Our 50 Best Tips for Surviving Baby's First Few Weeks
Moms Dish on Below-the-Belt Pain Relief, Getting Baby to Sleep, and Staying Sane
You've read the books, talked to your friends and planned as much as possible, but the first few weeks after your little one arrives can be a whirlwind. We asked BabyFit moms to share their best tips for getting through their babies' early days and collected their advice into one helpful article.
Sleep and Bedtime
- Take advantage of all of the sleeping that newborns do in those first couple weeks. Enjoy, and take a LOT of pictures!
- I second the "sleep when the baby sleeps" comment. I didn't do it enough with my first, and now that I have an older child at home, I'm longing for those midday naps!
- Rest when the baby sleeps. Don't worry about trying to "sleep when the baby sleeps." Instead, just lie down, take deep breaths and clear your thoughts. Don't think about all the chores you could be doing. Don't think that it's your only chance to sleep. Just clear your mind and you will be refreshed when the baby wakes up.
- When you are woken up at night for what seem like the 100th time and just need sleep, try to breathe out and chant to yourself, "It won't last forever." Snuggle your baby and try to enjoy it even though you are cross-eyed because of lack of sleep.
- After baby's umbilical cord stump falls off, start a night routine ASAP. Bath, lotion, diaper, sing or read and rock, and put the baby down. If you do this from early on, it WILL click. Stick with it!
Exercise and being active
- When you milk comes in, feed, feed, feed! I was so engorged and just thought that I was supposed to be that way, but ended up running a fever and all.
- Learn how to nurse lying down. It is so much better and more restful for nighttime feedings.
- STICK WITH IT! I learned the third time around, with the help of the Breastfeeding Support MommyTeams, that the first two weeks are the most challenging. After that, you can get through anything!
- Clean and assemble your breast pump before your baby is born. Many times, milk comes in fast and furious and a breast pump can easily relieve engorged breasts so a newborn can better latch on.
- Don't just buy nursing bras, invest in some nursing tops, too.
- Stick with breastfeeding and set small goals. I read somewhere if you can make it 4 weeks, you will be set. It does get easier and less painful. Just tell yourself, "I can do this one more day and then I'll quit/go to formula if I need to." This got me through the early days.
- If you are returning to work at some point, start pumping after every feeding session to build up a good supply for your return to work. This saved my nursing relationship (among other things) with my DD.
Relief below the belt
- Get out to the mall or somewhere for a walk. It will make things less stressful.
- Get out for an hour or two if you can have someone watch the baby. Go for a manicure or pedicure--anything to pamper yourself. I went to have my hair colored eight days postpartum, and it instantly lifted my spirits.
- Don't rush back to the gym. I went back at 5 weeks to the day after delivery, and bled for about 10 weeks. I was so annoyed--I should have waited and consulted with my doctor.
- Don't forget the sitz baths! They provide so much relief. Also, use the little peri bottle or any squirt bottle for washing instead of wiping.
- Have plenty of heavy/medium flow pads for when you come home from the hospital. After both my deliveries I bled on and off, sometimes heavy for 4-6 weeks.
- I froze witch hazel pads in the freezer, which helped with soreness and hemorrhoids.
- If you have hemorrhoids, call your doctor and ask for a prescription! I was in so much pain I couldn't walk, and after three doses of a hydrocortisone suppository, they are almost gone.
- Ice packs for your undies are great if they don't give them to you at the hospital. You can make your own by putting a tablespoon of rubbing alcohol in an un-lubricated condom and filling the rest with water, then freezing. It makes a slushy pack that is long enough and narrow enough to stick in your undies and cover the whole area front to back. (And I should add this is for EXTERNAL use!)
- If you have hemorrhoids and/or constipation, drink lots of water and eat fiber and salads to make things much easier. Tucks medicated pads are great, and I also stocked up on big bottles of witch hazel and cotton balls.
- Try to bring home as many of those mesh panties from the hospital as possible. I got enough for a week--they are disposable, comfortable and hold pads really well. If they get stained, who cares!
- Take your pain pills if you had a C-section. I tried to be tough, and there is just no point to being in pain.
Accepting help and helpful tips
- Enlist friends and family to ask you how you are feeling post-partum and if you feel like you need treatment. If you get post-partum depression like I did with my first, you may not be rational enough to ask for help. And it's totally not worth suffering through it when there's an alternative.
- It's normal to cry for no reason. Try telling yourself this as you're crying. I found that helpful for calming me down.
- Expose yourself to sunlight to lift your mood. Even if you just sit near a window for a few minutes each day, it can have a positive effect on your emotions.
