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It’s an exhilarating and frightening time: your first week at home with your first baby. Although you might be amazed that your doctor has discharged you with the authority to care for this tiny bundle, you’re actually equipped with better instincts than you might think. After all, with even a few days under your belt, who knows your baby better than you? But caring for a newborn must include caring for yourself as well, since a healthy and happy mother is better able to tend to — and bond with — her baby. To ease your transition into motherhood, we asked seasoned mothers and professionals for their lists of first-week “musts” for mother and baby. Here’s what they had to say.
make feeding easy
Whether you’re nursing or bottle feeding, set early habits for peaceful mealtimes for him — and comfortable positioning for you. Start by getting in the mood: Moderate lighting and calm music can be soothing for both of you and can facilitate a productive feeding.
“Because everyone is so intent on keeping a newborn happy, the mother’s comfort is too often neglected in the feeding process,” says Rina Jacobson, R.N., who runs Pregnancy & Beyond, a breastfeeding-supply store that offers breastfeeding and childbirth-education classes in Brookline, Mass. Jacobson recommends taking time to create a cozy, ergonomically correct place for feedings. Elevate your feet on a footstool, and place a pillow (not shown) on your lap to position the baby high enough that you don’t have to hunch forward. If you’re nursing, maintain your fluid intake by drinking a glass of water while feeding the baby.
Your mother, friends, in-laws, even strangers on the street will offer opinions on how you should do your job as a mom. You can listen to them all, but go with what, in your gut, you feel is right for you and your baby. Resist the temptation to compare yourself with other mothers and your baby with other babies. “Everyone has a tip that worked for her baby,” says Kate Hall of Cheshire, Conn., who is pregnant with her second child. “You can try other people’s tips, but don’t expect them to work for you.” Every baby is different, and you know yours best.
get your sleep
Experienced mothers can’t emphasize this enough: Snatch extra hours of sleep and hoard them like gold. If it suits you, sleep with the baby. “Sleep when the baby sleeps and whenever else you can,” recommends Charelle Webb of Houston, who is pregnant with her second son. “Everyone says that, but it’s really important.” When the baby is napping, don’t use that time to catch up on chores or even return phone calls — catch as many winks as you can before he wakes up.