Towards the end of pregnancy, many Moms-to-be start shifting their focus from what it will be like once the baby arrives home to a very singular topic—the labor.
Will it hurt?... Will it be long?... How much blood will there be?... Will I need an episiotomoy? ….and will my hoo-hoo ever look the same again afterwards?!!
Us Moms-to-be just can’t help it. The most important event our lives—having a baby—somehow shifts from the actual beautiful baby itself to the much feared mechanical process of the baby coming out of our bodies.
This is perfectly normal, and may even be an instinct required in order to physically and mentally prepare for what often is the biggest--and most rewarding—marathon and miracle in a woman’s life.
But let’s now focus on the miracle—your new baby. Because unlike a typical marathon (where you can collapse and kick up your feet with a beer to celebrate your achievement), from the time that your baby arrives, it is GO time, and the real marathon kicks off.
After an intense labor, the baby is put straight on your boob for feeding and you’re expected to just know how to be a mother. Nothing can make a woman feel more awkward and insecure than those first moments of having no clue what to do with this beautiful little human plopped on our naked chests.
At least in those first hours and quite probably the next day or two in the hospital, you have nurses to help show you the ropes.
But once you get home, that awkward, insecure feeling you may have about what to do as a new Mommy will probably still be there—and can be quite overwhelming.
To help you through those intense first days, here are 7 ways to survive your first week home with baby:
7 Forget the Housework
We can’t all be like supermodel Giselle Bundchen, who bragged about doing dishes the day after the well-publicized “pain-free” birth of her son. That woman has to be bionic!
Forget about any pressure you may be putting on yourself to be a superwoman who can juggle a brand new baby and keep her house in perfect, pristine order. By trying to be a ”Stepford Wife, “ you are setting yourself up for failure--and a nervous breakdown.
It may not be often that you’ll feel encouraged to turn your back on housecleaning, so you really need to own this one, ladies! There is no better excuse than having a newborn in the house to “let the house go.” No matter how bad the mess gets—whether it’s laundry piling up, or vacuuming that should be done--it can always be got to later.
If you’re lucky enough to have a relative or friend who’s willing to come over in those first days to help with laundry and general household chores, then grab it!
This is not the time to try to convince yourself you can do it all. You will be exhausted, and most likely overwhelmed with everything newborn—like constant feedings that might involve trying to figure out how to get your baby to latch on to your nipple correctly, learning how to do diaper changes and awkward first newborn bathings—as well as trying to figure out one of the 12 things the baby might be crying about each single time.
You’ll also still be recovering from the physical trauma of the birth, that might include still needing to do that dreaded first “after labor-poo” (if you didn’t manage it in the hospital), endless sitz baths (soothing salt baths often recommended to help heal your perineum if you had a vaginal birth), and general aches and pains.
You can’t possibly be expected to get through this highly intensive crash course while also keeping the house in perfect order.
You need to worry about you and your baby, and that is it.
6 Allow Someone Else to do the Cooking
When a baby arrives, there is a fabulous, long-standing tradition of friends and relatives delivering meals to the new Mom. These wonderful people—often experienced Moms themselves—know all too well that the last thing a brand new mother should have to worry about after giving birth is cooking healthy meals for herself.
Not only will you be too exhausted, you will simply not have the time to stand in front of the stove preparing an adequately healthy meal for yourself with all of the tasks you will be performing, round the clock, for your newborn.
This phase won’t last long, and you will soon get into your groove and be back into time managing, and feeling well enough, to get into your old routines—like cooking.
But until then, you’re going to need some help. Ever heard the expression, “It takes a village to raise a child?” That expression comes into play from day one, and that includes meal-making.
A new Mom, especially one who’s decided to breastfeed, needs excellent nutrition for herself and her baby. Grabbing a piece of toast smeared with a little butter or a granola bar here and there will in no way give you the right amount of calories or nutrition required of your hardworking, recovering body.
It is estimated that a new breastfeeding Mom requires an additional 500 calories per day in order to produce enough milk for her baby. Furthermore, a breastfeeding Mom needs to focus on nutritious food choices and calorie intake just as much, or even more, than when she was pregnant; just like when you were pregnant, everything you eat will affect your baby, this time through your breast milk. The better you eat, the better quality milk your body will produce.
