Getting through the first month with a newborn can seem like a blur. From what feels like the endless cycle of feeding and changing to the lack of sleep, a lot of parents say that they feel like they are just surviving.
So here is a list of 10 tips for helping you survive - and enjoy - that .first month with your precious newborn.
1. Sleep when the baby sleeps
Now I know that you have heard this advice before but it is actually advice you should take to heart. That first month, you can really feel like a zombie. The only way you are going to get enough sleep is to sleep when the baby sleeps. Using the baby’s sleep time to try to catch up on housework, projects, thank you notes, etc. is only going to cause sleep deprivation in the end. There is plenty of time for all of those extra things later when baby gets into a more organized sleep pattern. Right now, use baby’s sleep time for the most essential activities like eating and the occasional shower, and your own sleep and self care.
2. Take turns getting up with the baby
This is a piggy back on #1 - when the baby is awake, both mommy and daddy do not both have to get up. This just makes for TWO sleep deprived parents. Take turns getting up with the baby so that one of you has the energy to take care of the baby and the other can rest. Even if mommy is breast feeding, Daddy can get up and change the baby, bring the baby to mommy to feed, burp the baby, and take the baby back to bed so that mommy can get as much rest as possible between feedings. Then when its mommy’s turn, she can get up and do the entire feeding and let daddy rest.
3. Only allow visitors who are coming to offer help
Practice saying that you are not accepting visitors right now with the exception of people who are coming to help out. This would include people who are bringing you meals, offering to clean your house or those who are going to care for the baby so that you can take a nap or a shower. Entertaining visitors is more exhausting than you realize - particularly if you feel you must get you and the baby bathed and dressed and the house cleaned up. Visitors often do not realize how long they are staying.
They also do not realize that you may just be getting comfortable breastfeeding and may feel awkward feeding in front of them. This may cause you to skip feedings. Unless you feel comfortable asking people to watch the baby while you take a nap, or do some dishes for you, or to leave when you are tired or need to nurse the baby, it is best to have a no visitor policy.
I know this is really hard, because you are excited about the baby and want to show her off, but trust me, there is plenty of time for that later. This is my #1 recommendation. Having a constant stream of visitors is one of the biggest reasons for breastfeeding failure. Don’t let visitors interfere with your sleep, or getting adjusted to a feeding routine or stress you out more.
4. Close your eyes to a messy house
This first month of being at home with baby can be very challenging for those parents who have taken pride in a clean and organized home. You may have a really difficult time now. To keep your sanity you are going to need to close your eyes to a messy house. This is not the time to be worried about the dishes in the sink, dust bunnies under the sofa and clutter. If you know that this is going to make you crazy, you may want to hire a housekeeper to come in during this first month, or arrange to have some friends come and clean your house (see #3) so that you can get the rest you need without your messy house stressing you out. Otherwise realize that dirty dishes will still be there long after your first precious moments with your baby are gone. Enjoy this time and don’t fret over the small stuff.
5. Prepare ahead
Try to think of all of the things that are going to take your time and attention away from the baby and caring for yourself and prepare in advance for those. Some examples of these are food, housecleaning, shopping, and laundry.
You know that you have to eat, but you are not going to have much time between caring for the baby, sleeping, caring for yourself, and trying to grab a quick shower. Prior to when the baby arrives, you can prepare some meals ahead and freeze them, or buy some pre-cooked entrees and freeze them so that you will have some nutritious meals for the month. Making some menus of simple meals and snacks and purchasing items that are quick to prepare and nutritious to have on hand will save you from running out of food and having to go to the store or eating fast food. Or research grocery delivery services in your area and make lists ahead of time of your frequently used items. You could also request meal preparation service coupons as gifts.
Likewise, if a dirty house is going to make you crazy and keep you from being able to rest, put quick cleaning supplies such as disinfecting wipes or sprays in your bathrooms so that you can do quick clean ups daily. Buy disposable products so that you don’t have to wash dishes for a few weeks so that the dishes won't pile up in the sink. You can also ask for a housekeeping service as a shower gift for a few weeks after the baby is born.
Another idea is to prepare enough clothes for mom, dad and baby to get you through the first month without having to do a lot of laundry until later. You also could schedule a laundry service.
