As someone who slept in until around 10 am the majority of my adult life, I was TERRIFIED of the newborn period. I did a test run during pregnancy to see what it would be like to stay awake half of the night and function the next day.
Let me tell you, I was back in bed by 11 am for a nap. My little experiment concluded that the first few weeks with a newborn would be rough.
The newborn period really is a special time, and yes, yes, you will lose sleep. The good news is if you are breastfeeding, the surge of oxytocin hormones (AKA the love hormone) coursing through your body will leave you not minding it as much.
The following tips will help you mentally survive the first few weeks home with a newborn like an experienced veteran!
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How to survive the first few weeks with a newborn
1. Go to the chiropractor on the way home from the hospital
On your way home from the hospital or birthing center, go to the chiropractor!
I would set this up ahead of time for both you and your baby even if you have never seen one before. (They are wonderful for pregnancy by the way.) Let them know you want to be able to stop by for an unplanned appointment and give them your due date.
BOTH of your bodies are going to be put through a lot during the process of birth. A chiropractor who specializes in pregnant women and babies can help realign your spine. This keeps the nervous system in tip top shape so you both can heal quickly.
2. Meal prep ahead of time
Those first few days home you aren’t going to want to do anything other than care for your baby. Don’t even think about trying to cook because it ain’t happening sister.
Having a few freezer-safe meals made ahead of time will make your life so much easier. It will also give you something to do in the third trimester to keep your mind off of how miserably pregnant you are!
Here are a few suggestions of things that will keep well in the freezer:
- Marinated fully cooked chicken, rice, and broccoli casserole.
- Chicken noodle soup
- Meatloaf and roasted potatoes
3. Have a diaper station set up in multiple places
It is super helpful to have multiple diaper stations set up in the most commonly used places of the house. The last thing you want to do is walk upstairs for diapers all the time, or even to another room.
(Although at least you are walking and not waddling anymore!)
You are functioning off limited sleep so you need to conserve your mental energy.
You don’t have to go out and buy a special diaper station to make this dream a reality. If you are an organization junkie I will link to some just for you!
I used the breakfast tray that sits on my coffee table and just added the diapering essentials. I also placed a small station in my bedroom inside an old basket, which came in handy for those early morning diapering needs.
Some things to consider putting in the diaper station: diapers (obviously), wipes, butt cream, nipple shields, burp clothes, nipple cream, pacifiers, a water bottle and healthy snack bar (you never know when hunger will strike).
4. Have a trusted family member stay with you
Start thinking ahead of time about someone you can ask to stay with you for a few days. It take so much stress off your shoulders if you have an extra person to go run out if you need something, tidy up, or hold the baby while you nap.
For me it was my mom. She was a complete God-send and I don’t think the first days with my newborn would have gone as smoothly if she hadn’t been around.
You want someone to fullfill this role who will understand your needs as a new mom. Someone who won’t want to talk, talk, talk all day long! It will be exhausting enough listening to your new baby cry, you don’t need someone talking in your ear as well!
Related post: Why is my baby crying so much? Tips from a NICU nurse.
5. Limit visitors
On the flip side, you also want to limit the amount of traffic coming in and out of your house the first few days home. Trust me on this one. You won’t have a schedule and you need to be able to take a nap any time your baby lets you.
You are placing your rest in the hands of a brand new human and the last thing you want is to be entertaining a guest when your baby decides to take her longest nap of the day.
I would honestly wait at least a week before you open your home up to anyone. This is a very special time for your new family and you should be able to enjoy it without any interruptions.
6. 2 boppy pillows
Just like having a diaper station in multiple spots is helpful, so is having an extra boppy pillow. This is even more beneficial if you have a two story house.
Your boppy pillow is going to be your lifeline for months after having a baby. Honestly my son is over a year old now and I STILL use it everyday!
You don’t want to have to go get your boppy every time you need to nurse. I kept one downstairs in the living room and also upstairs in my bedroom. Those were the places I seemed to be nursing him the most.
7. Stock your fridge with fresh pressed juice
This was something I didn’t think about. I am not talking about apple juice here either. I am talking about fresh pressed juice that you can get from a local juice bar.
