In theory, we all know what to expect from a newborn, but in practice it’s just plain overwhelming.
Nothing can prepare you for the whole birthing and newborn experience. I don’t care how many books you read, it’s going to hit you hard. Looking back on it, I really had no idea just how much. This is something I wrote two weeks after our little man Harry was born.
It’s all well and good to think about ‘sleepless nights’ and ‘baby blues’ in theory, but come practice it’s just plain overwhelming. Don’t get me wrong – this last two weeks since our baby’s birth have been the happiest of my life, without a doubt. The highs have been soaring, even though the lows can be a little hard to take. Both extremes are part of the whole experience.
We welcomed our baby boy Harry Cooper a few months ago. Taking him home from the hospital in the car three days after he was born was the most nerve wrecking car ride I’ve ever had. Since then Harry & I have spent time getting to know each other and there have been tears, smiles, frustration, exhaustion and heart pumping joy.
Breastfeeding is not easy, and that’s something people never tell you. Your boobs will hurt, a lot. In the first two weeks, every time my bub latched on I wanted to scream the house down. It turns out that was an issue with him not latching onto my breast properly, but once we sought help for that it improved. When you first get your milk it’s super uncomfortable and leakage becomes the norm – wearing three nursing bras to the supermarket (to buy breast pads!) and still having milk seep out through all that material is just peachy!
But leaky boobs are just the beginning. So, here are my tips for the first few weeks:
- Don’t go for more than three hours without either feeding or expressing. Not only will this ensure you have a good supply of milk for when your baby has a growth spurt, it will also relieve the immense fullness you’ll experience in the week after your milk first comes in properly.
- Some people say to just ‘let the washing pile up’ as housework is too much on top of a newborn. In my experience, it’s more stressful leaving it, so we make an effort to ensure the house is in order. By the way, get a cleaner if you can – it takes a lot of the pressure off.
- Get out at least once a day – even if you have a wound that’s healing, just a shuffle around the block will make you feel a million times better.
- Connect with the outside world – if you can’t get out, ring friends and family for support. We don’t have any family or close friends where we live, so it’s been really important to have people close to us just a phone call away to offer advice.
- Find a non-baby related project – even if you mentally feel like sh*t, it’s good to stimulate your mind.
- Don’t have too many visitors – they can be hard to fit in around feeds and sleep, and the early days are when you really need to focus on the three of you bonding. Visitors never come at a good time and always stay too long!
- It sounds silly and obvious, but make sure you shower every morning. Trust me, you’ll feel a lot more positive about the day ahead if you take just 5-10 minutes out for you (pop baby in his cot or on a play mat where you can see him).
- Pace your appointments. The first few weeks can be busy with doctor appointments, child health checks, midwife visits and lactation consultants but try not to do too much too soon like I did – it ended in many tears and much stress!
- Keep good records of everything from feeds to sleep to ‘number 2s’. Every doctor, midwife and even the pharmacist will ask you so it’s good to have that info to hand. I’m using a baby app called Sprout and it’s been invaluable.
- Don’t get too hung up on any sort of routine to begin with. I drove myself a bit mad in the first week obsessing about how often baby should sleep and feed. During pregnancy I’d read a lot about the importance of getting bub into a good routine and, while I still believe it’s important, baby is just too young in the first few weeks to be worrying about it.
- Rest when baby rests if you can, and take the opportunity to sleep when you get the chance. More rest can be good for your milk supply as well.
- Eat well. The baby belly goes down with time and I’ve found that with eating well throughout not only my pregnancy but also in the weeks after the birth I’ve already lost the majority of the baby weight. Yes, breastfeeding burns calories, but if you want to get the weight off sooner rather than later fresh and healthy is best.
- Breathe! When bub is crying it can be very stressful. Take some deep breaths, pass the baby over to your partner if you need to and try to de-stress. I’m convinced babies can pick up your emotions and the more upset you get the worse they’ll cry.
What’s really important is to get some perspective. With poo under your fingernails, pee in the face, no sleep and milky leaky boobs, it can be hard to see the light. But try to understand that the first few weeks are a small snippet of what is an amazing and never-get-back time of your lives. Painful and gory yes, but beautiful all the same.
What's one tip you would give to help someone get through the first few weeks of being a new mum?
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