Bringing Baby Home: What to Expect the First Six Weeks
by Lianne Castelino & Andrea Howick
Despite your best intentions and even better laid plans – you are not going to be able to do it. It’s been attempted valiantly by millions of strong, dedicated women all over the world for generations. You new moms know what we’re talking about....cooking a fabulous meal for your other half, cleaning the house, laundry, gardening, errands, looking gorgeous, and oh yes – caring for a newborn.
The key to success and survival with a new bundle of joy in the first six weeks, is to be realistic, lower your personal bar of expectations, ask for help and accept help from people you trust who are willing to give it.
Arriving home with a new baby after the physical trauma and emotional roller coaster of childbirth is the first of many milestones in your new life as a parent. You will be entering a brand new world. The good news is that this new world is in the familiar confines of your home. You, your spouse or partner and other family members will learn about each other in new and different ways. Along that journey, everyone will be learning about the new little person in their lives.
One thing we can guarantee – few things are predictable as a parent. The learning curve and change are constants. Your ability to understand and react to change are vital and will be forever.
Here are some suggestions from moms who have been there, done that and have the spit-up and diaper stains to prove it!
1. Understand that you are the #1 priority. If you are suffering or in pain - physically, emotionally, mentally, or psychologically – you will NOT be able to take optimal care of your baby. Ask for and find help for yourself first.
2. Your baby is your new #1A priority. Make sure you are aware of and respond to your baby’s signs and signals. Lethargy, fever, vomiting, long periods of uncontrollable crying, lack of appetite, infrequent stools – are among the main visible signals to watch for when you first bring your baby home.
3. Let go of everything else. (Not directly related to yourself or your baby. Any superwoman-type thoughts that enter your mind should be gently tossed aside – as should non-mandatory housework, cleaning, etc.
4. Limit visitors. Be diplomatic and polite, but also create a schedule whereby you and your baby are able to accept visitors. If before dinner is when your baby will be more awake and alert, then block of 30 or 60 minutes for visitors at that time. While well-meaning and curious, too many visits when you first arrive home quickly become a source of stress. You will also throw off your baby’s schedule.
5. Tell them...bring food. The single, most useful and priceless gift friends and family can offer when you arrive home with a newborn is nutritious meals of any kind. Pack it, store it, freeze it, horde it if you have to, but don’t say NO to the offer of food. You likely will not have the energy, time or desire to whip up a delicious, healthy meal on a daily basis. You need your strength to take care of yourself and your new baby. So eating healthy, especially if you are breastfeeding is all-important.
6. Write it down in your little black book. There are a ridiculous number of new things your baby will teach you in the first days at home. Make it easier on yourself by centralizing the information and any questions that may arise from it into one handy book or journal. Everything from tracking the number of soiled diapers in one day to medical appointments and feeding schedules -will become vital statistics in your new daily schedule - key pieces of information that you will need to remember or refer to. Write them down. Don’t go by memory. Your book will also become extremely useful when you go to the doctor. Use it to write down questions or concerns you may in the hours, days or weeks prior to your next appointment with the pediatrician or gynecologist.
7. Nap when your baby naps. This is NOT the time to try and squeeze in that neglected housework or laundry. This time will never come back, so use it wisely. Nap while your baby is asleep to replenish your depleted energy reserves. You will be so happy you did!
8. Create a support list. Write down the names and phone numbers of at least three people you can count on or call for help. Ideally these people would be “low maintenance” types – the kind who are genuinely ready, willing, able and reliable, if needed. Stick the information on the fridge. Make your family aware of it. Talk to each person and let them know they are on YOUR support list. Don’t be caught in an emergency situation with no one to call for help.
9. Eat well and often. You have likely just been through pain like you never thought possible. The pure joy and thrill and utter miracle of birth is exhilarating. Hospitals were not designed for sleeping. You are exhausted. If you can relate to any of the above, then you are a typical new mom. Welcome to the club! With physical recovery and sleep likely high on your priority list, it is more important than ever to EAT well and as often as possible. You need to replenish your energy so that you can care for your baby. For breastfeeding moms, eating nutritious foods often is even more important.
10. Communicate. If your spouse or partner has had trouble reading your mind in the past, now is that the time for you to expect them to start.Talk about your feelings, fears, frustrations with your baby, or each other. Share with each other in a calm, rational way so that you can both learn and grow as parents and partners.
11. Get some fresh air daily. Even if you cannot believe that you haven’t been able to take a shower for the second straight day, don’t worry! Pull your hair back, put on a hat, do whatever you have to but get out of the house with your baby. You will be amazed at what a walk around the block can do for your psyche and your spirit. Who knows you might even meet some other new parents or find a nifty new must-have baby gadget (that was never important before!). A daily dose of fresh air with your baby will nourish and revitalize you.
12. Delegate, outsource...relax and enjoy! If you’ve let go of non-mandatory household tasks, that means someone else has to pick up the slack. Make a list of priorities and try to delegate them to your spouse, family member, friend of someone else (eg. a maid). This will alleviate your stress. It will also hopefully allow you and your husband to try and enjoy the thrilling but mysterious world of being a new parent...in between the chaos!