In the hospital you have lots of help—nurses, lactation consultants and doctors—all at your beck and call. Then comes the time to take your little one home. You’ve read the “must-have” books, subscribed to on-line baby websites and parenting blogs and spent many evenings on the phone with your own mom. Think you’re prepared? Think again.
Here are a few important tips parents tell me they wish they had been told about the first few weeks at home with their newborn.
Everyone tells you that you won’t get much sleep, but it’s worse than you imagine. Realistically, you won’t get any in the first few weeks. In addition to needing to feed every few hours, babies don’t know the difference between day and night. So no matter what time he rests, you need to take advantage and nap too. You can also try to help him get on track by keeping nighttime feeds and changing as calm as possible and wake him after 3 hours of daytime sleep to feed. But as soon as your doctor says he’s gaining weight appropriately and it’s ok to let him sleep at night, don’t wake him up at night to feed and enjoy the extra sleep yourself.
Babies cry! When they’re not sleeping, eating or pooping, they’re crying! They cry when they are hungry, wet, cold, hurt, or just for no apparent reason at all. You will get to know her cries and what they mean. If she’s been fed, changed and checked to make sure nothing is hurting her, it’s ok to let her cry for a little while. Often it’s just her way of blowing of steam. So give her the chance to just let it all out. You can try cuddling her at your chest, swaddling, rocking or singing to her, it may help. If she is truly inconsolable, call your pediatrician.
We know that breast milk is the best nutrition for your infant and you should breastfeed your baby every 2-3 hours or when she seems hungry. What you may not know is that although breastfeeding is “natural”, most babies aren’t born experts. Breastfeeding takes patience and hard work initially, but keep at it. It’s worth it for your infant’s health as well as your own. And don’t be afraid to ask your pediatrician or a lactation consultant for help. It usually takes 4 or 5 days for your real milk to come in. Rest, water and a nutritious diet can help. Stress, lack of sleep, dehydration and not enough calories can decrease your milk production.