Ah, that very first week with her very own newborn baby… No need to underplay it, it's pretty extreme.
The first time women go through it, they're figuring out how to breastfeed and take care of a baby – and function on no more than maybe an hour of sleep at any given time. All parents go through it at first. Consider it your very own special initiation into parenthood.
The second time, I was adjusting to having not only a toddler but a newborn baby around, as well. (Actually, not that bad! In fact, very nice in some ways. And by the way, pro tip: Have your husband take a nice little chunk of parental leave from his own work, as well, if at all possible, while you go through the period of adjustment and transition.)
Yeah, I mean, it’s crazy.
Some parts are wild in just the best way you could ever imagine. Finally having your own baby in your arms is a lovely and trippy experience, to be sure – and that will probably last, like, forever.
Some of it is, well, hard. To prepare, check out some helpful info about living the mom life: 15 tiny things that make the first week bearable.
15 Tiny Silicone Shield
Not every new mom uses these things. Some find themselves using them after one birth but not after another.
But if you find yourself really struggling as your nipples get accustomed to nursing – say to the point that you’re just about ready to give up, or find yourself crying from the pain – know that nurses and lactation consultants have something called nipple shields on hand for a reason.
They can help a new mom and baby who are having difficulty with latching on for feeding. They can give sore, cracked, and bleeding nipples a break from so much friction while a newborn learns to breastfeed.
They are made of silicon, and they can be easily stashed on your bedside table or even tucked in your top or nursing bra so they’ll be at the ready when you need them. Just wash them after every use.
14 All-Natural Ointment
Now, I’d caution that it might be easy to go overboard with this stuff, but also that it can be a godsend for some new mothers as they begin to breastfeed.
It’s called lanolin, and it’s an all-natural ointment that can be applied to stinging, cracking, and generally sore nipples. Because it’s all-natural, a bit of it being on the nipple is fine (when the baby latches on to feed).
The thing I and some lactation consultants (which I am not one of) would caution is that using too much of the stuff (which can indeed be wonderfully soothing) can create a very slippery situation and actually make it harder for the baby to get a good latch and feed successfully. And that’s like the opposite of what you want, right?
13 Heck Yes, Hydration
It’s something so simple. Unless you’re an athlete of some sort, you may not really give it much thought, but it’s crucial to the health of the human body: It’s hydration, and it will become even more crucial once you become a new mom.
The thirst I experienced immediately after giving birth was so intense, for one thing. And as your body continues to recover from childbirth, let go of excess fluids, and get going with breastfeeding, water will be so important to drink plenty of. (And this is of course important all the time – and especially for breastfeeding mothers, and not just in the first week.)
That’s why I always say that one of my prized possessions in that first week of being a mom was my relatively spill-proof water bottle. Having a cool sip of water (no matter where you are) can calm you down when you’re too hot, feeling hormonal, and trying to breastfeed. And it’s crucial for milk production and the health of your bod.
12 Relief From Snack Attacks
When my husband and I look back on our first week of having a baby, we both remember one thing clearly. We didn’t see it coming, but it was a crucial part of getting through those first nights and days.
He would bring me toast, sandwiches, milkshakes, or whatever it was that I felt that I needed at the moment at all hours of the day and night.
Especially after the birth of my first baby, during the first week when my milk was coming in, I felt ravenous. Part of it is all the new demands being put on a mom’s body, to be sure. Part of it is not sleeping much at all.
To have a helper there to bring me a turkey sandwich or some toast with jam right away as I sat in that nursing chair was so crucial.
11 A Shower Now And Then
Getting the chance to do something like wash your face or take a shower might not seem like much of a luxury now – if you’re not yet a parent – but just wait.
I set an important goal for myself for those newborn days. It was something I did because I knew, I think, that it was an important part of self-preservation (or at least self-care) for me. It was to take a shower every day.
Now I didn’t wash my hair every single day. But I did get in there, suds up, and shave my legs. And it made me feel like a real person.
It may sound like a little thing, but during that first week – or even longer – many new moms find themselves wearing the same PJs for days, feeling like it’s hard to know what day of the week it is. Something as simple as taking a shower can make all the difference.
