A baby usually isn’t the only thing a new mom brings home from the hospital. Questions and uncertainties about how to care for a little one and navigate this life change can pop up multiple times throughout the early days and nights.
Fortunately, you don’t need to face these worries alone. Here are 12 tips that might help you avoid some of the bumps and surprises as you take your place in the long history of motherhood.
Accept help whenever it’s available.
Some mothers find it easy to take people up on their offers to help with meals or household chores, while others may find it harder to accept assistance. If you find it difficult to say yes when friends or family offer to help, remind yourself that your primary job right now is to bond with your newborn and allow your body to recover.
Additionally, people wouldn’t be offering to help you if they didn’t want to, and you can give them the opportunity to enjoy the feeling of knowing they have made your life a little easier.
Be prepared for the number of diapers your baby will need
It doesn’t seem possible that such a small body could produce such a large amount of wet and dirty diapers daily, but they do. In fact, the typical newborn will go through up to 12 diapers every day for the first few weeks!
Diapers are an item that you never want to run out of, so make sure to have more than you think you may need on hand.
Plan to do laundry frequently
Young babies certainly seem to contribute more than their fair share to the pile of dirty laundry! For those first few weeks, it is not unusual for a baby to need four or even more outfits in a single day. Diaper leaks, spit up episodes and breast milk spray are usually to blame.
Try not to leave your baby’s dirty clothing wait for too long before you wash it. Feces, urine and high amounts of protein and fat in milk could cause odors to form quickly, and wet items can mildew after a surprisingly short time.
Pack only what is truly necessary in the diaper bag
Even though it looks roomy, you may be surprised by how fast a diaper bag fills up. Things like toys or an extra blanket may certainly come in handy, but make sure you include the essentials first.
These baby items are true needs:
- Extra clothing for baby
- Small bottle of hand sanitizing gel
Don’t forget to pack some extra clothing for yourself since those leaky diapers and spit ups can necessitate an outfit change for you, too. Consider packing items that don’t take up too much space, like a tee shirt and leggings.
Rest when your baby sleeps
Although newborns spend many hours of the day sleeping, it’s usually only for about one or two hours at a stretch. Since they wake up often, so do you. Sleep deprivation can set in quickly, so make it a point to get as much sleep as you can whenever you can.
Let any cooking or cleaning that isn’t totally necessary wait. These newborn days will not last forever, and there will be plenty of time in the future to make more labor-intensive meals and deep clean the house.
Don’t expect to have a schedule right from the beginning
For many mothers, those first few weeks at home are a completely unique period of time when many things in life may seem to come to a standstill. It’s totally normal to feel like you are in some kind of surreal experience where everything is different and time seems to move at an altered rate.
Just remember that this experience will only happen once, twice or possibly a few times in most people’s lives. You don’t have a new baby every day! Embrace the lack of routine and give yourself permission to simply enjoy this special time as it unfolds naturally. The return of normal schedules and routines will come all too quickly.
Listen to advice, but follow your instincts
It often seems that everyone has some wisdom to share when they learn you are a new mother.
Whenever someone tries to give you pointers or advice, do your best to listen politely and thank them. After all, you never know when you may pick a tip that will be truly helpful. However, everything they have to tell you is what worked in their family, and their suggestions may just as easily not work for your situation. You are the one who knows your own family best, so take what is useful and simply let the rest go gracefully.
Eat well and drink plenty of water
Making sure your baby is fed and taken care of requires a great amount of time each day, but don’t forget to take proper care of your own body.
Foods that contain protein can help your body repair and recover from pregnancy and childbirth, and healthy fats help you feel full and give you energy. It’s also important to make sure you get adequate vitamins and minerals since your levels could be depleted from pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Try to have plenty of healthy food in easy reach. Since you may not feel up to cooking meals from scratch, aim for nourishing foods that are quick to grab. Here are a few suggestions:
- String cheese
- Fresh fruit
- Cut-up fresh vegetables
- Whole-grain bread, cereal and crackers
- Nuts and seeds
- Peanut butter
- Nitrate-free deli meat
Especially if you are breastfeeding, make sure to drink plenty of water each day. Proper hydration can help you feel more energetic and replace all the water your body is using to produce milk.
Be kind to yourself
It can be far too easy to lose sight of how important it is to care for yourself mentally and emotionally when you are so busy caring for another person.
Motherhood inevitably brings permanent change to your life, so give yourself time to adjust to your new role as a mother. Don’t ignore your feelings. Share your thoughts, concerns and joys with your partner, a family member or a friend.
It’s true that your baby needs your time, love and attention, but you also need and deserve some time for yourself. Whenever you are able, have your partner or another caregiver watch your baby so you can shower, meet a friend for coffee, sit down and relax, take a nap or do whatever you want.
Have the number for your baby’s health care provider handy
It can be so easy to overlook small details like this one. However, when you have a question or concern about your baby, the last thing you want to be doing is trying to figure out how to reach your baby’s provider. Add the office number to your contacts or place it in a highly visible spot in your home, and make sure every caregiver knows where to find it.
Don’t ever feel guilty about protecting yourself or your family
Yes, everyone is excited about your new baby and can’t wait to meet them, but that may not always be in your own or your baby’s best interests.
Particularly during the fall and winter months when viruses are more common, keeping visitors to a minimum can go a long towards helping your baby stay healthy. Newborns have an immature immune system, and illnesses that are minor in older children or adults can make a young baby very sick.
Additionally, you are still in recovery mode. If you want to rest or just have the house quiet, don’t feel bad telling visitors that another time would be better.
Some moments will be hard, but remember to enjoy this special time
Babies grow up fast. The newborn stage provides its share of both challenges and joys that will soon pass. While the nights can seem eternal when your sleep gets interrupted every hour or two, remember to treasure all the sweet moments. There is nothing else that is quite like the way a newborn snuggles, smells and sounds, so make sure to savor these moments.
Having a new baby is a joyful time, but it can also be a difficult one in some ways. While you will never be able to fully prepare for such a profound life change, knowing a little about what you can expect could help make the transition a little smoother.
The most important thing you can do is to love your little one unconditionally. Always listen to your maternal instincts, accept whatever help you can, take care of yourself and focus on the positive. You got this, mama!