Everywhere we turn, the advice is the same. In the baby’s first three weeks, moms should not be afraid to either accept or ask for help from their friends and family… ugh! As well-meaning as this advice is, it’s simply not realistic for every mom.
Whereas it used to take a village to raise a child, times have changed. Plus, let’s not forget that we don’t all have dozens of good friends and family who can just drop their own lives at the drop of the hat to come do the dishes or change the baby’s diaper.
In fact, most parents are in it alone and let’s not even get started on the cases when Dad isn’t even in the picture from the get-go.
With that being said, here are 20 real tips for surviving the baby’s first three weeks. It won’t get any easier from here on out but following these tips can at least point you in the right direction and put you in a stable mindset. Following these tips are also particularly important in an effort to ward off PPD (Postpartum Depression) which afflicts 1 in 5 women. Getting a good start with the baby can make all the difference.
Joining a local mommy group is great but you may want to stay away from online ones. Landing a truly awesome one is rare and instead of getting conflictual information, it’s best to just stay away.
If you don’t, you’ll end up feeling guilty over things you would never have envisioned feeling guilty about! If you’re breastfeeding, you might feel guilty about not formula-feeding from a sleeping standpoint or if you’re using disposable diapers, you might feel bad about not going the cloth route.
At the end of the day, you just need to do what makes sense for you and your baby.
Despite what you may hear about in some wacky parenting groups or from the older generation, spoiling a newborn is 100% impossible.
In fact, research consistently shows the benefits of holding the baby instead of letting them “soothe themselves”. A study from the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group’s Trial Register “showed that full-term babies who experienced skin-to-skin care in their early days had better cardio-respiratory stability, higher breastfeeding rates, and decreased crying,” points out Scary Mommy.
And no, this doesn’t mean that you should never let go of your newborn either. But the point is that you shouldn’t worry about picking them up and soothing them “a little too much”. Follow your instinct on this one and don’t worry about what anyone else says.
With two kids under my belt already, I’m usually the first to scoff at the mention of parents of newborns trying to get a routine going. But this mostly applies to trying to get some semblance of a sleep routine going.
In fact, it’s simply impossible in the very beginning, especially in the first three weeks. Having never experienced hunger while in the womb, their whole worlds get turned upside down when they suddenly start experiencing it for the first time. Not to mention the discomfort from a dirty diaper or blinding light.
Still, getting some routine started can be beneficial. Focus on the same kind of routine such as changing the baby as soon as he wakes, followed by a feeding, a bit of interaction and then back to sleep for the cycle to restart.
There’s no sense driving yourself crazy making sure to get a bath in, and reading a story every night, especially since newborns don’t need to be bathed that often!
“I can’t put the baby down,” or “I’m just too tired,” you might be thinking. I totally get it but self-care is just as important as taking care of a baby. Having spent nine (who are we kidding, we all know it’s 10) long months of being pregnant, all women look forward to is getting back to normal.
You might not realize it but if you’re breastfeeding, you might actually stink worse than if you were to go sweat it out at the gym! Breast milk might taste sweet but your changing body odor might be anything but!
“Postpartum sweating is a common and normal reaction your body has in the weeks following childbirth. The close proximity of your baby and increased body temperature of breastfeeding may exacerbate the problem,” explains LiveStrong.
So if you didn't have time to shower or, more importantly, put some deodorant on daily, you might just find your partner running in the opposite direction. It happened to me.
Too many mommies who work from home or work for themselves, in general, make the mistake of thinking that they will easily be able to multi-task working and taking care of a newborn.
It’s certainly possible but don’t expect to do it with baby #1.
Take the first couple of weeks to relax instead and fully appreciate the newborn stage. It’s true that they’re only little for so long, but the first few weeks aren’t for stressing. Trying to juggle work and a newborn can end up placing way too much pressure too soon.
Something else you’ll find on most parenting forums and resources? A changing table. Do you actually need it? Not exactly. Given how pricey some of them can be, you can make do with using the bed to change your baby.
