Your baby is nestled safely in his car seat and your journey home marks a new milestone as he arrives home for the first time. While you can do your best to get ready for his arrival, your first week home with baby is a learning time in “uncharted territory.” Breastfeeding, lack of sleep and the sound of a baby crying are difficult to prepare for without previous experience. Here are some helpful tips to guide you through baby’s first week in the world.
Breastfeeding is the most natural way to feed your baby, but that doesn’t mean the process is intuitive. Be realistic in the beginning and understand it takes time and practice before getting into that feeding time flow. Get acquainted with this new job of yours before you leave the hospital with him to jumpstart the practice. Most hospitals have nurses and lactation consultants on hand to provide you with tips and assistance to position him properly. Seeking out expert advice ahead of his first week home will prepare you for those late night feedings. The help from a professional doesn’t end with your hospital stay either. There are certified lactation consultants who conduct in-home visits should you need one later on. Check with your doctor or local hospital for recommendations. You can also check online with the International Lactation Consultant Association.
Lack of sleep is one issue parents are aware of with newborns. Typically at one week old, babies sleep 16-18 hours, however, they don’t sleep these hours consecutively, because they have yet to develop their own circadian rhythm for a sleep pattern. One helpful tip is to sleep when your baby sleeps. You can also trade off night shifts with your partner or a close family member willing to stay with you to help. Get your much needed beauty rest and have them bring you the baby when it’s feeding time.
He’s getting acquainted to his first week outside of the womb, which can be quite an adjustment for him. As a new parent, you’re getting used to the sound of his cries while figuring out how to soothe his tears. When he’s not hungry or in need of a diaper change, it’s time to practice the three “S’s:”
- Swaddling: With this technique, he can feel as warm and secure as he felt in the womb. Learning the proper way to wrap him snuggly can also help calm him when he feels overstimulated. Just like breastfeeding, this is another task you can learn before you leave the hospital.
- Swaying: While some babies prefer the snug feeling of being swaddled, your baby might prefer gentle motion instead. Try the age-old tradition of rocking him back and forth in a rocking chair. Babywearing is another option if being close to you and the walking motion calms his tears.
- Shushing: Certain noises might remind him of the womb to put him at ease. If you find rhythmic whooshing sounds successful at soothing him. See if he responds to your “shhhhhh” sounds. You could even sing to him to see if he’s comforted by the sound of your voice. Singing off key doesn’t matter here.
Your first week home will be a time to see what soothing methods work best. He might even prefer more than one.
You’re heavily focused on baby this first week and rightfully so. As a new mom, however, don’t forget what this week means to your own health. Child labor is no easy task and your body is still recovering. While taking care of a newborn is an around-the-clock job, seek out the help you need so you don’t overexert your body. Not feeling up to receiving visitors? Ask them to come at another time. Don’t have the strength and energy to tackle household chores? Have your partner or another family member or friend step in to assist. Don’t deny yourself the precious rest your body needs and remember to get the appropriate nutrition that’s important to both your body’s overall health and producing nutritious breast milk for baby. Be mindful of your recovery from the very beginning so you can dedicate more time and energy to your baby later on.