My first birth was an ordeal to say the least but what shocked me was the overwhelming feeling of responsibility the second I held him in my arms.
It suddenly dawned on me that I was actually responsible for this tiny human being and all the reading in the world could never have really prepared me for this moment.
The feeling that he will actually rely on me for absolutely everything was quite a realization that I only felt when he was actually here.
But what was even more daunting was the prospect of taking the baby home.
I felt safe in the hospital knowing a nurse was just a call away and even my husband was by my side.
How would I cope all alone at home with no one to check that I was actually doing things the ‘right’ way.
After the birth of my second child I wished that I had enjoyed my first born a bit more.
By the time I had my second child I learnt that its OK to let things go and not try to be supermom.
Bringing home baby number two was far easier than baby number one and baby number 5 was by far the easiest of all!
I have done it a few times now so here are my top tips on how to enjoy your newborn baby in the first week.
I will also mention what to expect in the first week with a baby.
Let’s start with a few essentials you need when you bring baby home in the first week, you don’t really need that much to begin with.
A good quality monitor– I never bothered with cameras just a standard one was fine for me.
Basic baby must haves; diapers, wipes, bum cream and oil of your choice.
Blankets for the baby
Feeding supplies whether you choose to bottle or breastfeed.
Firstly you need to remember that both your lives have changed. Both you and baby need time to get used to your new life and it’s going to take a bit longer than a few days.
Just remind yourself that the baby was in a safe warm comfortable place and now is in the big world, he wants to be close to you and hear your heartbeat and to breastfeed, not just for milk but for comfort too.
If you remind yourself of this then the first week should be calmer than trying to immediately sleep train or get into a feeding routine from day one.
Cut yourself some slack for at least for the first few weeks and try to take care and enjoy the baby as this time doesn’t last very long at all.
Trust me you will look back and wished that you had tried to enjoy it more.
For me, the worst form of torture is sleep deprivation. I am horrible if I haven’t had a few hours, try and sleep when the baby sleeps.
I didn’t do this with my first child I was up doing laundry and cooking which I shouldn’t have done. I should have batch cooked while I was pregnant and spent the first week at least relaxing.
The clothes and washing can wait you need to take care of you especially if you don’t have much support.
Everyone will tell you to sleep when the baby sleeps, I used to roll my eyes when I heard this phrase but now, I realize how right they all were.
Even if you can’t sleep have a lie – down and close your eyes. You may find if you do this that you actually do fall asleep. Even a 10-15-minute power nap can work wonders and give you the energy you are lacking.
When a baby is crying and not able to settle just remember he was warm inside you, he wants to be held and not left in a big cot.
I really loved my bassinet, as the baby felt as though he was right next to me without physically being in the bed.
I could turn on my side and breastfeed him while still being in bed, and I wouldn’t have the issue of moving a sleeping baby.
Above all remind yourself and keep reminding yourself that this is a phase and this too shall pass.
If the baby cries the whole first night, week or even month just tell yourself this won’t last forever.
Try not to yell at the baby or take out your frustrations on a snoring husband who every so often turns around and says ‘you’re a soldier’ (even though you want to kill him).
Just take the baby to the family room, feed him, eat snacks and watch Netflix.
Soothing the baby
No one tells you this, but cluster feeding is normal and one feed merges into another and before you know it the baby has been attached to you for 4 hours straight.
This can happen at night too, each one of my babies did this especially at 2 am when I desperately wanted to sleep the baby decided it was time for a 3 hour feed.
Don’t worry this wont last long but in the early days this coupled with everything else it seems so much worse.
Sometimes all a miserable baby needs is some skin to skin, you can put a naked baby (keep the diaper on) on your naked chest and put a blanket over his back.
Some babies just need to be able to feel you.
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When moms exclaim ‘I absolutely loved breastfeeding!’ I’m sorry to say that they may have just forgotten about that first week!
There seems to be a misconception that breastfeeding comes naturally, this isn’t always the case and most of us do struggle.
Both baby and mom are learning how to feed and this could take a little time.
I panicked so much with my first as I knew that supplementing could affect my supply so I was setting alarms and waking up to try and feed around the clock.
Initial latching of the baby onto the breast can hurt but should subside as soon as baby starts to suck.
If you get chapped nipples then often a nipple shield can really help.
Try not to stress out and get help, scabs and bleeding nipples aren’t normal and you need to get them checked out before you get an infection.
Also, for some moms breast milk can take a while to come in.
I remember with my third child it took 5 days and she was literally attached to me the whole day and night which wasn’t fun.
