How to Survive Your First Few Weeks with a Newborn
Inside: Your first few weeks with a newborn are magical and intense and exhausting all at the same time. Learn what you and your baby need most, plus 8 essential tips for surviving those first few weeks after birth.
A few months ago I experienced what I hope will be my last first few weeks with a newborn. Every first few weeks with a newborn are completely different, ranging from easy and uneventful to full of doctor’s appointments and not-so-fun postpartum aches and pains.
I’ve had five babies, and each time, those first few weeks looked drastically different. I won’t sugar coat it: one out of five was picture perfect, exactly as it should be. I had a relatively easy recovery and quickly bonded with my absolutely adorable newborn.
The rest? Those first few weeks were really hard.
They were filled with c-section recoveries, postpartum depression, being sent home with a catheter, second hospital visits within a week of being discharged.
Will that happen to you? I truly hope not. While so much is out of your control, following these tips will increase your chances that those first few weeks with your newborn will be as perfect as possible.
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What Are the First Few Weeks with a Newborn Like?
If you thought those last few weeks of pregnancy were hard (and they were), you will initially feel incredible relief a few hours after labor and delivery.
Your organs are no longer completely squished. You can sleep on your stomach again!
Right after that relief, however, comes the realization that:
- Your body will never be the same and needs some serious TLC, &
- You are completely responsible for caring for this little person you just pushed out of you (and that person has a mind of her own).
You will be trying to recover from labor, and if you are breastfeeding, you will be feeding your newborn every two hours around the clock. You baby will sleep what feels like all the time the first 1-2 weeks (except when he wakes up to eat).
How those first few weeks with a newborn go depends on how difficult your labor was and your baby’s temperament.
My first labor ended in an unplanned c-section; I didn’t sleep for over 24 hours. I needed serious recovery time and was extremely thankful for the nursery where I could send my baby when I needed a break.
Your baby may be super easy! One of my babies, people wondered if he even existed because he slept all.the.time.
Another seemed to cry at any and every opportunity and refused to sleep more than 45 minutes at a time for those first few weeks.
Those first few weeks are all about both mom and baby recovering from delivery and adjusting to a new normal. Give yourself and your baby some time to figure out what life looks like on the other side of pregnancy.
What Mom Needs the First Few Weeks with Baby
There are a few things you will need the first few weeks, but especially the first week.
Don’t skip these! As pressing as your newborn’s needs are, if you aren’t doing well, you won’t be able to take care of your baby.
1) Adequate Hydration
This is important for every new mama, but especially for breastfeeding mamas. Your body needs to stay hydrated in order to produce enough milk. Don’t be surprised if you are thirsty all of the time.
It’s a good idea to invest in a large water bottle if the hospital doesn’t provide you with one. Staying properly hydrated can also help alleviate feet and ankle swelling after birth, which is common for a lot of mamas.
2) Time to Recover
Your body has just done an incredibly difficult thing! While recovery has its unique challenges, depending on whether you had a natural birth or a c-section, both will require you to take it easy for a while.
Let your partner or other family members or friends do the heavy lifting—both literally and figuratively! Your doctor or mid-wife will let you know when it is o.k. to get back into more strenuous activity, but in the meantime, slow down and listen to your body.
For a list of must-have postpartum recovery items during the first few weeks after delivery, click HERE.
Let’s be honest: it’s not like you were probably sleeping blissfully those last few weeks of pregnancy. What with your enormous stomach, muscle cramps, and having to get up to pee every two hours, it’s amazing you slept at all!
Right after your baby is born, you may ride the waves of adrenaline the first day – maybe two, but after that? Your body will be functioning on a level of sleep deprivation like it has probably never known before.
The only other time I’ve been close to that tired was when I traveled all the way to the other side of the world.
So get some zzzs whenever and wherever you can!
What Your Newborn Needs Those First Few Weeks
Between weeks one and two, the “honeymoon” newborn phase will wear off. Your baby will go from sleeping what feels like 24/7 to awake part of the time…and crying a whole lot more frequently.
Your baby just went from the only reality she’s ever known to a very big, very large, new reality.
Big, loud noises? Bright lights? Totally new.
Things like being cold and hungry? Also new.
Your baby needs time to adjust to this whole new (big and crazy) world. These things can help with that adjustment.
Just like their mamas, newborns also need a lot of sleep, and you can help your baby achieve the sleep he needs. Learn about the signs of drowsiness and try not let your baby get overly tired.
Provide a soothing atmosphere for your baby (some babies love white noise), and as much as you are able, respect his sleep needs.
If your baby is in the middle of a nap, don’t wake him up just because your neighbor stopped by. They can come back!
2) Some Semblance of a Schedule
It won’t be possible to get your newborn on an exact schedule, but it is helpful in those early weeks to try to establish a pattern in their routine. This will help them with an eating and napping schedule in the future. The most common pattern is sleep/wake/eat/play.
Repeat, repeat, repeat.
