There is only one chance to cherish the first few days with a newborn baby. Plus, the reality is that many new parents can only fit in sort of fleeting moments of “cherishing,” amid all the nonstop feeding and diaper changing and wardrobe changes and more.
I have actually given birth twice now and enjoyed that first week home with a new baby as many times.
My experiences were quite different from one time to the next, and I will tend to focus here on what I did as a first-time mom, after bringing home my oldest baby, because I feel like it’s probably the parents out there who are expecting their first children who are the most curious to read about what it might be like to finally bring that baby home.
I’ll share some of the decisions that I made, along with insights into why I made these decisions. What did I do? What did I choose NOT to do?
I think I had a pretty good instinct about what would work well for me – and what wouldn’t – before the time was actually upon me.
Still, though, I made copious mental notes about what worked and what didn’t, so that I could try to avoid repeating some of the stuff that I ended up considering to be a mistake, the stuff that I felt like I could have done differently to make myself happier and more comfortable during this special time of bonding and recovery.
Without further ado, here are 15 things I did during the first week home with my baby.
15 Jotted My Story In A Journal
I am the journaling type, but you certainly needn’t be, in my opinion, to benefit from writing down your own birth story.
I actually journaled throughout my entire pregnancy. It was a practice I’d carried out regularly as a child and teen, then largely dropped as adult. I was just so excited, and everything felt like a special occurrence to be remembered, cherished, and even shared with my child down the road.
So the basic details of my labor and birth absolutely had to be added to this story. I believe that the writing actually overflowed into an additional blank book, and from there I continued to write about life with my baby for a while, too.
Writing your birth story while it’s still fresh can, on a very basic level, help you to remember it!
Life with babies and young kids tends to be filled with a little thing called sleep-deprivation, and this does not exactly help to improve your memory.
Also, though, writing down and reflecting on the story of your labor and your child’s birth can help you to come to terms with what happened, to find more peace than you previously had, and to generally work through your emotional reactions to it.
Think how amazing it will be to look back on or to share with your child later in life!
14 Tried To Feel Like A Human
I would like to think that I was pretty good at following my own instincts in those first days as a mother, and these instincts weren’t just about breastfeeding or caring for my newborn, but also about caring for myself.
I must have known that it was really important that I felt as well and content and healthy as possible so that I could then do a wonderful job calmly and happily providing for my new little one.
I made it my goal – and I believe I did actually succeed in this – to take a shower each and every day, just as I normally would in regular old life.
It was what I knew would make me feel like a normal person, and like I was comfortable and doing just fine.
Plus, taking care of a newborn is hard work, and it feels good to be clean!
When your whole world has changed before your eyes, and as you adapt to being a parent the best that you can, it’s good to have some sense of being in control and feeling like your normal self, at least in some very basic human ways.
Getting in a few minutes of meditation, talking to a close relative or friend, or brushing your hair are some examples of daily practices that may help to create this sense of normal for others.
13 Let The Tears Flow
I don’t think I really remember any specific instances, but I’m quite sure that it happened.
I didn’t hold back when I felt hormonal or exhausted or simple emotional about all that was happening. I expressed myself with my words, and yes, with my tears.
And so, basically, one of the things that I did during my first week home with my beautiful new baby was to cry.
I had a relatively positive birth experience (I was already eager to do it all over again, in case that is any indication of how I felt that it went). I was healthy and well and so was my first baby. We were settling in at home with the help of my loving husband, and life was good. Different, but good.
It’s just that there’s a lot going on, a lot to process, and I saw absolutely no harm (and plenty of good) in just letting it all out.
To be fair, this is sort of how I tend to live my life, I would like to think. But I believe I gave myself even more license than usual to just BE, honestly and openly.
I was especially good about this after (and during!) the birth of my second baby, because I’d read something (in a book about natural childbirth) encouraging women in labor to let out their emotions as a means of coping and carrying on with labor.
12 Said ‘See Ya Later’ To Online Socializing
Am I the only one who has sort of a complicated relationship with social media? There’s some love, maybe a bit of addiction thrown in there, and surely also some hate (or at least extreme annoyance, I suppose).
