Just Had a Baby? A Six-Week Survival Guide
Your first weeks home with a new baby can be awkward and scary. Here's what to expect and how to stay sane.
Calming a Crying Baby
Crying is the only means an infant has to communicate. Your quandary: What is she telling you? Check her out. Is she hungry? Too cold or hot? Is her bedding or clothing tangled? Is her diaper dirty? Are the lights too bright, noises too loud? Is a burping in order? Is she ill? If you've run this gauntlet and put things right and she's still inconsolable:
Experiment to discover the most comforting way for her to be rocked (side to side, back and forth), spoken and sung to.
- Pat or rub her back.
- Walk the floor with her.
- Offer a finger, breast or a pacifier to suck on.
- Swaddle her.
All babies have their fussy period during the day (for many it's between 6 and 10 p.m.); at a certain point there is nothing you can do. Although trying to calm a distressed infant can be exasperating, always respond to the cry. "You cannot spoil a young baby by giving him attention; and if you answer his calls for help, he'll cry less overall," suggests the AAP.
What to Do for Yourself
The physical recovery from giving birth along with sleep deprivation can conspire to make big dents in your maternal self-esteem. Particularly for a new mother who has previously spent years being independent, the realization that you are responsible for another human so dependent on you can throw you for a loop. To help you get through this period, you owe it to yourself to...
- get enough sleep. Yeah, right, you're probably thinking. However, "the way to avoid sleep deprivation," proposes Schmitt, "is to know the total amount of sleep you need per day and to get that sleep in bits and pieces. Go to bed earlier in the evening. When your baby naps, you must also nap."
- take breaks. Take a walk, no matter how short; run your own errands, to get away. Of course, this involves asking your spouse, other family members or friends for help. If you have to, hire someone. Consider it money well-spent.
- get Dad into the picture. Allow him to care for the baby so that you get time alone. (You might even be able to enlist him, another relative or a friend to prepare a meal for you. See "One Great Recipe" on page TK).
- continue to eat properly, and keep taking your vitamins. accept that progress now is incremental. Break projects into smaller tasks. Wash a couple of dishes at a time if you have to.
- wear a snug-fitting, nonpendulous front baby carrier so you can work while holding Baby. Being close to you is familiar; she'll love the sounds and sensations and maybe even nap.
- delegate more. Enlist any and all visitors. Remember what they say: It takes a whole village to raise a child.
You may be vulnerable to uninvited advice as well as the most well-intentioned misguided comments of friends and family. If someone doesn't approve of your mothering techniques, Leach suggests lending him or her a parenting book that supports your philosophy (then soliciting a discussion about the differences in your opinions).
Hang in There
The first six weeks can be a real trial. You and your baby are getting to know each other, and you and your partner are adjusting to your new roles. Hold on to the thought that right around that six-week mark you will be rewarded with one of the most gratifying milestones in your entire parental career--your baby will beam a genuine smile at you. Yes!