Bringing Home Baby: How to Survive the First Week
It is almost your due date. You feel ready. You’ve got the nursey ready, a closet full of clothes that they may or may not wear, a huge pile of diapers, your hospital bag packed, and your birth plan memorized.
But are you really prepared for what will happen when you bring your baby home?
Not to worry, there are DEFINITELY are some things you can do and think about now, rather than Google in a panic later. This, of course, is not an exhaustive list, and you might need other things not mentioned here, but these are what I have found that truly helped me to transition from survive to thrive in those early newborn baby Mom days.
Sleep (Glorious Sleep!)
Sleep is the Holy Grail of any parent. As tired as you are during that grueling end of the third trimester, a new sort of tired will be upon you after becoming a new mom. Labour is exhausting, for starters, and now there is a little one who needs you day and night.
The absolute best strategy is to try and sleep when the baby is sleeping. It is age old advice, but it is age old advice for a reason – it works.
All the excitement of holding and watching your new baby can be a roadblock to sleep. Try to take a few moments to relax your body and mind prior to attempting sleep. Some things that I found to work are:
A nice cup of warm liquid (milk, warm water, or a caffeine free tea such as this nursing tea that is relaxing and also supports lactation)
Listening to a short sleep story on Audible.
These are amazing! Play it right on your phone and drift off to sleep while the worries of motherhood leave your body and mind.
I HIGHLY recommend this for all new moms, as sleep will become more important than it ever has been.
Once you are able to find a rhythm of catching up on sleep, you will feel MUCH more prepared to take care of baby, and enjoy those precious moments as they discover the world around them.
Have the Essential Items that you Need
A brand-new baby does not actually need much. Mom (you!) is the number one need in their early life, but there are a few things that truly are essential:
Diapers, and LOTS of them
Since you really can't 100% certain how big your baby will be (no matter WHAT you google!), the best idea is to stock up on BOTH newborn and preemie size diapers. If your babe is big enough to fit in newborn, donate the preemie ones to the NICU at your local hospital. If your baby is measuring large, then you might want to have newborn size AND size 1 on hand. This pack you can order on Amazon is great because it contains both size newborn and size 1:
Baby will need to eat. A lot. Whether you plan on breastfeeding or formula feeding, you will need a few things.
Even if you plan on breastfeeding baby, have some bottles on hand because you never know - sometimes nursing just doesn't work out, and if you can express milk and have Dad take turns feeding, this not only helps with bonding but even more importantly, can allow you to get some much needed extra sleep! We love the Avent Natural bottles: they have been a huge hit in our house and so economical in a set of different sizes.
You can easily get this set off of Amazon, or seek out a different option that works for you and your baby - some babies like a certain bottle, so try out a couple.
No matter HOW you are feeding your baby (bottle, breast, formula) you are giving your babe what they need and you are DOING an AMAZING JOB MOMMA.
You will need a way to express milk, and there are many different options. Electric pumps, since they are more powerful, can allow you to express more milk. I found GREAT SUCCESS with the Haaka pump as it is SO EASY to use while you are nursing, and the price cannot be beat. Because of the low cost (UNDER $40!), it also makes an excellent shower gift.
A QUICK way to Sterilize bottles and equipment
One of the other MAJOR GAME CHANGERS for me as a new Mom was these sterilization bags - they make it so easy to sterilize items in the microwave, and will save you time, effort, and your sanity, in those early days.
Muslin or Bamboo swaddles
Even if your baby hates being swaddled (some do!), these are the most versatile blankets for cuddling, wrapping, tucking baby into the carseat or stroller when it's a bit chilly, and protecting your clothes from baby's messes (which there will be plenty of!) We have found that the 4 PAck of Aiden & Anais blankets have lasted for years (my toddlers have still carried around and cuddled with theirs), and are a very COST EFFECTIVE option you can easily get from Amazon.
WIPES and MORE WIPES!
Get a lot of wipes. Let me repeat that: get a LOT of wipes! Not only will you use them on baby's bottom, but also messy hands, necks and arms after baby spits up. We have had NO diaper rashes in our house for the last 5 years using these Natural BAMBOO wipes from Aleva naturals. Order an ENTIRE CASE for under $30 from Amazon.
Motherlove Sitz Bath Spray
Trust me on this one - labor and delivery are HARD on your body (yes, down there!) Whether this is your first or fourth baby, the sitz bath is a miracle for postpartum recovery. This soothing herbal spray will take that relaxing experience to a whole new level! Use it with pads or when you just don't have time for a long soak and you'll get the relief you need.
Stock Up on PADS
That is it - stock up on the thickest pad you can find - you will need them. Think you have enough on hand? Get MORE. Trust me.
I love this one by Earth Mama: because it is Lanolin free it is safe for both Mom and Baby. It is also a GREAT value for the low price point.
Momma needs nourishment too! I love to order one of these SNACK BOXES for a friend who has just brought their new baby home. It has a nice selection of granola and high protein and nut bars, and you will love having snacks that do not require any prep that you can grab while nursing or snuggling baby.
Your body will also need some extra water intake if you are nursing too. Hydrate, Hydrate, HYDRATE!
Limit Visits (Especially at First)
Family and friends can be a great help, but if you feel that you and baby are just trying to establish your new normal in those early days: let everyone know that you are not up for visits just yet. Speak to your partner about boundaries they can set for their family as well, and have them act as gatekeeper so that loved ones are aware that you are not ready for a barrage of visits at the beginning.
DO NOT FEEL BAD about this. This is the time for you and baby. Although others' wishes are well intentioned, they can definitely wait to get their peek at the baby.
Send emails or text messages to extended family members and close friends with pictures if you'd like to keep them updated in the meantime, and have them share in your joy of baby boy or girl entering your lives.
Take it easy
Relax as much as possible. Follow your healthcare provider's directions about sitting, walking, and when to tackle stairs. Give your body the GRACE it deserves after bringing your little one into the world. Leave the housework until you are stronger and graciously accept offers from kind visitors (when you're ready!) who insist on cleaning your bathroom.
While you have them at home, involve your partner as much as possible with all things baby. One of the GAME CHANGERS for us was splitting the evening into shifts. I was able to express milk, and my babies have been great bottle takers, so this allowed me to go to bed around 8:00 pm and have my husband do the 10:00/11:00 pm feed. I was able to sleep for at least 5 hours. That is right - SLEEPING 5 HOURS WITH A NEWBORN BABY!
It literally saved my sanity: body and mind.
Confession: I am not a fan of most nursing bars. I’ve stocked up on nursing tank tops I can just pair with a basic t-shirt. sweatshirt, or zip-up, and it has made my nursing life SO MUCH easier. These ones are great as they are clip-ons and they are long enough to fit over my healing belly.
Don't forget to stock up on nursing pads!
Recruit a Food Fairy Godmother
Plan ahead with meals to get you through those first few hectic days. When you arrive home from hospital, you will not have the time, energy, or inclination to be planning any kind of menu, and you will be HUNGRY.
In the days leading up to your due date, make some casseroles and soups to freeze. Accept offers, or ask family and friends to supply some meals for those first few days.
One of our dear family members, as well as a few of our friends were our food fairy godmothers. For the first couple of weeks following birth. I would find a pot of freshly made soup or a large Tupperware container of lasagna on my doorstep.
The first few days at home are a very special time for a new family. The newborn stage is delightful, exciting, challenging, and so SHORT. By ensuring that you have what you need, you can truly be able to enjoy those precious little moments.