Welcome to parenthood! After what seems like forever, baby has finally arrived. This is one of the most exciting, nerve-wracking times a person can have in their life, and it can be very easy to get overwhelmed and lost in the moment. But this first week as a new parent can be one of the hardest.
I thought reading a few books was all I really needed to prepare me for motherhood, but in the end, it was completely different from anything I ever imagined. The first week, especially, was much more overwhelming than I expected. You’re physically recovering from childbirth, your hormones running haywire as they start to resettle back to some sort of normal, and you’re getting to know your baby. All while trying to get them to eat, sleep, and stay healthy and strong.
Looking back, there are more than a handful of things I wish I could have told my newbie-mom self to do. Considering this, here are my top five pieces of advice for the first week as a new parent.
1. Give Yourself A Lot of Grace
Being a new parent is hard. After all, you’ve never done this before, and taking care of a tiny human isn’t exactly the easiest job to get thrust into. It is okay to make mistakes, and it is okay not to know what you’re doing!
If you’re a perfectionist like me, this learning curve can be challenging, but the main thing is: try to keep your standards realistic and manageable. If baby is eating and sleeping (at least a little!), and your pediatrician thinks they’re healthy and doing well, that’s a win.
It will not be perfect. You may struggle with breastfeeding, or maybe baby will be a champ at feeding, but not like bottles; you might have a good sleeper who came out of the womb magically knowing the difference between night and day, or you may have one who refuses to sleep and wants to party all night. Remember that you are new at this, and so is your baby. You need to get to know each other, and you both have plenty of time (18 years . . .) to learn and grow together.
2. Ask for Help
Depending on your personality, this can be a tough thing to do, but in that first week, I strongly recommend you throw caution, fear, embarrassment, pride — whatever it may be — to the wind and ask for help.
When friends and family call and ask how you’re doing or if you need anything, don’t be shy — let them know! Especially if they’ve been through that first week as a new parent themselves, they know how tough it can be, and they will not judge you. You’re exhausted, your body is still healing from childbirth, and yet you are also 100% responsible for a tiny, intimidatingly fragile newborn. That is a ton for any person to deal with.
So, ask them to bring meals over, tell them if you don’t want visitors and need a little time to yourself or with your partner, and ask for advice. Call your birthing class teacher or doula for reinforcements, take advantage of breastfeeding classes and lactation consultants, and utilize your pediatrician’s office. It really does take a village to raise a child.
3. Take a Little Bit of Time for Yourself
Newborns are demanding, needy, and completely dependent on you. As a new parent, it is easy to throw yourself into motherhood and push all of your needs to the wayside. This may feel like what you’re supposed to do, but in the end, it is so important to also take care of yourself, mentally and physically. Even in those first few days and weeks, try to take a little bit of time for yourself, whether it’s once a day or once a week.
Go for a walk, leave the baby with your partner and get a quick manicure, take a nap as often as you can and want, watch your favorite TV show, check email; do something that you love, or that simply makes you feel normal. However, please remember to take it easy on your body, follow your doctor’s recommendations, and not overexert yourself. The healthier you are, the better you can take care of your baby.
4. Be Patient with Your Partner
In the movies, having a baby always seems to be this hugely romanticized experience. The mom has a perfect, 10-minute labor, and the couple is immediately in love with their baby and spends hours longingly gazing at each other as the baby sleeps peacefully in their crib.
The reality? Well, it may be close to this, but it will more than likely be much different. Having a baby is amazing and can definitely bring you closer to your partner, but it can also be very stressful, especially as you are both learning how to be a parent.
Rule #1: Remember to be patient with your partner and know that they’re figuring it all out, too, same as you. Remember that you are a team, and try to be as supportive of each other as possible.
And before that first week of your baby’s life, make a plan. Discuss how you’re going to handle feedings during the day and in the middle of the night. Talk about how you’ll manage meals for yourselves, who’s on diaper duty when, and how you want to deal with visits from friends and family. Are you okay with your mother-in-law staying in your guest room for two weeks? Talk about it! Be each other’s best friend and biggest supporter, now more than ever.
Read how dads can help a new mom HERE.
5. Try to Enjoy the Little Moments
This will sound very cliché, but try to soak in the small, mundane moments. Babies grow so quickly, and I promise that one day you will look back and miss your tiny (possibly — okay, most likely — screamy) newborn baby.
When I was a new parent, my son was by no means an easy baby, and though I don’t miss the sleepless nights and breastfeeding struggles, I do wish I could flip back to the time when he was a tiny 6.5lb infant, hold him tight, and freeze the moment in my mind.
So, for at least this first week as a new parent, please don’t stress about putting them down for naps because you’re afraid of “spoiling” your baby or of them becoming too accustomed to sleeping in your arms (all of which is highly unlikely!). Don’t stress about trying to get baby on a sleep schedule immediately, or worry too much about keeping up with chores or housework. Cuddle with them, stare at them, memorize every little bit of them, and try to take joy in the moment.