I put off joining any of these avenues for online interaction at all probably longer than anyone else I know in my generation.
But once I got in the habit of using the various apps (and I actually only used one or two), I used them at least a little bit regularly.
I knew, though, that while the practice of using social media may be fun sometimes, an easy way to kill time, and at times rather hard to resist, it would not be a good part of my postpartum plan if I wanted to feel as relaxed, worry-free, and happy as possible.
I didn’t want to have to worry about what I was posting and what I wasn’t, who “Liked” (with an uppercase “L”) it, or what reactions my various pictures and updates received from a good amount of the people that I’d ever met in my adult (and even earlier) life.
That’s why I chose to put social media on hold.
Yep, I took a break.
I didn’t reveal that my baby had been born on the Internet until weeks later, and only then through a subtle pic zoomed in on us holding hands or something.
This was MY time.
11 Snacked Around The Clock
Man, being up around the clock every few hours can have a way of making you HUNGRY.
Add to this that I was beginning to breastfeed, so my milk was just coming (or rather rushing in), and I quite frequently found myself in quite the calorically depleted situation.
I normally eat reasonable portions of healthy food at specific snack and meal times throughout the day. I don’t ever really overdo it on the carbs or junk food or anything like that, meaning, to me, that I limit the amounts of these indulgences sensibly within any given 24-hour period. That’s just sort of how my brain works, I guess, and what’s worked to keep me feeling relatively fit and healthy as an adult in this modern world.
But just like I gave myself license to give in to my instincts in other arenas, such expressing my emotions and making sure to do things like shower every day,
I also followed my own body’s cues when it came to eating during that first week at home with my baby.
I called out desperately for toast with jam in the middle of the night, quite frequently. And there had to be a tall glass of cold nonfat milk with it, by the way.
I had milkshakes in bed sometimes. I ate deli sandwiches over my breastfeeding baby
I gave my body the energy it needed to do the hard work that it was beginning to do, and got back to a more regular eating routine later.
10 Leaned Hard On My Husband
Hallelujah for helpers.
Maybe it’s your own parent, your mother-in-law, your husband, or even some hired help, but whoever it is, thank goodness for this person (or perhaps, even, for these people).
Technically, I guess I might have been able to figure out breastfeeding and diaper changing and coping with the reality of actually being a parent during that first week, but my husband was there to help me with so much, and I didn’t hesitate to accept his assistance, and to ask for it.
I relied on him for countless trips to the store, for simple things such as bringing in more (or specific types of) food and for more complicated missions such as searching out a second peri bottle at the drugstore, to keep in the downstairs bathroom.
He literally had to hand pump milk from me at one point… (More on that later.)
We relied on each other, in fact. It just means everything to have someone there to assure you that you are actually doing this whole parent thing right, or to the best of your abilities, in any case.
You figure it out together, you rely on one another.
And with me doing a lot of the work of nursing the baby and holding and dancing her around to soothe her, he was there, awesomely, to do almost everything else.
9 Kept To Myself
I had the sense that it was the “normal” thing to do to receive many visitors, including but not limited to close friends and family, both in the actual hospital room and after arriving home with the newborn baby.
I knew, instinctually, that this was not quite for me.
I am not antisocial, and I love my sweet family dearly, but
something inside told me that this was my one chance to have some privacy and figure out this whole newborn thing by spending a lot of time just bonding with my new child and my husband.
Best. Decision. Ever.
I did see one close family member or two within that first week or very shortly afterward, but I kept visits fairly brief, and I was all about the business at hand: pumping, breastfeeding, diaper changing, naps for baby, food in my face, and repeat.
Anyone that was around had to be completely cool with me being topless the entire time, and I had to be cool with them witnessing as much, as well. That’s one important consideration, in my mind.
(Once you have experienced the sensation of nipples just exposed to breastfeeding, I think that you, too, will understand.)
I wanted to bond with baby, and let the oxytocin and milk flow freely, sans any pressure or stress (or prying eyes).
8 Did The Doctor Thing
Yes, there are aspects of that first week that I mention here because I found them crucial to taking care of myself, and to being able to be my best as I learned how to take care of my first baby.
