This is the second in our series of four articles on the first 1000 days of life. Find PART ONE of The first 1000 days here. Research has proven this a critical and unparalleled window of time, which has a lifelong influence on an individual’s …
Surviving the first few weeks with a newborn
There's perhaps no steeper learning curve than your first week as a parent. Blogger Jess Bovey is passionate about telling it like it is, in order to help others transition into the 'New Mum Club'. Jess shares her post about the realities of life with a newborn.
I thought I was totally prepared. The nursery was complete, and I was mentally ready. Oh boy was I wrong. For starters, the baby was in our room anyway so the nursery didn’t matter a bit in those early days and I finally started to understand why everybody had told me to ‘sleep while you can’ when I was pregnant.
Everybody’s experiences are different so don’t take this as gospel - this post is based off my own personal experience and tips that I think would have been helpful for me to have known going into this whole parenting thing blind.
For me, the first 24 hours were a blur. Honestly, I was so scared leaving the hospital with this new little baby who was completely dependent on me. When Reuben and I got in the car at the hospital car park (away from both of our parents), I burst into tears. I was emotionally and physically drained. And freaked out about what was to come. I haven’t been around a lot of babies so can honestly say, I had NO idea what I was doing.
Surviving the first few weeks
I’ve broken this down into bite-sized tips, although there are probably things I've forgotten in the blur!
- Accept all offers of help – this is one thing I didn’t do. I’m all Beyoncé, Independent Woman and I was absolutely wasted after a few sleepless days/nights. Accept offers of meals and breaks for you to shower etc.
- Sleep when baby sleeps – actually, or it’s likely you’ll never sleep again. If you can’t sleep, at least lie down and rest. Don’t worry about everything else you have to do (at least in those early days).
- Have plenty of maternity pads on hand; steal the hospital ones if you can (they resemble a super king mattress). You will bleed, a lot. Sometimes for up to six weeks or more. Also, invest in some Hypercal lotion for your lady bits if you have a natural delivery.
- Don’t forget to take your pain meds if given some. I was terrible and in a tired haze I’d forget and have instant regret.
- It’s totally normal to cry in those early days. If it wasn’t my partner, or me, it was the baby.
- Confide in a friend/family member or midwife (if not your partner) about how you're feeling. Make sure you know the early signs of postpartum depression and if you feel like things are getting too much – seek help. It’s normal and more common than you think.
- Try to shower everyday, even chuck on some BB cream. It would make me feel (and look) so much better. It is so easy to live in trackpants, but not looking after yourself is a quick way to start feeling down.
- Learn that its OK to say no to visitors in the early days – while you’re super excited to show off your new baby, baby is more prone to picking up bugs. Plus, you’re still learning. I was trying to find my feet with breastfeeding and attempting to do it with an audience was the last thing I wanted.
- Be prepared for an emotional roller coaster – more so than when preggers. I would cry for no reason, other days I was on top of the world. Hormones be cray, it’s normal.
- Trust in your midwife – they are a wealth of support and information. Don’t be afraid to ask them (or your GP) questions. It’s their job and I’m sure they’ve heard it all (and worse) before.
- Pre-prep meals – I lived on easy things like toast, soup and pasta for the first few weeks. Accept the offer of meals and have them in the freezer ready for when you get home from hospital. It’s one less thing you need to think about.
- Don’t feel as though you’re a burden to other people. I thought I could do it all myself and quickly learnt this was not the case.
- Expect nothing – leave your expectations behind. Baby is going to do what it wants to do and no book or advice is going to change the way he/she is.
- Drop your standards – this was hard for me. I tried to maintain a spotless house, knowing visitors would come over, while trying to find my feet as a new mum. It’s OK not to have vacuumed, nobody is judging you – plus, it’ll give your visitors something to do!
- Remember it will get better – the hard times WILL pass. While it might be super tough now, it’s going to be so rewarding soon. From weeks 6-12 you start seeing more interaction and it gets more exciting from then on.
- Get somebody to show you how to bathe baby if you’re not sure – we had no idea and quickly realised this when it came to giving him his first bath. We’re total pros now.
- Don’t be alarmed by weird sounds – it’s all part of it, I often felt like I had a small pig sleeping in the bassinet next to my bed.
- Establish a routine early – this worked so well for us. For the first few days while we found our feet we just worked around baby and their cues. Once we introduced a routine, it made all of our lives easier and is still successful 10 months on.
- Introduce a bottle – I know this one will get some disagreement. I gave Baxter some expressed breast milk in a bottle early on to get him familiar with the bottle in case we ever needed it. He was able to go between the boob and the bottle with no fuss and it made our lives easier moving forward. It also meant I could take a break every now and then and that Dad could do the night feed.
- Dream feed – we always gave Baxter a feed late at night, which ensured he was full for longer and meant we could get that little bit more sleep.
- Put baby in their bed when they're showing tired signs – this way they learn to fall asleep on their own and associate bed with sleep time. This was SO beneficial for us. Sounds easy, but it really was. Rubbing eyes, yawning? Put them in bed.
- Be calm – I was a big ball of stress and anxiety the first few weeks and Baxter picked up on this. As soon as I learnt to chill a bit, things became a lot easier and manageable.
Jess Bovey, pictured with her newborn son Baxter
So there we have it, a few tips to help you maintain some sort of sanity in those first few days and weeks. For a lot of us new mums it can be an incredibly daunting time, but with a bit of support and knowledge, difficulties can be eased.
Most importantly, try and enjoy it. The days goes surprisingly fast and our children are only small for a short period of time.
Jess started a secret blog during her first pregnancy. No longer a secret, Jess now shares her experiences of motherhood at newmumclub.com. It’s raw, it’s real and it’s not for the faint-hearted. Jess lives in Wellington with her partner Reuben and their son Baxter. They are expecting their second baby in April 2017.
Click here to watch our Life With a Newborn video.
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