What a whirlwind.
It’s hard enough for an expectant mama to wrap her head around what labor and childbirth will be like, and then, the time finally comes.
Once she accomplishes those important and potentially quite arduous tasks, it’s on to another challenge: the first week with the baby.
I mean, what a thrill!
I’ve done it twice now. We welcomed my first little one a handful of years ago and my second baby a couple years after that.
I look back on those very early days with extreme fondness, and that is an understatement.
I don’t think the feelings a new mother experiences as she gets to know her child for the first time can really be compared to anything.
It’s intense, it’s exciting, and it’s profound, if you ask me.
And amid all this intense emotion – this huge life change that a mother and father will have to adjust to psychologically and in so many other ways – there’s all the practical stuff.
It’s not just being really, really tired – it’s barely sleeping at all.
It’s not just changing some diapers – it’s getting down and dirty with clean-up of the kind you probably can’t even imagine if you’ve never watched after a tiny person around the clock, one who happens to produce multiple liquid poos each day.
It’s… a lot. It’s the reality of week one with the baby, and here are 20 pics that show it quite nicely.
20 Big Ole Diaper Blowouts
I remember clearly a discussion my husband and I had just a short while before we actually started trying for our first baby. It was one of those talks where you are both beginning to try to wrap your head around what it would really be like to care for your very own baby – to do everything for them night and day, including the messy stuff…
Neither of us really had the diaper-changing experience to speak of at that point.
Both of us remember barely being able to handle the scent of a soiled diaper one of our relatives had to change during a visit to our apartment.
We wondered how, and if, we’d be able to handle actually changing the things ourselves.
My theory was that it’s not as gross if it’s your own child – sort of like you probably don’t gag every time you go to the bathroom yourself.
We ran it by our own parents, and they laughed and said they’d seen and touched much worse than that…
And that’s the whole point.
During the first week, you begin to understand that it’s not simply changing diapers, but also wiping liquid-y (and quite colorful) waste out of crevices. It’s scrubbing it out of onesies and jammies with your bare hands. It’s having it shoot out the leg holes and backs of diapers and onto you, your clothing, and your home in general.
19 Being New To Nursing Can Hurt Like Heck
Hey, here’s something important to note: If something doesn’t feel right with breastfeeding, you can seek help early and often – and very likely for free through health insurance – from a lactation consultant.
There are also often nursing support groups and mothers’ circles in communities with the sole purpose of aiding moms in their breastfeeding journeys.
See, the thing is that for some women, nursing a baby hurts at first. Maybe there’s a problem with the way the baby is latching onto the breast, or something just isn’t quite going smoothly yet so that the skin of the area in question is sore, stings, or even cracks and bleeds.
A lactation consultant may recommend a nipple shield, changes to position, and other ideas in order to help with any problems.
It’s one of those things that – if you stick with it – tends to get much easier with time, in my experience.
I love breastfeeding. I’m so devoted to it that I continued to do it with my first until well into toddlerhood and am currently still nursing my second one well past that first birthday and beyond.
But I understand the pain in this woman’s face. I’ve cried as I rocked vigorously through pain, all while getting started with breastfeeding in that first week.
18 Nice To Just Have Them Near
The happiness of holding your newborn close is, I would say, better than you could ever anticipate.
Even if you’ve cuddled other babies in your life already, it is just such a unique joy and rush of love to be holding your own little one against yourself in a caring embrace.
You become a seemingly magical provider of calm and comfort. Just being close to you will be enough to make your little one happy again sometimes.
During the very first week of a baby’s life, it is a thrill and a joy to realize the power of this very special and very unique connection.
I mean, isn’t it fascinating?
What a trip, after however many months or years of wanting to be pregnant, and after nearly 10 months of carrying your baby to term, to hold him or her in your lovin’ arms at last.
A user on a forum at WhatToExpect.com asked what it was like to hold your baby for the first time, and other mothers responded similarly.
“It's like nothing else in the world!!! I'm on my third baby, and I remember the moment and the emotion for both of those days like it was yesterday. I just remember feeling overwhelming love, like it actually hurt my heart physically! I just wanted to stare and study every feature of the baby and memorize the details. It was like instant happiness and joy- and then the tears came. It took us so long to conceive for our first that it felt like an extra special miracle. I wanted everyone to have a baby!!!” replied one mother.
“Life changing. Overwhelming love only begins to describe it,” said another.
