How do you survive those first weeks at home with a new baby? Follow these 10—okay, 11—pieces of advice from a mom who’s been there and you’ll be just fine.
1. Accept help. When friends or family ask what they can do, tell them. It’s okay to say, “Hold the baby while I soak in a tub and stare at a light bulb.”
2. Talk with other mothers. After three months of nightly 20-minute feedings that were 90 minutes apart, I got a call from my brother asking how I was doing. I told him. “I can relate,” he said. “My cat gets up a lot during the night.” If he’d been in the same room with me, I would have pulled out his tonsils. Hence, mothers: Seek like.
3. Listen to advice with your heart. Accept those first few months of sleeplessness as inevitable, and give your baby a chance to find her natural rhythms. When you’re at the point when you can’t recall the year, go ahead and research the gamut of advice, from “no cry” to “crying it out” methods, and follow your instincts.
4. Breastfeed (if you can). It’s simple—except maybe initially, when you’re certain that there’s a major nerve running from your nipples to your scalp and the pain transmitted when you nurse feels as though it could blow the top of your head off. After that, it’s simple, it’s economical, you never leave home without milk, and it’s a wonderful way to slow down the world and be with your baby in a way that only a mom can.
5. Amuse her with what you have. Truth is, your baby will probably prefer empty plastic water bottles, rubber soap dishes and the wristwatch you’re wearing to your assortment of “correct” first toys.
6. Don’t watch the evening news. In fact, limit all TV watching—you have no buffer for the sensational, fear-invoking media. Certainly you don’t need to take in the latest crime shows based on real life, and sometimes even dog-food commercials can make you cry. Note that you may be compelled to follow this tip for your baby’s first 18 years or so.
7. Walk. Move your body. Take deep breaths.
8. Go to a coffee shop by yourself. Sit down with a latte and a good book.
9. Don’t obsess about your weight. It took nine months to put it on, and it may take at least that long to lose it. You probably won’t be the exception unless you’re being photographed for the next Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. So eat (easy on the sweets), drink (tons of water) and be merry (or at least moderately cranky).
10. Let go ... of all well-laid plans and great expectations. This is the ultimate opportunity to “be in the moment.” It is the job you can’t call in sick for, the beginning of your love affair with the funniest, smartest, most beautiful and aggravating person you’ll ever know. Listen, observe and be respectful of this visitor. She’ll be small for a nanosecond and you won’t realize just how short that time is until it’s over.
11. Have fun with your baby. This is the one tip to follow if you can’t follow any other.