- Let your partner know about the warning signs of post-partum depression and try to figure out beforehand what may trigger it. I found for me, it was my husband's sarcasm, and I was able to get him to tone it down.
- Journal or blog about "a day in the life of your baby." I did this when my son was 10 days old. I wrote what he did, how long he slept that day. It's fun to look back, because already, even though he's only two months, I can't remember what he was like at two weeks.
- People are going to give you LOTS of advice--even if you are not a first-time mother. My experiences taught me to politely listen and respond with a generic, "Thank you, that's something to consider." You don't want to be drawn into an emotional debate about something like breastfeeding or crying it out this early in your new baby's life.
- Make sure that you have caller ID. That way you can pick and choose whom you want to talk to and whom you can get back to later if you need time to yourself.
- As hard as it is, try to get a shower every day and put a little makeup on. Get dressed! I found the days I didn't do that, were the days I felt most depressed. I would just put baby in his chair, and put him in the bathroom with me while I did my thing.
- Just put those sweats in your dresser, and put on some nice shorts, capris, or khakis. Put a little makeup on, like mascara and gloss before you head out. You will feel so much better. Or take your shower at night if you can. Have DH take care of your LO during this time.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes even experienced moms need help.
- Put a "do not disturb" sign on your front door if you don't want unannounced visitors.
- Be honest with your feelings. I was so excited to show off my son, but I got so overwhelmed one day because I never got a break as a first-time mommy trying to learn to breastfeed. People were always at the house. Get your partner on the same wavelength and kick everyone out if need be.
- Be prepared for an emotional roller coaster--more so after you give birth than when you are pregnant. I had a breakdown one day and I had no clue why. It all turned out OK! It's very normal. Just cry it out and lean on your significant other or a supportive friend.
- Enjoy your baby and remember he or she is learning everything from you. So do things you normally take for granted and enjoy your baby's reaction. Play your favorite music with baby around--you'll hear it differently.
Which tips were the most helpful to you? Do you have any other secrets or tips to share with other mothers?
- When folks ask, "What can I do to help?" have a list ready: Bring a meal, help with chores (dishes, laundry, mow the lawn, etc.) or babysit (so you can take a shower). Don't be shy about taking people up on their offers to help.
- Don't be afraid of consulting your OB or pediatrician for anything that worries you. That's their job!
- Have quick meals ready to go when you get back from the hospital or birthing center. This could be something you cooked and froze before delivery (make them in single servings), or just fixings (think: stuff I can eat in 15 minutes or less) for a PB&J and soup.
- I know family likes to see the baby right away, but since mine stays for a week at a time, I always make them wait three to six weeks before coming. That way we can get use to each other and enjoy our new addition. It also helps with getting breastfeeding going and getting rest. Babies are cuter after a few weeks anyways.
- Stay in your nightgown/robe and make visitors come see you in bed. When people have to come to you, and you are not dressed, they will be reminded that you are in recovery and will be more likely to ask what they can do to help rather than forget and expect to be waited on.
- Use paper plates and cups! It's not very environmentally friendly, but now is not the time to feel stressed about the dishes piling up. Even if your partner and family are helping out, there are better things they could be doing for you!
- If you have stairs in your home, set up two changing stations (one on each level) and a second place for baby to sleep safely. I just used an extra changing pad and kept diapers and wipes on both levels. Made life a lot easier early on.
- If you never carry cash (I use my debit card for everything) take a little cash out of the bank to have on hand at home. It helps when you have to send a friend to the store or pay a delivery guy.
- Limit visitors in the beginning except for family and friends who are there to help. And accept their help, even if it means they hold the baby for 10 minutes while you shower.
- Find some way to have adult conversation every day, even if you're just posting on BabyFit at 3 a.m. when you're awake and feel like you're alone in the world--you're not.
- If you know you won't have support, dig into your savings and hire a post-partum doula. I really wish I had done this. My mom came, but as expected, she wasn't exactly post-partum support. She left after 6 days. I don't have any friends or family close by, so I could have benefited from a post-partum doula coming over for even two hours a day.
- Make a list of essential chores that absolutely need to be done daily and weekly. Have that list handy for whomever can help you out. Don't ask people to do nit picky things, but it's OK to ask for help vacuuming.
- Don't think you are being a burden to other people because you aren't. I thought I could do it all by myself and didn't want to bother anyone else but very quickly found out that I couldn't do it all. I did need my husband's and my mother's help for different things. That was the greatest lesson I learned.