17 That Nifty Newborn Look
Clearly, one baby can look very different from another.
I’ve noted many people in my own life, though, describing both their own babies and other newborns as looking like, well, funny little old men.
A newborn just isn’t the same as, say, a baby who’s already reached 3 months old.
The fat stores aren’t yet there. The eyes and face aren’t as round and expressive. Even the skin can be sort of wrinkly and different in color to the regular old skin you’re used to seeing – or the soft, pink cheeks of an older baby.
The head may be sort of cone-shaped or misshapen, especially after a vaginal birth.
Basically, newborn babies in the first week of life can look, quite frankly, kind of weird.
And yet, somehow, they are also (if you ask me) some of the most beautiful little creatures in the world.
Seeing those big eyes and tiny body will likely awaken an urge to care for that tiny human so strong that you couldn’t resist it even if you wanted to – even if they look more like your great-grandpa frank than a gurgling little Gerber baby at the current moment.
And then, they transform before your eyes…
16 All About Baby & Comfort
This picture of the celebrity mom / actress Katherine Heigl and her newborn really speaks to me, yes because of the loving way she holds her little one close to her face, but also for another I think noteworthy reason.
Her hair appears to be free of product. Her face appears to be free of makeup. She’s not even wearing real clothes, just a simple (and quite cozy-looking!) robe.
This – THIS – captures the reality of the first week with a new baby for me.
Hopefully, you can find the time to feel clean and comfortable enough, but things like makeup and putting together outfits and doing your hair just aren’t really the main concern.
First of all, there probably isn’t time.
Second of all, you probably don’t care!
And yet you still love capturing some of the precious moments that you are experiencing on camera, and sometimes even sharing one or two of them with your friends, family, or perhaps even social media followers.
For me, it was all about throwing on, or more like living in, I guess, the comfiest lounge / PJ shorts I owned, an old tank top, and a nursing bra (because I needed that to hold breast pads in place to catch leaks that might occur around the clock).
15 The Magic Of Holding Hands
Speaking of Katherine Heigl, I believe, if my memory serves me correctly, that it was in the 2007 Judd Apatow comedy Knocked Up that the main character’s dad described when his infant son reached out and grabbed his finger tightly for the first time.
You’ll want to just sit there and stare at the sight – to savor the feeling of your own little son or daughter holding on tightly to you.
You’ll want to photograph it – those hands are just SO TINY!
That’s how I felt, in any case.
I took a picture of my little one holding my finger while resting peacefully in my lap – but the picture was just of our hands. I had not yet announced her birth to anyone beyond very close friends and family, and this was the first picture (and only one for many months) that I posted of her as my subtle (and meaningful, to me) declaration that the world had just gotten a lot brighter and cuter: My first baby had been born.
It seems little, but ask around: It’s just one of those classically memorable and important things for many parents, to have that little hand grasping their own so tightly. Magic.
14 Sleeping Soundly Anywhere
In a matter of months, it will be onto rocking your baby to sleep and eventually maybe even sleep training, to encourage your little love to learn how to drift off to dreamland without depending on you or anyone else to do so.
But the reality of the very first week – and this might be the most prominent aspect of that quickly passing and crazy time – is … SLEEP.
The moments in which your brand-new newborn will be alert and awake may be few and far between.
They will sleep, like, anywhere.
Believe me – I’ve had two of ’em.
One of the strongest memories that my husband and I have of the early days with our first baby at home, just a few short years ago, is her sleeping with her little wrap T-shirt and diaper on, her arms straight up over her head, on what we came to call her “pillow bed,” which was quite simply a soft throw pillow from the couch resting on my outstretched legs as I sat with my feet up on the sofa.
I’d eat salads over her, watch TV, and much more, and she’d snooze right on through it all.
It’s so cute, and some parents will tell you to “enjoy it!” before getting your kids to sleep becomes a struggle…
13 Allll The Eating
Everyone’s nursing journey is different – clearly. I mean, there are as many experiences as there are mothers out there.
But for those who are breastfeeding around the clock from the start, whenever newborns need to consume some calories, the big-time reality of the first week is exactly this process.
Every like 2 to 3 hours, it’s time to feed again.
I remember trying to process the news of this reality to come in a class I took about breastfeeding when I was pregnant; it was offered for a relatively low tuition at the local hospital where I planned to give birth.
