When it’s finally time to take your little bundle of joy home, things can get overwhelming.
At the hospital, you can bask in the glow of your shiny, new infant. Nurses respond at the flip of a switch, to answer any and all questions, and your meal arrives on a tray. It may not be fabulous fare, but it arrives on time, without any effort from you. If baby is awake and you need to sleep, the little bundle of joy can be whisked away to the nursery until he needs to eat again. There are no floors to vacuum, laundry to be done or trash to be taken out. If you weren’t sore and exhausted, it may feel like a mini vacation.
Going home can be daunting for a new mom, especially if she hasn’t had much exposure to infants. Fresh parents pilfer through hospital materials looking for instructions on what do with their newborn, once they are on their own. Dad may add to his wife’s stress by deferring to her, like she is already an expert on their new addition. Mom is hormonally off balance, and spent from delivery, so taking baby home can feel intimidating.
Prepare in Advance
As the mom of four, I have learned something new with each birth, but those first weeks are hard for even veteran moms. So in order to have a smooth post partum homecoming, preparation needs to happen pre-baby. Here are some suggestions to include in your survival plan. It may be challenging, but not impossible to enjoy those first weeks as a new mommy.
In your third trimester, make a list of what needs to be done to keep your household running on a daily and weekly basis. That way, when people ask how they can help, you can immediately give them a task. Also, this will be helpful for your husband and any other family who is planning on coming to assist you. Include lawn care and your husband’s extraneous chores as well. That will free up Dad’s hands to be first mate on helping with Baby, so Mom can recover.
This is one of the most important things to remember. Use the list and ask for help. This is not the time to try to fly solo. You will need all your energy, and then some, to take care of this new little person. The first couple of weeks are like parenting boot camp. So if someone asks to help, take them up on it, and delegate a task from the list. Family, friends, neighbors and your faith community are all places where you can find support.
Key Points to Keep in Mind
Visitation — Before the baby arrives, clarify what you would like visits from well wishers to look like. Do you want company in the hospital? If so, when? Do you want only certain people to come in or anyone who stops by? How long do you want visits to last? This could be a great role for Dad. Let the new father create a safe boundary for his family by discussing ahead of time what your desires are. If those requests change, then that is OK, but realize that even with boundaries, the number of guests and the weight of expectations can be heavy in the moment.
A few good suggestions in regard to this area include: make a recording for your voice mail that lets callers know Mom and Baby are resting, but will call back when they are both awake and ready to talk. Another is to set a specific day/time when you will take visitors. For those unexpected drop-ins, place a sign on your front door stating that Mom and Baby are recovering and would love for them to call and set up a visit. That way you don’t feel pressured into a visit. The majority of people will understand.
Prepare Your Questions — While at the hospital, both Mom and Dad should take advantage of the opportunity to ask all the questions they want. Jot them down, so you don’t forget. That is part of the nurse’s job so don’t feel like you are putting them out. Make sure you fully understand how to take care of your postpartum body and your little treasure as well.
Taking Care of Yourself at Home — I know you haven’t thought about your period in about 9 months, but you will need to have pads at home for awhile. It’s common to bleed for up to six weeks after you deliver, and many new moms are surprised at how heavy it can be. This will save your husband from having to run to the store for you, which I’m sure he will appreciate.
Feeding Baby — Know for certain your plan for feeding your infant. There is a wealth of information on the pros and cons of breast feeding and formula feeding. Do your research and be solid in your decision. If you are breastfeeding, will you offer a pacifier or not? Let the nursing staff know your preference. Otherwise, they may make the choice for you. Also, if you are going to formula feed, many companies will give you free samples, which can save you money. It’s a good idea for even nursing moms to have some of these samples on hand. Breastfeeding moms will want to have a good pump at home. After your milk comes in, engorgement can be uncomfortable, and pumping can help relieve pressure, and increase your milk supply. Invest in a small tube of lanolin, and apply after every feeding. This will keep your nipples from cracking and save you discomfort. Avoid bruising by making sure baby is latched on correctly. A trick I used while nursing was to wear a small bracelet on whichever side that I ended nursing on. This helped me to remember on which breast I would start next. This was especially useful for those early morning feedings when I was half-conscious. For Cincinnati first-time mom Beth Wanat, breastfeeding presented a challenge those first couple of weeks. Her newborn boy had difficulty latching on and at times she hurt so bad, she didn’t want to feed him; which only made her feel worse. But Beth encourages new moms to stick with it, saying it’s important to be patient with yourself and baby.
Eat Healthy — Remember that eating healthy is good for you and Baby. Do a grocery run before you deliver. Make sure the pantry is stocked with quick and healthy snacks. Neither Mom nor Dad will want to cook when you first come home. So you may want to freeze a few casseroles to have on hand or buy some ready-made meals. Also, many nursing moms find that they are constantly thirsty because of their body’s increased need for fluid, so keep a bottle of water handy.
Keep Purchases Down — A big mistake new parents make is to buy too much stuff. For example, they buy a bunch of expensive bottles and baby won’t take them. Or, they invest in a wardrobe of nursing outfits, only to find that they don’t stick with nursing. I’ve heard of parents spending hundreds of dollars on cloth diapers, then being too exhausted to use them. Just get the basics, you can always buy more later. Before you head to the mall, check out a good list, like that at WebMD under The Essential Shopping Guide for Newborns, called, “Newborn Care: What You Need for Baby. “ (webmd.com/parenting/baby/baby-gear-guide-9/baby-products)
Baby Blues — Know that at times, you may feel emotionally off. Baby blues affect up to 80 percent of new moms, according to BabyCenter.com. You may be upbeat and happy one minute and overwhelmed and crying the next. No, you have not gone crazy. But you did just have a baby, and hormones take a huge dip after birth. This should fade after about two weeks. If it doesn’t, then notify your doctor, as you may be suffering from postpartum depression.
Get Plenty of Rest — Many women are not prepared for how exhausted they feel after childbirth. Cincinnati first time mom Monica Rowland says, “The hardest thing about the first few weeks, was all I did was feed the baby or sleep. I felt like I should be doing more. It was hard for me to slow down and let my family and friends help out. But my activity had to be severely limited to allow my C-section incision to heal.”
It’s OK to take every opportunity during those first few weeks to rest, whether you’re actually sleeping or just cuddling your little one. On average Baby will sleep 16 hours a day, some more or less depending on the infant, and they need to eat every two to three hours. Don’t feel you need to spend Baby’s sleep time doing chores. Maybe even consider allowing Dad to give baby a bottle during a night feeding, so Mom can get a chunk of sleep. It’s amazing how rest can boost your spirit.
Don’t Forget to Have Fun — Don’t forget the power of girlfriends. Rowland said talking to a few close friends, who were further along on the Mommy Journey, helped her cope with the challenges of those first weeks. She said they made her feel her concerns were normal and that she and Baby would survive. So invite your best girl over and watch a chick flick. Enjoy a laugh and soak up your new little heartbreaker. Before you know it, he will be walking, and snuggling in Momma’s arms will be a thing of the past. J
Mysti Koontz is a local writer and mother of four.
Read her blog at adjacentpursuits.wordpress.com.