But I don’t want to forget to leave out the practical stuff, either.
A quite memorable thing that I carried out during that first week was to take my baby out to a first doctor’s appointment at the pediatrician’s office. That was exciting!
I believe it was scheduled something like three days after the date that we were discharged from the hospital. (Neither of us had experienced any complications during the birth or afterward, and this was therefore all quite standard).
It was very likely my first time leaving the house with her in the car, and I suspect that things probably go similarly for many new parents.
A few nights in, you’ve hopefully had a chance to at least catch a few hours of sleep here and there, and to have accepted the fact that the tiny person you are holding is really here, and that this baby is really yours.
The visit was the first in many regularly scheduled exams during that first year. Vaccinations were given, a physical exam was performed, and we got to ask any questions that we had and hear about what we could anticipate between then and the next visit.
7 Snapped Special Selfies
I was so amazed by my body as I began to breastfeed. I wanted to capture the special moments with my newborn, to remember the magic of this journey beginning forever and ever.
(This, by the way, is why I TOTALLY get it whenever I see celebrities and regular people, alike, posting breastfeeding selfies.)
While I did not post the pictures anywhere, I did indeed take a handful of shots of myself cozied up with my cherished newborn, feeding quietly together in our chair.
I was tired, to be sure, but
I had her there in my arms, and that was all that mattered as the early-morning sunlight streamed in through the window and she ate happily and hungrily, eyes tightly closed.
I think I even sent one or two of these shots to a few of my closest and most supportive family members, as well. It just seemed, to me, like a special kind of magic in this life, one that should probably be captured, remembered, and maybe even shared.
Plus, it was like, I’m doing it! I’m really doing it! And it’s going JUST fine.
Along with other pictures I snapped of us cuddling and my baby looking up at me with those big, innocent eyes, these are some of my most cherished.
6 Shopped For Stuff I Really Needed
I would like to clarify on one of the points above.
See, I took a break from social media. I took a break from checking my email. But I did not, by any means, call it temporary quits with my phone. Heck no.
It was so handy to have that glorious, glowing little screen at my fingertips whenever I needed it!
This is an aspect of modern motherhood that I, personally, really appreciate and enjoy, even if it does, of course, have its pitfalls.
I could text my husband the time that I last took Advil so that we’d have a record of it (and know when I should take my next pills), no matter where we were in the house. I could request that he bring me food or beverages without having to holler out and risk waking a snoozing baby.
I could, and this one was probably my favorite at the time, shop for the baby clothes and supplies that I was quickly realizing that I ACTUALLY needed, even if it was 3 o’clock in the morning, while I was half awake and feeding my newborn baby.
And, as mentioned, I could take a handful of intimate pictures to cherish forever.
5 Struggled With Pumping
While I do look back on those early days with extreme fondness, I think a word that first comes to mind to describe them, honestly, would be… “intense.”
It’s not all rosy glow and cuddles and perfection, and I know that this is the reality for most new parents I’ve ever met in my own life.
This is part of why I want to be sure to include at least one true tale of what was really, really hard.
I didn’t know that I would really even need an electric pump.
I got a prescription for one from my OB’s office plenty early on during my pregnancy because that’s what my handy ‘pregnancy checklist’ (provided to me at the start of the pregnancy by staff at said doctor’s office) said to do during that particular week, but I didn’t plan on using bottles to feed my baby, so I didn’t know why I would really need to pump.
I figured, hey, it’s free with insurance, so I might as well get it.
Well there was some lapse in communication between the necessary parties (namely, the medical supply company supposed to receive the order and ship the darn thing), and so the pump never arrived.
The first week of my baby’s life found me desperately needing to pump, first of all because it’s commonly recommended to help stimulate the production of breast milk, and second of all because once that milk comes in, a pump is sometimes needed to relieve engorgement.
Instead of hooking up to the handy machine, my husband and I had to take painstakingly exhausting turns using a hand pump just so that I’d be comfortable.
