We’ve waited nine very long months and endured hours of pain and hard work—which we may or may not have been anticipating—to finally meet this tiny new person. With their little button nose, big round innocent eyes and floppy head, this new baby is so helpless and so precious—it’s up to us to care and provide for him or her. That’s a lot of pressure.
But we can do it; we just need a nap or two first and maybe a shower. Bringing the baby home from the hospital is a big day and usually marks when reality really sets in for many of us. Plus—around this time—the baby starts to make their presence in our world known in a very vocal manner. A home birth is arguably easier in this transition period since we are already at home, but a baby will still cry, and we will still end up sleep deprived.
Surviving that first rough month home or even the first six weeks after the baby is born is the main goal in our minds at this point. This list will hopefully have some neat tips and facts to help with the recovery period. So settle down, dim the screen since it’s 3 AM, or maybe print it out to study.
20 All About Recovery
First and foremost, the first month after having a baby is all about recovery. Our bodies have just ended a marathon of intensive change and growth in a rather violent and painful fashion. All of our internal organs are in a different place than usual, and we’re likely in pain from the birth experience.
According to Parents, “You'll be sore right after the birth, and you'll appreciate having someone else do the laundry and help prepare meals for a week or two. Limit trips up and down the stairs, avoid long walks, and wait to do rigorous exercise until you've gotten the okay from your doctor.”
19 Sleep Deprivation Is Real
This was probably covered in the birthing class, and we might be thinking it won’t be so bad—but after the adrenaline rush of the first couple days—our need for sleep will kick in and we will be exhausted. The best thing to do is sleep or rest when the baby sleeps. According to Spark People, “Rest when the baby sleeps. Don't worry about trying to 'sleep when the baby sleeps.' Instead, just lie down, take deep breaths and clear your thoughts. Don't think about all the chores you could be doing.” Just catching sleep here and there will help in the long run.
18 Breastfeeding Blunders
One of the biggest hurdles will be learning to breastfeed our new baby—unless we’re already taking a different route from day one. As Romper tells us, “During the first week postpartum, What To Expect noted that your milk will come in and your breasts will feel engorged, they may be bigger and hard, and will be very tender.” The first two weeks will be the hardest and most painful in the breastfeeding journey, but after that things get considerably easier. Sticking with it for that period of time will tell us if we’re cut out for breastfeeding or not.
17 Getting To Know You
One of the biggest things we will be doing during this first month is getting to know the new person living with us. Sure, they are a very noisy roommate, and they don’t pay rent, but they’re awfully adorable. They also speak a different language so communication will be tricky until we get to know each other a bit better. As Today’s Parent puts it, “Getting to know each other can be overwhelming. It’s an intense time of change and growth for the baby—and the parents. Thinking of it as an additional trimester can help.” This is usually referred to as the Fourth Trimester.
16 A Whirlwind Of Changes
We may have banked on being used to change after the pregnancy threw so many curve balls at us, but the first month postpartum is filled with changes, too. From bringing home the baby to our body recovering from the birth to learning to care for the baby—this month is filled with changes. As Romper puts it, “The first month after giving birth is when your body will go through the most changes.” In this particular case, change is good. We just need to relax and roll with it to survive. Things will settle down, and we can begin reestablishing a routine soon enough.
15 We Are What We Eat
For this first month, we won’t be focusing on losing baby weight. Instead, our goal should be to eat plenty of small nutritious meals throughout the day that boost our energy levels, fuel our bodies for recovery and help with milk production. As Fitness Magazine tells us, “When you eat foods rich with nutrients, you'll notice that your calories go a long way. You'll feel fuller longer, and will have the get-up-and-go mentality you need for those 3 a.m. feeding calls.” The overachiever mother might’ve meal planned the first month but for those of us who didn’t, try to limit fast food and request healthy options from relatives when possible.
14 Water Woes Can Keep Us Down
One thing we will immediately notice after giving birth is that we are incredibly thirsty. Drinking plenty of water at this stage will help replenish our bodies’ blood supply, flush out toxins, produce ample milk and make us feel better overall. Just how much water should we drink? According to Mother Rising Birth, “The average adult needs about 8 ounce glasses of water per day. 64 ounces. During pregnancy and breastfeeding this average intake obviously increases. During breastfeeding we should drink an extra quart, or 32 ounces, per day. Roughly, we should be drinking around 100 ounces of water per day. Around 3/4 of a gallon of water.”
13 Let's Take This Slow
This is excellent advice for the whole month and applies to dealing with the baby, husband, eager guests and our own expectations for recovery. We are all likely sleep deprived and getting used to the new baby (especially older siblings), so snapping at each other will occur. Having patience and taking a moment to pause before commenting goes a long way. According to Live Strong, “As much as you may have anticipated your baby, the daily grind of caring for a newborn can become challenging. A newborn doesn’t have patience to wait his turn, and he doesn’t understand that you’re tired in the middle of the night.”
12 Meal-Planning For The Win
Whether we actually sit down and write out a schedule of meals or stock up on a supply of easy to make meals and snacks, cooking will be the last thing we’ll likely want to do postpartum. Have meals provided (either with relatives or a specialty service), stock up and enlist someone else to cook. According to Spark People, “Have quick meals ready to go when you get back from the hospital or birthing center. This could be something you cooked and froze before delivery (make them in single servings), or just fixings (think: stuff I can eat in 15 minutes or less) for a PB&J and soup.”
