Top Tips for Managing Those First Post-Birth Weeks
The chances are that like most expectant parents you will have collected together a wealth of information on each stage of the pregnancy and the birth. How many of you have thought to stop and to think about those first few days with baby though?
Hopefully you remembered the going home outfit and the car seat if you gave birth in a hospital or birthing centre and if you had a home birth the chances are you remembered to sort out the nursery. There is a lot more to think about one the birth is over and of course planning anything when you are tired, hormonal and sore isn’t always wise. Have a read of these top tips for managing after baby arrives.
If this baby isn’t your first you will need to put some thought into how you introduce him or her to their new siblings. Will they come through to the hospital, will they be in the house when you home birth or are you planning a grand homecoming?
Preparing a little one for a new little one is important however often if you are enthusiastic they will be too. Some parents might give a little gift to a sibling from the new baby (something small like a best brother/sister teddy) whereas others might not. Younger children especially might be a little concerned about this new mess and noise making machine however with some advanced nad ongoing reassurance hopefully the transition will be just fine.
There is nothing that can prepare you properly for the onslaught of phone calls and the sheer number of visitors knocking at your door. While it is of course fabulous that so many people want to celebrate with you and meet the bundle of joy it may be, quite frankly, a pain in the backside.
You’ve laboured for 36 hours, your boobs hurt if anyone so much as glances at them sideward, thanks to the stitches you had you are still sitting on a rubber ring and you haven’t brushed your teeth in three days. This is not the time for a house full of visitors. One of our team here at ParentsNeed HQ shared this little nugget with us.
“My Mum was present at the birth of my first child and even cut his cord. She stayed while I was stitched up, she snuggled her new grandson, she saw me onto the ward and then left. She told me she wouldn’t visit again now and that she’d see us when we were ready.
At first I was almost a little hurt, that is until visiting time at the zoo commenced. I was bombarded with visitors in the hospital and at home, many of whom just turned up unannounced clutching gifts, balloons and flowers. I was so touched that they had (all) come however to be honest I’d be just as happy if they all just left us alone to adjust.
NOW I understood why my mum had said what she did and was grateful. Having had six children herself she knew that the last thing any new mum and dad wanted on arriving home was to have visitors!
For my second child I told everyone well in advance that I’d update them with first pics via social media, that no-one was to drop in unless invited and put a “don’t call us, we’ll call you” rule in place. No-one took it badly, quite the opposite and it gave us the opportunity to settle a little before we faced everyone else. Consider this when planning your post-birth first weeks”.
Housework Smousework! The first few days of having baby at home is about getting into a routine, healing and sleep. So what if the place isn’t immaculate? If you’ve warned off visitors for the few days as above no-one is going to see it but you. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
The First Shopping Trip / Outing
Ah yes, the first trip to the supermarket. We can almost guarantee that it will take around forty-five minutes to do a ten-minute shop (and then you’ll leave without half of what you needed). This has nothing to do with “baby brain” (maybe a little); it has a lot to do with all of the cooing, the oohing and ahhing and the “how did it go”, “what was the birth weight” and other such questions.
Do yourself a favour, book an online grocery shop and have it delivered then just enjoy some walks, seeing people you know out and about and enjoy that “Look, he/she is here” moment than trying to do it all at once.
Babies need routines and so do parents. There are many schools of thought on how much routine a young baby needs, whether they should be fed on demand or have a schedule, whether they should sleep when they need to or be put down for nap; there aren’t any wrong choices here. How you choose to parent is entirely up to you. What we would say (from our collective positive and not so positive experiences) would be to think about routines early on, even if they are more for you than them.
These routine could be about feeding times or getting yourself into the habit of cleaning and sterilizing bottles at a certain time of day. Having a routine in place helps keep things orderly (up to a point) when you’re suffering from a lack of sleep and sets the foundation for firmer routines when baby is older.
Meals for Parents
Cooking post-birth isn’t always at the top of your enjoyment list however relying on takeaways and finger food every night isn’t great for you or your budget. There’s a lot to be said for batch cooking in advance and freezing food so that for a couple of weeks after baby arrives you have much less in the way of food shopping, preparing, cooking and washing up to do.
