There’s maybe nothing more nerve wracking than bringing baby home from the hospital
At least, bringing baby home is certainly nerve wracking when it’s your first baby. (Postpartum recovery aside – this would STILL be an… emotional time.)
The birth of a baby is life changing; the sort of event that will always teach us new things. But the birth of my second baby showed me something totally unexpected – it showed me how badly I missed out on ENJOYING the precious moments of the first week at home with me first baby.
The first week with baby (or the first month, even) is a special and unique time… and there’s truly no way to be fully prepared for it. But apparently I wasn’t prepared AT ALL the first time I brought a baby home from the hospital. There were just too many things I didn’t know, and I was so overwhelmed by everything going on that I wasn’t able to enjoy the time the way I should have.
I mean, sure, I’d bought some baby stuff… I’d read all the articles that talk about new baby necessities, and I’d stocked my freezer with meals. But cute little sleepers and frozen lasagna just don’t cut it when it comes to being prepared for the first week home with baby is really like.
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I think the key to really enjoying baby’s first week is to prepare as well as you can, but then try to relax and go with the flow
My first week home with baby # 2 has been night and day different than my first week home with baby # 1. There’s no real reason for this except that I KNOW more things now – I’ve done this before… and it’s less shocking the second time around.
If you’re about to have a baby and you’re preparing for baby’s first week, hopefully these tips will help you prepare, but also help you to relax and treasure every moment with your new little one.
You’re not the only one who’s world has just changed completely
If you bring baby home and baby doesn’t seem the LEAST bit happy to be there, remember, this tiny person has only ever known a snuggly, warm safe space – and there is a lot going on around him that he probably doesn’t know how to handle. I am a BIG believer in the fourth trimester.
If baby cries all night the first night at home, remind yourself that this is hard for him TOO. Expect the crying, in fact! (Then, if it doesn’t happen, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.)
If baby cries all night the first night, or even every night for the first month, just embrace that! Baby will NOT cry forever, I promise. Don’t yell at him, or at your husband. Try to remember that this will pass. Set up camp in the family room and watch TV.
(On a related note, if YOU cry all night that’s ok too. Give yourself grace, and remember that the hormones be crazy right about now.)
If baby is miserable, you can try skin to skin to calm him down. Just put naked (wearing a diaper) baby on your naked chest, and wrap him onto you with a blanket. Often, this will settle babe when nothing else will – they need to FEEL mom.
Don’t rush to bathe baby, or to dress her up in all the adorable little outfits you bought. Just let baby adjust to this world slowly.
Keep her warm and confined (the the womb is confining, that’s what she’s use to). Don’t plonk your baby down into a massive crib – that must feel SO terrifying to them! Get a tiny baby bed that makes them feel secure. A Dockatot is the ideal baby lounger, not only because it gives baby a feeling of security but because it’s easily portable (unlike a crib) and baby can be close to you all the time. See bestselling Dockatot products here.
Nursing is HARD this first week – plan to press on through the pain, but educate yourself and know how to tell if it’s not working
The stress of nursing the first time can be overwhelming on it’s own, even without all the other crazy stuff going on this week.
I hope you’re reading this before you have a baby, or at least in the first few days of baby’s life. DO NOT expect that nursing will be easy or feel natural for (at least) the first week. DO expect that it will hurt a little that first week. If the first week is hard, it doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to fail at nursing.
There are things that are normal when it comes to nursing, and things that aren’t normal. Knowing the difference will help you a ton. For instance, it’s normal to feel a sharp pain when baby first latches, but the pain should subside once baby gets sucking. It’s also normal to have chapped or sensitive nipples for the first week or so. Have a nipple shield in your hospital bag – you might not need it – but I had my husband go buy one this time after the first 14 hours because my nipples were super sore and chapped… and it helped SO much.
We didn’t need it long term, just on and off for that first week at home, until my nipples accepted that we were breastfeeding again.
Nursing a baby is something that you learn to do. After my first was born, we struggled. I wish I could tell you it got easier pretty quickly, but it didn’t. I didn’t know how to breastfeed and I didn’t know the red flags to watch for to tell me that there was something WRONG. Nursing wasn’t just stressful for the first week, it was stressful for the first two month.
