Home From The Hospital: The First 24 Hours

You did it! You survived nine or so months of pregnancy. You endured labor and delivery, and your body is recovering. You and your baby did just fine the hospital. Now for the fun stuff, right?

Bringing baby home from the hospital can be very intimidating for first-time parents, and is a big adjustment for anybody.

Don't believe those tales that all a newborn baby does is eat, sleep and poop. While it is true that they do those things a lot in the first weeks and months, it's a good thing because new mommies and daddies need some time to figure out just those key life functions.

Now that you are responsible for a living creature, you may worry about how you will keep your bundle of joy breathing. And as many questions as you had about how your baby was doing when it was inside your belly, there are even more to ask now that he or she is at home — from how to know if they are getting enough food to what is coming out the other end.

Don't worry; we've got you covered. Here is all you need to know about the first 24 hours with baby at home.

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16 The Longest Car Ride Ever

Let's start with how you get home.

Unless you live within walking distance, the one item you need to bring to the hospital is an appropriate, functional car seat. The hospital won't let you take home baby without one.

You should probably get your partner to install it into the car before baby time comes, but if you need it done at the last minute, you can go by a fire station or police station and get some help making sure it is installed safely.

The first time you strap your little one inside, you have to be careful to get the five-point harness in the correct position, with the top latch in the center of the chest and the straps pulled snug to the body. The nurses will help to make sure you get the system down before you head home.

By the way, it is normal for that car ride — no matter how short — to seem like the scariest one you have ever taken. Many daddies have kept the speedometer below 35 the entire way out of an abundance of caution for the new little love in their life.

15 Establishing Home Base

Once you are home, many parents take their baby on a tour of their home. But while the nursery may be your first stop, it may be the last time your baby sees that room for a few weeks.

No matter how long you agonized over the paint color and spent way to much on knick-knacks, many mothers feel better keeping their babies close, especially during those first few days at home.

Whether that means setting up the swing and pack-n-play in the living room or keeping a bassinet at your bedside, bring your baby where you are most comfortable.

You have been waiting to put the baby down in his or her crib, but you may not feel safe to leave the room, even with a monitor. Just keep the baby with you.

14 Introducing Your Pet

If a pet lives inside your home, one of the first things you need to do is introduce your baby.

In fact, this is another one of those things that is better handled if you send your partner off to get it started while you are still in the hospital. Have him bring one your baby's blankets home (it needs to smell like the baby) and let your dog or cat get used to the scent.

When you get home, be sure to greet your dog or cat like normal, so they don't react like a jealous older sibling. Then let your pet sniff the baby. Be careful. It may be OK to let them lick, but you don't want them to bite.

Hopefully your pet and your baby will be best of friends, but for the first several months — and certainly the first 24 hours — be careful about letting them sleep together in case baby's airway gets blocked.

13 Sleep

After all that excitement, your baby is probably ready for his or her first nap.

A brand new baby can sleep up to 18 hours a day — that's two-thirds of the day. But they don't put in all that time at once. Instead, they nap — a lot.

Some naps can last 15 minutes, some can last an hour or two. But during baby's first few days, you probably don't want your sweet one to sleep more than couple of hours because you don't want them to go too long without eating.

The good thing is that most newborns don't have trouble getting to sleep in the first few days of life, so you don't have to worry too much about how to get them there.

12 Eat

Your baby may be tiny, but he or she will grow quickly. And that growth is fueled by food — either breastmilk or formula.

Newborns eat every two to four hours — maybe even more frequently during growth spurts. Breastfed babies tend to eat more frequently than bottle-fed babies, but both can be ravenous at the beginning.

It is common for babies to lose weight during the first week of life, but establishing a good feeding routine early can help them put that weight back on quickly. Doctors will be watching for that closely.

11 Poop

One of the easiest ways to tell if your baby is getting enough food is to watch his or her diapers. A well-nourished baby will have five to six wet diapers a day plus at least two or three poopy ones.

That equates to a diaper change at least every three or four hours. Any less and that could be a sign of dehydration or another issue.

So keep that diaper pail handy, and be sure to check before and after feedings.

10 Sleep (again)

It's hard work being a newborn. So it's probably time for another nap. We know it's also tough being a new mom, so feel free to snooze yourself.

You were probably told to "sleep when the baby sleeps" over and over again by well-meaning friends and family. It may not seem like the best advice right when you come home from the hospital, but you may quickly find that you need a few extra Zs.

It'll be weeks, maybe even months before your baby sleeps for five hours at a stretch, so if your baby cat naps, you should too.

9 Eat (again)

It feels like you just fed your baby, but it could be time for them to eat before you know it.

Crying can definitely be a cue that your baby is hungry, but there are other signs that moms can pick up on before the crying begins.

One of the first instincts for a newborn baby is "rooting," where the baby turns its head and even squirms its way toward its mother's breast. Bottle-fed babies do this for the first few days too.

Another sign is if your baby moves its hands to its mouth and starts sucking on them.

8 Poop (again)

Time for another diaper change.