You know that old phrase “sleep when the baby sleeps”? Make it your new mantra, especially over those early few days and weeks. When the baby sleeps you don’t do the housework, some ironing or anything else that can be done another time. You sleep and if you can’t sleep you at least rest, even if that means watching daytime TV or curling up with a book.
On the run up to B-Day (birth day) you’ll have no doubt had a number of appointments with your midwife. These don’t stop post-birth and there are a number of other appointments for you and baby to attend.
Different areas / regions structure their post-birth appointments differently however generally speaking you will be visited once or twice at home by a midwife and then the health visitor. After the initial visit you might not see the health visitor at home again as you may be invited to visit the regular baby clinics locally instead.
These clinics are an opportunity for you to have baby weighed and measured regularly, to talk about any concerns you might have and they are actually often quite the social occasion. It’s nice to see that you aren’t the only person with baby spit-upon your shoulder sporting that “new parent” glazed look.
You will be advised by your health team when your post-GP appointment should be which is usually at around six weeks post-birth. This is a check-up for you and an opportunity to discuss contraception if necessary (believe it or not, while you might right now be happy to have everything down there sewn up permanently and shudder at the thought of sex that feeling does pass).
You will also be advised of the current immunisation timetable, be given information on this and be able to book your appointment. Their first “jabs” are a lot more traumatic for you that them so don’t feel guilty about the injections.
Check to find the location of your area’s registration office and get yourself booked in. This is where you register your baby and get their birth certificates. Not only is this a legal requirement (it must be done within 42 days if you are in the UK), certain benefits may not be claimed until it is done, such as again, the UK Child Benefit.
The first days and weeks post-birth are about finding a routine that works for you all, especially regarding feeding. Whether you decide to breastfeed or bottle feed, this is a new experience for you and baby so it might take a little time to get things spot on. Don’t hesitate to yell if you need help with feeding, be it questions about bottle feeding techniques or amounts or latching on technique aid. One of the benefits of having some quiet time at home is to enable you and baby to strike the correct balance.
Quite often night and day merge into one when it comes to welcoming a new baby into the home as not all babies sleep through straight away. We don’t mean to scare you but some might take years to get the hang of a proper full night of uninterrupted sleep. Routine helps, for you and for them, as do coping strategies. If you are up constantly during the night share the burden with your partner if he/she is able, find ways to occupy yourself during those soul-less 3am “I’m a happy baby, watch me scream in glee every time you try to put me down” times and basically just find a way to make it work the best way it can for you.
We like to think of disturbed nights for parents of new babies as training for when the little darlings have you up all night worrying when they are teenagers. Parenting can be a challenge, that’s for sure, however the rewards far out-weigh the worry and the sleeplessness.
Christening / Naming Days
“Have you a date for the naming ceremony yet”, asks a helpful friend. Naming day? Christening? When you can’t summon up the energy to pluck that persistent stray chin hair (thanks hormones) let alone pick out matching clothing the mere idea of booking and organising a party is ridiculous. Give yourself time.
Many parents don’t have their children christened or have a “Welcome Baby” party until they are at least six months old if not older. Don’t feel pressure to get everything done straight away. If you’re thinking about these things at all it shouldn’t be more than a case of pinning party ideas on Pinterest and testing dessert options (research is important you know!).
All the Advice
Raise your hand if you have ever heard any of these:
- None of mine did that…
- If I was you I would…..
- You shouldn’t…..
- Well MY doctor said…..
- Haven’t you done *that* yet?
One of the fabulous things that comes with bringing a new baby into the world is advice. Some advice could be helpful, some might be condescending and some might be downright worrying. So many conflicting sources of advice and so many people pushing to the front of the queue to give you their opinion.
Don’t get us wrong, people care and nine times out of ten they mean well however for your own sake it is best if you stick to what works for you and if you need help, support and advice ask your health visitor or someone you can trust.
Above all the first few weeks after you come home from hospital or have your baby at home is about making precious memories. This a special, unique time that passes very quickly so make sure you take the opportunity to spend quality time with your extended family and enjoy your baby’s first days and weeks.
PS. When someone tell you that their first smile was actually wind, don’t worry about it, you know better. That grin was just for you.