You see, the 2 hours I mention means 2 hours from the start of one feeding to the start of another.
A feeding may last a few minutes or half an hour – it just depends.
You almost always have to fit in a diaper change, as well, and perhaps a few minutes of awake or alert time with your new little bundle… And then they are off to dreamland (well, not really – actually just sleeping soundly) again.
The first week can feel like an endless cycle of this process – because it is.
Understanding all of this, it might become a little clearer to the uninitiated why new moms sometimes have a very hard time fitting in those little niceties such as showering, using the bathroom, or grabbing a bite to eat themselves. Help can be crucial.
12 Large & Leaky
Let’s talk breasts, people.
I was amazed at the transformation my own body underwent as my milk began to come in during the first week of my baby’s life.
I don’t think I will possibly be able to convey with words here how wild it was to experience, but I will try.
Once the milk really started to flow in place of the early colostrum that was expressed when my baby first started to suckle, my chest got HUGE – and FAST.
Where my normal chest had bee, two cantaloupes now resided.
I had to feed and pump at all hours just to maintain any level of comfort.
Engorgement, when the breasts are full and heavy with milk, can happen on and off during this time – although it can occur any time during breastfeeding, as well.
Leaks are quite common, too, sometimes while feeding from the other side, sometimes while sleeping in bed, and sometimes, well, just because!
The milk coming in is a good thing. The more the breasts are stimulated to express milk, the more milk they will produce, when all goes well.
It is the wonderful way that mothers’ bodies provide calories and hydration and more for their offspring beginning right after birth and continuing as long as, well… as long as it is mutually desirable for both the child and the parent.
11 Truly, Truly Tired
Bolstered by the instinct to help their children survive and flourish, new parents press on, but it is not always easy.
Sure, you may have heard that new parents are missing out on some sleep and can tend to be tired – but that description doesn’t do it justice.
Having to wake up, to some degree, every three hours – at all hours – to breastfeed is hard.
For some of us – and I, of course, mean myself – it’s not exactly easy to fall back asleep again after you’ve gotten out of bed and changed a diaper and provided another feeding, so it can be hard to catch any sleep, like, at all.
You can try to rest or sleep when you get the chance. That’s all, I suppose, you can do.
Enlisting the help of your husband or friend or relative or even a hired support person might make all the difference, especially if your baby ends up continuing to wake frequently well into the months ahead.
But that first week, it can be quite overwhelming to realize just how little sleep is available to you as a brand-new mom (or dad).
I guess maybe the cozy cuddle times with your newborn and the sheer excitement of actually having your baby there with you at last help you to persevere through it all.
10 The Goodness Of Gadgets
I wanted to throw in a reality for modern moms, specifically, here, as well.
So many of us use social media such as Instagram periodically throughout the day or week, and some of us choose to use it during those newborn times, as well.
You just end up spending a LOT of time sitting and nursing.
I would highly recommend being sure to just enjoy the feeling and savor the time as possible, of course, after having gone through this period twice so far with my own two babies.
But I will also say, as I’ve said at least once before, that it is nice to have a tiny computer in your pocket that connects you to the outside world.
New motherhood can be isolating and lonely.
While there is someone always with you, that someone is not an adult with whom you can have an adult conversation – someone who can understand your thoughts and feelings on a detailed level or, say, bring you a sandwich…
I found my phone to be a great practical tool during that first week.
I could simply message my husband (whom I was lucky enough to have just a room or so away during that time) rather than shouting out when I needed a snack or more water or some help of some kind – and this happened very frequently.
I could shop online for essentials I was quickly realizing I actually needed or needed more of.
I could pass the time and check in with the outside world as I desired.
What a modern luxury!
I chose not to post pics or do social media at first, but for some moms, it’s a way of resuming life as usual.
9 Big Bro Or Sis Loses The Spotlight
So I’ve mentioned by now that I’ve done the whole newborn thing twice, right? Well that brings us to the reality that many parents face when bringing home a new baby and making it through that first week…
It’s not just the adjustment of becoming parents this time – it’s the adjustment of caring for not just one but TWO (or more!) tiny people.
The older brother or sister may struggle in some ways, and there will be a period of adaptation and learning to live with the fact that they are not the only baby in the household anymore.
I know from my own life and my connections with other new parents that older siblings acting out in response to this is normal and to be expected, even.
Things just change, out of necessity.
