So you’re bringing the baby home, have received visits, flowers, cards and (hopefully) some support while in hospital, but now you are heading home with your precious new bundle in the back of the car. Yikes, what now?
It’s All a Bit Surreal
Many mums report a feeling of surreal detachment as they arrive back home. Everything seems the same and yet everything has changed beyond belief. Feeling tired and physically exhausted after the birth no doubt increases these feelings, alongside the inevitable hormonal contribution. You don’t have long to dwell on these emotions before a little somebody starts asking for you, beginning the cycle of feeding, winding, napping (both of you) and trying to get stuff done in between.
That feeling of surreal detachment can last a while as you adjust to your new life. Gone are the lie-ins, the leisurely breakfasts. Instead you may find you are in your pyjamas till midday, you cannot fathom why your baby needs to eat every 45 minutes and the only things you have managed to eat all day is a muffin and a packet of crisps. You used to be so organised, and now you can barely manage to put a wash on. This is all completely normal. It will get easier as your baby grows, you gain confidence and get the hang of feeding and looking after your little one.
No article about bringing a new baby home would be complete without some mention of your, now enormous, breasts. Feeding dominates those early days and weeks. If you are bottle feeding, you are likely to still feel some changes (unless you have taken some medication) as your breasts will still produce some milk and it will take a few days for them to settle down completely. If you are breastfeeding, you will have already witnessed how regularly your little bub enjoys sucking on them. Hopefully it has not been too painful for you, but if you are in pain, now is the time to seek some help.
When your milk comes in, usually on day three or four, you may find that your breasts resemble a pornstar’s – huge and very full. I remember seeing my tiny boy feeding on this balloon breast. When your breasts are really big and sore and lumpy, known as engorgement, it can be very uncomfortable and can often make it tricky to latch your baby on. This is a time to work hard on that latch and stay on top of that engorgement while your breasts settle down.
Every new mum expects to be changing lots of nappies, but not every mum realises quite how many that involves. A baby that is feeding well in the first month, will typically do at least six wet nappies and at least three dirty nappies a day (they may poo less if bottle fed). Ideally you should be changing their nappies regularly to help prevent nappy rash. It is the ammonia in urine which causes the most irritation and you don’t want your baby sitting in poo for any longer than necessary, although at night time you don’t need to worry too much if they are asleep.
You may also find yourself changing your baby’s nappy to wake your baby up. That might sound a bit odd, but it’s a good method for ensuring your baby feeds effectively. Newborns are often very drowsy and will nod off five minutes into a feed. If your baby is jaundiced (which is very common) then they will be particularly dozy and it is especially important to make sure they feed well because feeding will help shift the jaundice.
Most babies hate having their nappy changed. This is entirely normal. Your baby will not enjoy being stripped off, left exposed, having his bottom wiped and being manoeuvred into clothes for a few weeks yet.
Those first few days are often marked by a steady stream of visitors. They tend to fall into two camps. Those that get it, and those that just don’t! The ones that get it are usually parents themselves, they come round exactly when you ask, make a fuss of your older children (if you have them), bring lasagne for supper and don’t stay long. Those that don’t get it arrive late, say yes to staying for lunch and make themselves at home before finally being booted out! It is important to limit visitors so you are not too exhausted and have time to nap. More importantly, it’s best not to tire out and stimulate your baby too much. Being handed from visitor to visitor may mean they don’t get a good long nap and are left over-stimulated and tetchy.
On day three or four, when your milk comes in most mums have a bout of the “baby blues” and feel tearful and overwhelmed. This can be a good day to say no to visits. This mood will pass (it’s those hormones again!) but best to lay low, stay cosy with baby and warn your partner you may be a bit weepy and touchy.
Hugs & Kisses
One of the most wonderful things about coming home with your tiny baby is having a new little person to smother with kisses and cuddles. You cannot overdo this, all your baby really needs in those first few days and weeks is milk and love.
Want to know more? Louisa Van den Bergh reminisces over her memorable pregnancy milestones here