This book is SO helpful in solving almost all possible problems newborn and baby. I referred to it ALL the time with my first two babies.
3) Night/Day Awareness
Try to keep the baby awake for longer stretches in the day-time. Talk and play with your baby more during the day. If the weather is nice, take them out for a walk in the fresh air. Trying to establish longer sleeping periods at night right from the start will help you all get more sleep in the long run.
8 Essential Tips to Survive Your First Few Weeks with a Newborn
Some moms love the newborn stage, and others, like former nannies and childcare providers, come into it completely prepared.
No matter how much you love it, the newborn stage does take a certain amount of perseverance. Depending on the difficulty of your labor and the temperament of your baby, that first month can be the hardest with a newborn.
Here are a few things you can do to stay sane with a newborn!
1) Accept help.
If someone wants to come over and hold the baby so you can take a shower, then by all means, let them do it!
Someone offers to do the dishes? Show them where you keep the soap.
If a friend offers to start a meal train for you so you don’t have to worry about feeding your family for the next month, take them up on the offer!
For most people, it is a privilege to help a new mama, so let them.
And if you are worried about someone coming over and judging your messy house or greasy hair, please don’t be. We get it. Truly, we do.
2) Have freezer meals prepared before you have your baby.
It doesn’t seem like preparing dinner should be all that difficult, but in those first few weeks, it can feel impossible. It’s simply amazing the amount of time it takes to care for a new baby.
You will be so glad to have a prepped meal ready to pop in the oven. And you will save a ton of money by not having take-out 5 nights in a row!
Need freezer meal ideas? This bundle has a section devoted entirely to freezer meals (if you scroll down the page, there is an option to purchase JUST the freezer meals PDF if you aren’t interested in the rest).
3) Sleep when the baby sleeps.
This is probably the most common piece of advice doled out. There is a reason for that.
Once you add a second kiddo to the mix, this is harder to accomplish, obviously, but if this is your first baby you will want to be sure to follow this advice.
Until your baby is a few months old and (hopefully) is sleeping in longer stretches at night, there is just no way to avoid sleep deprivation. IT.IS.THE.WORST.
The best way to combat the exhaustion is to try to get some rest when the baby is sleeping.
Don’t fall into the trap of getting things accomplished while your baby sleeps. You’ll pay for it later: I certainly did with my fifth baby. You’ll eventually collapse from exhaustion and put yourself at higher risk for postpartum depression.
And if someone offers to come hang with the baby so you can nap, let them!
4) Bring in reinforcements…or not.
Some new mamas find having close family members stay for a week or two, or visit often is extremely helpful in those first few weeks. Having someone around who can take care of the household duties so you and your partner can concentrate on getting to know your baby can feel like a gift from above.
Other mamas think someone else visiting for an extended length of time after they just had a baby feels more like a nightmare. No matter which side of the fence you are on, YOU get to make that decision.
Don’t feel guilted into having guests visit your home in those first few weeks if that isn’t what you want. And don’t feel like you need to accommodate someone else’s schedule. You’re great Aunt Edna does not NEED to see the baby right this minute. It’s o.k. to say “Today won’t work for us.” or “We’ll let you know when we are ready for visitors.”
You get to decide what will work best and be the most helpful for your family.
5) Lower your standards.
Your house might look like a bomb went off. You might have piles of laundry everywhere. The dishes might be stacked in the sink. You might not have showered for five days in row.
The fact that women push 10-pound babies out of their vaginas kind of does make us superheroes, but Mama, even superheroes need a little assistance every once in a while!
Bonding with your baby and getting to know this new little miracle is really the only thing of importance right now. I promise you, your house won’t always be a disaster, and you will get back to showering on a daily basis, but for now, give yourself a bit of break.
P.S. It’s o.k. to accept help!
6) Seek assistance if feeding issues arise.
As natural as breastfeeding may be, it doesn’t come easy to many women.
Sometimes the quick lesson provided after delivery is just not enough. Don’t be afraid to contact a lactation consultant or breastfeeding educator if you feel like it isn’t going well.
(If you’re reading this in your final trimester and you’re planning to breastfeed, watching this online breastfeeding course is perfect thing to watch during all those hours you just can’t get comfortable enough to sleep. You’ll feel so much more prepared!)
They are able to help with latch and supply issues, can measure your baby before and after a feeding to determine how much milk they are taking in, and will provide encouragement and support as you and your baby are getting the hang of things. Many insurance companies will provide coverage for these visits.
And if you are formula feeding, don’t be afraid to reach out to your pediatrician with questions or concerns.
7) Don’t be afraid to ask for professional help if you are struggling.
Your hormones will be all over the place those first few weeks after having a baby, and for many mamas, long after that. Having a bit of the “baby blues” can be pretty common the first couple of weeks.
Typical symptoms may include:
- mood swings
- trouble sleeping, or
- feelings of overwhelm
But if these feelings don’t go away, or increase in intensity, please don’t feel ashamed about reaching out for help.
