Whether you read every “What to Expect” book (and, hopefully, Moms On Call) you could get your hands on, or you took the ”we’re just gonna wing it” route, you likely ended up in the same boat once baby was in your arms. You found that the proverbial experts who know everything about having a baby could not quite prepare you, because nothing truly can!
While of course we hope you jump right into motherhood without skipping a beat (and there are a few unicorns who do), do not be dismayed if it feels weird and hard and scary and kinda sad. You might mourn your old life for a bit…you know, when it was just you and your partner and the dogs and a last minute decision to do… well… anything you wanted to on a Saturday afternoon. There’s a strange juxtaposition of feeling so selfless in your new role of keeping a human ALIVE, while at the same time feeling completely selfish for just wanting a *moment* of normalcy (otherwise known as a worry-free shower).
Point here is: you’re not alone. The first few weeks overwhelm even those mommas with the most decorated babysitting past. This gift from heaven is yours, and nothing feels more surreal than this realization! While these first two weeks are about bonding and adapting (and boatloads of grace), there are many things you can do to set the foundation for overall health and great sleep right off the bat.
We encourage a strong focus on establishing proper weight gain. Feed on demand during this time and do not let the baby go longer than three hours from the start of one feed to the start of the next feeding during the day. You might be thinking, Feed on demand?! Mmmkay cool. So ALWAYS?! If this is the case and you’re finding yourself cluster feeding often in these early days, know this is your smart little angel’s way of establishing your milk supply. However, if baby eats around the clock, they are actually burning more calories than they are consuming. This can be counterproductive to both their physical health and to your emotional health. Do not feel shame for passing baby off to your partner and getting some fresh air (or a shower).
And, remember those boatloads of grace we mentioned? This applies in a huge way with feeding. You are getting to know each other. Take it slow and ease into this amazing bond.
A common concern with new mothers is that baby has their days and nights flip-flopped. The best way to reverse this is to get baby outside! Fresh air and sunlight not only lift your spirits, they help establish circadian rhythms to help babe start distinguishing night from day. Keeping the lights on in the house with normal daytime noises also helps this adjustment.
We encourage swaddling baby with arms down by their sides (not chest) whenever they sleep, including daytime sleep. Think about the close quarters of your womb, and you’ll realize how much swaddling baby helps them feel safe.
Swaddling with arms by their sides also discourages their startle reflex from waking them. Especially for nighttime sleep, reinforce baby’s circadian rhythm by making the room very dark (blackout shades are amazing). For all unsupervised sleep, we encourage an environment made for infant sleep such as a crib or bassinet. This also means nothing in the crib except a crib sheet, with baby in a swaddle, lying on their back. Remember the close quarters of your belly? Now throw in the sound of a white noise machine mimicking the din of the rather loud womb for all sleep, because swaddle + white noise = making baby feel right at home.
Unless baby is a preemie, dress them in a light layer beneath their swaddle and keep room temperature at 68-72 degrees. While we may poo-poo the adage to never wake a sleeping baby, we strongly advise you to sleep when baby sleeps, especially in the early days. This may seem hard with well-meaning visitors…which brings us to our next topic.
Some moms love them, some moms’ anxiety-meter goes wayyy up at the thought of them. Wherever you stand, be ok with saying yes and ok with saying no. You are the mom. If you need a break, do not feel shame to excuse yourself to go rest after hugging and thanking great Aunt Edna for coming by and leaving her with your mom to love on baby. Of course visitors want to see you, but they’re really there to see the newest bundle! Having a bottle of hand sanitizer out where everyone can see it is a subtle hint for anyone holding the baby to both wash up and sanitize before holding.
Meal trains are another loving way for friends to support you and help you through these first few weeks! That said, meal trains often mean visitors, so be sure to check in with yourself and your baby. Just because someone is scheduled to come at 5pm does not mean you have to entertain and chat for an hour. Do not feel guilty for handing the chatting off to your partner or to ask for a porch drop off if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Anyone who has had a baby will not think twice. For friends who have not had babies yet, Lord willing they’ll be grateful to serve you even if they didn’t get the face time they anticipated. You can always circle back when you’re up for a visitor!
A sponge bath may be given every few days if needed, but delay a submersion bath until the umbilical stump and plastibell (if circumcised) have fallen off. Keep their umbilical stump dry, and if their skin appears dry, do not apply lotion. They are simply sloughing their outer layer just the way they should! You may use a thin emollient, like coconut oil or Aquaphor, on diaper areas to avoid diaper rashes.
You’re going to do great! Drink in that baby smell and sweetness and remember to give yourself so much grace, Momma. If I missed anything, please visit Newborn Nightingales and send me a message! I would be happy to help you! I love working with newborns, and I firmly believe establishing healthy sleep and feed routines can start as soon as baby comes home from the hospital. For a glance at my favorite baby items, head on over to my recommendations page for a complete list!