11 Household Duties Get Shelved
Normally these fall on the equally sleep-deprived new dad but putting friends and relatives to work when they arrive is the ideal way to go. According to Today’s Parent, “The top priority of helpers should be tackling some of the house cleaning, food prep and shopping—not taking over diaper changes or feedings. It’s important that baby care is left to the parents as much as possible.”
This means they do dishes, vacuuming or laundry while we hold the baby. Also investing in disposable plates, cups and utensils might help too. It will mean fewer dishes to actually wash for a while.
10 Colic Questions Come Calling
Every parent dreads the colic stage, and many will go through it. Researching it can help a lot in at least mentally preparing for it (before it sets in and we all can’t sleep). Applying essential oils, such as lavender, can help as well as eliminating problem food in our diet. According to Today’s Parent, “They call it colic, and it has time spans and frequencies associated with its medical definition, but all you really need to know is that it’s your baby crying for hours at a time, many days in a row.” It will get better in time.
9 Let's Snuggle Up
We’ve mentioned that this is the fourth trimester and one benefit for baby is when we hold them constantly. To make this easier, invest in a good tight fitting baby carrier or sling that can hold our itty-bitty and free up our hands for eating, using the phone or holding a book. According to Fit Pregnancy, “Wear a snug-fitting, nonpendulous front baby carrier so you can work while holding Baby. Being close to you is familiar; she'll love the sounds and sensations and maybe even nap.” Plus this will help with the bonding process as well, and as baby gets bigger, she’ll enjoy being totted around as we houseclean.
8 Soothe Those Aches And Pains
One thing we can do before baby arrives is make padsicles, which are heavy flow period pads soaked with Aloe vera, witch hazel and a few drops of lavender then popped into the freezer. These feel amazing on our swollen sore bits and will come in very handy in the first few days. Another tip from Spark People is, “Try to bring home as many of those mesh panties from the hospital as possible. I got enough for a week—they are disposable, comfortable and hold pads really well. If they get stained, who cares!” Having a spray bottle filled with warm water and iodine for bathroom trips is also great.
7 Carve Out Couple's Time
This will seem impossible during those first few days and like a low priority, but making sure our man knows he is important to us is vital to the survival of our relationship. Sharing a cup of coffee before the baby wakes up or snuggling on the couch for 20 minutes before another feeding session will go a long way.
According to Romper, “My partner and I struggled to find "us time," because any so-called free time was spent sleeping or tuning everything else out to re-charge. But if you don't want to hate each other when your baby is grown, connect. Your relationship is just as important as sleep.”
6 Retain That Sense Of Humor
As our partners and we struggle with the demands of a new baby, frequent visitors, lack of sleep and all the joys of postpartum recovery, it’s important to keep our sense of humor at the ready and drag it out often. It helps us cope with all the chaos and strengthen our relationship at the same time. According to Well Rounded NY, “Making a human is serious business, and now that they are safely out of womb, it’s time to laugh again! Seriously. This baby-birthing stuff is hard and overwhelming and forever life-altering. Don’t lose your sense of humor now! You’re gonna need it. That, and wine. So much wine.”
5 Entertainment—Mom Style
Nursing every two hours, sleeping and staying in bed or on the couch can be mentally exhausting after awhile. Once we begin to recover, we can do more things besides scroll through Pinterest, upload pictures to Instagram and binge-watch shows on Netflix (though we’ll still do those anyway). According to Pregnancy and Baby, “Nothing can add to your stress level more than being housebound day after day with a new baby—particularly if he or she is fussy! Whether you decide to take the baby for a brisk winter walk or for a leisurely stroll through the mall, it's important to do whatever it takes to avoid getting cabin fever.”
4 More Than The Baby Blues
Knowing the signs for postpartum depression is important as well as getting our partner on board and having him on the look-out for any signs that we are missing (ya know, from all that lack of sleep and hormonal mood swings). According to Spark People, “Be honest with your feelings. I was so excited to show off my son, but I got so overwhelmed one day because I never got a break as a first-time mommy trying to learn to breastfeed. People were always at the house. Get your partner on the same wavelength and kick everyone out if need be.”
3 Getting Things In Order
After baby’s umbilical cord stump falls off, we can begin to establish a bedtime routine that involves a bath, snuggles and even reading a book or two as he nurses. This will help in the long run as baby figures out the difference between night and day. According to Fit Pregnancy, “However, if everybody creeps about and talks in whispers while he is asleep, there may come a time when he cannot sleep unless they do. It is therefore important to let him sleep through whatever sound level is normal for your household so that he does not come to expect a quietness that will make all your lives misery."
2 Take Time To Smell The Roses
Finally, after all the sleeping, diapering, feeding and fussing, we get to actually sit back periodically and enjoy our brand new baby. There will be plenty of pictures taken and hours spent just staring at the baby as they sleep or nurse or blink at us. This is when we as a family are supposed to bond the most, and it’s probably the best part of the whole first month. As Spark People, “Journal or blog about ‘a day in the life of your baby.’ I did this when my son was 10 days old. I wrote what he did, how long he slept that day.”
1 Dad's In The Doldrums
News flash: postpartum depression doesn't only impact moms. Many new fathers also have difficulty adjusting to the life change that a newborn brings. Sleep deprivation, a lack of intimacy with his partner, suddenly being last on the list of important people in the house, and much more can leave Dad feeling unloved and unsupported. If he's not living up to your ideal expectations, make sure there isn't something more serious brewing. As it turns out, Parents reports a quarter of all new dads struggle with depression.