The first few weeks with a new baby

Coming home with a new baby, particularly if it’s your first, can be an incredibly daunting experience. A lot of new parents these days haven’t held a newborn baby at all until they hold their own. You are not alone. Everyone feels overwhelmed at some stage in those first few weeks and months.

Here are a few tips on how to get through those first few weeks:

Remain calm
It is much easier said than done but it helps to try to not get too worked up about the little things. Young babies are incredibly resilient and you are most likely not going to cause any damage to your precious baby by doing the day-to-day stuff. Sleep deprivation will be the thing that most likely causes you to stress over little things, so try to make sure you get some sleep or rest during the day.

Remember breastfeeding is a learned process
Breastfeeding can be something that takes a bit of time to master – for both the mother and baby. You need time to get used to each other to make it work so don’t have too many visitors in those early days when you are trying to feed. Also ask for help if you are struggling. It is better to get help early than plough on with it not really working till it might be too late. A lactation consultant can really help as can a friend or relative who has been a successful breast feeder.

Keep visitors to a minimum
Carrying on from the last point it is really important to keep your home calm so keep the onslaught of visitors at bay for at least the first few weeks. There is nothing worse than having a house full of people, with a crying baby and you feeling overwhelmed. Have someone be your gatekeeper, preferably your partner, and they can politely tell people you are not seeing people this week. You can also book in one afternoon where you can have people over but limit it so they don’t stay for hours. Babies also get very overwhelmed and tired so keeping them quiet and calm really helps.

Take up all offers of help
The best gift you can be given when you have your baby is the gift of food! The last thing you want to be doing at the end of the day is cooking so having a freezer stocked with meals is a huge help. If you have a mother or mother-in-law staying with you ask them to do the household chores while you can concentrate on the baby stuff. And don’t try to be all things to all people at his time The house might look messy but that is okay while you spend time getting to know your baby.

Have some idea of what to expect with baby sleep
Newborn babies can only be awake for an hour at a time. This is the most important thing all parents should be told before leaving the hospital. Most new parents don’t realise that new babies don’t actually fall asleep when tired, in fact the more tired they are, the harder it can be to get them to sleep. Knowing this can help your baby sleep better and so you will have some time to relax and regroup. Also learn about tired signs. Babies have a few different tired signs so keep a look out for them as they will let you know when they are ready for bed. Tired signs include yawning, grimacing, staring, crying and jerky movements.

New babies can’t put themselves to sleep. There is so much information about teaching your baby to self-settle and yes, it is important but newborn babies can’t do it, most of the time, so don’t feel bad for feeding, rocking, cuddling your young baby to sleep.

Don’t get too caught up in what is the right thing to do. Having a new baby is such a wonderful, amazing experience, and it will pass very quickly so take some time to just enjoy it.

Article by Wattle Health resident expert, Paediatric Nurse, Jo Ryan.