5. Accept help
Whether volunteered or paid, help with everything from making meals to burping your baby to mailing your thank-you notes is essential. Cleaning and cooking will likely prompt you to crash and burn by your third or fourth week, so lean on your friends or relatives or hire a housekeeper or postpartum doula. "Many moms think they can muscle through it, but allowing others to run errands, cook meals or give you some time alone is important," Glyck says.
And remember that guests are there to see the baby and bestow gifts, not judge your hostessing skills. "With my first baby, I was baking something every day for all the visitors," says Kim Duk-Soon Olivieri, 35, a Bellaire, Texas-based mother of two. "For the second baby, I bought cookies and that was it."
6. Sleep whenever you can
Rest isn't a luxury-- it's necessary for your physical and emotional recovery. Try whatever works: napping when the baby sleeps, using a bedside bassinet or sharing your bed with the baby. "We had the nursery and crib all ready to go, but my baby ended up sleeping with us the first six weeks," says Glyck. As long as your bed is safe (for co-sleeping guidelines, visit the University of Notre Dame's mother-baby behavioral sleep lab at www.nd.edu/~jmckenn1/lab/index.html), it's too early to worry that your baby will never sleep alone. She'll adjust if and when you decide it's time for another arrangement.
7. Get your car seat inspected
While car crashes are a leading cause of infant death, babies in child-safety seats have an 80 percent lower risk of fatality, according to Safe Kids Worldwide. Unfortunately, it's easy to incorrectly install and use the seat. Read both your car-seat's and your vehicle's owner manuals carefully, and take the time to have your handiwork inspected. Visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov or safekids.org for an online ZIP-code directory of police stations, car dealers and individuals qualified to provide free child-passenger safety checkups.
8. Bathe your baby like a pro
The kitchen sink is the ideal spot to scrub your sprout, says doula Vicky York. "You have to get on your knees and bend over a tub," she points out, "and in a tub the top half of her body gets cold fast." First, make sure you have all the necessities assembled: two towels, baby soap (this doubles as shampoo), cotton swabs, a diaper and a clean outfit.
Lay your baby on one of the towels spread out on the kitchen counter, soap her, then rinse her under the tap with warm--not hot--water, holding her by the ankles and around the shoulders, suggests York. Quickly wrap her in that towel and shampoo her head, rinse, then wash her face with the corner of the towel. Dry her head and face with the second towel, and inside her ears and between her toes with the cotton swabs, then dress her. For tips on other care basics, keep a favorite baby book close by; we like The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby From Birth to Age Two (Little, Brown, 2003) by William Sears, M.D., and Martha Sears, R.N.