Must-Read Tips for Your First Week with Baby
No doubt you’ve done the necessary prep work for your baby’s arrival. But all that stuff is fluff when it comes to making it through the early days of parenthood. That’s when you quickly need to acquire new skills, like breastfeeding, soothing a crying infant and surviving on no sleep. To help you ease into your first week, we’ve asked expert parents how to handle the most common challenges.
Nap when your baby naps.
Yes, your newborn will snooze as much as 20 hours a day, but it won’t be in long stretches—think one- to four hour spurts. It’s important to try to catch some zzz’s when your baby is sleeping. But, if you’re not wired for naps, enlist help, stat. Have your partner, a friend or relative take some night shifts with the baby so you can get some uninterrupted sleep.
Swaddle and sway to soothe crying.
Infants fresh out of the cozy confines of the womb crave constant holding and soothing, says Harvey Karp, M.D., author of the Happiest Baby on the Block. Don’t worry about spoiling your newborn—it’s not possible. Instead,re-create the sensations of the womb, which can trigger a calming reflex in your newborn, Karp says. To do this, he recommends swaddling, swaying, shushing, holding your baby on her side and letting her suck on your finger. “These steps performed individually or together can often be a virtual ‘off’ switch for the crying,” he says. Experiment to see what works for your baby.
Get expert help with breast-feeding.
It happens naturally, right? Not always. Make plans to see a lactation expert ASAP post-delivery, and ask her to come to your house to help you get the hang of nursing there. “Having an expert with you from the beginning to help you learn about latching, positioning and milk supply—and to boost your confidence—can make the difference between a beautiful breast-feeding experience and giving up,” says Giuditta Tornetta, a doula, lactation educator and author of Painless Childbirth.
Be prepared for round-the-clock feedings.
“Expect to feed the baby every one to four hours—that’s counting from the start of each feeding,” says Laura Jana, M.D., co-author of Heading Home with Your Newborn. Since you’re going to be bound to a couch, rocker or bed while your baby eats, try to get as comfortable as possible. Use a nursing pillow to help position your baby and ease your neck, arms and back. Keep water and snacks close by and stock up on good books to read or shows to watch.
Take care with the first bath.
“The saying ‘slippery when wet’ applies here—many new parents are very nervous when giving that first bath,” Jana says. Relax and take it slow. Because you’ll want to work around the umbilical cord (the faster it dries, the sooner it will fall off), a sponge bath is the way to go at this stage. Plus, if your baby has been circumcised, you’ll need to wait for the area to heal before completely submerging it in water. Gather the supplies and have them within arm’s reach—this way you can have one hand on the baby at all times. Then place him on a towel and gently wash the areas that need cleaning with a warm washcloth and baby bath wash.
Ask for help when recovering from delivery.
It’s normal to experience pain and exhaustion after giving birth. In time, your body will bounce back and you’ll regain your strength. But while you’re healing, designate a family member to take care of you—or at least to make sure you don’t overexert yourself. Recruit your partner, relatives and friends to pitch in with housework, baby care and meal prep while you recover.
Focus on what matters.
Between lack of sleep, physical discomfort and plummeting hormones, even the most excited new parent can feel overwhelmed. Decide what’s most important to you—say, learning how to breast-feed, sleeping and cuddling your baby—and focus on those things. Then let everything else go for a while.
Try to go outside or get out of the house every day. The fresh air (or seeing other humans) can help you stay sane. Spirits still low? “Remember that it’s normal to feel the baby blues for the first couple of weeks postpartum,” says Liz Maseth, R.N., a nurse lactation consultant at Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio. “Just make sure that your family understands about the baby blues—and that if your feelings of sadness or depression last beyond those first two weeks, your loved ones can assist you in getting the help you need.”
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