Having a newborn is an exhilarating experience, but it can also be exhausting, overwhelming and a very steep learning curve!! There are some things you can be prepared for, and some things you simply have to figure out along the way. Everyone is going to have different styles of parenting, babies are all very different in nature and personality, and so there will be a lot of variance in how people respond to, and cope with, those early days and weeks. Today I’m focussing more on “stuff” (my favorite must-have’s for the first six weeks) – next week I’m going to write a part two that talks more about emotional tips and strategies.
I have to admit, I loved the first few weeks of Valentina’s life. She was a good sleeper, and Dave helped a lot with getting her up early morning and taking her out to the living room so I could sleep longer. It was a very special time of us all bonding as a family. I got enough sleep, so I had good energy. For me the hard part was the physical recovery after her delivery, and issues with nursing leading to mastitis. That wasn’t fun. But we figured it out.
There were a few things that I learned in those first few weeks, and a few things I leaned on as helpful tools:
- Frozen meals – we went to Trader Joe’s and stocked up big time on frozen food and snacks before Valentina was born. That way we had the first two weeks covered when we came home from the hospital. It’s amazing how hungry you get when nursing, so having food around that was quick and convenient was a God-send. Quick, easy, healthy snacks were great too – rice crackers, protein bars, dried seaweed, raw nuts – they all helped me keep my energy up but were really convenient.
- Lanolin – I kid you not, buy 4 tubes and have one in every location you nurse, plus one in the bathroom for after showering. I had one by our bed where we all slept, one by the rocking chair in the nursery where I’d take her during the night to sit and rock her, one on the coffee table in the living room (who cares what people think), and one in both bathrooms. That was a life-saver too. Some mamas use and like coconut oil, but that never cut it for me, lanolin was the only thing that helped.
- Fisher Price swing – I realize some people don’t agree with this, but that darned swing kept us sane during the first few weeks. Valentina would nap in that thing for 3 hours at a time. We never had trouble weaning her off it later, and she never slept in it at night, but we sure did use it for day naps and she’d sleep like a log. It gave me time to rest, and get things done around the house.
- Ring sling or wrap – babies want to be held, but holding takes arms, arms that are then not able to do anything else. A stretchy wrap or a ring sling is a great way to be close to your newborn without having to put them down, and with hands free for you to be able to fix food, brush your hair, hold the phone, or whatever it is that you need to do. The stretchy wrap I like the best is the Solly baby wrap, especially in warmer climates as it’s cooler than most. There are many ring slings available on the market, and local babywearing groups are a great resource for finding them and learning how to use them safely. Buckle carriers are great for later, but the stretchy wraps and ring slings are ideal for the itty-bitties.
- Amazon Prime. You need this, just trust me. Although don’t write me nasty emails when you’ve just ordered your upteenth whatever, because you were bored nursing at 2am! It can be a little dangerous but it also gives you ready access to all the things that you need that you didn’t know you needed until the time came. Shopping for baby things pre-baby was a lot of fun for me, but shopping for baby things with a newborn was not fun at all. Amazon to the rescue!
- Earth Mama Angel Baby – this is a wonderful company that makes great remedies for mama’s healing from childbirth. They have herbal sprays (their new mama bottom spray is the best!), postpartum bath herbs, C-section healing salves, remedies to support breastfeeding etc etc. All, of course, available on Amazon as well as directly through the company. I wish I’d known about these from the beginning, I was told about them at week 3 (ish), but even then they definitely helped the healing process along.
- Cortisone suppositories – ok since we’re getting personal, I’ll say it. Post-partum pooping can be really painful. There I was at the pharmacy one day looking for anything that could help, and the pharmacist says to me “oh that happened to me too after my babies, what you need is cortisone suppositories.” Huh? Ok, yes, I do need that … and I gave her my own prescription there and then. Now there are definitely more natural options available, but when it’s so bad you’re crying on the toilet each day, along with other (uh-hum) painful healing experiences going on, the relief was profound, literally the next day. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Again, I just wish I’d known sooner. They do require a prescription.
- Lactation consult information – I’ve mentioned this before in a post on breastfeeding, but I seriously think that every woman should suss out a local lactation consultant before they have their baby, if they really know they want to breastfeed. There are so many things that can get in the way – tongue ties, lip ties, under supply, over supply, mastitis – it’s just not as easy as one might think. I ended up going to see a wonderful local lactation consultant who helped me enormously and got me totally sorted, but the stress of trying to figure out where to go and who to see at a time when I was in pain had no idea what to do, added a lot of stress. Better be prepared and not need it than not prepared and scrambling with sore boobs and a hungry baby. A good resource for that is the International Lactation Consultant Association.
These are just some of my favorites, and things that made a significant difference to me in those early weeks. I have a few friends having babies right now, and while there are some things you can’t be prepared for, there are a few that can be predicted and planned for. These are the things that I would advise them to have. To me the newborn phase was such precious time, and it goes by so quickly! A little bit of preparation can free up more time to just enjoy the new squish in your life.