With that being said, you wouldn’t want to keep running to either the bed or the changing table each time, would you? Instead, set up a couple of changing stations around your home.
You can buy a little basket at either the dollar store or Walmart, fill it with diapers, diaper rash cream and a pack of wipes and easily stash it out of sight, ready to bust out when it’s diaper-changing time.
It’s all fine and dandy to read about how you need to make sure to have a couple weeks’ worth of freezer meals before the baby comes but let’s get real here, how many of us actually end up doing it?
Personally, I kept putting it off, not wanting to have the meals laying around the freezer too long, only to eventually find myself close to the 40-week mark, with absolutely no energy to slave around in the kitchen.
So if you find yourself in the same position or just aren’t the best cook, especially when it comes to long-term planning and big-scale cooking, then just let yourself have a one-day-a-week cheat day to order in.
In all the parenting groups and forum, many moms will ask the questions on how they can get their newborn baby to sleep longer.
Here’s a tip: don’t even bother. The sooner you accept that babies basically run on their own schedules, completely centered on their own little needs, the better. You have no control over when they might want to feed or sleep. You can try to nudge them either way but they will still wail at the most inopportune times for a feed.
Many unhelpful sources on the web will say that you should expect to feed the baby every 3-4 hours but in reality, you’d be extremely lucky if that were to happen. It more realistically ranges from 30-minutes to an hour. So don’t even fight it, acceptance is key.
First of all, “Drop the soap: Newborns don't need a bath every day […] When the cord has healed, she only needs a bath once or twice a week,” advises Parents.com.
Second of all, when that time does finally roll around, be sure to be two to do it, especially the first time. Newborns are slippery little beings and trying to give them a bath alone can be a scary experience.
Admittedly, actually bathing them isn’t even half the trouble. The problem is getting them out of the sink or bathroom tub without dropping them, all the while trying to keep them warm. Being two for the transfer from the water to the towel helps immensely.
All moms get it: dads just have a different way of doing things. It can very difficult to watch dad forget to put diaper cream on or wipe back to front for a little girl but sometimes, it’s best to just walk away.
Obviously, for the former, you might still want to give him the heads-up at some point but try to keep yourself from doing it in the moment as it will just come across as criticism.
“Leave the room while he's mastering a new task so he won't feel judged, and he'll be forced to figure it out for himself,” suggests Parents.com.
Amidst the mood swings, the hair loss and the physical discomfort of having just given birth (no matter the delivery method), some women just don’t feel like eating in the first few weeks. It’s totally normal but the importance of still eating a bit can’t be stated enough.
Whether breastfeeding or not, it’s best to eat at least a little, multiple times a day. Instead of three big meals, focus on three meals as little or as big as you can handle them and then three snacks in-between all these as well. This way, your blood sugar will remain constant and you will feel much more energetic.
Staying hydrated is another thing that many new moms forget about. While dealing with the constant crying, diaper changing and everything else that comes with taking care of a newborn, too many moms simply forget to drink enough.
When we don’t drink enough during the day, we usually make up for it in the middle of the night. So if you need to keep a bottle of water handy during the night, that’s a good indicator you don’t drink enough during the day.
According to KellyMom, “The Institute of Medicine notes that the median amount of fluids typically consumed by breastfeeding mothers is 3.1 liters (13 cups), compared to 2.2 liters/9 cups for non-pregnant/lactating women and 2.3 liters/10 cups for pregnant women.”
All the articles out there on the benefits of breastfeeding are great and all, except if you have a steady support system. Getting dirty looks in public for breastfeeding without a cover is one thing, but too many women find themselves quitting as a result of negativity from their significant others, family members, and even friends.
It’s hard to keep at something without any support. Hearing comments such as “it’s disgusting” or “when are you going to stop?” isn’t helpful, especially not in the first three weeks.