So while you still have time to prepare for your baby’s arrival, start asking around who can help you with meals that first week after you arrive home with baby—and get them to commit to an arrangement. It might be your baby’s Dad, it might be your Mom or Aunt, or it might be your best friend. Once you ask, you might be pleasantly surprised at the response; people might even start preparing meals for you a couple of weeks before the birth, that can be stored in the freezer to be used that first week.
If you have the time and energy, you might even consider preparing some healthy meals in advance now yourself to be stored in the freezer for that first week home with baby; all that cooking could even be a good way to distract yourself in those final snail-paced days before baby’s arrival.
It’s hard to imagine it now, but when the time comes, you will find this surplus of home-cooked meals a Godsend!
5 Get As Much Sleep As Possible
One thing every Mom will notice pretty quickly after arriving home is just how exhausted she feels.
You are still just recovering from the biggest physical trauma of your life—your labor, or C-section—and now you’ve got this beautiful new baby that you are responsible for, 24-7. Just knowing that this little child is so dependant on you—when you’re feeling so exhausted—can make it all the more overwhelming.
With the baby needing feedings possibly every 2 hours through the night the first week home (and a few weeks after that, until feeding times spread out more), it’s hard to imagine that you will ever catch up on your sleep—and it’s hard to imagine that you will survive. But you will!
Just before the birth of my daughter, a colleague-- and experienced mother—psyched me out by saying to me, “Enjoy your sleep while you can, because soon it will be sleepless nights every night.” I don’t think she meant any harm, but her comment gave me anxiety about what to expect, as if I would never be able to cope with such a thing as a “sleepless night.”
After all, we all know how horrendous we feel when we’ve had a bad night’s sleep—and that’s without having a baby to look after!
But the truth is, although your nights may seem sleepless sometimes, you will adapt to getting “spurts” of sleep here and there. You may even feel oddly energized, in the discovery of an inner strength you never realized you had—that it is possible to cope for a short period of time in your life without the uninterrupted sleep you have been so accustomed to your whole life so far. What should carry you through is the knowledge that it is just a short period of time—typically a few weeks—until baby starts having much longer sleep periods.
But remember that everyone adapts to sleep deprivation differently.
Do try to make up for lost sleep where you can, taking cat-naps during the day along with your baby, for example. Never prioritize anything more than grabbing some sleep where possible if you are feeling exhausted.
And do expect symptoms of “baby blues” at this time—which can be worsened in the absence of sleep. The “baby blues” are a perfectly normal emotional state that many women will experience in the first week home with baby. Baby blues are caused by hormonal fluctuations in the body following baby’s birth, and can typically last anywhere from a few days to 2 weeks. The symptoms include:
-weepiness or crying
- trouble concentrating
-problems with appetite
Try not to worry if you have these symptoms in the first week or two; they are perfectly normal as you get to know your new baby and your body adapts to all of the new stress. However, if these symptoms persist or intensify as time goes on—and especially if you start having thoughts about harming yourself or your baby—you must immediately get help, as you may be experiencing post-partum depression.
4 Keep Visits Short and to a Minimum
You’re not the only one who’s been excited about the arrival of your baby. Relatives and friends have been eagerly awaiting your baby’s arrival almost as much as you have!
Now that you’re home with your wondrous little bundle of joy, everyone’s going to want to come over to see the two of you. So you just have to let them, right? Wrong.
It might be hard to do, but you must go with your instinct here on whether or not to allow visitors, and if so, how many and who. It can be helpful to have a shortlist of visitors in the beginning—say keeping it to close family members and close friends at first—basically people you feel the most at ease around. These are people who can be a good support to you, and who would know that the right thing to do is to come over and not expect you to lift a finger for them.
If you do allow visits, remember to keep them short—no more than half an hour, let’s say—as you may find these visitors more exhausting than expected.
