Bringing baby home is super nerve wracking. Depending on your hospital and how your birth went, you may be on your way home a few hours after giving birth… or you might stay as long as a week (or even longer if you or baby had any complications).
No matter when you get the go ahead to go home, you’ll probably feel nervous about suddenly being 100% responsible for the new life you’ve just brought into the world.
Can I really take care of this tiny, precious, newborn? All by myself?
Yes – yes, you can!
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Things You Need for Your Newborn’s First Week
There’s not too much you need before bringing baby home. A newborn’s needs are very simple and minimal:
- a way to GET home – baby seat installed in your car
- a few sets of baby clothes that fit and are warm enough for your weather. What baby clothes do I need?
- diapers, wipes and diaper cream.
- swaddle blankets or sleep sacks (these are my favorite – they work like they’re covered in magic sleepy dust)
- breastfeeding/formula feeding supplies. Breastfeeding Station 101: How to Set Yourself Up for Breastfeeding Success
- bassinet or cot for sleeping
- postpartum care kit – because, yes, you also have to manage your recovery along with your newborn’s introduction to life on the outside.
Optional (but I really recommend):
- a baby monitor – this is the one I have and it lets me sleep peacefully knowing my baby is safe. It is my absolute favorite baby buy for baby two. (You can’t put a price on sleep!)
- change table – it WILL save your back. I tried to forgo this with baby number two… and ended up sending my husband out to get one immediately on the first day at home. Hooray for Target!
Guidelines for Baby’s First Week At Home
There are no rules for baby’s first week – if bunkering down seems right to you, go for it! If you’re itching to get out, do it!
However, some basic guidelines to help you through the first week:
- Keep it Low Key – regardless of whether your baby was born vaginally or by cesarean, you’re still recovering. You need to rest. Skip events if you don’t feel up to it. Minimise visitors if you want to and make sure you don’t overdo it. Order your groceries online if you can and have them delivered.
- Plan Your Food – you may be surprised to find you’ve lost your appetite immediately after your baby is born. Don’t worry, it’ll soon come back with a vengeance. Especially if you’re breastfeeding. This is a great time to call in family and friends to help out with a meal train and/or put those freezer meals to good use. Other options you could use include signing up for a meal delivery service like HelloFresh.
- Get Into Your Groove – as a new mom, you’ve never breastfed a baby before. You might not have even changed a diaper before! (I certainly hadn’t) All these things have a bit of a learning curve, but you’ll soon have your routines down pat and will start to settle into the flow with your baby. Relax! It’s too early to start thinking about schedules.
- Relax and let things go – newborns don’t need a bath every day. You don’t need to read to your baby every day. Or vacuum. It’s ok to let things go right now. Oh, and definitely don’t worry about tackling the fingernail problem until you’re up for it. Just use mittens or sleepers that tuck over to cover the hands.
- Enjoy the time with your baby – don’t worry too much about the housework. Spend as much time cuddling and enjoying your baby as you want.
What to Expect the First Week with a Newborn Baby
The first week with your baby is such an amazing experience… and quite an upheaval! Routine is out the window, at least for a little while. And you’ll likely find yourself weighing up whether sleep, food, shower or your favorite TV show are the best use of your time once baby goes to sleep.
Here’s what else to expect in the first week:
A few days to a few weeks after birth, you may experience the baby blues – suddenly, for no real reason, you may feel very sad. This is a result of hormonal changes and should pass quickly. If it seems to stick around, talk to your doctor as it may signify something deeper like postpartum depression.
Milk Comes In
If you wake up one morning to breasts like rocks, swollen, hot and lumpy to touch… say hello, your milk has arrived. This usually happens around day 3 after birth. It’s not a very comfortable sensation – use coldpacks when you need to, express a little with your Haakaa or by hand for relief and try to massage out any lumps or blockages. Things should normalise within a day or two.
Postpartum bleeding is at its heaviest in the first week after your baby is born. Throughout the week, the flow should start to taper down. If it doesn’t, please talk to your doctor.
You might also like: What Moms Wish They’d Known About Postpartum Recovery
Are you looking ahead and thinking something like this:
If newborn babies sleep up to 20 hours a day… surely it’s going to be a cakewalk! I’ll be able to cook, clean, knit… I might even get a start on that novel I always wanted to write.
Ok, that was me.
Obviously, this didn’t turn out quite the way I’d planned it.
Newborn babies sleep a LOT. (Well, most do.) But, they often take their sleep in small snatches and wake frequently, around the clock. Babies also don’t know night from day, so if you’re unlucky they can decide to take their awake time at 3am.
You get ONE long sleep. Your paediatrician might tell you to wake your baby every 3 hours for a feed, but they might also tell you to let baby have one long sleep.
In the first week, you’re going to survive nights through pure adrenaline and the power of hormones. Please know that baby WILL settle into a sleep pattern, learn night from day, and you’ll start to get a bit more normalcy with your sleeping as your baby gets older. That one long sleep will get longer and longer, until you’re finally sleeping through the night again.
My best tips for baby sleep:
- ignore the schedules and the baby sleep books at this stage – your baby hasn’t read them!
- keep it dark and quiet at night and try to get baby into some natural light during the day to help them learn day from night.
- feed baby to sleep – don’t stress out about creating ‘bad habits’ at this age. You’ll probably have to work hard to keep baby awake to take a full feed in the first week or two.
- always swaddle your baby for every sleep.
- always use white noise for every sleep.
- consider using a pacifier. If your baby takes to it, it’ll make your life so much easier. Keep an eye on breastfeeding though as it can cause complications.
Feeding your baby is a big part of what you’ll be doing over the next few weeks. Ok, months. Especially when your baby is a newborn – they can take a while to feed.
The first week, your baby might be very sleepy and will naturally want to fall asleep during feeds. It can be hard to keep a sleepy newborn awake enough to get a full feeding!
If you’re breastfeeding, try to minimise comfort sucking (when the baby is actually asleep, still sucking, but not getting any/much milk) this is also called ‘non-nutritive’ sucking and it can be really tough on your nipples. Learn how to break baby’s latch once he’s asleep (get your finger into baby’s mouth and hook it around your nipple) and make judicious use of nipple creams and cool packs as needed.
You might also like:
- What 12 Moms Wish They’d Known About Breastfeeding a Newborn
- Ultimate Breastfeeding Course By Milkology
- 35 Essential Breastfeeding Tips for New Moms
If you’re formula feeding, you might also like:
- Formula Feeding Hacks That’ll Have You Bottle Feeding Like a Pro
- Formula Feeding Must Haves – Essential Bottle Feeding Equipment
- Formula Feeding Baby: How Much, How Often?
Record Those Memories
It may not feel like it right now, but your memory of the first few weeks with your baby is going to fade quickly in a blur of hormones and fatigue. As I experience new moments with my second little boy, I know I had similar times with my first. But I don’t remember them which makes me sad.
Some things that help are:
- Writing down your birth story while it’s still fresh.
- Taking lots of photos and videos of the every day moments as well as the special ones. Photos are great at triggering memories.
- Please, make sure that you get someone to take photos/videos of YOU with the baby too. So often you are the one behind the camera and it’s hard to get photos of you plus baby (these are the photos that will mean the most to your little one when they’re older).
- Consider keeping a journal, even if its just one line per day so you can preserve some of your memories of this precious, busy, hectic, overwhelming time of your life.