People often say that having a baby changes life dramatically. You understand them, but do you really comprehend those changes? Bringing a newborn home for the first time is both exciting and overwhelming. Diane Sampson helps parents understand these new challenges and lets them know what to expect in baby’s first months home.
Accept Help And Support From Others
With a new addition comes an outpouring of support from friends and family. It’s become increasingly common for grandparents to visit for an extended period of time. They can help acclimate their children to parenthood, as well as care for and bond with the newborn.
This often causes a role reversal between parents and grandparents. It’s an unexpected issue for couples used to their independence and established lifestyle, which is now being interrupted as their parents are caring for them again.
As a mother herself, Sampson knows the best celebratory gifts are not balloons and stuffed animals. She reminds visitors that necessities like food, offering to do laundry or providing time for new parents to do some self-care is much more valuable.
It’s important to tend for new parents just as much as the baby. Sampson encourages parents to spend part of each day participating in a non-baby related activity. Read a book, get a mani-pedi or take an exercise class — don’t confine yourself to strictly caring for baby.
Sleep When The Baby Sleeps
According to the National Sleep Foundation, newborns under six weeks old sleep an average of 14-17 hours a day. This may seem like plenty of time, but newborns tend to only sleep in small chunks. Three hours here, 45 minutes there — an unpredictable cycle driven by hunger. With a golf ball-sized stomach, they get hungry a lot. When they wake they tend to be hungry, and when they’re full they tend to sleep.
“I think the thing that shocks most new parents is the unpredictability of a newborn,” says Sampson. Adjusting to a life that revolves around a new newborn’s eating and sleeping patterns can be challenging to parents. Her number one piece of advice: Sleep when the baby sleeps.
An adult needs an average of seven to eight hours of sleep a day to be healthy and functional. Parents will still get those hours, but it will be in smaller portions of time just like the baby. Sleep deprivation can lead to a host of issues like loss of energy, anxiety and depression. “Women and partners need to protect their sleep as a prize,” says Sampson, “it makes them happier, better and more adjusted.”
Prepare For Unexpected Life Changes
“There is a mourning of a loss of freedom for most new parents,” says Sampson. They don’t have the flexibility they previously enjoyed, as a get-up-and-go lifestyle is almost impossible. Sampson understands this world of change is hard to describe prenatally, but all parents eventually face this realization.
The notion of being able to do it all: parent while maintaining a clean house and keeping up with social networks needs to be dialed back. It’s common for friend cohorts to change as those without kids may have a hard time understanding your new schedule and lifestyle.
Although priorities may shift, parents agree the sacrifices are worth it. “There’s a certain amount of magic to it — your affection for this child and the waiting and anticipating are just unbelievably magical,” Sampson says.
Don’t Stress Over The “Baby Blues”
Baby blues usually occur one to two weeks after the baby is born. It’s a hormonally based adjustment disorder, where an overwhelming feeling comes in waves. You can have a really bad afternoon but wake up and have a great morning. It’s different from postpartum depression, which can occur anytime in the first year after pregnancy.
These feelings often happen when your partner goes back to work and the number of visitors drops off. The newness of the situation dies down, and the realization of baby care begins to kick in. It can also be accompanied by a parent’s fear of not instantly connecting with their newborn. Don’t second-guess yourself — Sampson reassures parents that this is normal. It may take some time, but it will eventually click.
Take A Deep Breath, Relax and Enjoy
A calm, slow routine at home is best to develop a bond with your baby. The first few months home are an adjustment period, but you’ll begin to see changes and milestones at the six-week mark. Newborns will endure some growth spurts, begin nursing more frequently and explore the “social smile.”
If you’re interested in learning more about labor, delivery and caring for yourself and baby when you go home, check out our Preparing for Birth and Baby seminar.
The social smile is a distinctive smile your baby gives you that is a powerful interaction of love and connection. Many parents say this is the most rewarding milestone because they receive the gratification of a back and forth interaction between them and baby.
Besides checking for steady growth and attending regular check-ups, parenthood will become easier with practice. Don’t hesitate to call your doctor if you have questions about your newborn’s health and progress.