Postpartum depression affects many moms and is treatable with medical care. It can be hard to talk about or admit to negative feelings or thoughts, but please speak to a loved one or to your doctor.
I am currently battling postpartum depression myself for the second time, and I understand why women hesitate to talk to their doctors, or anyone, about it. You feel so unlike yourself. Your thoughts feel borderline crazy some days.
Plus, you can still have good days, even if you have PPD, so sometimes you wonder if you’re making it all up.
You’re not. You need to tell your partner or someone else in your support system how you’re feeling. They need to know you’re struggling, so they can help you.
Help is out there—you are not alone.
8) Remind yourself this stage won’t last forever.
The newborn stage can be incredibly difficult as you adjust to having a baby and all the life changes that entails. It can feel brutal at times, especially if your baby has a challenging temperament or health issue and spends most of his awake time crying. If you are struggling, remember the difficult times will not last forever. You will get used to a new normal. And you will sleep again!
But also keep in mind, this newborn stage won’t last forever. So enjoy the feel of a sleeping infant on your chest. Take time to breath in your baby’s newborn scent. Take pictures in your mind (and also plenty of pictures with your camera) of how your baby looks during these first few weeks and months of life. In a blink of an eye, this stage will be over.
4 Essential Products for Baby’s First Few Weeks
I seriously can’t believe I lived without a swing until my fifth baby. It’s a life-saver those first few months!
Most babies love the swaying motion a swing provides, and having an electric swing can be a lifesaver, especially if your arms and back are aching from swaying back and forth.
We were given this swing by a friend, and we love it! It can swing side to side or front to back and comes with a mobile, music, and several different speed settings.
Having something portable you can carry from room to room will be essential. You can put the baby in the bouncer on the bathroom floor while you take a shower, or next to you on the floor while you catch up with housework.
Babies love to look around from their elevated view in the bouncer.
A friend lent me this bouncer when I had my fourth baby, and it was amazing! Definitely superior to other bouncers I’ve used because the angle is better for the baby to actually be able to see everything.
3) Wrap or Baby Carrier with an infant insert
Babies love to be next to a warm chest, and when you are wanting some hands-free time, a wrap or a baby carrier can be a perfect solution. These are also great to have for trips to the store.
Some moms love wraps, but personally I only every used and loved the original Ergobaby carrier. (I tried a BJORN, and my back just about broke after a month because I have big babies to begin with).
If you go with the Ergo, you’ll need the Ergobaby infant insert to make it work. I have the original and have used it with four of my five babies. If I had to buy a new one today, I don’t think the price difference between the 360 and the original would be worth it to me.
4) Swaddle Blanket
After being in the tight confinement of the womb, most babies find comfort in the tight wrap that a swaddle blanket provides, especially when they are sleeping. It can take a bit of practice to perfect a tight enough swaddle, so don’t be afraid to ask a nurse to show you a couple times before you leave the hospital.
If you don’t want to bother with a swaddle blanket, there are also handy swaddle wraps where you simple tuck your baby inside a little cacoon and velcro him in.
Things You Might Forget To Do When You Have a Newborn
1) Pay Your bills
If you haven’t already done so, set-up automated payments for as many things as you can; mortgage, phone, cable bill, internet, electricity, etc.
That will be one less thing you have to worry about once baby arrives.
At some point, you will probably look up at the clock and realize it’s 4p.m. and you haven’t had lunch yet.
Having those freezer meals prepped will help a lot when it comes to staying properly nourished, but also stock your pantry and fridge with snacks that are easy to grab throughout the day.
3) Take Your Meds
If you had a c-section or an episiotimy or tear with delivery, you will probably be sent home with some prescription pain meds or directions for taking an over-the-counter pain killer. It is so easy to get distracted and not take your meds on a regular schedule, but trust me, you will regret it!
Set a timer on your phone, or leave your meds in plain sight where you will frequently see them to remind yourself to take them on time. You’ll also want to continue to take your prenatal vitamins.
4) Schedule Appointments
You will most likely have a two-week and six-week follow up appointment with your doctor or mid-wife and baby will also probably have a couple of appointments those first few weeks.
Write yourself a note or set-up a reminder on your phone. It’s easy to forget about scheduling these appointments.
Those First Few Weeks with a Newborn: The Most Important Thing
Just a few days ago, I met a friend’s newborn baby for the first time. She was so tiny! By comparison, my now four-month-old is huge.
Remember to soak up those tiny baby moments.
Not every minute of those first few weeks with a newborn will be glorious, but holding a content newborn in your arms? There is truly nothing like it!
Savor those snuggles. And take lots and lots of pictures.
June could talk to you all day about homeschooling, parenting, and minimalism. When she’s not homeschooling, decluttering, or blogging, she loves to enjoy perfect silence while sipping a hot cup of coffee and thinking uninterrupted thoughts—which, of course, with five kids ten and under doesn’t happen very often.