Not only is this a great way to hydrate but it is also going to get extra nutrition to both you and your baby. Make sure you are eating a properly balanced diet, full of healthy fats, protein, and whole grains in addition to juicing.
Your body needs nutrition and calories to function without sleep and juicing is a great way to take increase your vitamin intake without all the fiber. (Keep that gas in check!)
Fresh pressed juice will give your body more momentum to tackle life on less sleep. You can send your mom out to get this for you or make you a fresh one at home if you have a juicer.
8. Your ONLY responsibility is to care for your baby and yourself!
If you are a type A person who likes their house to be spotless, this one will be hard. The mess is going to pile up those first few days and your home won’t be as organized as you like it.
Just remember that every single person in the world goes through this! No one is judging you for a messy house.
It helped me to mentally frame my mind like I was “at work” when we got home from the hospital. I told myself, “the ONLY thing I need to do today is care for and love on my baby, everything else can wait.”
You have to go into this period with these expectations and nothing more. If the mess is really bothering you, try to make one simple change at a time to help minimize the mess.
For example, say you have a baby that spits up a lot and the burp rags are getting everywhere. You could try throwing them in the same corner of the room so they aren’t scattered about.
Then, before you “go to bed” for the night, you can throw them in the washer. I actually did this a lot and now my washer has become a hamper. When I have enough dirty linens piled up, I run the load.
9. Take at least one uninterrupted nap a day
The first days after birth, your body is doing a lot of transitioning as a woman. You are about to go through the largest hormone shift of your life as your estrogen and progesterone drop dramatically. Coupled with the trauma of birth, it is really important to nap when you can.
I know everyone always says, sleep when the baby sleeps. Well maybe this isn’t your first baby so you don’t have that luxury.
However you will be doing your body a huge service, at least initially, if you make arrangements for the kids so that you can take at least one 2-3 hour nap a day.
For me this was around 10 am. I seemed to hit a wall at this time. Since I was breastfeeding, I did all the nighttime care for our son so that my husband could sleep. This worked out very well because then he was able to take over for me so I could nap in the morning.
Related post: Tips to get the whole “sleeping thing” faster
10. Your baby isn’t that fragile
If you have signed up for my newsletter, you learned I was a NICU nurse for 4 years. During my time taking care of the tiniest of babies, I realized something extraordinary.
These little humans are some of the most resilient around. They have very difficult medical experiences and still come out strong thriving.
I say this to you to encourage you. I know having a new baby is so scary! Your hormones are going crazy and you could even be struggling with postpartum anxiety.
You are already a wonderful parent! So don’t feel like you have to yell at your husband because he isn’t supporting the head enough or anything like that. Your baby will be ok!
Related post: How to support your man in becoming a new dad
11. Take care of your upper back
I had a vaginal birth and had NO clue how to effectively push. It took me about 20 minutes of tensing up my whole body and getting nowhere before I realized what I needed to do to get this baby out of me.
Then with all the hunching over I was doing while breastfeeding, I woke up a few days after birth feeling like someone had hit me with a bat!
Doing a few simple exercises using a foam roller helps to keep the tension under control. I started rolling my back out twice a day and would sometimes lay on my back with the foam roller going down my spine in between my shoulder blades.
Trust me, whether you are breastfeeding or not, your back is going to hurt. Get a foam roller!
12. Keep your perspective positive
If I could go back in time, knowing what I know now, I would have relaxed a bit more. I would have been even more grateful for the sweet snuggles and newborn smell. You blink and it’s over.
Newborns are so portable, I wouldn’t have been as afraid to get out with him. I would have appreciated every single minute. You have probably heard this a few times already.
Until you have experienced how rapidly your child will change, it’s very hard to conceptualize. You get to steward their little life for such a short time. Before you know it they will be rolling over, sitting up, and saying mama.
Related post: How to be a happy mom
If there is any advice I could give to a new mom it would be to soak up every moment of these first days, every little noise. It goes by so fast and you will be chasing around a toddler before you know it!