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 for you and baby to be discharged from the hospital and sent home. We 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 has still been the biggest adjustment.
In this blog, in fluff-free fashion, I want to be honest and open about some real 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 come alongside the family and a lactation consultant to pair if breastfeeding is your goal.
Sleep – you will not get much this first week, but adrenaline will help with that. I recommend resting when baby sleeps. Newborns can sleep 16-20 hours a day. It made me anxious to hear, ‘sleep when baby sleeps’ because I could not get to sleep, 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. Rely on help, whether it’s the whole family or just you and your spouse, if you’re able, let them help.
Food – 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 a lot of 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.
Getting out – during this time of year, it would be good for everyone to get outside for a little fresh air and if you are feeling up to it maybe 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. Other than that, 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 of age. 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 if age.
Emotions – 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 see in your living room. This makes us all unique, 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!
As a lactation consultant I am so excited to be a part of your new journey and 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, pumping to return to work in 12 weeks; that is covered in the next blog. 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. This is the first week of the rest of your life as mom, and you may not believe it yet but, you got this mama!