10 The Girls’ Best Friends
Especially during the first week, when the true milk starts to come in, a nursing mom will absolutely need one little thing. Well, two actually. In fact, she’ll need many sets of two.
Breast pads, or nursing pads, are placed inside of the bra to catch the inevitable leaks that will occur.
And I’m going to give you a pro mom tip here, so listen up, and listen carefully: Those disposable ones advertised everywhere suck. In my opinion, they are really, really scratchy and uncomfortable. Plus, they create more unneeded trash (as if all the disposable diapers we end up using in many cases weren’t bad enough…).
I had a box of them in the start, but I stopped using them quickly. I got some soft, machine-washable, fabric ones instead, and then I was a happy camper.
For middle-of-the-night leaks, seemingly random sprays at the grocery store, and more, they’re your buddies. They absorb the milk so that it won’t soak through your top.
9 The Tiny Computer In That Pocket
This one may inspire a bit of debate. Motherhood certainly has changed – along with every other aspect of our lives – now that so many of us have smartphones. It’s crazy, right?
Sure, those Nokia bricks and flashy flip phones captivated us, got us hooked on texting, and made us comfortable with shelling out a good portion of each paycheck in order to get to have them each month, but it was those tiny computers with full keyboards that really made us obsessed, right?
But they are here, and here to stay, it seems.
And for moms in that first week, it is (at least partially, it could be argued) a good thing.
Would I recommend checking in on social media, dealing with finances, or writing important emails during week one? No.
But you can use iPhones (and alternatives) to text your hubby that you need a snack. You can hop online and order more diapers. And all while stationed firmly under a nursing / sleeping newborn.
See what I mean now?
8 A TP Alternative
In all likelihood, you won’t even have to buy or order this one, so don’t even worry about it.
But this list isn’t about things you’ll need to have on hand by the time the baby comes – it’s about little things that make life so much better in that first crazy week with a newborn.
And so I present to you the peri bottle.
That’s short for perineal. That’s the area between the vagina and the anus.
It quite often (about 90 percent of the time, actually) tears during childbirth. It might tear a lot. It might tear just a little.
It will be stitched up, and the tissues will have to heal in the weeks ahead.
Also, a good amount of gals get hemorrhoids while pushing.
Because of this, reaching down there and swiping some toilet paper across probably isn’t going to work, ESPECIALLY during that first week of recovery.
The peri bottle, provided at the hospital, allows you to squirt warm water over these parts for soothing relief and cleanliness.
7 A Milking Machine
It really is miraculously small (since we’re talking about all those tiny things that make such a huge difference for brand-new moms, and all).
It plugs into the wall or in some cases is powered by batteries (but those ones aren’t usually very practical). It circulates air through a system of tubing and components that are attached – through suction – to the breasts.
It’s the breast pump! And even moms who don’t plan to return to an office or even use a bottle at all will in all likelihood need one. (And that’s probably why they are completely covered by health insurance, as they should be.)
As the milk comes in during the first week, it is completely common for the breast to feel incredibly full and uncomfortably engorged. To relieve this and to stimulate the production of milk, an electric breast pump is crucial.
6 Soothing Sprays Down Under
I’m going to be frank. I’m going to jump right into it here – and if you’re about to become a parent, you’ll see with time that moms can tend to be like this: to suddenly be unafraid to talk about any and all topics matter-of-factly.
Here we go: The lady bits can be very sore and swollen after childbirth. Something like 90 percent of the time, part of them will have torn either a little or a lot while the baby is actually being pushed out.
It can hurt – and not just during the birth, but for quite some time afterward.
And so here are two little things that make the first week bearable: numbing spray and hemorrhoid pads.
Both of these will likely be provided as standard at the hospital.
The spray is to dull the pain anywhere it’s being experienced. The Tucks pads are saturated in soothing liquid to make any swollen / protruding veins around the butt more comfy.
5 Treating Yoself
I’m not suggesting that anyone out there go crazy with indulgences. Eating a healthy diet can only help you to feel well, happy, and healthy and to recover nicely after the marathon that is childbirth.