So if you’re breastfeeding, make sure to show those around you the benefits of your decision. If some friends and family member still aren’t convinced and won’t stop the negativity, then try to avoid the issue altogether. As for the significant other, now that’s a whole other story…
Breastfeeding or not, everyone needs support. So many resources out there focus on recommending that breastfeeding women join their local breastfeeding group and seek out the expertise of nursing professionals, but formula-feeding moms need just as much support.
With that being said, join your local mommy group! With Facebook, it’s easier than ever to find or even organize one. Not all mommy groups are as preachy as they may seem and while the prospect of seeking one out may seem daunting, it might just end up being the best decision.
After giving birth, connecting with former friends (especially kid-less ones) can be challenging, so at least with mommy groups, you can hopefully connect with other mommies who will understand exactly what you’re going through.
"My wife and I took turns getting up with our son every other night like clockwork for the first nine months. It was not pleasant, but was a decent survival tactic,” Steve told BabyCenter.
Playing sleep tag is one of the best ways to survive the initial weeks with a newborn. Admittedly, this strategy is a little harder if mom is breastfeeding but it can still be achieved with some pumping.
But even if Dad gets up just to change the diaper, it can still be beneficial to the already tired mom. Some couples also employ the “separate rooms” strategy to ensure that the baby doesn’t wake up their sleeping partner.
Ordering take-out at least once a week has already been mentioned but being sure to stock the freezer during pregnancy can’t be stated enough. Many will procrastinate all the way until the end but any woman who is pregnant and reading this really should put this one at the top of the priority list.
Even if you don’t cook a couple of meals ahead of time, just stocking the freezer with some extra frozen fruit, bread… basically, anything that can be frozen can cut down time spent running to the store in the first weeks with the baby. With that being said, stocking your shelves with enough other basic necessities is also a good idea: shampoo, soap, etc.
“How do you stimulate a newborn?”, “Do babies get bored?” and “Activities for newborn” are some of the top Google queries. Unless you happen to be apart of the 1% of mommies who are budding with energy in the first week, then don’t even bother. Not only can babies not see well in the beginning but all they want to do is sleep anyways.
Save your energy instead for the endless temper tantrums of the future instead. Sure, you can do some of those newborn activities like sticking your tongue at your newborn or reading a book but don’t feel obliged to just because all those articles on the web say you should do it.
Plus, it's way more fun to get the baby to do them after three weeks when they are a little more alert.
The newborn stage is your party and you can cry if you want to.
Having a baby is no easy feat and while you might think to yourself that after giving birth, you should be back to normal, the fact of the matter is that you won’t feel normal until at least a year later (realistically, two actually).
In fact, “mood swings are perfectly normal," Hilda Hutcherson, M.D., told Parents.com. “After giving birth, women experience dramatic changes in hormone levels, which drastically affect their moods."
So if you feel like crying in the first three weeks, don’t feel bad and cry away. Better out than in!
Look, I know “back is best” and nearly everywhere you turn, co-sleeping isn’t recommended. However, this advice mostly pertains to the wrong way to co-sleep. Co-sleeping with a newborn wouldn’t be recommended if there’s a lot of loose bedding, not a lot of room between both partners and so on.
But as Mama Natural points out, choosing a co-sleeper bassinet or a separator can help to keep a baby safe. Some of the advantages of co-sleeping include lower rates of SIDS (once again assuming there’s no loose bedding or pillows) and more often than not, it also results in better and longer sleep for both a baby and mom.
We all know that working out after giving birth isn’t recommended but this one still can’t be stated enough for the eager beavers out there. Even those who kept going to the gym all the way until they gave birth still need to be mindful to take it easy postpartum.
Resting is key to surviving the first three weeks with the baby. As tempting as it may be to escape for an hour for a quick work-out, no matter how ready you may feel by week 2 or 3, it’s just not worth it.
As a general rule, don’t expect to go back to being active at least until the postpartum bleeding has ceased.