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How to Cope During Baby’s First Week Home

posted: 05/10/16
by: Katie Morton
picture of exhausted new mom
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You've been ready for nine months, you've just welcomed your first baby into the world and it's time to bring baby home. Congratulations on this milestone in your life, this is a special moment to treasure!

Baby's nursery is stocked, the onesies are washed and you've read all the infant care books (three times). The fact is even the most well-prepared parents find the first week home overwhelming. You're learning the habits of a whole new person, one who can't speak to tell you what they need. Meanwhile, you're recovering from labor, breastfeeding, and somehow shuffling through it all with a crazy, irregular sleep schedule.

Here are our tips for what to expect after you're expecting and how to cope during baby's first week home.

Sleep Deprivation

The good news: Newborn infants sleep for up to seventeen hours a day--it's hard work coming into the world and growing! The bad news: These periods of sleep are from two to four hours at a time. The baby will wake at these intervals to be fed, changed or soothed, before drifting back to dreamland.

 

How to Cope: An old adage says to sleep when the baby sleeps. Whether you're somebody who can do that or not depends on your nature and sleep patterns, some people can drift off for short naps, some can't--especially when they're keeping one ear on the baby monitor.

Enlisting help so you can get some needed shut-eye is critical. This is especially true while you're trying to physically recover from the rigors of childbirth. Recovering from labor can be painful, so give your body time to recuperate by getting as much rest as you can.

Have a relative help, hire a baby nurse or doula for the first week, or trade off baby care shifts with your husband or partner. A bonus is that letting your husband or partner handle the odd hour wake-up calls gives them a chance to also bond with your baby.

Breastfeeding

Ask any new mom what the biggest challenge is the first week home with an infant, and the majority will say, "BREASTFEEDING!" It seems like this would be something where nature would simply take over for both you and baby, but that's not true. It can be surprisingly hard to deal with getting a proper latch, knowing when to nurse, and managing supply.

How to Cope: Most hospitals offer a lactation consultation after delivery to show you the ropes and help you get started. Try to get this one-on-one instruction before you head home (Bonus: it's often covered by insurance).

If you find you're having problems once at home, call the hospital where you delivered or the baby's pediatrician and get the name of a lactation consultant. They can work with you in your home to ensure you're comfortable with breastfeeding and baby's getting the nutrition they need.

The First Bath

Many parents are understandably nervous about baby's first bath. Your newborn is vulnerable and tiny. Baby's first bath shouldn't take place until after the circumcision site has healed (talk to your pediatrician about when to do this, sponge baths are fine), but can take place before the umbilical stump has detached.

How to Cope: Strive to make it a pleasant, low-key experience for you, baby and your partner. Gather all the supplies ahead of time and have your partner give you a hand. You'll need a baby bathtub, baby-safe cleansing products and warm water.

Test the water ahead of time so it's not too hot and make sure the room is warm so baby doesn't get chilled. Cleanse from head to toe gently with some baby wash and a washcloth.

The Baby Blues

Many new moms experience a period of emotionality or mood swings. The combination of rocketing hormone shifts, sleep deprivation, and pain from labor can pull the rug out from even the most stable mom's mental state.

How to Cope: Make yourself and your baby your first priority. All you need to do is feed, change and bond with your baby, and try to make healthy choices regarding sleep hygiene and meals so you can heal. The rest can wait.

Feeling the baby blues is normal during the first few weeks postpartum. Experts say that fresh air and leaving the house can boost your mental mood. Try a short walk or drive, even just a few minutes of sunlight can provide mood-boosting benefits.

Be alert to signs of postpartum depression. Medical experts say that 12% of women will experience postpartum depression. If you find your baby blues are lasting more than two weeks, you should talk to your doctor. For more information on postpartum depression signs and where to get help, the APA has relevant information.

The first week at home with a newborn is heartwarming, wonderful and challenging. Even if you're feeling overwhelmed, know that before long, you'll be a pro at this parenting gig--we promise!