You have waited patiently for your little bundle of joy to arrive. For 40 weeks (maybe a little shorter, or even longer) you have watched your tummy grow, planned and prepared the nursery, washed and folded tiny clothes and soft blankets and shared all the excitement with family and friends.
Even with all the planning during your pregnancy, nothing can prepare you for the love and the anxiety you feel on the day you meet your baby for the first time. Whether you give birth naturally, without pain management, with an epidural, or your baby is delivered with an emergency or elective caesarean section; the most important thing is that both you and baby are healthy.
Here are 10 things you need to know during the first 3 months with your new baby:
1. You will have pain after birth, no matter how your baby was delivered.
The pain medication that you are given after birth is safe to take while you are breastfeeding, so take it. You might want to seem brave or abstain because you don’t want to contaminate your breast milk, but you will have to learn everything about feeding/handling/changing/bathing your baby and you won’t be able to do that while you are in a lot of pain. You also need to remember that a lot of friends and family want to meet your baby too, so you need to feel comfortable enough to handle that. Take it easy after the birth and give your body time to heal.
2. Use your time in the hospital wisely.
The nurses/midwives/staff are a wealth of information. Use the time you spend in the hospital (or the facility where you going to give birth) learning as much as you can about your baby. They are also there to take over if you need to catch up on some sleep or if you need to take a break. Ask questions, no matter how stupid they may seem, because the more you know when you go home, the more comfortable you will feel.
3. The first few weeks will be filled with well wishers and visitors.
Be sure to stock up on biscuits, tea and coffee and make some space in your fridge and freezer as the visitors usually come bearing gifts of food. This will help as there will not be a lot of time to cook during the first few months. Although you may feel that it is rude to turn visitors away, having a newborn is overwhelming enough without people filling up your home. If you need a break, rather ask them to visit another time so that you can rest.
4. You will live your life in 3 to 4 hour increments.
This will especially be the case if you will be breastfeeding. The cycle usually involves changing a nappy, a 30-45 minute feed, burping your baby and putting your baby back to sleep. You may not want to sleep when the baby sleeps, because this will be the only time you have to wash and sterilise bottles, do laundry, eat and shower. Just make some time during the day to rest and catch up on sleep as rest is also required for adequate milk production.
5. Your house will be filled your baby’s stuff.
Be sure to have designated spaces to store all your baby’s things so that you don’t feel overwhelmed. Rather donate or store away whatever you are not using and remember to keep the clutter to a minimum. At least you won’t need to worry about baby proofing until your baby is mobile (which will be around 6 months of age).
6. Stock up on onesies.
All the outfits you received with the baby shower are incredibly cute, but more often than not, they are impractical. You need a lot of onesies that are comfortable for the baby to sleep in, feed in and play in. You also need something that you can undo easily for the 7-8 nappy changes you will be doing a day.
7. Get out of the house when you can.
It’s easy to go a little stir crazy after a few weeks at home with a newborn. Once the baby is a little older (around 6 weeks) it’s a good idea to get out when you can. It can be a quick trip to the store, a bite to eat or even just a drive. Whatever you feel comfortable with, that won’t take too long, so that you can get used to travelling with your baby but can go home if you are starting to feel tired or anxious.
8. If it gets too hard, accept the help that is offered.
Whether someone offers to just watch your baby while you shower or pop out to the shop, take them up on it. Often it will be a grandparent that will love having the time to bond with their new grandchild, while you take a little break.
9. Don’t get discouraged if your baby is not in a routine at 2 months old.
Your baby may only start to follow a routine around 4 months old when they can stay awake for longer stretches. Don’t feel bad if your baby is not in a set routine from the start. It is more important to follow your baby’s rhythm as it will change as your baby becomes more aware of their surroundings.
10. This too shall pass.
The struggle is real. Sleep deprivation is a frightening thing, but it will pass. Your baby will sleep through the night. You will be in a routine in no time and you will discover new things with your baby as they grow. From the first word, to the first steps, remember to enjoy every single moment as it goes by far too quickly. Try not to wish the newborn phase by too fast, because you will long for it when they are older. Enjoy the time you have with your baby before you have to go back to work (if you are going back to work that is).
It may seem like it will never get easier, but every new parent has gone through the same thing. Through all of the ups and downs, remember that you are doing a fantastic job.