in There
The first six weeks can be an actual trial. You and your baby are getting to know each other, and you and your partner are adjusting to your new roles. Hold on to the thought that right around that six-week mark, you will be rewarded with one of the most gratifying milestones in your entire parental career–your baby will beam a genuine smile at you. Yes!