I thought I was prepared. The nursery was complete, and I was mentally ready. Oh, boy was I wrong. For starters, the baby was in our room anyway so the nursery didn’t matter a bit in those early days and I finally started to understand why everybody told me to ‘sleep while you can’ when I was pregnant.
For me, the first 24 hours were a blur. Honestly, I was so scared of leaving the hospital with this new little baby who was completely dependant on me. When Reuben and I got in the car at the hospital car park (away from both of our parents), I burst into tears. I was emotionally and physically drained.
I’ve broken this down into bite-size tips and know I would have most likely forgotten key things so feel free to add tips into the comments:
- Accept all offers of help – this is one thing I didn’t do. I’m all Beyoncé, Independent Woman and I was absolutely shattered after a few sleepless days/nights. Accept offers of meals, breaks for you to shower etc.
- Sleep when the baby sleeps – actually, do it, or it’s likely you’ll never sleep again. If you can’t sleep, at least lay down and rest, don’t worry about everything else you have to do (at least in those early days).
- Have plenty of maternity pads on hand; steal the hospital ones if you can (they resemble a super king mattress). You will bleed, a lot, sometimes up to 6 weeks +, also invest in some Hypercal lotion for your lady bits if you have a natural delivery. I talked more on Hospital Bag Essentials here. I’ve also heard great things about Viva La Vulva.
- Don’t forget to take your pain meds if given some, I was terrible and in a tired haze I’d forget and pay the price later.
- It’s totally normal to cry in those early days. If it wasn’t my partner, or me, it was the baby.
- Confide in a friend/family member or midwife (if not your partner) about how you’re feeling and doing, make sure you know the early signs of postpartum depression and if you feel like things are getting too much – seek help. It’s normal and more common than you think. I wrote about my experience here.
- Look after yourself. I know this may sound weird but try shower every day, even chuck on some BB cream, it would make me feel (and look) so much better. It is so easy to live in track pants but not looking after yourself is a quick way to start feeling down. You need to maintain good hygiene practices throughout this time regardless of how you give birth.
- Learn that it’s OK to say no to visitors in the early days – while you’re super excited to show off your new baby, they’re more prone to picking up bugs in those early days plus you’re still learning. I was still trying to find my feet with breastfeeding and attempting to do it with an audience was the last thing I wanted. If you’re comfortable, go for it however, it is okay to say no.
- Be prepared for an emotional roller coaster – more so than when pregnant. I would cry for no reason, other days I was on top of the world. Hormones are all over the show, it’s normal but we aware and no what to look out for.
- Trust in your midwife – they are a hive of support and information. Don’t be afraid to ask them (or your GP) questions. It’s their job and I’m sure they’ve heard it all (and worse) before.
- Prepare meals – I lived on easy things like toast/soup/pasta etc for the first few days. Accept the offer of meals and have them in the freezer ready for when you get home. It’s one less thing you need to think about.
- Don’t feel as though you’re a burden to other people because you aren’t. I thought I could do it all myself and quickly learnt this was not the case.
- Expect nothing – leave your expectations behind.
- Drop your standards a little – this was hard for me. I tried to maintain a spotless house knowing visitors would come over while trying to find my feet as a new mum. It’s OK to not have vacuumed, nobody is judging you – plus, it’ll give your visitors something to do, haha.
- Get somebody to show you how to bathe baby if you’re not sure – we had no idea and quickly realised this when it came to giving him his first bath.
- Establish a routine early – this worked so well for us. For the first few days while we found our feet we just worked around the baby and their cues. Once we introduced a routine, it made all of our lives easier.
- Introduce a bottle – I know this one will get some disagreement. I gave Baxter some expressed breast milk in a bottle early on to get him familiar with the bottle in case we ever needed it. He was able to go between the boob and the bottle with no fuss and it made our lives easier moving forward. It also meant I could take a break every now and then and that Dad could do the night feed.
- Put baby in their bed when showing tired signs – this way they learn to fall asleep on their own and associate bed with sleep time. We were told this very early on (I can’t even remember who told us but this was SO beneficial for us. Sounds easy, but it really was. Rubbing eyes, yawning? Put them in bed.
- Be calm – I was a big ball of stress and anxiety the first few weeks and Baxter picked up on this, as soon as I learnt to chill a bit, things became a lot easier and manageable.
Most importantly, enjoy the process. The days goes surprisingly fast and they’re only small for a short period of time.