The shock of the new
After all the waiting and anticipation during pregnancy, and then the probably exhausting labour, your newborn baby has finally arrived! Your life is forever catapulted from one way of living to another. The first few weeks in particular can be overwhelming. We’ve put together a new mum survival guide to help ease you through them.
In the 1970s and 1980s new mums typically stayed in hospital for around 6-10 days after birth. This gave them a lot of time with midwives on hand, to help them get to grips with feeding, changing and caring for their babies. It also provided mums with a lot of bed rest and meals and drinks brought to their bedside. Nowadays, new mums spend an average of a day and a half on the maternity ward before going home with their newborn. This means the transition to becoming a new parent can feel very abrupt. Everything is new and it’s easy to feel a little overwhelmed. Don’t try to be super-mum (she actually doesn’t exist). Put a few things in place to make your first weeks with your newborn easier.
Look after yourself
It’s been said that giving birth takes the same toll on your body as running a marathon. Make sure you look after yourself after birth. If you were given pain medication in hospital, make sure you take it regularly. If you have a caesarean or an episiotomy scar, then make sure you have someone on standby to help you with the baby lifting for the first few days or even weeks. Remember to be patient and not to overdo it.
Use a squeezy bottle of warm water to squirt on you after urinating. If the pain is too much try peeing in the running water of the bath to soothe the pain.
Let others look after you
Accept any offers of help from family and friends. Snap up any offers to bring over cooked meals, do the laundry, pick up some shopping or look after your newborn baby for a short while. If nobody offers then be brave and ask. It works best to be very specific about the little things people can do that would make a huge difference to you. So you could say ‘I’m so tired, I don’t suppose you could push the baby round in her pram so I can grab a quick nap?’ They say it takes a village to raise a child. So, especially in these first few weeks, embrace the people around you who care enough to support you and your new family.
Visitors after birth
Everyone will be so excited to meet your newborn and shower her with cuddles. However when you’re knackered and your emotions are all over the place, having to summon up a bright smile (let alone a tidy house) for visitors can be a trial. Try to control the flow of visitors in the first few days. Pick times when you’re feeling OK and have had a bit of rest for people to come round. If you’ve just spent ages settling your baby to sleep then ask visitors not to go and pick her up and wake her, however desperate they are for that cuddle.
The best kinds of visitors are those that don’t expect you to get up and make them a cuppa. They pop on the kettle themselves to make you one instead. Those that bring cake (or even a ready-to-heat up meal) are godsends.
When having visitors over, you may find that you just really want to use any precious bits of quiet time to grab a snooze and catch up on your sleep. Ask your partner or a close relative to be the one to politely find a way to shoo visitors out of the door after a short time. That way you can keep visits short and sweet.
Lower your expectations
You might have been used to packing an awful lot into your pre-baby days. Now is the time to lower your expectations a little bit and scale everything back. Don’t worry about the housekeeping and tidying up around the house, just do enough to get by. If you don’t manage to get showered and dressed before 3 o’clock in the afternoon, then don’t stress. Don’t even think about trying to whizz up Masterchef-worthy meals. Stick to simpler things like popping a baked potato in the oven. Better yet treat yourself to a take-out and Netflix while your partner or close family member sits with baby.
Enjoy being in your bubble of baby love
There’s nothing more magical than cuddling and snuggling your tiny newborn baby and just spending lots of still and quiet time together. Babies don’t stay tiny for long. Each day try to take a bit of time to forget everything else. Enjoy holding your newborn and being together in your magic bubble of baby love.
Don’t listen to advice from older relatives!
You will be bombarded with parenting advice from all sides. On social media, from your mum, your mother-in-law, from family and friends. Even the old lady who lives two doors down who stops you in the street to have her say on what you are doing ‘right or wrong’. The whole world and his wife will have an opinion and a nugget of parenting wisdom to share. Each one will contradict the next. It can make your head spin. Older relatives in particular don’t always remember what it was like. They were raising babies at a time when there were also very different beliefs and advice being given out. When it comes to your baby YOU are the expert. You will get to know them better than anyone else in the world. You’ll find the things that feel right and work for your baby and for you. Sometimes you just have to wing it and hope you’ll eventually figure it out. Sometimes you’ll get it wrong. But you will find the best way in the end. Always go with your gut and trust your instincts. Remember who’s the mama!
Escaping your four walls and taking time to get out and about in the fresh air can make such a difference. Even a short walk helps to blow away the cobwebs and makes you feel better both physically and mentally. Besides everything else, a baby’s cries always sound quieter in the great outdoors. So try to get out for a little bit every day if you can.
Go with the hormonal flow
After birth there are all sorts of hormonal and chemical changes happening in your body. It’s no surprise that your moods will be all over the place. The lack of sleep and the shock of the new can also take their toll on you and make you feel tearful, anxious or irritable. Try to go with the flow and be kind to yourself. Cry if you need to and then ask for a hug. Make time to do little things to treat yourself, such as having a bubble bath, going for a short walk or simply having a cup of tea snuggled in bed. The first few weeks as a new mum are an emotional rollercoaster. Just go with it, ride through the feelings, get as many hugs and as much support as you need and rest assured that this too shall pass. If the ‘baby blues’ don’t seem to go away and you don’t feel yourself, always ask your health visitor or GP to help you find the support you need.
Above all mamas remember that you are amazing! You know your baby better than anyone and you know what’s best for him, so follow your instinct. You’ve got this!
If you enjoyed this article take a look at our 5 self-care tips for new mums.