Parenting doesn't come with an instruction manual. It very much so becomes a learn-as-you-go experience as every baby, every mother, every father, every family dynamic is different and it's so important to do what's best for YOU and YOUR family. Below is simply a list of what you can expect in those first few days following the hospital.
Simply put, breastfeeding is HARD. Like THE HARDEST. Is your baby eating enough? Sucking and latching well? Getting the nutrients he/she needs? Gaining weight? Losing weight? Those first few days alone with the baby should be all about getting to know one another and learning the ropes of breastfeeding (if that is what you are choosing to do). I'm certainly not here to tell you that you SHOULD breastfeed- to each is own. However, if breastfeeding is in your plan, it is so important for you to know that it doesn't always come as naturally as it seems it should. Make it a priority, spend your days figuring it out, take your space from visitors and don't give up! After leaving the hospital you have roughly two days with the baby before your first pediatric appointment, where they will assess how feeding is going and whether or not your baby is getting the nutrients it needs. A few things I learned in these two days:
- Babies either cry a lot if they aren't getting enough food OR they sleep- A LOT. My baby was the latter. She was silent. Never fussy. So, I was under the impression she was feeding perfectly and would tell me if she wanted more. WRONG! Upon our first appointment, she lost a lot of weight. I felt like a complete failure. The pediatrician immediately suggested formula supplementation (which was totally not in the books or part of my plan). I felt like I had to give up the thing I wanted to do the most- breastfeed. I've opted for pumping and bottle feeding, supplementing and breastfeeding until our follow up. But from here on out- feeding time is our biggest commitment!
- Everyone wants to visit. That is beautiful, sweet, kind and totally welcome. However, don't be afraid to take your space. You are learning the ropes and it's not easy. Take all the time you need to do what you have to for your baby. I felt like I was constantly racing the clock between feedings and the next visitor and that simply did not work for us. We needed more time, more patience and to get into the groove of everything. I didn't learn this until after my pediatrician appointment and I so wish I would have known before. Take all the time you need before the inflow of love pours in. After all, no one is going anywhere and your guests will have ample time with your bundle of joy soon!
Before leaving the hospital, get clear direction on how long and how often you should be feeding and what to do if it doesn't seem to be working. Typical rule of thumb is every 2-3 hours, 15 minutes on each breast, but pay attention to sucking/latching habits as well. 15 minutes on each breast does no good if baby is still not getting milk.
Also, ask about bowel movements and wet diapers- how many? How often? Consistency? Color? These are all great indications of whether or not your baby is feeding well.
You have a beautiful little baby and it feels as if life didn't exist before. You and your significant other will be overwhelmed with joy, love and responsibility. The baby will be your priority- and he/she will be needy. You already knew that though. But...
What about you? Speaking on behalf of vaginal births, there will be a period of time you will need for recovery. It's easy for others and YOURSELF to forget that YOU went through a major production to bring that beautiful bundle of joy into the world and you don't magically just bounce back because there is a little one to care for. I'm sure you knew that you'd be changing a little cutie baby diaper but did you know you'll also be changing your own diaper as well? :) There will be a lot of blood. Be prepared! There's a good chance you'll tear or require an episiotomy and will require stitches. Stock up on pads, witch hazel wipes, boy short underwear (that you don't mind tossing out) and pain reliever spray for self care. Ultimately, understand that while you have a new baby to care for, you will need to care for yourself as well. This is when help comes in handy!
This is such a hard one and something you'll definitely have to find out on your own. It's certainly bittersweet as you'll want to share your baby with the world and the world definitely wants to meet and spend time with him/her. Be aware and strict about your limits. People will simply have to understand. If people are asking to help you, take them up on dropping off dinner, helping with cleaning the house, running errands... in my opinion, that is the best way they can offer their assistance. After a whirl wind of a week, if I've taken anything away from it, it's that you have to put the babies needs and your needs FIRST, everything else second. Company is great and it's so fun to share your blessing with the world, just make sure to save precious moments for just you and your new family.
The most difficult part about having visitors is sticking to the needs of the babies eating schedule even when people are over. Warn your guests and expect to have to excuse yourself (for probably a minimum of 30 minutes!) while you feed.
Obviously you won't be sleeping much. In fact, you'll probably never sleep the same again. In the last few weeks of pregnancy, everyone's favorite go-to words of advice are "sleep while you can". Unfortunately, sleep doesn't really work that way.
We've been blessed with a really good sleeper. I will give some of the credit to these awesome SwaddleMe Pod sleeper! I think it gives Harper a "womb-like", safe, feeling that comforts her throughout the night. I wouldn't dare risk putting her to bed without it on!
All babies are different when it comes to sleeping and feeding. We got lucky in that our little babes doesn't wake up screaming for milk during the night. We put her to bed after her last feeding, then wake her up in four hours to feed and it's back to bed for another four! Surprisingly, I feel extremely well rested compared to what I had envisioned!
If this is not your baby, go with the "this too shall pass" mantra!
You are a mom now. There will be an overwhelming protective side that comes over you that you will not be able to control. You will be compelled to try and control every situation and ward off any potential dangers. You have a one track mind and it is to do everything in your power to keep your baby safe and healthy.
Communicate your concerns, how you're feeling and what you're thinking with your partner. It's always best to have an open line of communication. Creating a family and raising a baby takes team work.
As cliche as it sounds, ENJOY EVERY SINGLE MOMENT... you can never get this amazingly beautiful, life-changing time back.