Feelings of inadequacy are common during these early days, in not knowing exactly why your baby is crying, or in trying to come to grips with breastfeeding. Coping with all of this new stuff while being watched can make a new Mom feel extremely self-conscious, causing undue stress.
You need to be fully relaxed to breastfeed your baby properly, for example. If you try to breastfeed like a pro in the presence of visitors, and aren’t truly relaxed, this can actually prevent your breasts from the “let down” (the hormonal process of the breasts releasing milk in response to the baby suckling)--and you are setting yourself up for potential chaos, as your frustrated baby lets you know she/he is not happy!
Furthermore, your stress and distraction can be picked up on by your highly instinctive baby more than you realize, and the situation is simply not fair for you or your baby to have to endure.
Therefore, if you do have a visit and the baby cries, you might like to follow this advice:
-Do not hesitate to excuse yourself and go into a quiet room so you can figure out why the baby is crying
-Do not hesitate to excuse yourself to have some privacy so you can feel relaxed when you nurse, without feeling scrutinized
-Do not hesitate to leave the room when baby needs a diaper change, instead of having an audience, if this does not make you feel comfortable
- Do not hesitate to cut the visit short if you are having trouble figuring out why the baby is crying; your visitors will understand.
If you’ve decided you’d rather delay a visitor, but you don’t feel comfortable about saying no to people yourself, let someone else answer the phone for you to do the postponing, like your Mom; but watch out, because even Moms can be pushy about convincing you to let extended family or her own friends come over!
If that’s the case, hopefully someone else—your Dad, perhaps, or your baby’s Daddy- can be an ally in helping you decide what’s comfortable for you. Remember that no one’s going to get angry with you for pushing off that first visit. You’ll let them come over when you’re feeling ready.
Your priority is to do what feels right for you and your baby. Remember to keep focussed on what’s most important—taking care of and getting acquainted with your new baby.
3 Let Your Boobs Hang Out
Yep, you read this right. For those of you who decide to breastfeed, you can’t really prepare for the possible breast soreness that’s coming your way.
Swollen milk-filled breasts coupled with leaking milk from adjusting to your baby’s demand—as well as sore nipples from your new baby tugging on them every couple of hours, makes a little “aerating” the best solution. In other words, if no one’s around, and you feel comfortable with it…keep your shirt open now and again (or even take it off altogether) to give your aching boobs a chance to breathe and to avoid soaking your third top of the hour. You won’t believe the relief this simple solution can bring about!
The truth is, your boobs take a real battering in the first week. After the baby has finished with the rich, nutrient filled, creamy colostrum, your breast milk officially “comes in.” And trust me, you’ll know it when it does.
Breastfeeding the baby with colostrum sends a green light to your body’s hormones that breastfeeding is a “go”, and the mammary glands will suddenly deliver a whopping supply of breast milk for you to deliver, in turn, to your babe through the wondrous bottles that are your boobs! How incredible is that?
This usually happens about 2-3 days into breastfeeding, and you’ll know it, as you’ll one day be staring in the mirror and realize you look like a Size-DD pin-up. Unfortunately, the milk’s arrival can actually be quite painful for some women as the breasts fill to capacity, causing painful pressure. This can be relieved with breastfeeds, but until the body regulates itself by adjusting to the on-demand feeds of your new baby, you will possibly have to deal with a period of giant tender melons—much to your hubby’s delight (of course, he’ll never get anywhere near them without getting swatted by you.)
To deal with tender, swollen breasts adjusting to milk supply, keep plenty of big cabbage leaves in the fridge; really! This is no old wives tale-- due to its perfect size for maximal breast coverage, placing a cold cabbage leaf onto a tender breast directly from the fridge is unbelievably soothing during this time. You can even walk around with these things placed inside your nursing bra.
The cabbage leaves can do wonders for sore nipples getting accustomed to breastfeeding as well; so make sure you get someone to pick up a cabbage or two to keep in your fridge once your babe is born!
2 Let Someone Else Hold the Baby
In that first week, you will become a full time feeding machine. At times it will feel as though your only purpose is getting milked like a cow every 2 hours or so.
