As I am reaching my final weeks in my second pregnancy, I am starting to think of those first few days home. Here’s what I learned surviving the first week with a newborn.
After delivering Libby on a Thursday night, I had one more day in the hospital. When Saturday morning finally came, my husband and I thought we should stay another day. Apparently, hospitals are not like hotels.
You can’t extend your stay.
“No, can do” they said, “Now grab your bags and get out.” Not really, but more or less.
Apparently wanting the security of the hospital and staff is not enough to allow them to extend your stay.
So, we spent about 30 minutes packing our brand-new baby, perfectly, into the car seat before driving 20 miles an hour in the right lane all the way home. Most new moms will find themselves riding in the back of the car too!
The First Days
The nice thing about new babies is they spend most of their day eating and sleeping. It takes much of the guess work out of surviving the first week with a newborn. None, the less there are some important things that I learned, “on the job.”
When you bring the baby home from the hospital most of your time will be spent feeding and bonding with the baby.
This can be stressful for new mommas. We all have the same worries. Is my baby getting enough? Is my milk coming in? Am I doing this right?
When I started nursing Libby I didn’t realize how much she would need to nurse. The first few days baby will need to do lots of cluster feeding and will be eating closer to every 1- 3 hours.
Despite all of the feedings I offered her, she was not getting enough. After consulting with the hospital lactation consultant, it was confirmed that it was not her latch. While she was not born with jaundice, she was not getting enough milk and it caused her to develop jaundice. As a new mom, I didn’t even know this was a thing.
Since the baby is still learning to eat, and you’re learning to feed baby there are some important things to know that I learned after having Libby.
Consult with a Specialist in the Hospital: Make sure your baby is latching properly. Have a specialist come in and check so you can feel confident going home.
Have a number to a Lactation Consultant: Baby’s need to nurse a lot for the first few days. Have the number to a lactation consultant you can reach out to right away if you have any concerns or worries.
Trust your gut: If something doesn’t feel right, don’t second guess yourself because you are a new mom. If baby seems overly fussy, not having the proper number of soiled diapers, or appearing to look orange, or the whites of their eyes turning yellow; these are signs baby is not getting enough to eat. Reach out to your pediatrician right away. Most offices have a 24-hour nurses line.
Take some Formula samples from the Hospital – Most woman have no problems supplying enough milk for their babies. I was not one of them. I was so thankful to have formula so I could feed my baby.
Side Note: I was so fortunate that the hospital sent me home with a big bag of premade formula samples. I would use the formula drops to get Libby to latch. After she nursed on both sides, she would still eat 1-2 ounces of formula.
I am so thankful I had the formula to take home because I had not purchased any as I was planning on breastfeeding. Even if you plan on exclusively breastfeeding, having a few instant samples may help give you peace of mind that you have a readily available plan B for feeding your baby.
Remember the most important part of feeding your baby is getting that little liver and body working. Baby needs food to do that. Baby’s brain also needs food to keep that little brain functioning and blood sugar at healthy levels. Trust your gut, no matter how you have to feed your baby. Seek professional medical help right away if you have any concerns.
If you do choose to breastfeed, you may find your baby is latching on every hour or two. Especially for those first few days as your milk really starts to come in. Remember your job is nourish that little body. Have your partner or family members support you by taking on the tasks you normally do:
Outsource your Tasks
- Feeding Pets
- Cleaning the House
- Helping with Younger Children
- Making Meals & Meal Clean-up
Have a Snack Basket & Water Station
Make a basket of healthy snacks by where you nurse. Also include lots of water bottles. It’s so important to be eating and drinking all day to help with your milk. With a new baby, it’s easy to get distracted and not give your body the proper nourishment it needs to build your supply.
Look for clues baby is hungry
Try not to wait for baby to cry to feed him/her. If baby is crying, it means that early hunger cues have been missed. Cues include rooting, sucking on hands, turning head side to side, etc.
Keep baby fed consistently (scheduled feedings)
With Libby, I would feed her on a schedule. Not a schedule to dictate her feeding, but a schedule to dictate she was being fed.
Meaning I would make sure she was eating every 2-3 hours, even if she was not showing very active hunger signs. I would also feed her every hour, if that’s what she needed.
I didn’t set the schedule to say she can’t eat for another 30 minutes. Rather, the schedule was set to make sure that I wasn’t letting too much time lapse in between feedings. She was a very sleepy baby and would sleep for long periods of time if I let her. Despite it being nice she was a good sleeper, it’s so important that newborns are feed very often to prevent low blood sugar and encourage healthy brain development(I learned this from a family member who is a nurse for babies). That’s why even at night, I would wake to feed her at least every three hours. I would not wait for her to wake me up to feed her, hence the schedule.
