Being a new mom is exciting and a little scary, so here's some advice to make that transition a little easier.
After nine long months — sometimes a little longer, sometimes shorter — you finally have your little cherub in your arms. While the pregnancy may have seemed a long time to get ready for your child’s birth, women often aren’t prepared for the almost surreal feeling of leaving the hospital as a new mom. A successful return to home life is key to your new role as a parent, which can be both exciting and a little daunting.
This starts with the journey back home itself. It can be a bit of a struggle getting your baby arranged properly into the car seat, so it’s really recommended that both mom and dad to practice this important task with a baby doll before your precious cargo arrives — oh, and make sure the car’s filled with gas; you don’t want to find yourselves stranded in the middle of nowhere with a hungry newborn in tow!
Then, from the moment you put the key in the door of your house, you need to try and ensure a smooth transition into your new family life. All it takes is a little organization, preparation, and a few golden rules. Easier said than done? Well, that’s why we’ve got some great tips to help you make the most of those precious first weeks.
1. Prepare your home
While you might have been busy preparing your baby’s cute little onesies and stocking up on diapers and all those baby must-haves, make sure you don’t overlook your own needs. It’s a good idea to have some comfortable clothing on hand (there’s no pressure to squeeze into your favorite jeans!), magazines, books, and, if necessary, a breastfeeding cushion … basically, whatever helps you feel relaxed and at ease. Where possible, also try to have your cupboard stocked with a few days’ worth of essentials. And for the ultra-organized, freeze a few of your favorite homemade meals so when the time comes you can concentrate on your baby and on resting up.
Bonus tip: With your tiny baby back home, you’ll want to feel that your living environment is nice and clean. This is where you need to sit back and let others help you. However, it really doesn’t matter if your household isn’t perfectly organized; it won’t be long before things get back on track. Ideally, you’ll have a helpful hubby who’s handy with a Hoover!
2. Surround yourself with the right people
It’s vital to surround yourself with the right people on returning from the maternity ward. First place, naturally, goes to your husband. As he learns how to become a father, he’ll also have to understand how his role as husband has changed; he needs to support his wife, a new mother.
Next up come family members, or a few close friends who might not necessarily play an integral part in your daily life. Take advantage of their presence to express how you feel, whether it’s physical or emotional. It’s important to talk, especially if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed. Don’t hesitate to accept any offers of help; likewise, speak up if visitors are being too intrusive. It’s important to find the right balance between being supported and feeling invaded.
Despite good intentions, some people might not get the message, or might not realize they’re being too invasive. Set limits and make your husband aware of your needs. It’s understandable that you need rest and time to adjust to life as a family of three (or more). Whatever you do, avoid visits from demanding friends who could exhaust you and leave you feeling a little frustrated.
3. Take time to get your bearings
Perhaps you’ve rightly asked your loved ones to give you a little space — well, the same applies to you, too! Don’t put pressure on yourself by thinking about all those things that need to be done, and how they should be done. With a newborn, the simple golden rule is that there is no rule. Trust yourself; maternal instinct exists for a reason.
During your first days at home, you’ll be bombarded with well-meaning advice, which can often be more confusing than helpful, as it can often be contradictory, inappropriate, or unsuitable. If this is the case, follow your instinct. It’s only advice — you’re free to follow it or not. You must keep in mind that each individual is unique, including you and your child. As a consequence, what’s applicable to one person is not necessarily true for another. The bond that you have with your child is something distinctive, and you can trust it. After all, who knows their own child better than a mother?
As a new mom, take your time to get your bearings. Even if it’s not your first child, he or she is a new person with a unique personality and needs. Learn to understand this little being that is now part of your life — their rhythms and their preferences. This is a lengthy process needing patience, attention, and time.
4. Know where to seek advice
When you leave the hospital, the chances are you might feel a little panicked. Understandably, you could have a million questions, or maybe you’ve forgotten the practical advice the midwife gave you. Although you’ve been shown how to bathe your baby, it’s never quite the same when you get back home! The key is to have someone who you trust close by. Whether it’s a family member, or a neighbor with a few years’ experience, talk to them before the birth. Ask if you can call on them for advice; the chances are they’ll be quite willing to help.
Also make sure you have the phone number of a good pediatrician at hand — look for recommendations long before the delivery. Before you visit the pediatrician, write down any questions or concerns you may have. Sometimes, during a visit to the doctor, we’re so distracted that we forget something crucial.
When in doubt, you can also look to the web for advice; however, be careful not to get too entrenched in parenting forums. They might actually confuse you and have you worrying unnecessarily. Again, ask trusted friends which sites, if any, they would recommend.
5. Make sure you address any post-natal issues
It’s likely that when you arrive back home you’ll still have some discomfort, pain, and bouts of fatigue; it’s only to be expected, considering what your body has been through. Whether the pain is muscular or in the bones, there are plenty of techniques out there to help relieve it. Sometimes your medical professional might have recommended physiotherapy or some other treatment; it’s really important to do it, as it will really pay off in the long run. (As a side note: after each of my four children I visited an osteopath who realigned my pelvis and back, as well as helping get rid of headaches. Even better, she also did some cranial osteopathy on each of my newborns, which was great in getting them to sleep. It’s something I recommend to all my friends.) However, if it is too tricky for you to get professional care, think about asking your husband or a willing friend to give you a neck and back massage.
It will take a little time (or sometimes a lot of time) to rediscover your pre-baby body. And for some women, their bodies will have changed a little. It’s normal! Don’t rush into exercise; get medical advice on when to start exercising, and on what exercises will best fit your needs. Most likely some gentle stretching, or sophrology would be a good way to begin that will help you relax and even help with breastfeeding, if you decide to nurse your baby.
Eating healthily is also key for a healthy body. After nine months of sharing all your vitamins and minerals with your little one, it’s time to give your body a boost. Make the most of your time by organizing a few meals with friends – you don’t have to cook! Either they can bring over a meal, or they can stop by your favorite take-out place (remember to try and keep it healthy!). Not only will you get to chat with friends, they’ll be more than willing to hold the baby if he or she starts to cry during your meal! As the days go by, you might want to venture out to meet friends in local restaurants or cafés which will help you get back to reality while juggling your new motherly duties.
Whatever you do, remember to take care of yourself, as a happy mom means a happy baby.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Being a new mom, especially for the first time, is both mentally and physically demanding. While you’ll have highs and lows — remember the “baby blues” are a common phenomenon that often occurs four to five days after the birth — it’s important to reach out for help when in need. Even if it’s just to have a friend over for a few hours while you catch up on sleep, don’t be afraid to ask. Remember, in times gone by there’d be a whole community of women helping each other, so why not create your own community?