This guest article was written by Heather Irvine,Certified Gentle Sleep Coach, Postpartum Doula, Newborn Care Specialist, and Certified Lactation Counselor
There is nothing more magical and exhilarating than becoming a new parent. Those first few weeks are filled with wonder, amazement, and pure joy as you get to know your baby.
Through the years, I’ve given birth to five children of my own, and have spent numerous hours consulting with families just like yours. I’ve found that there are some simple steps you can take that will help you get into a nice groove during the first few months with your baby. These essential infant tips will also help reduce the stress and overwhelm of adjusting to life as a new parent.
Keep things low-key during the first few months
Your newborn baby needs an adjustment period once you bring him home, and so will you. Keeping things low-key in these early months will help tremendously.
Babies can be very sensitive to new changes, especially sights, sounds, smells, and new people. These new experiences can be overwhelming to your baby’s fragile nervous system, and he will need you to help protect him from overstimulation.
Try to limit visitors to once per day, and when you do have visitors, try to limit how many people handle your new baby. Too much passing around or running about town may cause a major meltdown for your baby and leave you exhausted. You may have lofty goals of getting out and showing him off, but you will find very quickly that staying close to home is probably a better bet.
Arrange for Help
Take up offers from any friends and family that are willing to lend a hand. Your only goal during these first few weeks should be to rest and bond with your baby. Ask others bring you meals, clean your house, or run errands for you.
If you can, consider calling in a part-time sitter or nanny after your partner returns to work so that you have some relief. Taking care of your baby 24/7 is a challenging job, and you will need time to relax and take a brief rest break from caring for your baby.
Plan this ahead of time if you are able, and ensure that you have support scheduled for at least the first 2 to 3 months. You can alternate between friends, family, neighbors and paid help to get you through this time. Trust me, you will be glad you did!
Be Prepared with some Essentials
There are many products I recommend new parents have on hand, but there are a few staples I have at the top of my list.
For parents: Stock your pantry and fridge with healthy and easy-to prepare snacks and meals. You won’t have the energy or time to do much cooking and having food that takes no prep or very little – will help you stay energized and less overwhelmed.
If you are a breastfeeding mom, make sure to have a good breastfeeding book on hand to reference and the number to a Lactation Consultant or Center. When problems arise, you will want quick solutions.
For your baby: Have a swing, swaddle blankets and white noise machine on hand. They are wonderful calming tools!
Establish good feeding patterns for your baby
You’d think that this would be a no-brainer, right? Believe it or not getting feeding off to a good and healthy start takes some work.
If you are bottle-feeding, make sure to watch your baby as he feeds, so that you can pick up on his cues and catch when he is done or needs to be burped. This can help feeding times go smoothly and avoid unnecessary feeding challenges.
If you are breastfeeding, follow your baby’s lead and feed him when he is hungry. Breastfed babies feed quite often in these early weeks, and you may feel like nursing is all you do all day. Rest assured that this is normal, and it does get easier as time goes by. If you struggle at any time with breastfeeding, be sure to contact a lactation specialist for help at the first sign of trouble. It’s the quickest and easiest way to get things back on track.
Learn which items can calm your baby
Parents have the greatest ability at finding creative ways to calm their babies (this includes you!). Try a variety of things and observe what works best for your baby. Don’t be afraid of relying on soothing tools (pacifiers, swings, holding, rocking, etc.) in these early months. Your baby will likely need help, and it is perfectly fine to use these items. Don’t worry, they will NOT cause any long term bad habits and can eventually be phased out once your baby is older.
These first few months are all about adjustment, and this includes sleep. There will be a period where sleep is different than what you are used to during these first few months. Make a plan to share the baby duties so that each parent can get a good 5-6 hour stretch of sleep EVERY night.
Consider split shifts, nights, or bring in help during the day so that BOTH parents can rest. Feel free to use the swing, bouncy seat, or rocker if it helps everyone get more sleep. Take nap breaks and sleep when your baby does in order to get those extra few hours of rest your body needs.
It’s easy to find yourself still in your pajamas at 6:00 p.m. when you’re a new parent. After these first few weeks, start to weave some gentle routines into your day. As hard as it seems, try to get up and take a quick shower and get dressed, throw on some comfy yoga pants and soft t-shirt and save those pjs for evening time.
Take a walk every day and get some fresh air. Getting a good dose of sunshine will be good for you and your baby! Try singing the same song or reading the same book before you put your baby to bed. Doing these things can help bring more predictability to your day and make your baby feel calm and secure.
Heather Irvine is a Certified GSC, Postpartum Doula, Newborn Care Specialist & Certified Lactation Counselor. As if those specialties weren’t enough, she also has 5 (yes, 5!!) children of her own!
What is YOUR essential tip for new parents? Was it covered here?
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