September 1, 2020
Years ago, our friends Olga and Ben had their first baby. They were the first among our group of friends to take this step, and to us they seemed brave and wise beyond measure. From the fine-tuned birth plan down to the cutting-edge stroller, they were totally prepared and in control.
When we visited the new family a few days after they got home from the hospital, I anticipated a serene scene, cooing baby in her mother’s arms, doting new father at her side—an idyll of happiness and calm. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
A New Baby: The First Few Days
There was no response to the doorbell, so we let ourselves in. It was total mayhem. Exhausted Olga (recovering from a C-section and not able to come to the door) was in spit-up stained pajamas. There were piles of laundry (some clean, some dirty) on the sofa and floor, dishes and half-eaten food on the table and counters, dirty diapers on the mantel (on the mantel!), something steaming on the stove.
In the center of the chaos, so easy to miss if you weren’t looking carefully, was a tiny baby asleep in a bouncy seat, amid a sea of blankets.
We laugh now about how brutal those first few days and weeks at home were. And after many more babies were born to our circle of friends—two of my own among them—I know how normal that scene was, too.
So many things are happening simultaneously when you come home from the hospital: healing from birth and the physical and hormonal changes that come in those first few days, the all-consuming cycle of feedings and diaper changes, the sleepless fog that even the most prepared parents feel. Add in the love, awe, and responsibility for this new tiny person…it’s not for the faint of heart.
3 Tips For Your First Days at Home
In addition to an unflagging sense of humor, there are a few things that can make the first days at home easier.
Consider your support system. There’s no shame in asking for or accepting help when you bring a new baby home, and the most helpful friends and family are the ones who don’t judge your mayhem or your pajamas. This isn’t the time for entertaining; this is the time to ask a friend to do your laundry or bring you more maxi pads from the grocery store.
Give yourself the time and tools to recover. Eating well will ensure you’re getting enough calories to support healing and breastfeeding, so make sure you have a supply of nutritious food. Staying well hydrated is especially important as your body begins to shed the immense fluid volume you’ve been carrying around during pregnancy, so drink lots of water. And having time to sleep (can anybody really just sleep when the baby sleeps?) will help the healing process, too, so allow yourself naps whenever and wherever you can.
Be kind to yourself. Figuring out how to respond to all your baby’s needs takes an enormous amount of time and patience. Nobody ever gets it all right. And every single other thing can wait.
Note: If you are interested in connecting with other new mothers, join our Becoming Mom online discussion group. Receive virtual hugs of encouragement and joy from other new moms and a childbirth educator without leaving your home. Email WBHGroups@pennmedicine.upenn.edu. We'll get back to you with dates, times and other details.