You’ve had no sleep due to a long labour, you’re sore, you’re feeling emotional and your entire body aches. But there’s no time to rest because you have a tiny human relying on you for everything!
The first month after having a baby is tough. I remember feeling totally overwhelmed the first time. With my second I felt more physically exhausted. It took me weeks to shake off that feeling that I had been hit by a bus.
The first month isn’t about getting it right, it’s about surviving it and giving yourself as much opportunity to recover as possible.
If I were to do it all over again for the first time, here’s the advice I would want:
The early days
Sleep, sleep and sleep some more. Especially with your first baby, as its pretty hard to do when you have older kids!
Don’t let the fact that your baby is sleeping a lot fool you. They’re as knackered as you are. But as they gain strength they will eventually start crying more and stop going to sleep as easily.
In this early phase they actually sleep when you put them down, soon they will scream the second their back hits the mattress.
Take advantage of this super sleepy phase and get loads of rest. Don’t cram in loads of visitors, just make time for close family in the early days.
If you have decided to give breastfeeding a go you will be told it shouldn’t hurt. In my experience of breastfeeding, it does hurt.
My babies were both getting plenty of milk from me in the early weeks. The problem was that the latch just wasn’t quite right. Also your nipples need to adjust to the constant abuse.
I didn’t know it wasn’t quite right until my boobs started hurting. Once there’s a bit of cracking and soreness on your nipples it can take ages to heal when you’ve got a hungry baby demanding exclusive constant suckling rights.
Every feed made me wince. I dreaded her waking up hungry. Here’s what I did:
Lansinoh Lanolin nipple cream worked wonders for the soreness.
Expressing a little bead of breast milk then rubbing it in gently can help it heal.
Don’t wear tight clothes and, where possible, go topless to help yourself heal.
Be careful in the shower if you have a powerful shower head. Ouch.
Get a pump and give yourself a break from feeding. You can hand express but this takes ages and who has the time? The Medela Swing pump is brilliant, its survived both babies with me and is still going strong.
It will get easier. Eventually me and my baby learned how to get the latch right and it slowly eased off.
Having bottle fed my first with expressed breast milk and formula, here’s my advice:
Come up with a system for making up feeds quickly. There are strict instructions on the boxes of formula powder. If you want to follow these to the letter for peace of mind, then do so.
I found it easier to make sure I could cool the milk to the right temperature straight away.
So I had 3ozs of cool boiled water in a bottle in the fridge. I put 2ozs of fresh boiling water into another bottle. I added the powder (five scoops) to the bottle, gave it a swirl, then poured in the cold water. Always double check the temperature before serving.
Let technology lend a hand. I’ve heard the Perfect Prep bottle machines are excellent. I have several friends who own them. It makes a bottle up in minutes at the perfect temperature.
I have another post with lots of tips on exclusively expressing for a baby.
This is something you don’t want to over complicate in the first few weeks. Preparation is key here. My advice is:
Batch cook lots of meals. Things like lasagne, shepherds’ pie and casseroles can be a lifesaver. They’re hearty meals that can be warmed through in the microwave in minutes. Spend the weeks before baby comes stocking up your freezer.
Don’t feel guilty if you have a few extra takeaways.
Take up people’s offer of help by asking them to bring over lunch or some snacks. Visitors are desperate to help you in the early weeks in my experience, so issue them with a list of demands. You can pay them back later.
You will get less sleep. If you can accept this is just a fact of having a baby rather than stressing about the reasons for night waking, then you will feel a lot better about it. My tips:
Don’t both get up at the same time. There’s no point in both of you being wide awake, dealing with the baby at 3am. If you’re breastfeeding, get your partner to take over in the morning so you can go back to bed. If you’re bottle feeding, take it in shifts.
Sleep when the baby sleeps. I know it’s easier said than done, but do try to do this. Even a 10-minute catnap can be refreshing.
Everyone wants to come over, it’s an exciting time. But it can get really overwhelming and tiring having a steady stream of people to cater for in your home.
Try to discuss how you will handle visitors before the baby comes. It helps if you’re on the same page as your partner on this one. Agree who will come over in the early weeks, for us it was just close friends and family.
Limit visitor numbers. Try to have smaller groups as it’s a bit less overwhelming.
Have a secret signal with your other half. Agree that when people have overstayed have a word or look that signals this to your partner. It can really help if you’re feeling overwhelmed by it all or are desperate for a lie down. If you prepare in advance your other half can come up with an excuse like you have a health visitor appointment or if it’s close family, simply tell them you would like to go for a rest now.
Lower your standards. If you’re as house proud as me it will be tough, but you won’t look back in years to come and think of how dirty the kitchen floor was.
Try to keep on top of the laundry ahead of baby’s arrival. There will be stacks and stacks of it after they arrive. It’s tricky to keep on top of it. Just do your best and make sure you have lots of spare vests and sleepsuits.
If visitors offer to help, hand them the vacuum cleaner.
If you’ve got the budget for it, get a cleaning service in.
Were these tips useful? Do you have any to add?