You might feel distraught that your baby seems to be getting more cuddle time with Grandma and Daddy, but with you—it’s all about milk, milk, milk!
The problem is that your brand new baby’s instincts are incredibly strong, and that includes the ability to sniff out your breast milk.
You just smell too irresistible to your new baby—and everytime your baby is near you, sometimes not even long after a feeding, the little muncher seems to be ready for more milk; the baby might even rouse prematurely from a nap when near the source of that delicious milk—you!
This cycle can be absolutely exhausting for a new breastfeeding Mom. In fact, many Moms report feelings of resentment towards their baby because of this new feeling of being constantly “used” as a feeding machine. This is especially true if breastfeeding is causing the new Mom pain and discomfort, as it often does in the first week.
This makes it all the more important to allow hubby or a relative to take the baby away from you in between feedings so you can sleep or just have a much needed break.
If no one is available, rest at ease with putting the baby down for a nap in a safe place so that you—and your breasts --can get some rest time, and to make sure that the delicious smell of your milk doesn’t wake your little baby prematurely from a nap!
In the meantime, use those incessant breastfeeding moments to bond with baby. That intensive first period of seemingly non-stop feeding will wind down eventually, and you will soon experience moments other than the “milk-fest” to bond with your cutie-pie.
1 Take Opportunities to Bond With Your Baby
I’ll never forget arriving home with my first baby daughter, and feeling weepy and jealous when my husband held her, as I really just wanted to be pampered and looked after myself, following my traumatic labor. Feelings of guilt immediately seeped in; how could I possibly be so selfish instead of thinking about my new baby?
But such feelings in the first few days are perfectly normal, as an instant bond between Mom and baby is not guaranteed, and your emotions will be all over the place due to sleep deprivation and baby blues.
These feelings are perfectly normal, but can still be unnerving and unexpected to a new Mom. We look forward to the arrival of our new babies so much that we are truly confused and distraught when we don’t have an instant, intense love for our new babies.
Luckily, there are lots of things you can do in the first week to help create the bond between yourself and your new baby. And it is important that you try to develop this bond as much as possible, as reports point to the first week, and even the first few days after birth, as some of the most important for forming a bond with baby and making the new baby feel secure.
Here are some things you can do in the first week to encourage that bond:
- Nap with your baby
Whenever your baby falls asleep, you should be right along side them sleeping as well. Not only will this help you catch some much needed zzz’s for recapturing some energy, but it can also increase the bond between you and your cutie.
-Get comfy for long breastfeeds and enjoy this snuggle time
Breastfeeding doesn’t always come so easy, and even once you get the hang of it, the feeding can actually take a lot longer than you might ever have expected. This is all very individual, but a typical feed can last anywhere from 10 minutes to over an hour. The best thing to do is to anticipate sitting for a long period of time--and many times--through the day and night. Setting up a really comfy spot for breastfeeding is the answer, and using this time to relax and cuddle with your baby is a wonderful way to encourage bonding.
-Go “skin to skin”
Research shows that breastfeeding your baby so that your bare skin comes into direct contact with your baby’s bare skin encourages a bond. You may even notice your baby relaxing more when feeding like this. If you’re comfortable with this, and there’s no one around to make you feel self-conscious, try this as often as you can.
-Take baby for a short stroll, if possible
This depends on how physically you are able to walk after having been through labor or a c-section. But many ladies, after a few short days, already feel able to get up and about. If you feel up to it, nothing could be better than getting you and your baby out for some fresh air by taking a very brief walk in the stroller. Just make sure you dress and cover baby properly, depending on the weather. And be sure to check with your health care provider first, as the health of some newborns in the beginning may forbid an early outing.
Remember that while intense, the first week with your baby is one of the most magical times that you will experience in your entire life. No new Mom is perfect at looking after a newborn; everyone has to learn how to do the job as they go along.
Luckily, you are equipped with more instincts than you know to be able to handle what’s coming. Midwives and doctors will often remind new mothers, “remember to take care of yourself first, so that you can take proper care of your baby.” If you follow this advice—and the seven tips above—you will hopefully have a much better time coping with that first week home with baby!