Maybe you used to be the one, sweet mama, to snuggle your first child and read a bedtime story, or maybe you and your partner even carried out the bedtime routine together, so that all eyes were on your son or daughter.
Once there is a new baby in the picture, routines will necessarily shift. Perhaps one parent will need to focus on one child while the other minds the brother or sister. (You might think of this as playing man-to-man coverage, sports fans.)
It’s not always going to be smooth. It’s not always going to be easy. That’s the reality.
8 The Cutest Cuddles
Now that I’ve gotten that whole spiel out the way, about how tough it can be to actually have more than one child to care for (especially when one of them is a quite helpless newborn, by the way), let’s get to the good stuff.
Seeing my toddler and our new baby look at each other, interact at all, or even just be next to each other is the cutest, most wonderful sight I have ever seen in my life.
I’ve gotten used to their cuteness and antics as a dynamic duo now, but every now and then, I see my younger child’s eyes sparkle as she shouts (her version of) her older sibling’s name with pure joy and excitement upon being reunited again.
That same look in her eyes was there from the beginning.
The look of love I’ve seen young siblings give each other is something so special. They are fascinated by each other. Hey, you’re little, just like me!
As they get older, along with any struggles and battles for attention, of course, there will be the sweetest love, support, and help between them. It’s enough to melt my heart.
The first meeting and early interactions during the first week, though, even if it’s just a pat-pat or lying next to each other on the floor, are… indescribable… priceless.
7 Dad’s On Diapers
Here’s a big reality of the first week with a newborn: Help is a must. That was my reality, in any case.
With a newborn needing to nurse every few hours, just fitting in the basics of life like eating and using the bathroom can be a challenge. This is not an exaggeration. This is not a joke.
Someone, in all likelihood, needs to help.
It’s so nice when that person can be dear old dad.
My hubs would often get up when the baby woke up crying, change the diaper, and deliver her to me in bed or in my nursing chair, where I waited dutifully.
The less I had to leave the bedroom and turn on lights and move around, the higher the chance that I would actually be able to rest or maybe – just maybe – even drift off to sleep again for a few minutes before it was time to do it all over again.
Diapers are a great task for dads to – out of necessity – take on. But there’s plenty of other stuff, as well, like, say, making all the snacks and meals, or bringing up fresh reusable bottles of cold water for the nursing mother as part of a predictable routine.
Basically, a lot is already being asked of a new mom with just the breastfeeding alone, so some other tasks may need to fall on her partner.
6 Sending Him To The Store… Again
It was like at LEAST every other day, we needed something else.
Sometimes it was from the grocery store, sometimes it was at the drugstore, and sometimes it was some supply we could order online (and man, isn’t that a neat convenience for modern parents such as us…!).
But both my husband and I were immediately overwhelmed by how often we needed more stuff.
And it fell on him – the hubs, that is – to run out to the store and get ALL OF IT.
Milk. Bananas. Diapers. Food, food, and more food. Onesies that we could easily get off and on in the dark – and lots of them.
You need fortification. You need tools. And you need it now.
That’s how we felt, anyway.
And it’s not like we didn’t prepare. We were gifted and handed down from relatives and purchased ourselves many baby clothes and other items. We had some food in the fridge and snacks in the cupboard as labor neared.
But that first week, it’s go time. It’s survival time, and someone will need to go out to collect the rations.
My husband had slept a bit more than me, and he didn’t have to be ready to nurse again in a few minutes, and so that brave representative was him.
5 Hungry Work
Did you notice that I put sort of an emphasis on needing food during all those trips to the store?
The reality of the first week of having a baby, for me, was being SO hungry.
I think part of it was not sleeping much at all, and so feeling like I needed energy from something just to keep going.
Also, my body just craved nutrients and hydration very intensely as my milk came in during the early days of breastfeeding.
I would call out for “Toast! With jam! And a BIG glass of milk! Yes, again!” at 3 in the morning.
I would nom sandwiches over my nursing baby, who rested in my arms.
Something sugary, such as trail mix or M&Ms, always had to be around in a dish or jar on the counter.
Food took on a whole new importance once I and my body had to provide for another little person around the clock.
I’m usually a sensible if not slightly careful eater. I’ve called myself a runner from time to time in my years circling the sun so far.
But that first week was not, for me, a time to be cautious and careful. It was the time to give my body the fuel it needed to do the important job at hand.
