10 Things I Wish I Knew In The First Weeks After My Baby Was Born
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Once that little babe is in your arms, and you look into their sweet little eyes marvelling at the fact that YOU made that gorgeous little human, your whole world completely changes. It’s almost like a physical shift. Even if it’s baby number one or baby number four, you are no longer the person you were before.
You’re now entering the phase of having a newborn. A phase that is filled with hormones and love and highs and lows and haze and clarity and pain and eutopia and sleep and tears and so many things all rolled into this one short period of time.
There are always things I look back on and think ‘ah, I could have done that differently,’ and the newborn phase is no exception to this. I’ve done this phase twice now, in two very, very different circumstances, but there are things that I wished I had done differently for both. And if I could go back to that time, these are the things I wish I knew in the first weeks after my baby was born.
And to be completely honest, these are most likely things other people had said to me at some point too, but I didn’t understand their importance until after. So hopefully other Mamas won’t be as stubborn as me (I’m pretty darn stubborn) and can take something from this list and it might just make your time in the newborn phase that much better.
1 – Slow Down
There’s so much build-up to the birth of your baby, this is something you’ve been waiting a long time for and imagining what it will be like. Now that it’s here, it’s easy to get caught up in everything that’s going on outside of your little bubble. People want to visit, perhaps your husband has to go back to work, older kids will still have their needs.
It’s okay to slow down. In fact, I insist you slow down. Linger longer in bed of a morning snuggling your little babe, spend time just sitting and staring at them (it’s easy to do – they are sooo gorgeous), just let your world go into slow motion for a few weeks.
This oxytocin fuelled newborn phase doesn’t last long so enjoy it while it’s here.
2 – Stop Trying To Do All The Things
The washing is piling up, dinner needs to be cooked, there’s a layer of dust on everything and you’re pretty sure the dog has reverted to his hunter gatherer roots… You don’t have to do it all.
Here’s what I wish I had done. I wish I had hired a cleaner to come in for the first few weeks and I wish I had thought to cook meals and snacks before the baby was born so I had them stored up in the freezer.
Sure, it may seem a bit lavish hiring a cleaner, but I now sit here looking at the massive pile of baby toys, trinkets and clothes that were never used and think that if I had used that money for a cleaner I may have felt a little more at ease during the newborn phase.
I am incredibly grateful as my husband did the majority of the things, but I wanted him with me too, enjoying the newborn bliss.
If you don’t have the option to hire a cleaner, and all the things still fall on your shoulders, try to just do the most important things and let the rest be dealt with at another time. You’ll feel better for it. And refer to #6.
3 – Take A Deep Breath
There were times when things felt overwhelming. When my first born was in NICU this was a constant state for me. When my second born wouldn’t latch properly and wouldn’t feed properly, the overwhelm covered me like a suffocating blanket. I’d find myself thinking ‘am I really cut out for this?’ more often than I’d like to admit.
Having dealt with anxiety for the majority of my life, I understand the power of a deep breath. It seems so incredibly simple, but is highly effective. The ability to just close your eyes bring breath into your body for a moment is so grounding.
When your baby is crying and you can’t figure out what is wrong, when everything hurts, when you want to cry, when you look at your baby and you feel so much love for them it feels like your heart is going to explode, when your phone rings… again (I mean, who calls instead of texting anyway?), when you’re exhausted and tired, when you get that first cup of coffee in your hands – stop, take a deep breath and centre yourself.
4 – Look Into Your Husbands Eyes
My husband is the champion of the family, he is the one that keeps everything together. During that newborn phase, it’s easy to (unintentionally) brush your husband to the side. I mean, you have this gorgeous little baby in your arms that needs you for literally everything and you are recovering from one of the biggest things your body is capable of doing. It’s pretty intense.
I wished I had spent more time just looking into my husband’s eyes. I’d often reach for his hand, tell him I loved him and he would often take the baby so I could shower and just be on my own for a bit. He said he felt like he wasn’t doing enough, I felt like he was amazing. But I wished I had just looked at him more.
Dear Husband, I see you. I know. You may think I don't and I wouldn't blame you. I'm a whirlwind dinner time, nappy…
5 – There’s More Than One Way To Feed A Baby
When my son was born he wasn’t allowed to feed (he had surgery at 6hrs old). For the first 9 weeks of his life, I pumped all the milk I could for him. When my daughter was born I was so excited for that blissful breastfeeding experience in the first week and figured as an experienced breastfeeding mum (I fed my son until 15 months) I had this in the bag. But I was wrong.
