Tips on managing life with a newborn
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.
trust yourself 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.
give & get a massage Why not treat both yourself and the baby to a little massage? You’ve both been through a lot in the past week. Book yourself a postnatal massage at a local spa, choosing one with a staff that has experience working with postpartum women. Ask them to avoid using heavily scented oils or creams, as they may irritate your baby, particularly if you’re nursing. For the baby’s massage, you don’t need a professional — you’re the masseuse of choice, with your familiar scent, voice, face and touch. Plan the massage when he is awake and happy (and at least a half-hour after the last feeding so he won’t spit up). The room should be warm. Rub unscented baby oil between your hands, then work your way softly over your baby’s body in firm but gentle circular motions and strokes. Research shows that massage may help babies sleep better; at the very least, your soothing touch can calm your baby.
enjoy private time You can calm jagged nerves and regain a sense of self by setting aside bits of time daily for your own mental health. Some simple ideas: reading a good book while enjoying a cup of tea, soaking in a bath with a scented candle burning or responding to e-mail from friends. Negotiate with your husband a regular time when he will be responsible for the baby. “Dads need to bond and to spend one-on-one time with the baby,” says Dena Jarog, a pediatric clinical nurse specialist and mother of two (soon to be three) in Spencer, Wis. “I learned that it built confidence in my husband when I went into another room while he played with our son every night. And besides, no matter how often he told me I was beautiful, I couldn’t feel it until I had some time away from being the walking cafeteria.”
be lazy “Stay in your pajamas for the whole week!” advises Coral Lee Humphrey of Canoga Park, Calif., who is expecting her third child. Let the answering machine screen calls, let dust bunnies collect in the corners, and let your buddies prepare a week’s worth of meals so you won’t have to do a thing but turn on the oven. Involve your husband in the process of organizing where the baby’s things are kept so he can pitch in with carting and cleaning up. Instead of just keeping you company, put friends to work running errands, doing laundry, cooking dinners and cleaning.