For what you should be consuming, consult with your own doctor, of course (and your common sense).
In any case, though, I personally found one thing to be so important in getting (happily) through that first week with a newborn: That little thing was chocolate. If you want to get literally real tiny with it, we could even say “the cocoa bean” (and thank goodness for that tiny bean…).
It’s just that when you’ve just been through labor and childbirth… when you’re incredibly sleep-deprived… when you’re hormonal… when you’re beginning to breastfeed… it can be a nice time for some women to allow themselves to indulge in a few treats.
I’m not a huge chocoholic or anything, but it’s what hit the spot for me.
It might just be that milkshake after the longest day ever or that square of special dark in the middle of the night that makes you feel ready to be strong and go on.
4 The Snuggles
If we get really honest with it, and approach things on the most basic level, the one single thing that will get you through that first week is… baby snuggles.
Oh, you betcha it’s little – and soft, and smells so, so good…
It makes sense that new moms persevere through so little sleep, through such an intense and potentially overwhelming time.
It’s the way nature intended.
We’d do anything for that little bundle snuggled safely in our arms. Nothing would stop us. It doesn’t matter if breastfeeding happens to be a huge challenge when we thought it’d be a breeze. It doesn’t matter if we haven’t slept more than 30 minutes at a time for four days.
All we care about is that soft, soft hair tickling our chin as we go in for another sweet, sweet nuzzle.
3 A Breath Of Fresh Air
Have you ever had one of those moments in life – maybe you’ve been stressed or something intense has just happened in your life – where you are outside and you realize how beautiful it is to just… breathe…
You feel the air move slightly around you in a breeze. You sense the warmth from the sun. You feel refreshed and alive, and it’s maybe as if you are realizing this for the first time in a long time – too long, in fact.
Well being outside, whether it’s out in nature or poking your head into the parking lot for a second, can make all the difference in that first week.
It’s so easy to stay cooped up inside, it’s not even funny.
It can relax you incredibly, and remind you that there’s more to life than what’s been occupying you obsessively since the moment he or she was born.
Yes, there’s scarcely time to do anything but change diapers, nurse, rock, and nurse some more, but getting out for just a minute or two can give you that crucial boost of feel-goodness.
2 Little Blue Anti-Inflammatories
What is literally one of the tiniest things you can think of from everyday life?
If you answered, “a pill,” well then you see where I am going with this.
I chose an unmedicated labor. I did not opt for any intense pain relievers following childbirth, either.
But I’m a runner, and I’ve had my fair share of headaches, and I understood why the nurses gave out Advil (or its generic version) every 4-6 hours in the hospital as standard and instructed me to keep this up in the first week at home.
These pain relievers reduce swelling. Labor and birth cause some potentially painful swelling.
Your doctor and nurse and healthcare team in general will of course be the people to instruct you in which medications you should and should not take.
But for a good number of women postpartum, this simple over-the-counter medicine makes a world of difference, allowing them to be much more comfortable down there and also in the rest of their bodies, which have just been through quite a bit of extreme exertion.
1 Clicking To Order
Although what you see on Instagram and Pinterest may lead you to believe differently, motherhood is certainly not about the stuff. It’s not about having a massive wardrobe of high-end baby clothes, the poshest pram on the block, or a nursery fit to be featured in a glossy magazine.
But still, some amount of stuff is, of course, needed.
And you will probably put quite a bit of effort into trying to gather like everything you think you’re going to need before the baby finally comes.
But some of the choices you made will be wrong. You’ll have purchased some items you don’t need at all or that don’t work or work well enough. You’ll need things you never considered, like Velcro-ing swaddle sacks, diapers of a different brand (that don’t leak liquid, um, poo in the night), and simple PJs that are easy to get off and on (as opposed to the most adorable thing you’ve ever seen in the world).
And a modern mom, thank goodness, will be able to hop on her phone or laptop and get those surprise needs ordered ASAP.
References: RCOG.org.uk, YouTube.com, Instagram.com