4 That First Outing, Though…
Ask the parents in your life about the first time they took their newborn baby on an outing of some sort, and just watch their faces change…
Man, I remember that well.
Of course, there is the actual ride home from the hospital, in many cases.
It’s the first time you strap your little love into that infant car seat, and those things can somehow seem really confusing at first.
In no time, you’ll click, buckle, and tighten to a safe snugness like you’ve been doing it your entire life, but the first few times can be intimidating. They can seem so small and fragile!
Then there’s actually driving a car containing the most precious cargo EVER.
Do it safely, keep your cool, and don’t do it when you’re too tired.
The first doctor’s appointment may be the first real outing you make with your little love, with the exception of that necessary jaunt home after giving birth.
That was the first time I got dressed and put on makeup, like a “real” person or something, and journeyed somewhere with my first in the car as a newborn.
I believe they tend to schedule this first pediatrician checkup about three days after being discharged from the hospital in my neck of the woods.
It gets easier to leave the house as you go. At this point, I have my diaper bag always stocked, and it’s grabbing some snacks and water, putting shoes on everyone, and we’re good to go!
3 The Bump’s Still Bulging
After months of having a big ole baby bump, the baby is born, and then… you have a smaller bump.
It takes time for the uterus to go back down in size to something that more closely resembles what it was like before conception.
The first week and likely a while thereafter will see a new mom sporting a very visible bump, which will flatten more and more as the uterus contracts postpartum.
With some time and exercise, the muscle tone of the abdomen can be regained, and any extra deposits of fat there may be reduced.
It’s a gradual process.
After the birth of my first, having gained right around the recommended amount of weight throughout my pregnancy, nature took care of everything. Breastfeeding along with the required physical exertion of caring for a newborn around the clock saw me back at my leanest and most toned self in a matter of months.
I didn’t sweat it (mentally), but I did put in plenty of sweating (and dancing and rocking and swaying and carrying and bending and lifting) as I carried out my new role as “mom,” and that really felt great and did the trick.
My second pregnancy included a bit more weight gain and resulted in a baby who didn’t seem to need quite so much song and dance in order to be soothed to sleep, and my abs are taking longer to regain tone this time, having been stretched and then, well, stretched some more.
The point? It takes time for everyone, and ladies still look pregnant after giving birth.
Just check this shot Peta Murgatroyd shared of her postpartum physique, or the Duchess herself.
2 Healing With Time
It may come as a surprise to some first-time moms to realize that they, too, will need to wear (essentially) a diaper around the clock.
Having giving birth twice in the last handful of years myself, I’ve found that it goes something like this, in case you’d like to feel better prepared yourself:
After you get up for the first time after the baby is delivered (in a hospital setting, that is), the attending nurse will escort you to the bathroom, and after you empty your bladder, will get you all set up with an entire soothing system.
There is a perineal squirt bottle, which is filled with clean, warm water and used to cleanse after using the toilet. (Simply wiping will not do, especially given that 95 percent of gals giving birth for the first time experience a tear, according to Parents.com – and then usually require stitches.)
There is a numbing antiseptic spray to be applied. There are hemorrhoid pads to soothe that common issue. There is an icepack to help relieve swelling and soreness.
It is all contained in a very large sanitary pad, which is held in place by large disposable mesh underpants.
This lovely reality persists during that first week, with the cleansing, the pad changing, and other related adventures in going to the bathroom, showering, and so on and so forth.
1 Hairstyling’s On Hold
The image two list items above this one, of one celeb’s postpartum form, as well as the picture above, have something in common – something that I immediately identify with as a mom who’s given birth to two babies in the last handful of years and experienced that first week in all it’s challenging glory…
What is it?
Both women wear their hair completely pulled back, up in high buns to keep it completely out of the way and out of their faces.
This is THE way I wore my hair whenever I was up and out of bed in that first week, and beyond, actually.
There is so much leaning over. When you’re nursing, you don’t want anything getting in your face or in your way.
You don’t want anything making you unnecessarily hot.
Basically, the first week can be sort of like a never-ending workout, with a new mom taking on one brand-new physical challenge after another. Having those lovely locks up and out of the way made things just so much easier for me.
Plus, you do NOT want to be leaning over changing a poopy diaper and have your hair fall in your face and block your view… or worse. And I have rather long hair…
There might not be time to wash or style it, anyway, so throwing it back is such a familiar reality for experienced moms.