When mom brings her first baby home, she may have expectations of cuddling her baby and fitting back into her pre-pregnancy pants quickly. Though the cuddling is a given and the getting back into the pants a possibility one day, there are plenty of things mom probably doesn't expect.
Since babies don't come with instructions and even the well-meaning advice of friends and family isn't always helpful, mom is left to figure out how to be a parent without a rule book. It's exciting and terrifying, filling those early days with the sleep deprived blur of dreams and nightmares combined.
The good news is mom learns from those early days, especially the first week she is home with her baby. While the hospital may have offered a cocoon-like existence since there was help available all the time, coming home with an infant is the time mom feels tested the most.
Babies sleep cycles, eating routines, and moods change regularly as they adjust to the world outside of the womb. Mom will notice in those early days only a rhythm she can follow, and it is usually one of chaos. Those early days are sweet and amazing when it comes to bonding, but they can also be trying.
Lessons from moms who have been through it before help the rest of us know what to expect and how to survive the early days. These tips will help mom prepare herself for life at home with an infant.
15 Recovery Is Not A Quick Process
Regardless of whether mom is recovering from a vaginal or surgical delivery, recovery is not instant. In fact, when mom comes home from the birthing center or hospital, most of her recovery is still in front of her.
Carrying a child for nine months is hard on the body, and then giving birth takes a massive amount of energy and causes mom to lose blood. When that is over, mom's body starts the process of trying to let down milk. All of this happens while mom heals from surgical cuts, tears, or episiotomies.
While every day tends to get a little easier where recovery is concerned, mom should expect to spend weeks or months getting back to feeling like her old self. That first week, mom's body will mostly feel foreign, fleshy and sore from birth and sleep deprived from caring for an infant. It's a long road to healing, and mom needs to take it one step at a time.
14 Breastfeeding Is Natural, But That Is Not The Same As Easy
Mom will hear throughout her pregnancy about how breastfeeding is a natural process. It is totally natural, but that doesn't mean it's easy. Just because the body can do something doesn't mean it won't pull a few tricks to complicate mom's life.
Breast is best, and that's been proven repeatedly. However, many moms report having trouble breastfeeding that first week home. A weak latch, low milk supply, or some unknown reason stands between mom and her desire to feed her child, and she feels like a failure because this was supposed to be so natural.
It's important to remember that asking for help when it comes to breastfeeding is fine, and it is a difficult task that may require some tweaks before it works perfectly. Mom doesn't need to feel bad if she needs help or if she decides to forego breast milk for formula.
13 It's All About Survival
The first week home with a newborn is life in the trenches, period. Mom may expect to come home and make homemade meals while folding baby laundry and snapping precious infant pictures to put on Instagram. None of that is probably going to happen.
For the Type A mom who needs that schedule, routine, and checklist to feel worthy and calm, this week can be rough. The only item on the to-do list needs to be "keep the baby alive". All that is required to accomplish this will fill all 24 hours and leave mom spent.
It can be very difficult to have life boiled down to simply feeding a child and keeping them content, but that is what it is to have an infant, especially in those first days when they are adjusting to life in the outside world. Survival is winning.
12 Those Parenting Books Make Great Doorstops
Look, there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing research before having a child. In fact, since this is the biggest event of mom's life, it's expected she will read some books, peruse some blogs, and find out everything she can about being a parent. The problem is her child is uniquely hers, and those parenting books are one-size-fits-all.
Mom will learn early that following other people's advice about how to raise a child is hit or miss. What helps one baby sleep may not affect another. The routine the parenting books claim will make an infant the most content child on earth really irks mom's infant. All the magic tricks to make life simple with a baby sometimes fall flat because there really is no magic to raising a human. It's just a whole lot of hard work.
11 Babies Never Stop Eating
Because infant bellies are small and they process breast milk quickly, infants eat all the time. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are not real in an infant's world. It's more like every two hour snacks where the baby becomes milk drunk and finally just passes out.
Breast milk is great for babies, and mom does need to feed on demand to establish a good milk supply and give baby all the benefits of skin-to-skin time. However, mom should expect all of these feeding demands to be taxing, and they are. Going in knowing it will be hard is essential because there are a few things mom can do to prepare.
Having plenty of water on hand is important so mom doesn't dehydrate. Speaking to a lactation specialist if one is needed is also a good idea. Finally, having formula available is fine. Some babies are able to breastfeed, some don't, but either way babies want to eat. Mom needs to make sure she has something to feed her little one.
10 Directing Help Is Essential
People want to help when the baby arrives. However, they don't always know how, and oftentimes they don't ask. Many people just come over and assume mom wants them to hold the baby. True, mom might want to pass off her little one so she can grab a shower, but a new mom who is trying to bond and feed her newborn usually doesn't want to hand him over for long.
The help mom really needs is food prep, laundry, and dishes. Remember, mom is sleeping when the baby sleeps and trying to keep the child alive; she has little time for anything else. If mom wants to make sure she has the right kind of help, she can send an email or call friends she knows want to visit to let them know their "assignment". Most people are grateful for the direction, and mom can rest a bit easier knowing things are being done while she recovers.
9 Sleep When The Baby Sleeps
This is good advice, and no matter how much mom hears it, she will not fully realize this truth until that first week home. Though infants sleep anywhere from 16 to 20 hours a day, they spread it out and don't sleep that long at one time. Plus, they aren't big fans of doing it at night.
That's why mom may feel like all her child does is sleep but that she can't get any rest at all. If mom does not sleep when her child does during the day and night, the hours she actually rests add up to nothing. Mom will no longer live in the old world of days and nights. She will need to sleep anytime she has an opportunity and will be awake anytime her child says so.
