Settling into life as a family at home with a newborn can be a wonderful, yet daunting experience
Here are the top 10 tips which helped me make this transition easier for sleep, and sanity!
1) Stock the freezer with food before the birth: Have a few weekends preparing meals which will sustain you for the first few weeks of life at home so you don’t have to live on toasted cheese sandwiches and baked beans.
2) Don’t be afraid to ask for help from family and friends: I recommend writing a chore list on the fridge in whiteboard marker with things which need to be done around the house – sweeping, tidying, playing with older siblings (better yet, taking them to the park or for an ice cream!), emptying/stacking the dishwasher, putting out the rubbish, cleaning the kitchen bench, washing, making beds etc.
3) Help set your baby’s body clock: To avoid day and night confusion, wake your newborn for a feed every 2hrs. Try and encourage a little play time before wrapping and putting them back to bed again. Plenty of natural sunlight during the day will help establish their circadian rhythm (which is properly developed by 10-12 weeks). Sleep your baby beside a window (blinds/curtains drawn) for day naps. Night time is always to be kept dark (just a small nightlight to navigate the room for overnight feedings). You can place your baby to sleep in a dark room for naps from around 6 weeks (or when your baby begins to become more aware of their environment), as they may become easily distracted by being able to look around the room at nap time!
If you don’t establish to your baby’s internal clock in the first weeks, then you run the risk of being up at all hours in the middle of the night with a very awake baby!
4) Replicate the womb environment: Remember your little one has just been evacuated from a warm, snug and cosy environment (37 °C), where there is constant noise around 70 dB (think vacuum cleaner), and motion. Using white noise, keeping the room temperature between 19-22°C, swaddling for naps, and using a baby carrier, swing, and hammock works wonders for mimicking the womb environment. Not only does this soothe your baby; but can help them sleep sounder, longer, and result in less fussiness and crying.
5) Eat, sleep, repeat: A newborn sleeps for around 16hrs in a 24hr period. Their awake time also includes feeding time (and is limited). To avoid overtired and overstimulated little babies, I recommend an awake time of no longer than 1hour max. Ideally, this will be 40-50min, and if your baby is colicky, I would lean toward an even shorter awake time of 30-40min.
6) Sleep with your baby in your room: This has been identified as reducing the risk of SIDS. It also makes those frequent overnight feeds more manageable, and babies and mothers who sleep within close proximity report better quality and overall length of sleep.
7) Introduce a bottle: If breastfeeding, I recommend introducing a bottle (expressed milk) at around 4 weeks (or when you feel breast feeding has been well established). This will enable hubby/friends/family to share the load with day and night feedings and give you a much needed break (and a little freedom). Sometimes the later the introduction of the bottle, the more resistant the babies become. You can experiment with different bottles and/or nipples if needed. I love my Medela electric pump (and used their bottles). Two babies and still going strong!
8) Get some recovery shorts: I wore SRC Recovery shorts following both of my births. Not only did these make my stomach look much flatter under clothes (priorities!), but the recovery process was remarkable. After my first, I only started wearing the shorts after about 4 weeks post birth, and within days noticed less swelling, firmer stomach muscles, and overall I felt more confident and happy with my body. With my second, I swear these helped me bounce back much faster than possible without. Highly recommend.
9) Book in some YOU time & be kind to yourself: It can be a drawn out 9 months without cocktails, hair dye, or being able to see your nether regions (or toenails for that matter). Schedule in some time to get a hair cut/colour, pedicure, wax, facial or massage – and preferably one where you can have a glass of wine at the same time 😉 It is equally important to eat well, rest and look after yourself. Your body has been through the ringer with pregnancy, birth, and now sustaining a newborn (breastfeeding, sleep deprivation). Heard the saying; happy wife, happy life? happy mum, happy bub? Never a truer word. Ensure you get your sleep (or rest) where you can, eat wholesome and nutritious food, get some light exercise (gentle walk) and fresh air and sunshine does wonders for recovery.
10) Let it go: No, I am not talking about Frozen. This is the advice I struggled with most (and honestly, still do). Letting go of all the impossible ideals and unrealistic expectations we place on ourselves to bounce back post birth Miranda Kerr style, maintain a spotless and/or orderly house, and jump straight back to being intimate with our husbands/partners. Your only job right now is to care for your baby – feed, love, and nurture them. The rest will take care of itself (with some help from hubby, family and friends!). The precious newborn moments are fleeting. You will forever hold those yummy cuddles in your heart and memories, not how messy your house was!
If you have any tips to add from your experience, I’d love to hear from you!