The first few weeks of a baby’s life can be incredibly overwhelming and daunting for parents, especially for those who are new to parenthood, so it’s often a good idea to accept any help that is offered! Ideally, having both parents at home together in the first few weeks is a great idea so they can both bond with their new baby, as well get used to the different schedules and tasks involved with parenthood and having a newborn.
If your partner is unable to be at home during that period, having another family member or friend staying with you or coming to visit often to help out with the baby or to just be around, is a great idea. During this time, your focus should be on caring for your baby, while the other person assists with things like housework, cooking, grocery shopping and making you that much-needed cup of tea! However, if having another person in the house is causing you undue stress, it’s best to thank them for their help but explain that you’d prefer to manage alone. Having an outsider trying to take over your home and your parenting duties can sometimes be a recipe for disaster and just cause you anxiety.
Having plenty of pre-prepared meals stacked in the freezer is also a great idea. It is important that you eat well so keep that freezer well stocked and accept any offers of food. It is also a good idea if you can, to get a cleaner to come in, even just once a fortnight to assist with the heavier cleaning of the house. Or if this is not possible ask a friend or family member to come and help you, even by holding the baby, while you get things in order. But I do tell my mother’s that something usually has to give in the early days, and the best thing to let go of is the housework. So really try not to stress too much if things are not looking so neat around the place. The mess will always be there tomorrow and you can do it later. The most important thing is that you and the baby are getting plenty of food and plenty of sleep!
If you are the parent of newborn twins or multiples, it is virtually impossible to be on your own in the early days, so please accept any help that is offered. If your partner cannot be home with you for the first month, ask a relative to come and stay or visit daily. If this is not possible, there are also mothercraft nurses or nannies that you can hire, or the Australian Multiple Birth Association (www.amba.org.au) can assist you in finding support in your area.
Although this time can be extremely busy and overwhelming, I think it is really important to make sure you have some time for yourself. Whether this be when the baby has gone to sleep or in the evening when your partner is home, it is a great idea to do this one thing every day so it becomes your little ritual. For some mothers it will be as simple as having a long shower or bath, reading the paper, or watching a bit of telly in the afternoon. It can also include the baby if you feel you can’t manage anything else. So a walk around the block or to the shops to get that morning coffee is just as good.
In these early days it is really hard to plan your days as most babies are on a two to three hourly feeding schedule. I find that in these first few weeks it is better to let the baby set the routine a bit and that way you will be more relaxed about feeding and sleeping times. A lot of woman try to follow really strict schedules with newborn babies and this can leads to lots of unnecessary problems with feeding and sleeping.
I teach mothers to have a flexible routine around feeding and then the baby should sleep until they are next due to feed, which can be between two and four hours after the beginning of the last feed. Just knowing this can give you some idea of how your day and night will be. Trying to follow a really strict routine that expects you to keep to times of the day just sets you up to fail as most have unreasonable expectations of babies and their ability to stay awake and stay asleep.
So every day have a little time for yourself and that way you will retain a bit of normality when you might feel that everything else is really different and unpredictable.
Article by Wattle Health resident expert, Paediatric Nurse, Jo Ryan.