Know the different cries of a Newborn Baby
Another family member who is a nurse sent me a link to this video. It talks about the different sounds a newborn makes to try and communicate with you. You should definitely check it out.
Family & Friends
Tell Friends and Family to wait to come over
Everyone is so excited to see and meet your new baby. Don’t feel obligated to host and entertain everyone. Having a new baby can be exhausting enough. You are already waking every few hours to feed your little bundle.
With Libby, I told everyone we wanted to wait at least two weeks before having friends and family over. While we did have grandmas and grandpas over, I wanted to wait to have everyone else over for two reasons:
First, I am a hostess at heart. I can’t have people over to a messy house or not offering to feed and entertain. I didn’t want the added stress.
Second, and the biggest reason… Libby was born right smack in dab in the middle of cold and flu season. I didn’t want to expose her new little immune system that was still learning how to eat and function properly to so many unknowns.
Don’t feel obligated to say yes and adjust your schedule. Your first obligation comes to taking care of your new baby and family.
Invite over Family or Friends You Trust to help
Even though you might not want to have a family reunion the first few weeks, it’s still nice to have the help from close friends or family members you trust with your baby.
It can seem impossible to get any sleep the first few weeks. This is ironic because most newborns sleep about 18 hours a day.
The truth of the matter is when the baby sleeps it is very hard to sleep because your worrying about the baby sleeping. Is the swaddle tight enough? Will the baby roll over, etc. I would definitely encourage taking a nap when you have your partner or a trusted family member holding/watching the baby.
When my mom would come over or husband was holding her, I felt like I could take a nap. I knew she was safe and being monitored.
If I tried to sleep when she slept, I would often wake up panicked like I fell asleep on the job.
Unleashing your Inner Germaphobe
There is no better time than the present to be a germaphobe. In fact, I think it’s why I was very fortunate to get through two whole years where Libby had only one or two minor colds. Perhaps it’s because I am going to have a second baby born in cold and flu season that this is such a huge concern. But here is what worked for us so far:
Ask People if they are Sick
Get in the habit of asking people if they are sick before they come over. They might have a slight “tickle” or were “sick two days ago.” While they mean no harm, this can be very dangerous to a new baby.
I would ask everyone before they came over, “Are you sick?” It’s always better to wait a few days then risk it.
As a new mom, you may go right into mama bear mode. You do not need permission to set boundaries with your new baby.
For me, I told everyone no kissing! Kissing not only spreads germs but it can also spread cold sores. The virus can be fatal to newborns. I also held off on having friends and family over until Libby was 2 weeks old. Do what feels right and works for you.
When it came to holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, we opted to stay home. Here in Michigan cold and flu season can take a serious toll on a well-established immune system.
Keep Germs Away
I am going to state the obvious: make sure you wash your hands, a lot. Have your friends and family wash their hands. I would also wipe Libby’s hands with a wipe after people touch them. Everyone loves to hold and sneak kisses on those little fingers. Then those rooting hands go straight into baby’s mouth.
Say No to Kids who are in School holding the baby
This one was tough, but the fact of the matter is most kids can feel fine but maybe carrying dormant germs. It might hit them a few days later that they don’t feel well. At the same time when your baby starts to feel sick.
Asking for Help or Taking a Minute
Sometimes things may feel a little crazy and overwhelming. Ask for help or take a minute to yourself. Baby blues, postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety are real. Sometimes you just need a good cry in the shower. Sometimes you need a friend to come over. Sometimes you need your doctor. There is no shame in this. It doesn’t make you a bad mom. Your hormones are changing along with a million other things. Acknowledging these things can happen will prepare you if you need to ask for help. If you do experience these feelings, reach out to your doctor right away.
Helpful Tips for a Newborn
Some other helpful Tips & Products for Newborn Babies:
- Look for diapers with the color change line. This makes checking for soiled diapers so much easier!
- I love baby gowns, like these. They come with built in gloves for the fingers to prevent scratching and when it’s time to change baby you just shimmy them up. Snap jammies are also nice for this purpose because you can unsnap the legs without having to expose baby to cold air while changing him or her.
- A wipe warmer is a nice convenience for late night changings and keeping the baby comfortable and not shocking them with a cold wipe after being swaddled and warm.
- When changing the diaper, open the diaper, give a wipe, and close the diaper for a minute. Baby usually has to go potty after you wipe.
These are my tips and lessons I learned that got me through my first week with a newborn. Don’t worry mama! You got this!
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