The thought of taking a baby home for the first time is terrifying for most parents. I mean lets be realistic the idea that YOU are responsible for all everything that child needs to survive is so daunting. But rest assured with a few simple tips you will be a confident and capable parent before you know it!
A mothers intuition beats a text book, Facebook and GOOGLE. You might be new to parenting, but trust those mothering instincts and let your instincts and baby guide you. New parents are much more relaxed when they do not compare their baby to what the books say. Baby’s are so individual and will vary hugely in what is still considered normal variations.
There will be minimal time to prepare gourmet meals in the first two weeks. Well lets be honest the first 2 months. Lots of preparation before baby arrives to make casseroles, soups, curries, pasta sauces that nourish you from within will be invaluable. Use the grandparent’s amazing cooking abilities and willingness to help you and stock your freezer up. Get take out (occasionally) and make things easy for you. I even have families I see use services such as Marley Spoon, Lite N Easy and others to take the guess work out of cooking and meal times. Friends and family can bring ready meals or snacks when they visit.
You will forget how good sleep is! Expect chunks of 1-2 hours at a time (and yes this is NORMAL). It is hard to adjust to broken sleep, but nobody decides to have a baby to sleep a whole night through :) Maybe for the morning nap time, have quick shower (this should be your daily goal) and breakfast, then for other naps during the day - jump into bed too. The old adage to sleep when baby is sleeping is imperative and the only way to cope. Even simply being horizontal will rejuvenate you somewhat. Safe co-sleeping is a great way to get more shut eye and can mean you may have a more settled baby. Partners can change and settle baby after feeds, so mums can get a bit of extra sleep.
Don’t forget your partner will be tired and adjusting to new parenthood also. They will need some time away and nourishment too. Be kind to each other, you are each other’s supports during this time. A sneaky kiss on the cheek, hug or praise can go a long way for your relationship.
You will be a hormonal, sweaty mess. This too is normal and expected within the first 2 weeks. If you feel it is continuing beyond that time - then seek help sooner rather than later. There are some amazing perinatal mental health support workers in the community that can help. See your GP first. You will need lots tissues and chocolate.
Breastfeeding sucks at times. You will feel like all you do all day and night is breastfeed, express, top up, burp……. repeat. Cracked and bleeding nipples are variations on normal - but seek help early if you cannot achieve a painless and damage free latch. IBCLC’s are highly skilled professionals who can provide up to date - evidence based guidance to help you succeed. There is help out there, you just need to search. Medicare rebates and private health funds often will cover some of the consultation fee too. Breastfeeding around the clock is necessary within the first 6-12 weeks to fully establish feeding. Do not miss a feed for your partner to give a bottle - this WILL negatively affect your supply. Hold off on the introduction of bottles and missing feeds for at least 6-12 weeks to avoid messing with nature. Partner’s can support mums in many other ways while breastfeeding. They aren’t missing out - there is plenty of time for bottles/feeds when baby is older.
Yellow, runny, slippery, messy poonami’s are normal! Do not Google poo pictures as you will never eat pumpkins soup, peanut butter or Christmas pudding custard again! Breastfed baby poo’s do not smell, they have a sweet aroma to them. Formula makes poo’s firmer consistency and smelly. Babies often struggle with wind and passing bowel actions, but will get there eventually. They may need some help by rubbing their belly, warm baths, cycling legs and other poo relieving actions! Most breastfed babies will have regular bowel actions within the first few weeks - most nappies in fact especially if they are getting an adequate intake. As long as your baby is alert, feeding and putting on weight - all is ok. Obviously there are variations on yellow poo’s such as blood, green and smelly which can be something to be alerted to.
Babies cry… sometimes a lot. It does not necessarily mean something is wrong - just that they cannot communicate in any other way. Hold, rock, pat, shoosh, feed, walk, bath, massage or sing to them to see if that helps. Often each day at some time (generally later in the day/evening) babies will cry for an extended period. This can be hard to deal with especially when tensions are already frayed. It is often referred to as the witching hours and can be emotionally draining. Hang in there it will pass.
Accept help from your network - whatever that looks like. Many families are blessed with supportive families who live close by, others will rely on their friend and each other to get through this tough time. There are support groups in the community that can be a life saver for many isolated families such as the Australian Breastfeeding Association. Find your village and lean on them.
If you have had a difficult birth or a c-section - keep up with regular pain relief and anti-inflammatories to help you recover. Ice pack to your vaginal stitches if you have them, will help reduce the swelling. Drink lots of water, eat lots of fibre rich foods and fruit and veges to eliminate any constipation.
Finally, do not worry about the tidiness of your house! That can wait.
Please seek help if you feel you are not coping, have unanswered questions or need support. IBCLC’s are attuned to new parents and supporting you through this time. Enjoy this precious bundle - it goes so quickly and remember to laugh regularly. At each other, the baby and in general. Also remember why you chose to have a baby in the first place!