Exhilarating. Trying. Exhausting. Beautiful. Terrifying. Emotional. Amazing. Painful.
My sweet baby is only 2 months old, and the emotions of the early days are already fading.
That’s the best word I have to describe the first 2-4 weeks with a newborn in our home. The highs are higher and the lows lower in those precious few weeks. You can read all the books you want, take all the classes, talk to all the friends with children, have a whole house full-o-children already, but those early days and weeks… they are raw.
Is baby eating enough? Is he sleeping enough? Has he wet enough diapers? Is he jaundiced? Does he look yellow to you? Is he breathing? Is that normal?
Rest assured, baby will survive those early days, and so will you! Every parenting style and survival strategy is different, but here’s how we get through the Newborn Daze.
Breastfeed 25 hours per day.
I’m only half kidding here. Establishing healthy breastfeeding is high on my priority list with a new baby. I spend hours and hours (and hours!) nursing my brand new babies. Truly, whenever they show any interest at all in latching on, we go for it. If baby tries to sleep more than two hours straight during the day, I wake him up and latch him on.
All four of my babies have had jaundice in their early days. To “flush out the yellow” as soon as possible, before it gets bad enough to need treatment, I nurse! Lots! When they’re not nursing, they’re “sunbathing” in the window. ***I’m (obviously) not a doctor; just letting you know what works for me. The same strategy may not work for you and your baby.***
Breastfeeding can be painful in the beginning. For me, right around days 3 and 4, I have to literally breathe through the contractions brought on by breastfeeding (seems to get worse with each baby). It’s all good… it means that your uterus is shrinking back to pre-baby size and the hormones released by breastfeeding are assisting that natural process, but holy shmoly… yeeouch.
Add to the contractions some engorgement, sore nipples, and exhaustion, and breastfeeding in the beginning is just plain hard for many a new mom. Take heart… it gets better rather quickly! Special complications aside, you should feel much more comfortable by week 3 or so. Keep at it!
Lower your expectations.
Everyone in the family needs time to adjust. Figure out what is essential (keeping everyone fed and mostly clean, perhaps?) and let the rest of it go. The first few weeks of a new baby’s life is not the time to sharpen your Type A qualities. If someone (anyone!) is willing to help out, let them. Don’t concern yourself with “the way I do it.” If it’s getting done at all, that’s good enough.
If you have other children, give them a break, too. This is something I had to learn all over again. Bringing a new baby into the family is hard on the other kids! We just came off of a summer full of fun family activities and experiences where our oldest three children got lots of attention. Then all of a sudden there’s a new kid in town who’s getting all the attention!
Let the tears flow.
I can’t count the times in the newborn daze that I was in tears or nearly so over something (anything!) that was said to me. Especially this time around, with my disappointing birth experience, even a benign “how did it go?” comment would set me off. Postpartum hormones are a wild ride. Buckle up and hold on!
I also did my share of crying over how amazingly blessed we are. After all we went through, after not knowing for a time if we’d have children at all, I was now cradling our fourth baby! I was (and still am!) in awe.
Stare at your baby.
As difficult as these few weeks can be, I find myself amazed with how quickly things change. How quickly my baby changes! Daily, hourly even, baby’s features become more distinct. New rolls form and an extra chin rounds out the face. It happens so fast.
Forget multitasking. Feel no guilt about staring at that sweet face for hours on end. When you’re not staring, you should be sleeping!
Take care of yourself.
On day nine of our newest baby’s life (yes, I remember the very day), I was exhausted, weepy, engorged, and sore. I was miserable. All I wanted to do was sleep with my baby, so that’s exactly what I did! Lucky for me it was a Saturday, and my husband took over so I could hibernate the day away. It did me a world of good physically and emotionally to have that time of quiet.
Other things I do to take care of myself postpartum are to take plenty of baths and get some exercise. I’m not talking about Jillian here, just get outside and walk… slowly. The fresh air and movement do me a world of good.
Take care of Daddy, too.
Friends, I could not do this without my husband. Yes, I’m the one who carried the baby for 9 months. I’m the one who went through the pain of childbirth. I’m the one who nurses 25 hours a day. But my husband… he does so much.
When we bring home a newborn, I focus nearly all of my attention on the baby and on my recovery. He does everything else. Plus, he goes back to work.
Just last week I asked my hubby if he wanted to write a guest post for this series on a dad’s Newborn Daze point of view. His response was “Can I be honest?” Yikes. I know it’s tough on him to go back to work exhausted and then come home after long days to a house and a wife that are a mess. It’s hard on him to “lose” me to the baby.
Let daddy know you love him. Give him a hug. Yes, he wants one even if you haven’t showered and are covered in baby spit. Let him rest with the baby while you go for a walk. Encourage him to take a nap while you’re nursing and have everything under control. Kiss him when he comes home.
Enjoy the moments; they are fleeting.
I know it’s hard, but try to slow down and enjoy these precious days. That sweet baby will grow right before your very eyes, and the Newborn Daze will fade as your little one delights you with his grins and coos. It won’t be long!
What are your favorite and least favorite things about the Newborn Daze? How does your family cope?