My daughter had tongue tie and lip tie and wouldn’t latch. I had oversupply and crazy engorgement. And she had jaundice. I knew I had to get milk into her to help pass the jaundice, but without her being able to latch we had to resort to other measures.
Thankfully I had Caitlin with me and we syringe fed, spoon fed and bottle fed my milk to my baby girl, until I could get in to see the Lactation Consultant the following day.
The point is, while we have a particular idea in our minds of how things are going to be, sometimes we just have to adapt and make things work. After her tie release, she was able to latch properly and we haven’t had a problem since. But that first week was rough. Thankfully, there’s more than one way to feed a baby.
6 – It’s Okay To Ask For Help
I may or may not be what some people refer to as stubborn. If you ask my husband he will say I’m determined. Either way, I’m pretty headstrong. And I thought for a long time that in order to be a ‘good mum’ then I had to do it all myself. Asking for help doesn’t come easily to me, but when I did ask for help, especially during that newborn phase, it was like a massive weight lifted.
I’m lucky to have family live close by, and with a phone call, I know they will do anything to help. But even if you don’t have family close, there are so many people who are willing to help you out.
Ask friends to run errands for you, join local mother’s groups and even your local church can be a great place to turn for amazing support. Plus, you can get just about anything delivered these days from grocery delivery to Uber eats, all your practical things can be taken care of.
If you do find you’re in need of someone to talk to, there are tons of helplines you can call including the PANDA helpline in Australia.
7 – You Do Whatever You Need To Do To Get Through
There are no rules and no expectations of you during this newborn phase, you do whatever you need to do to get through. Where we tend to trip ourselves up is when we set unrealistic expectations for ourselves. We think we should be up and about and keeping house and doing all the things (refer to point #2). Rarely is it that anyone else expects that of us (and if they do, they can just go get miffed).
If you need to stay in bed all day, having hubs bring you food and drinks, and just cuddling with your babe watching Netflix and sleeping, then do it. There’s no rule book or instruction leaflet for these newborn weeks. Do what makes you happy and makes you feel good.
8 – Pyjamas Are Perfectly Acceptable Attire All Day
Pyjamas, comfy pants, sweat pants, yoga pants, no pants – these are all perfectly acceptable attire for any part of the day during the newborn phase. During those first few weeks, I was showering multiple times a day to try and use the hot water to relieve my engorgement, and I couldn’t wear a bra because anything restrictive hurt, and I’d leak over any top. I was the epitome of a hot mess.
The problem was that I felt like this wasn’t okay and I felt like I was failing. Logic was out the door. I wish I could go back and just say to myself ‘it’s okay’.
9 – You Will Feel Normal Again
If you’re in the newborn phase right now, you’re probably not going to believe me. When I was in the newborn phase, I didn’t think it was possible at all. I thought this was going to be my new normal, foggy brain, smelling of milk, soft and squishy everywhere, and oh so tired.
But after about week 4 I started to notice I was feeling a bit more like ‘me’. By the 12 week mark the brain fog was mostly gone and I felt like we had our little ‘routine’ down. If I had known that the normal would come again I wouldn’t have felt so stressed about it.
Sure there are days still when I’m foggy and smell like milk, but it’s not all day every day. And I do feel mostly ‘normal’. Well, as normal as a Mama of two spirited children can feel.
10 – ‘No’ Is A Perfectly Acceptable Response
Despite what you were taught in school, I’m here to tell you ‘No’ is a perfectly acceptable response and as far as I’m concerned, constitutes a complete sentence. During those first newborn weeks I felt like whenever I said ‘no’ to someone, I had to explain it. No, sorry, I can’t come to coffee because… umm… the baby had a rough night. No, sorry, I can’t come to dinner because… umm… the baby needs to sleep.
There were times when I wanted to go, trust me. The thought of being outside of the house was amazing, even more amazing if I managed to get a little sunshine too. But dang it, it was hard work.
But here’s what I realised later, no one expected me to explain my ‘no’. It was all on me. The people inviting me out were just doing so to give me an opportunity to get out of the house, if I wanted it. They weren’t offended by my no.
In all honesty, if I could go back I’d probably say no to a few more things and say yes to my little family more. Because when we say no to others, it often means we say yes to ourselves.
Above all else, remember, these newborn weeks are yours to have however you want. You don’t owe anything to anyone, you don’t need to meet anyone else’s expectations and you don’t need to do what anyone else tells you to do (me included).
Enjoy your newborn time Mama.