THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE FIRST TWO WEEKS AFTER BABY
This is (of course) just my take. But I thought this would be important to write down not only for myself, but for anyone else who may soon be expecting their first.
If you are a new mama or dad and have anything to add, please do so in the comments!
- Sleep when baby sleeps … for real. Everyone says it, but it’s hard to understand what that means. Sure, there’s going to be some light laundry or dishes that you HAVE to do to survive during the days (especially if your partner is working full time)… but back off the big stuff. Your baby needs your 100% energy, focus and love. If you don’t sleep, you won’t be up to the early challenges. It’s super tempting (SUPER TEMPTING) to get “caught up” while the baby sleeps. I’ll bet that you’ll find out that it’s NOT WORTH IT if you give it a try. Because neither the baby or your partner will appreciate you having a rotten day and feeling miserable, but hey! The floors got vacuumed. (Can you tell this happened to me?) There’s always someone to help with heavy cleaning or chores - your job is to nourish your little one and recover. You have the best excuse on the planet to take some time. Use it.
- Ask for help. It might feel weird and counter to normal (our culture is very much “I got this!”), but this is the biggest change of your life. You need time to recover and bond with your little one. Doing chores or cooking doesn’t get you there. Your family and friends are dying to help, but many people might not know how. Consider sending out an email or letting your family know what they can do to help: come over to drop off food and leave, come over to do some chores (like dishes/laundry) and leave, come over to hold the baby while you nap in another room, then leave. Notice a theme? :) One of the best presents I got in the early days was my best friend coming over on her lunch break, taking the baby to the other side of the house, and giving me 25 minutes to sleep. Amazing. These first two weeks are not the best time for you to feel like a hostess. Focus on yourself, and encourage your family to help you with what’s needed. Advocate for yourself and your baby.
- If you are planning to breastfeed, please be patient! Even though it’s the most “natural” thing, both you and your baby need to learn how. Take full advantage of the hospital lactation consultant. Nurse your baby as immediately as possible. If you don’t have a lactation consultant outside the hospital, get one or get in contact with La Leche League and attend meetings (it’s tough to figure out nursing problems long distance, you want someone in person to help you if needed). From personal experience, I can tell you that even with a pretty successful start to breast feeding (James latched right on and we were good to go!), it’s incredibly helpful to have a lactation consultant available to see for appointments and available via phone/text for quick questions. Be patient with yourself and your little one. Visit kellymom.com for incredibly helpful articles and information about breastfeeding.
- Set yourself up with a nursing “area” – I have two. One in the living room, with a basket nearby with snacks, a box of Kleenex, a charger for my cell phone and an area for my drinks. My other area is in the bedroom – I cleaned out a nightstand drawer for the same purpose: stocked with bottles of Gatorade and easy snacks for middle-of-the-night feeds. Remember: you’re going to be sitting in those areas for hours! Might as well be comfortable. :) Another huge help was Netflix for TV/movies due to hours of nursing, and also an electronic book reader – whether it’s your phone/Kindle/Nook. Super awesome for middle of the night feeds.
- Hormones are normal. Roll with it. Embrace them. You’re not weird or crazy. Good and bad is to be expected, even on the same day. You’ll experience the highest highs and the lowest lows, sometimes one after another. It’s exhausting... and normal. It’s incredibly helpful to have a partner that understands that you’ll be going through some intense days. It’s also helpful to have a friend that you can call/text for the good/bad/questions/venting.
- Before you go to the hospital, make sure you have stuff at home for your comfort like nursing pads, nursing bras/tank tops/comfy pants/shorts/slippers (remember you’ll be swollen in those early days, stuff may feel snug at first).
- Remember newborns have limited needs. It’s not a Mensa test or anything personal when the baby cries. And cries. And then screams. Check the diaper. Check to see if she’s hungry. Give her some good cuddles. And when all else fails, pass her to someone and take a moment to calm yourself – step outside, and take a deep breath. She can sense your frustration. BUT KNOW THIS: there is a “normal” fussy time for almost all babies… this typically happens in the evening, and can last a few hours. All of a sudden, your calm contented babe will turn into an inconsolable little screamer. I remember when it happened on day 7, I was completely unprepared and wrecked. This is okay… your little one just needs more cuddles/nursing and you WILL get through that fussiness (sometimes 2 hours, sometimes 4… sometimes starts at 7PM, sometimes starts at 4… be flexible).
- One of the biggest things I noticed about my ‘bad’ days was that I ‘expected’ something that didn’t happen. Like, I expected to get a lot of sleep, or that baby would nap, or that I would get a shower and get out of the house/accomplish something ‘like I used to’. Invariably, I wouldn’t be able to do that because… I have a newborn. So my frustration would build, and I’d be disappointed/upset/sad. There’s a huge attitudinal adjustment here. When I took a moment to realize what was happening, and reset my mind to the fact that this was what my baby needed more than he needed me to shower or whatever else I thought I ‘should’ do – everything turned around. I could then appreciate the day and the magic of what we were doing.
Finally, here are some hugely helpful resources I couldn't do without:
A friend who had a baby within the past year. Wow.
And of course keep in mind: take what you need from these resources and ditch the rest. Take everything with a grain of salt, and keep in mind that what works for one family/baby/mama might not work for you. And that's okay.
You are amazing. It can be tough to remember that during these first few weeks, but you are. Love on yourself, your baby and your partner. And know that this is truly an amazing adventure we're all on.