4 Indulged In The Dark Stuff
I’m not generally one to indulge in something I wouldn’t on a regular, daily basis due to something like stress or hormones or things like that, but in the first postpartum week, I followed my instincts in so many ways, and a memorable part of this for me was to let myself have more desserts than usual.
But they weren’t just any desserts – they were the good stuff: chocolate.
That’s right, that rich, smooth, dark stuff that can sometimes rid me of a headache, boost my mood, and just, quite simply, be a delicious and satisfying treat. (I sound like some sort of chocoholic, probably, as you read this, but I’m really not.)
What happened was that we noticed on the hospital cafeteria menu that a simple milkshake was available, we (my husband and myself) were quite ravenous and exhausted, and a chocolatey (and hey, calcium-rich!) treat was just the thing a few times during our brief stay there.
Realizing the quite magical and fortifying qualities of this concoction, and having not had such a delight for many years beforehand, we made sure to pick up some plain chocolate ice cream to mix with milk in a glass as needed during that first week at home, too.
What a great time to allow yourself a few simple pleasures – within reason – I figured.
3 Chose Comfort Over Being Made Up
I’m not one to partake in an extremely elaborate routine each morning just to feel like “myself,” or like I look presentable.
I’ve always gone with quite minimal makeup, something containing sunscreen on any exposed skin, and, well, that’s about it. There’s no hair product involved, no curling iron, and not even a blow-dryer.
Still, I had a basic routine of prepping and primping prior to becoming a mom, such as a bit of foundation with a decent SPF, contacts on days that I’d be out doing something social (rather than sitting in front of a computer screen for eight hours), and hair worn down as my “style” of choice.
Why am I explaining all of this to you now?
During that first week as a mama, none of this was even in the picture. My hair was thrown up in a bun or back in a braid right out of the shower,
and it stayed that way – anything to keep me comfortable and cool and to keep it out of my way as I breastfed, leaned over to change a dozen diapers a day, and so much more.
Contacts? Ha! No way. My tired eyes demanded glasses always.
And no, I did not bother with any makeup.
Like I said, I was happy just to get in a shower every day, and that was enough to make me feel comfortable enough and like myself.
2 Strolled Slowly
I honestly cannot tell you whether it was on day 4, day 5, or day 7 postpartum, but I am fairly certain that it was sometime within that very first week that I decided that I, personally, was ready to go out for a walk around my neighborhood, with my hubs by my side and my baby safe and secure in her infant car seat, clicked into the appropriate stroller that went with it.
See, exercise is a big part of my life.
I have quite frequently called myself a “runner,” and when I’m not regularly doing that, I’m taking frequent (and fast) walks around town, these days with a couple of little ones secured in a jogging stroller in front of me. It’s one of the things that I do that makes life so enjoyable for me.
It’s, again, another main way that I feel like myself no matter what else happens to be going on in my life.
I had been instructed, as I recall, to sort of listen to my body and begin to do some light physical activity as appropriate once it felt right, and feel right it did, so I started off slow and walked over to a nice nearby park, strolling through it in the lovely fresh air as if life was almost back to normal already.
It was great! I remember pausing to take a picture: baby’s first walk!
1 Happily Hit The Hay
Ah, what a smart little new parent I was after the birth of my first baby…
“Sleep when they sleep!” says every seasoned parent ever, in my experience, when trying to give you helpful advice for those newborn days.
That, my friends, is easier said than done in this writer’s opinion.
But I did do my honest best to get all of the rest that I could.
We almost immediately tried to start in with the idea that night times were for sleeping, the better to nudge our baby in that direction when she was ready. (It totally worked, by the way, and she slept through the night quite young. Yay!)
So after we did “bedtime” (even though we knew our less-than-one-week-old would be up to nurse again in a couple hours), we would crawl right into bed ourselves.
Although we found it rough to go immediately to sleep at something like 6 or 7 o’clock every night, we would do relaxing things like read while lying down before turning out the light and catching a few Zs.
After my second was born, I just found it too hard – ever – to let go of those few hours of “adult” (read: relax / get-stuff-done) time, and so my slightly too-late bedtime and my baby’s very early wakeup have me feeling pretty fatigued, even still to this very day. Sigh…