6. Get Daddy involved early
Daddy is not just a helper or a babysitter. He is the father of your child. Maybe you have a lot of experience with babies. Maybe you have none. But this is both of your first experience with THIS baby. You are learning together. Take baby care classes. ( Keep a look out here for something special coming soon) Then trust each other and work together. No one likes to be micromanaged. Daddy may figure out his own way of dealing with the baby that is different than mommy's but that may be just as effective. For example, dad's are known to be very good at comforting fussy babies. Moms obviously are the one's who are responsible for breastfeeding. You each have a role that is just as important in the life of the child.
Most dad’s say that they feel more comfortable if no one is looking over their shoulder . Some mom’s say that they find it easier NOT to give direction, criticize or tell dad what to do if they just walk out of the room. Then if dad needs help, he can ask. Maybe things are not perfect, but it doesn't have to be. The more involved dads are early on, the more bonded and confident they are later. Show that you have confidence in him.
This is another reason to minimize visitors. It is often easier to figure out how you want to parent if you figure it out from the beginning. If grandmother is here, dad may feel pushed out of the way. If you feel that you want to have grandmother come to help out, just remember to lay down some ground rules about dad's role with baby from the outset.
7. Call for help if you need it
There is no shame in needing some help. There are plenty of resources available if you feel that things are not going well. If you are concerned that something is not right with your baby, call your pediatrician or health care provider right away. Some problems can be serious and even life threatening and should be evaluated quickly.
If breastfeeding is not going well or you are struggling, ask for help before giving up. Most problems can be resolved with just some simple guidance. You can call your birthing center and see if lactation consultants are available. You can call your health care provider for advice. You can seek help from your local La Leche League (WWW.LLLI.org) There is often someone who will make a home visit to you. You can also contact The International Lactation Consultant Association (WWW.ILCA.org) who can direct you to a certified lactation consultant in your area. It is crucial to get help for breastfeeding problems right away before problems get bigger.
If you are not sure about something going on with you physically or emotionally, call your obstetrician or midwife. If you just feel that you need an extra pair of hands, call a friend or relative. You are not the only mom who has felt overwhelmed. Do not try to be supermom. Ask for help. And, more importantly, accept it when offered to you.
8. Get some fresh air
If you are feeling overwhelmed, get a change of scenery. Step outside. Have lunch on your back porch or have an impromptu picnic dinner. A sandwich on a paper plate tastes so much better on the back deck doesn't it? Put the baby in the stroller and walk to the mailbox. Babies often are less fussy when you go outside.
When you are really tired, some fresh air will wake you up a little. When you are really stressed and overwhelmed and wonder how you are going to get through the next hours, something different to look at besides an unmade bed and dirty dishes can make all the difference in the world. You may discover the seasons changed while you were inside taking care of your newborn.
I know. Easy for me to say, right? But things are always easier when you take a little step back and take a deep breath and slow down a little. Maybe try to look at things from a different viewpoint. Humor, maybe? (Come on wasn’t it just a little funny that Baby Boy wee’d all the way up to the ceiling fan?)
Do something for yourself. No one says that the baby has to get every second of your attention. Read a book, take a bubble bath, watch a movie, listen to a podcast - even if it is while you are feeding. I promise that the baby will not mind.
10. Give yourself grace
Nothing new is ever expected to be easy the first time. So it takes 5 tries to get something right. Give each other a big high 5 on that 5th try! Celebrate each new win. Recognize that you are getting better and that some things are getting easier. It is hard to see those things when you are tired. Take time for gratitude each new day. Find something to compliment each other on every day.
So, there you have it.
10 Tips to Surviving the First Month with Your Newborn.
This month will just fly so fast you wont believe it. When you look back you won’t remember anything except how precious it all was. That’s the magic of memory. If you have some other tips to share let me know in the Private Dream Baby Facebook Community .
But I know that getting through, you sometimes need a little help with the tough times. That’s ok. You are not alone. Never forget that. There is an entire community designed for parents just like you who are feeling exactly what you are feeling. Maybe you want to meet some of them. So, Here is a bonus tip: Why not take this opportunity to join our Dream Baby Cafe Community Private Facebook Group and get some encouragement from other parents just like you.
I look forward to getting to know you better and continuing our discussion over there.
And hey, if you found this helpful, do a friend a favor and share this with them on social media or in an email.