Dishes, laundry, and to some extent personal hygiene, can wait. If mom notices her little one nodding off, she needs to catch some sleep as well.
8 Mom's Instincts Are Real
Hopefully, mom will not deal with anything detrimental the first week of her child's life, but there will come a point when mom has to follow her instincts, even if she can't explain them.
For some moms, this has been taking a child back to the doctor or hospital even though they just left because she suspects something isn't right. For others it's not following that advice they were given because they just know it's a bad idea. Whatever it is, big or small, mom will find very early on that she has a maternal instinct that is fierce, real, and oftentimes completely accurate.
There's nothing wrong with following the mother's instinct. We were given those gut reactions for a reason, and mothers have been guided by them for centuries. They help us make the best decisions for our children.
7 Recharge Time Is Essential
Moms are not martyrs, and attempting to be one will ultimately result in an unhappy family. Since mom is usually the primary caregiver, her needs are important. It's not easy to keep a newborn happy and safe all day and night long, so mom needs to try, even in the first week, to build in time for her sanity.
It sounds impossible, but it's not. Even small treats—a shower, a favorite cup of decaf, a ten minute walk—can recharge mom's system and keep her going. She should ask for these. Moms usually realize very early on that they can be consumed by motherhood, and no matter how much they love it, mom does not need to let herself be swallowed whole.
Most moms see that their sanity is essential to the family functioning as a whole. When mom is burnt out and ready to crash, it's easy for everyone else to come down with her. For that reason, and the fact that mom deserves a break, mom should start factoring sanity time into her days early on and continue this practice forever.
6 Babies Are A Strain On The Relationship
Sleep deprivation makes us cranky, and there is nothing to rival the sleep deprivation mom and dad will experience that first week of their baby's life at home. It's epic.
While mom and dad will be a team and depend on each other through the hard times, they may also find themselves snapping and insulting the other person. This is normal, but it's not fun. Common arguments may center around household chores, lack of time for both partners, and parenting styles, and these arguments may seem extremely aggressive that first week at home.
It's important to remember that both parents are under pressure, tired, and somewhat terrified of being left to keep a baby alive without help. Sitting down and talking out issues calmly, as well as deciding if the fights are just a result of stress from change, is essential. Mom and dad are a team, and they need to have each others backs.
5 Baby Proofing For An Infant Is A Fool's Errand
If mom did all that baby proofing work before the baby arrived, great job! It's true that before mom knows it, her little one will be climbing and opening doors to explore. However, that first week, and pretty much the first several months, babies don't.
Baby proofing in itself is not a bad idea, and doing it before the baby comes means not having to find time to perform all those tasks with a child in the house. However, mom will notice quickly that all her baby wants to do the first week is sleep, poop, and eat.
They don’t roll, and many attach themselves to mom like Velcro, refusing even to be put down. There's very little risk of them finding the knives in the kitchen drawer and putting them into the light sockets.
4 There's More To This Than Birth
A large majority of moms say they look back on being pregnant and remember focusing on one thing almost to the exclusion of all others: birth. With documentaries, like The Business of Being Born, out there and all the research about how birth affects our children, many moms spend plenty of time preparing their bodies to have a baby and writing a birth plan.
In fact, some do this without thinking about what happens when the child actually arrives.
This becomes glaringly clear the first week home. As mom questions every decision she is making for her baby, she may wonder where her attention was focused before the child was born. Most women come back to birth. Sure, they may have read up on having a child, but many were so immersed in What to Expect When You're Expecting that they forgot about what to expect when the pregnancy is over.
Don't fret, moms. Those instincts kick in, though all of us still come across problems we don't know how to solve. Ask for help.
3 Dad Needs To Be Involved
There are those who like to say dads don't really do the baby phase. The belief is that dad will jump in when the baby can walk and talk and be the chummy friend who teaches the kid sports. This stereotype is dangerous for all involved.
Dads need to be involved from day one, and that's apparent the first week home. While it's normal for a baby to look for mom since she is the food source, they can also recognize their dad and be comforted by skin-to-skin time with him. Plus, research shows our bonds with our dads affect our future relationships, our view of ourselves, and our emotional well being. Who wouldn't want to get in early to make sure things go the right direction?
If dad is hesitant in those early days because he's not sure what to do with an infant, mom should guide him in holding the baby or letting him perform tasks such as burping the baby or changing the diaper. Anything that involves dad is a good idea.
2 First Baths Are Scarier Than Horror Movies
Though baby may have received a wash down in the hospital, when mom actually gives the baby his first bath at home, she'll find it is terrifying. How do we know when the water is too hot? Why is the bathtub so slippery? Is this soap really made for sensitive baby skin? Why is this all so hard?!?
Also, mom will have to work around the umbilical stump, so that adds an extra level to the whole experience. What is important is never leaving the child alone in the water. Next, having both parents perform this task the first few times is helpful. Babies are slippery when wet, and the fear of dropping the baby during the bath can make mom so nervous she actually feels paralyzed from the fear.
Not much water is needed in those early days, and baths don't have to be long. Just take it slow. This will get better.
1 Changing A Diaper Is Like Playing Russian Roulette
Though the tar-like meconium diapers may be a thing of the past by the first week home, the contents of diapers can still be shady. Depending on how much the baby eats, what mom ate if the baby is breastfed, or the effects of formula, stool can range in color, shape, and texture. One morning there will be an epic poop explosion that ruins a onesie, and by night baby has firm stool.
This is normal. Like adults, infants are not machines. Their bodies respond to what they eat and how they feel, and their poop reflects that. Having changing stations set up in several areas of the house can really help mom survive those early days.
Mom does need to watch the diaper to make sure there is no blood in the stool. Though blood can be innocuous, It's important to call if mom sees any, just in case.