So, your precious baby has finally arrived! After a blissful pregnancy and delivery, you’ve come home (in your pre-pregnancy clothes, of course) with your beautiful baby, ready to start life as the perfect parents of a perfect child. Yeah, right!
You’ve just gotten over with a pregnancy in which you threw up more times than you can count and still managed to gain an embarrassing amount of weight, where your feet swelled to unrecognizable lumps at the bottom of your legs, you finally suffered through a hideously long, painful labor and delivery only to arrive home (in your largest maternity outfit that barely fit!) with a screaming, vomiting, miniature human being who can’t tell you why he/she’s upset and who poops what can only be described as TAR! What can you do now?!?
1. Experienced Talk
Experienced helpers can make all the difference in how well you survive the sleepless nights, crazy hormones, and uncertainties of this phase.
Call your mommy! No, really, if you have a mom or a grandma or an aunt or a good friend who has any experience with babies, ask for help! As long as there have been babies, there have been women gathering around to help new mamas through the intense first few weeks with a newborn.
Beware, though, of the experienced helpers who are a bit too helpful and try to push you out of the way. They might even try guilt you into leaving your baby behind to go on a walk or a date-night “for the good of your marriage.”
- First of all, leaving your baby behind to preserve your marriage isn’t a great precedent to set with your husband. You two are in this together, and setting a precedent of the family first is a good idea!
- The whole point of having help is not only for you to recover but also to become experienced yourself in taking care of your baby.
On that note…, while accepting help is vital, make sure that everyone knows that this baby is YOUR baby and YOU will decide what is best for your life. Listen to all advice, take what makes sense to you, and chuck the rest. Let your helpers do the housework, cooking, and the errands while you take care of and get to know the new addition to your family.
If your instincts tell you to hold your baby, even while she sleeps, then do just that! If your instincts tell you to nurse your crying baby even though you just nursed fifteen minutes ago, then do so! God gave you those instincts for a reason, so don’t ignore them!
3. Taking Naps
I know you’ve all heard the “sleep when your baby is sleeping” advice. Listen to that advice! Short little naps may not seem all that helpful in theory, but they can be lifesavers when getting used to the rigors of new parenthood.
And keep reminding yourself that it will get better, because it will!
Whether you’ve chosen to breastfeed or bottle feed, expect your little one to eat erratically at first. Remember, babies nutritional needs were met with a constancy and lack of effort in utero that can’t be replicated outside the womb. Their tummies are only about the size of a walnut in the first days, so they can’t have enough at each feeding to last them more than two or three hours at most, and often far less!
Also, if you’re breastfeeding, it’s common to worry that your baby isn’t getting enough milk. But if you keep in mind how itty bitty their tummies are, you’ll realize that it doesn’t take much to fill them up. When breastfeeding, focus on getting a good latch and establishing your supply, among others, and it’s often helpful to consult a lactation specialist for guidance. There are excellent resources available in most communities through your local hospital as well as online resources.
5. Bathing The Baby
While bathing the baby may be fun, it really isn’t necessary and might be rather traumatic for them.
“Topping and tailing” is a term that means taking a warm, wet cloth (no soap) and gently washing their eyes (inner corner to outer corner to avoid infection), face, ears, head, and neck, and then washing their bottom, being careful to clean out all the little cracks and crevices. Follow that with cord care (gently cleaning the cord area with a cotton swab moistened with a bit of alcohol or just water), and you’re done!
6. Transition Of The Baby
Birth is a huge transition for a baby. From a warm, dark, weightless environment where all their needs were met, sounds were muffled, and mama’s heartbeat lulled them to sleep, they are abruptly ejected into a cold, loud, bright world. They experience hunger, discomfort, loneliness, and fear for the first time.
You can help your little one cope by easing the transition:
- Keep the lights a bit dimmer and the sounds a bit more muted right at first.
- Wear your baby in those first transitional weeks (and often far longer when you discover how convenient it is!). Babywearing is a term that refers to using a baby carrier, wrap, or sling to keep your baby close to you where he/she can hear your heartbeat and feel your warmth and closeness in an approximation of your womb.
This will help reduce your baby’s stress as he/she acclimates to the new environment, and a less-stressed baby results in a less-stressed mommy. And, don’t forget daddy!
Baby-wearing is also a wonderful way for daddies to bond with their babies. Studies have shown that close physical contact between fathers and their infants causes a hormonal response similar to when a mother gives birth, increasing the nurturing response naturally and paving way for a healthy attachment and strong parent/child relationship.
7. Co-Sleeping And Club Sleeping
There is a big divide in parenting circles between the “co-sleepers” and the “crib sleepers.” Whichever choice you make will probably be challenged by more than one of your friends or relatives or even complete strangers who seem to have no issues with giving advice to someone they don’t know!
- Bottom line, if you choose to co-sleep, read up on safe co-sleeping options and then follow your instincts!
- If you choose to put your little one in a crib or bassinet, do yourself a favor and put it next to your bed to reduce your travel time in the middle of the night.
You’ll thank me, I promise!
8. Spoiling The Baby
Your baby is completely and totally helpless in every way. The main mode of communication is crying. Medical experts agree that it isn’t possible to spoil a newborn. You are just at the beginning stages of building a trust relationship, so respond promptly to your little one’s cries!
Immediate response to babies’ needs will help them learn that they can count on you when they need you and that they don’t have to “fight” for your attention.
Babies left to cry-it-out often sleep through the night sooner than babies whose needs are responded to because they have learned to give up on their needs being met. But that “gain” of sleeping through the night is accomplished at the “loss” of trust, and the long-term consequences of a child giving up on the parents simply aren’t worth it.
9. Baby Yourself
Whether you’ve had a c-section or a vaginal birth, your body has been through the wringer; your hormones are all over the place; and your lack of sleep is not helping matters!
- Have someone make you a “survival basket” with water bottles, granola bars, minty gum, hand sanitizers, diapers, baby wipes, burp rags, and, most importantly, chocolate! This sack needs to be small and light enough for you to take from room to room while carrying your baby.
- Have someone make a comfy area in your living room for you to nurse (with your survival basket within reach!) and a changing area so you don’t have to go back and forth to the bedroom or nursery throughout the day.
- Take showers when you can.
- Accept casseroles and other offerings of meals from friends, church members, or co-workers.
- If you don’t have help for the housework, just do the bare minimum so you can rest and recover and focus on getting to know your precious new baby!
10. Baby Your Marriage
This is a huge, huge, huge transition for you and your husband, so both of you apologize to each other in advance for any temper tantrums, thoughtless words, or unmet needs that might (will!) occur in the foreseeable future.
You are going from “the two of us” to “we three” and, just as with anything else, change isn’t easy.
Husbands, it’s not about you right now, period. Yes, you have your own issues to deal with in becoming a parent for the first time, but you need to put that aside for the first weeks and concentrate on your wife and child. Your wife isn’t just dealing with becoming a mommy, but her body has been through an incredible transition during those 9 months, followed by the trauma of labor and delivery, crashing hormones, the trials of learning to breastfeed (or deal with engorgement issues if choosing to bottle feed), and the exhaustion of dealing with erratic sleep patterns.
If she’s had a c-section, you can add major abdominal surgery to that list! So, husbands, put your own issues aside and baby your wife and baby for the time being!
Wives, a little verbal acknowledgement goes a long way with husbands, so try to muster up enough energy to tell him that you appreciate him and understand that he is trying to figure out this new life just like you are, and assure him that eventually you will be you again! (Yes, you will. It just takes time!)