It took me at least 2 months to establish any sort of feeding routine with her and I struggled with breastfeeding her for these initial 8 weeks.
Breastfeeding during the first few weeks can be hard and take it from me if you have breastfed one baby then it doesn’t automatically make you a pro.
All babies are different and take to breastfeeding differently.
If you are having difficulty, try to get your latch checked out it could be something so simple that could make all the difference.
Once you and the baby have breastfeeding sussed it is the most wonderful thing in the world.
All of the above made the first week a haze of confusion, worry and I didn’t bond as well as I should have with my first baby.
The fact that I have done the first week with one baby meant I was prepared with the first week of breastfeeding another.
I try to relax and enjoy this time. I don’t sterilize everything meticulously and leave nipple shields and pacifiers (when you are further along) in a cup of boiling water.
Or sometimes just run a hot tap over them. I have eased up and tried to take things in my stride.
Take your pain meds
Take your pain meds consistently and don’t wait for the pain to kick in before taking them.
Trust me you will regret it.
I didn’t feel anything like myself; my bottom hurt, my stitches hurt, my boobs felt heavy and sore, even places I didn’t know existed were hurting.
I kept wetting myself as I had no bladder control, I wasn’t sleeping and I wasn’t fully awake either.
My body just didn’t feel like my own.
Again, just remind yourself that this will only last a week or so and then you will soon start to feel human again.
Getting your partner involved
Ask for help, most partners think they are getting in the way and would love to spend time with the baby.
My husband loves to sit on the couch for hours holding a baby and I have managed to get a quick nap in this time.
I ask my husband to take over bath time and nappy changes and I can honestly say it helps so much, especially when you have other kids that also need some mommy time.
Prepare yourself for an emotional rollercoaster
For me, day 3 is the absolute worst.
It normally coincides with my milk coming in (it only took me, 5 babies, to realize this).
I would cry at the most ridiculous thing like when I had forgotten to put the butter in the fridge and it had melted or been in floods of tears because I had forgotten to put the wash load on.
Just remind yourself this is just a phase related to the birth of the baby, crazy hormones all over the place and sleep deprivation and it will soon pass.
However, if it does continue for longer than 10 days then contact your doctor.
Take all the help you can
I was all about just getting on with it and proving myself to everyone that I took no help at all.
This very independent woman soon became not so independent after a few weeks of no sleep, not showering regularly and not eating enough.
I was ratty and irritable and just wanted the baby to sleep so I could get more housework done.
I missed out on the most precious time with my baby just because I was too proud to accept a few hours help.
I quite clearly remember making tea and coffee for guests when they came to visit which I shouldn’t have done.
Most people are happy to make their own tea when they visit but I was too caught up in trying to look like a supermom to notice that being a host to so many people meant I was neglecting myself.
With my second baby when people would ask if they could help I would always say ‘yes please’ and ask them to bring an extra portion of their dinner along with them.
Let’s just say I stocked up on 2 weeks’ worth of meals in the first few days alone which took a massive amount of stress off my head.
Everyone would make their own tea and coffee this time around while I sat and breastfed my baby.
I also asked people to hold the baby while I ran a quick bath or had a shower.
I have also asked very close friends and family to watch the baby during the day while I had a nap.
People genuinely don’t mind helping out in fact they feel as though they are contributing to your recovery.
Don’t forget you can say no to visitors especially in the early days and even though you are on a high after giving birth and wanting to show him off, it may be better if you get through the first week alone.
I am a huge advocate of batch cooking and have always got a freezer full of food but that’s only now.
This wasn’t the case when I had my first baby and I spent far too much time in the kitchen stressing about food than spending time with my baby.
I know it’s the absolute last thing you want to do in the last few weeks of pregnancy but trust me it’s much easier when the baby is inside than out.
Things that I cooked and that froze well include
Chicken Pasta bake
Meatloaf and roasted potatoes
The bolognaise in spaghetti bolognaise
The bottom line
Its amazingly that you and baby ultimately need the same things in the first week at home, lots of rest, food, bonding time and getting into life as a family.
With my second child I literally spent the whole week in my PJs in front of the TV, eating junk and feeding him.
My experience was so different because I learnt that crying was normal, not sleeping was normal and feeding all day and night was also normal.
If you can manage to keep these things in mind you will really love and enjoy your first week with your new born baby.
Don’t forget to take lots of pictures you may feel like crap now but in ten years’ time you will look back and think how amazing you looked!
Be lazy and enjoy that first week!