You’ve spent nine months preparing for the birth of your baby, but not even a perfectly curated registry can truly prepare new parents for the reality of bringing a newborn home from the hospital. You can expect the first weeks with your little one to be filled with highs and lows as you learn to care for your baby and adjust to life as a family of three. While there’s not much you can do to make it easy, these tips will help you manage the ups and downs and survive the first weeks with a newborn baby.
Tip 1: Enlist an extra set of hands.
The birth of a baby is not the time to assume ‘you got this.’ You and your partner are going to need reinforcements, and if a family member hasn’t already insisted on helping, ask a trusted relative or friend (preferably one who has cared for an infant) if they can be available to you. If you don’t have family nearby, consider hiring a baby nurse (also called an infant care specialist) to help you navigate the first few weeks with your newborn baby.
Tip 2: Stock your kitchen.
Having a newborn baby is all-consuming — the last thing you’ll want to do is meal plan, grocery shop and prep food. Toward the end of your pregnancy, your ‘nesting’ instinct will likely kick in, and you’ll feel an intense desire to ready your home for the new addition. Use this burst of prenatal energy to prep healthy meals that can be stored in the freezer and eaten after the baby arrives. You’ll also find that your hands are full with your newborn baby — literally. Stock your kitchen with quick snacks that can be eaten with one hand — granola bars, muffins, dried fruit and nuts are all good options.
Tip 3: Sleep when the baby sleeps.
The age-old advice to sleep when your baby sleeps is often given but regularly ignored. As tempting as it may be to use the moments your little one is sleeping to catch up on housework, do laundry, or return emails and phone calls, try your hardest to put those tasks on the back burner. Getting extra naps during the day will help you better manage sleepless nights and stay alert while caring for your newborn baby.
Tip 4: Keep important phone numbers handy.
Before you head to the hospital, put together a list of important phone numbers, including your OB-GYN’s office, your newborn baby’s pediatrician, urgent care phone numbers, a lactation consultant, and your doula or midwife, as well as any emergency contacts. Program these numbers into your phone (have your partner do the same), but also print out a copy for the fridge. That way no one will need to scramble if a health care professional’s number is urgently needed.
Tip 5: Download an app to track your baby’s schedule.
Your pediatrician will want you to track your newborn baby’s every move — at least for the first weeks of your little one’s life. That means making note of feeding sessions, wet and dirty diapers or the baby’s poop schedule, and sleep. Lucky for you, there are apps for that, like the popular Eat Sleep. Download and get familiar with one or two options before your baby is due.
Tip 6: Keep visitors to a minimum.
It can be exhausting to have visitors traipsing in and out of your house when your family is sleep-deprived and adjusting to life with a newborn baby. While it’s comforting to see a few friendly faces, set boundaries about how many visitors you want and how often you would like company. Ask well-meaning friends outside of your inner circle to hold off on house calls until you’ve settled into your new normal.
Tip 7: Learn how to swaddle.
Perfecting your swaddling technique takes some practice, but is a critical skill when it comes to soothing your newborn baby. Invest in quality swaddle blankets (Aden & Anais is a highly recommended brand), bring them to the hospital, and ask the nurses to demonstrate how to swaddle. You also can try a product that takes the guesswork out of swaddling, like the Miracle Blanket or SwaddleMe.
Tip 8: Keep baby supplies in multiple rooms.
Trust us: You’re going to need a lot of diapers and wipes. Have two sizes of diapers on hand (newborn and size 1 should cover you for a few weeks) and have a stash of diapers, wipes and burp cloths available in multiple rooms. That way, you can change your newborn baby wherever you are.
Tip 9: Go for walks.
Many pediatricians recommend that you avoid taking your newborn baby to crowded places, like malls or restaurants, for up to six weeks. But that doesn’t mean you need to be completely housebound. If the weather is nice and your OB-GYN has given you clearance, break out the stroller and go for a walk with your little one. The fresh air is good for your mood and energy level.
Tip 10: Take time for self-care.
During the first weeks of your little one’s life, many new moms are not only learning how to care for a newborn on minimal sleep, but they also are recovering from giving birth. Postpartum care is critical for new moms, which means following instructions from your doctor, eating right and sleeping when you can. Talk to your partner before your due date about your expectations for splitting household chores and baby care, so that you can effectively care for yourself, both mentally and physically.
Remember that the newborn period is short, and your family will adjust. Feeling unsure as a new parent is completely normal, so don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice from health care professionals, family members or close friends.