If your baby has a touch of jaundice — which happens to most babies in the first few days of life — the more diaper changes, the better.

Jaundice, which can be detected by a yellowish tinge to the skin and the eyes, is caused by a build up of bilirubin when a baby's immature liver is working to break down an excess of red blood cells. The most extreme cases can cause doctors to keep a baby in the NICU and under special lights.

But in most cases, the jaundice will go away on its own. The bilirubin is expelled in baby's waste, so the more feedings and the more diapers, the better.

7 Sleep (yes, again)

Did you master the swaddling technique in the hospital?

Nurses are great at wrapping your baby up tight to make sure they feel as safe and secure as they did in the womb. They often teach new parents at the hospital, but the perfect swaddle can be hard to grasp.

Remember that you should not have loose blankets in the crib with your baby at this age because of the risk of suffocation, but a good swaddle can do wonders at keeping your baby feeling warm and safe.

Most doctors say that you should stop swaddling in a couple of months, before your baby starts to roll over, but for now, this technique can help make bedtime a breeze.

6 Eat (yes, again)

If you are breastfeeding your baby, the first days are crucial.

While you are learning your favorite position and your baby is practicing the best latch, this is the time when your body is establishing its milk supply. It may not seem much, but the first golden drops of colostrum are important to giving your baby precious antibodies.

More importantly, the more that you nurse, the more milk that your body produces once your milk comes in. In the beginning, a new mom can nurse her baby up to 12 times a day. That will take up quite a bit of the first 24 hours at home with baby.

5 Poop (yes, again)

In your baby's first weeks, months and years of life, you will become well-versed in the proper size, shape and color of poop. It's a given.

You may want to avert your eyes and get done with the dirty business quickly, but you could find important clues about your baby's health in his or her diaper.

First, let me say that there is a norm, but there are exceptions to the rule. Some breastfed babies can go days in between dirty diapers, while bottle-fed babies are often quite regular.

Your baby's first bowel movement likely happened in the hospital, and it was tarry, black and hard to remove. That won't last long. Within a few days, the consistency should change to a seedy texture and a mustard-like color.

On average, that should last until your baby tries solid food, and the color can vary by diet — expect green beans to turn it green and carrots to turn it orange. Other changes could signal a problem, so you should let your doctor know if you see hard poop or a drastic change in color inconsistent with diet.

4 Take Care of Yourself

While baby may be the first thing on your mind during the first 24 hours home from the hospital, new mothers need to remember that they were also a patient, and the road to recovery may not be an easy one.

Some women feel full of energy after their baby is born, but after the initial surge of endorphins, most are due for a crash. Whether the birth was vaginal or Cesarean, a woman's body has to recover.

There will be weeks of vaginal bleeding, soreness and swelling near the stitches (many new moms come home with stitches no matter the type of delivery) and a rush of hormones adding to the stress at home.

Whether a mom breastfeeds or not, her milk will come in within days of coming home, and it can be sore and painful.

Be sure to take care of your body and mind and allow for healing and recovery.

3 Expecting company?

Everyone loves a new baby, and more likely than not at least one family member will feel the need to visit you within 24 hours of bringing baby home.

Many moms greet visitors at the hospital, but when you get home you may be more trepidatious. That's OK. It's your home, and you should be able to limit the visitors if you want to.

Some women are comforted with having their mother or sister or in-law around to help out for the first few days, and that is a good idea if you feel comfortable with it.

Be aware that your baby is still susceptible to germs, so decide if you want to limit the visitors, talk to them about vaccines and enforce a hand-washing policy.

And if you do let friends visit, don't be shy about putting them to work. Let them bring you dinner or fold the laundry in exchange for a baby snuggle.

2 Your First Night at Home

You got through the first several hours home with baby, but no matter how well things are going during the day, the night is an entirely different animal.

Sleep can become harder to come by, even if your baby sleeps like a champ, because at night the worry can start to take over. Many women worry whether their peacefully sleeping baby is breathing. Sometimes, keeping a hand on the baby's chest brings a peace of mind.

Postpartum moms are also susceptible to night sweats, and the sleep deprivation can bring on some scary thoughts and dreams. But don't worry the sun will be up soon, and your first night at home with baby will come to an end.

1 Setting Your Routine

The first 24 hours at home with a baby can feel entirely predictable and entirely unpredictable at the same time.

Every time to you feed your baby, every time you change a diaper, every time you coax out a burp or rock your baby to sleep or try out a new position to soothe a cry you are practicing the skills that will get you through the newborn months.

Soon you'll get to know your baby and the best ways to keep him or her happy. Before you know it — sometimes without even trying — you and your baby will have a routine, and you will feel confident as a mom.

The first 24 hours at home with a new baby can be exciting and terrifying. But even if you make a mistake, you will have ample time to get the hang of it.

As much as you can, enjoy every moment — they go quickly. Soon your baby will be on to the next phase in life, and you'll look back on the first 24 hours at home and wonder how you ever thought it was a long time.

Sources: BabyCenter.com, WhatToExpect.com, Parents.com

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