It was three weeks before we got in to see a lactation consultant, and another 5 weeks before things really improved for us. If you’re preparing to bring your first baby home and you’re planning to try breastfeeding, I suggest taking a simple affordable breastfeeding class – I like Milkology – because it’s less than 20$, is full of really helpful videos, and comes with a troubleshooting guide… (very. important.)
Baby isn’t AS fragile as you might think
Now, off the bat here I need to make a big disclaimer and tell you that I’m not encouraging you to do ANYTHING that goes against what your doctor or other health professional tells you to do in regards to how your baby should sleep or how you should feed your baby, or anything else.
With that said, I do think there is an unhealthy amount of fear – over the picky details – instilled in new moms.
It IS important to know what “distress” signs to watch for in a new baby – you should take your newborn to the hospital if:
- she appears dehydrated, which includes lethargy, decreased urination, sunken eyes, a sunken fontanel, clammy skin or skin that doesn’t spring back to normal when you pinch it.
- she develops a fever over 100.4 degrees.
- she is breathing more than 60 to 70 times per minute, has nasal flaring and her chest or neck appear to “suck in” during every breath.
- she goes limp or turns blue around her mouth / eyes
- she loses consciousness or has a bulging fontanel (the soft spot)
BUT, beyond real health concerns, I wish I had relaxed a little with baby # 1.
I was TERRIFIED – of doing anything “wrong”. My first baby slept flat on his back, in his own bed, swaddled, with absolutely nothing else in his bed (even tho he seemed to think this was the most unnatural and miserable way to sleep).
I panicked over every last detail of breastfeeding. It was SO HARD, but there was no way I was going to give my baby formula this early, because I knew that supplementing could lead to nipple confusion, or decreased supply. I set my alarm to make sure baby was eating often enough, and to the minute.
I meticulously sterilized everything – if the pacifier fell on the floor, it had to be boiled for 5 minutes, because that’s what the books said.
These things (and more) made the first week at home a haze of confusion and worry, rather than a time of bonding and relaxing.
Something about having lived through one baby’s first week has taken the fear out of second baby’s first week. Second baby sleeps beside me in bed, nurses on demand (slept through a feeding? Hallelujah!), and sometimes I just rinse the nipple shield well in hot water.
I wish the world would just ease up a little bit with all their baby rules. Babies have been thriving for thousands of years with nothing but their mama’s good sense to keep them going.
Go ahead and do the “recommended” things if you want- I mean we are capable of sterilizing things pretty easily in the microwave, so do it, but don’t DISTRESS over it.
Freezer Meals and Postpartum Prep will go a long way here
One of the things that made my first week with my first baby a little harder to enjoy was just the unfortunate fact that I was in a lot more pain.
That’s one thing that you can’t always escape entirely, but if you’ve prepared well (have stocked your home with essential postpartum supplies / know what to expect postpartum) it will be a whole lot easier.
Freezer meals will also really help – you shouldn’t have to think of cooking at all that first week! (AND USE PAPER PLATES MOMMY!)
Baby and you need exactly the same things the first week at home – rest, food, and time to bond and adjust to life as a family
If there is any way you can plan to just relax in your jammies, cuddled up with your baby for an entire week, that’ll be awesome for both of you. (And honestly, if you have ANY help at all then you can probably do that! I have an 18 month old, and I still spent much of the first week home with baby # 2 just sitting on the couch and snuggling.)
To make breastfeeding easier for both of us, I literally just wore a comfy robe (I ordered this one from Amazon specifically for having at the hospital) and sweats for an entire week. I didn’t even LOOK at a bra.
We sat on the couch and watched movies, or drank tea with visitors (but if you’re not feeling up for visitors – be honest about that). We napped together. I did not clean, I did not do laundry, I did not answer emails.
When daddy was having a little bonding time with baby, I sat in the bath for 20 minutes every evening. (Sitz baths postpartum are one of my favorite ways to make myself feel about ten times better.)
Last time I had a baby I got home and immediately started worrying about teaching the baby the difference between night and day, and trying to pump to increase milk supply and build a freezer stash (for who knows why). I agonized about getting newborn pictures taken as soon as possible (and you can SEE in the pictures that I was in terrible pain from standing up that long).
DO be sure to take plenty of pictures that first week home… but it’s fine if they are candid snapshots. Give yourself time to feel human again before you dress up for formal portraits.
Give yourself permission to be as lazy as humanly possible and enjoy every second of baby’s first week at home!