Bringing Home a New Baby

You either focused tirelessly on conceiving your first baby, or she was the greatest surprise of your life. Maybe you are somewhere in between. Whichever of these you relate to, we all ended up in labor and delivery, and then the time came for you and baby to be discharged from the hospital and sent home. I remember thinking, “What, they are just going to let us leave here?”. In my humble experience (two girls, now ages 11 and 6 years), the first week after bringing baby home from the hospital has still been the biggest adjustment.

In this blog, in fluff-free fashion, I want to be honest and open about some actual first-week struggles, and about what to possibly expect your first week home. Anxiety is real this first week! So here are the basics: not only in life, but in new-parent life. My hope for all new moms is that they have a sturdy support system in place, a trusted pediatrician to help alongside the family, and a lactation consultant to pair if breastfeeding is your goal.

Pie chart displaying the text Sleep, Food, Emotions, and Go Outside

Sleep

You will not get much sleep this first week, but adrenaline will help with managing that. I recommend resting when baby sleeps. Newborns can sleep for 16-20 hours a day. It made me anxious to hear “sleep when baby sleeps” because I could not get to sleep. Instead, I would toss and turn worrying about her. It was more realistic to sleep when I could and just rest the rest of the time. And rely on help—whether it’s the whole family or just you and your spouse, if you’re able, let them help!

Food

During this phase, hormones are all over the place, and we can blame them for the widely varying appetites you’ll likely experience this week. This first week, many new moms don’t have much of an appetite, which is totally fine! Listen to your body; if you are hungry, eat. If you are not, then don’t force anything.

This goes against what we have all read and heard, right?! You’ll get to those additional calories soon enough. That appetite will for sure kick back in soon, but for this first week, it’s ok to let your body guide you. If you’re thirsty (which you likely are!), drink as much water as you need. I ate French toast 2 meals a day for that first week—thanks, Mom! Newborns eat 8-12 times a day, which ends up being about every 2-3 hours for anywhere between 30-45 minutes each feeding. (We have another post about why newborns eat so much, if you want to learn more.)

Getting out (both outside and in public)

Especially during nice times of year, it’s helpful to get outside for a little fresh air. If you are feeling up to it, maybe take a slow walk down the street and back. The air and sun will do everyone good! Five to ten minutes of this, a couple times a day, are recommended.

Otherwise, unless you have an appointment at the pediatrician’s or OB’s office, don’t worry about going out in public. Baby needs more time to build her own immune system. The pediatrician will recommend you come to the office for an appointment between 2-5 days of age, then again at 2 weeks. Typically, it is recommended to not join the general population (restaurants, church nursery, etc.) until baby has had their first round of vaccines from 6-8 weeks of age.

Emotions

After bringing home a new baby, some of us feel tearful or sad and have difficulty even thinking clearly. This is normal. I remember not being able to watch other people hold my newborn—it even made me nauseous. I felt guilty about these feelings. Do not be afraid to talk about this with someone, especially your lactation consultant! We want to reassure you.

Once this first week is over, you’ll start to feel a little more normal. You’ll know what day of the week it is again. It’s important to remember that every baby is different, and so are you, the parents! Your narrow or wide circle of friends may be going through this same stage, and you may see a different picture than what you experience in your living room. We are all unique, so try not to compare yourself or your baby to others. Trust yourself, take good care of yourself, and look at the miracle that has just happened in your life this week!

Wrapping Up

As a lactation consultant myself, I am so excited to be a part of your new journey. A lactation consultant will help you know what you need to know and make sure you know it when the time comes. Everything else is just that: everything else. If latching is painful, that should be what is addressed now, not concerns like pumping to return to work in 12 weeks. (Although when that time comes, check out these 7 tips for breastfeeding and returning to the workplace.)

If you need something to delegate to those asking “how can I help”, ask for a reference for an in-home lactation consultant—you will not regret it. Bringing home your new baby is only the beginning. This is the first week of the rest of your life as a mom, and while you may not believe it yet, you got this, mama!