Week 1

What to Take from Hospital or Birthing Center

Most hospitals and birthing centers are generous about what you can (and should) take home with you from the room. Check first, of course, but in general you should start stuffing your bag with:

  • The super-duper, hospital-grade sanitary napkins, usually stocked in the bathroom.
  • The squeeze bottle used to wash the perineum after urination.
  • Baby’s first blanket and hat.
  • Diapers, wipes and any other samples in the room, like ointment.

Also remember to take:

  • Discharge papers.
  • Any brochures or how-to guides.
  • Gifts and flowers from the room.

What You’ll Need at Home

You probably have the baby basics stocked at home like diapers, receiving blankets and other Baby Shower staples – but there are plenty of must-have items that send new moms (or dads, really) scrambling to the store last minute. To save yourself the frustration, you may want to have these items on hand:

  • Sanitary napkins – the heaviest you can find. Read more about post-partum bleeding.
  • A perineum irrigation bottle to wash yourself after urinating and for hygienic reasons. As we covered in Your Health and Well-being, cleaning yourself with a water bottle keeps the area clean without having to rub with toilet paper. While most hospitals will give you one, it’s not a bad idea to have an extra, just in case.
  • Tucks pads. Made with cooling and soothing witch hazel, these can provide much-needed relief to a sore vaginal area. Plus, since they’re typically used for hemorrhoids, it’s like a double whammy.
  • Sitz bath. Add this relaxing herbal blend to a warm bath to ease pain and swelling – especially useful for those that had vaginal tears or an episiotomy.
  • Warm/Cold gel pads (or just cold cabbage leaves) to ease engorgement pain.
  • A nursing bra in a bigger size or one made out of forgiving material, again, for engorgement.
  • Sleeping nursing bras.
  • A breast pump. Many breastfeeding women assume they don’t need a pump until it’s time to return to work, but it’s really important to have one on hand in the beginning – to relieve engorgement, or to start the practice of introducing a bottle when your baby is between two and four weeks. While the hospital-grade electric pumps are quite pricey (normally pushing $300), try finding one you can borrow or rent until you’re sure you can produce enough milk or want to continue breastfeeding. Or, of course, you can go with a more affordable manual pump – but have something. No one anticipates having milk production problems, but if you do, you might end up in Wal-mart at 2 a.m. dropping big bucks on the best one you can find. We have to admit, though – if you’re in it for the long nursing haul, an electric one is well worth the money.
  • Lactation pads. With milk production comes leakage – more so in the beginning while your body is still trying to regulate itself. Disposable or reusable lactation pads will keep your clothes dry, but make sure you change them as soon as they’re wet to keep your breasts healthy.
  • Soothing nipple cream. We recommend Lansinoh, made with natural and safe medical-grade lanolin, to heal, protect and soothe cracked nipples. According to La Leche League, Lansinoh is the only lanolin sold without preservatives or additives, meaning you won’t have to wash it off before nursing.
  • Formula. Even if you’re planning on breastfeeding, have some formula (and bottles!) in the house – just in case. Click here to read more about formula feedings.
  • Breast shells, designed to give sore, cracked and bleeding nipples some breathing room. This one from Avent even collects leaking breast milk.
  • Nursing tank tops that either fold down or lift up for easy access. This, along with the aforementioned sleeping nursing bras, are what breastfeeding mothers will most likely be living in.
  • One-handed food. You may have a freezer full of pre-made meals – which is great – but to keep your energy up during the day, you’ll need food that’s quick and healthy. Apples, bananas, granola bars, trail mix – stock up now.
  • Help. Trust us – you’ll need it. Even if you’re lucky enough to have a supportive partner, if your mother, mother-in-law, sister – whoever – offers to stay with you for a bit, say yes.

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12 thoughts on “Caring for Your Newborn: A complete guide to the first week with your new baby

  1. says:

    If you plan on breast feeding, having formula in the house is an invitation to failure. Pleas consider NOT having “back up” formula. Instead have good breast feeding books (like The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding) & the number of a good lactation consultant.

  2. says:

    I agree entirely on not keeping formula in your house. Breastfeeding can take awhile to get a hang of, and that’s okay for the baby. That first week is such a vulnerable time, it’s easy to give in. If you need formula, your doctor will tell you at your one week appointment, or you can see a lactation consultant, and pick it up on the way home. It’s not that hard to stop by a drug store or get someone to stop for you if it’s needed.

  3. says:

    If you’ve decided to cloth diaper, I’d still use disposables for the first month or so. For one thing, it’s not particularly cost effective over disposables to buy that tiny size in addition to the bigger sizes or one size diapers. Also, figuring out a laundry routine for cloth diapers can take some experimentation and troubleshooting, which I think is better left for a little later on.

  4. says:

    This is a really well thought-out and written piece. Week one is so overwhelming, I’m glad it’s acknowledged and supported.

  5. says:

    I completely agree with the cloth diaper comment – and I’m glad this article pointed that out as well. While I’m a big fan of cloth diapers LATER, trying to use them in the beginning is a set-up for failure and a HUGE waste of what should have been an investment. I’d try them in a few months.

  6. says:

    Give yourself complete permission to do nothing that isn’t crucial to your infant’s (and your) survival in those early weeks. This probably means feeding the baby and yourself, changing the baby, and getting as much rest as possible. I am one of those people who can’t easily fall asleep, no matter how exhausted I am, so napping while my newborn took 30-minute “naps” just was not possible (and the people who cheerfully told me “just sleep when the baby sleeps!” became very irritating). Between that and breastfeeding every 90-120 minutes, exhaustion got me quickly and probably set me up for a few very rough months. So rest if you can, even if you can’t sleep, and ignore the guilt that might come along with seeing the laundry stack up.

  7. says:

    I breastfed my infant for over a year, but those early weeks were tougher than I ever expected. As much as I agree with not “caving in” by giving the baby formula early on, recognize that for some people, this *may* be a much-needed bridge to full-blown breastfeeding. In my case my milk didn’t come in for 6 full days and my lactation consultant from La Leche League didn’t get back to me for almost 36 hours, which is a lifetime when your baby is hungry and crying constantly and no one is sleeping. At day 5 we decided to use some formula and this covered us until my milk arrived. I beat myself up over this repeatedly (as did so-called “friends” who viewed using formula as practically the equivalent of giving the baby red Kool-Aid). Formula isn’t poison; try not to add guilt to everything else you’re probably feeling in those weeks.

  8. says:

    Excellent article Babble – bravo! I am mixed with the formula in the house debate. I only have one can and one bottle that someone gave me – low and behold a month later and I’m being rushed to the ER with a serious intra-uterine infection. My neighbors took our daughter and gave her her first bottle. They kept asking him how much she took and we were like “we have no idea!” we went right back to BFing when I got home from the hospital. but if we hadn’t had that one little can and lone bottle we would have really been up a creek and inconvienced our neighbors.

    I totally agree with the comment of don’t do anything that you don’t HAVE to. I am about as earthy as the come….but the first two weeks solid..we used paper plates and cups. It’s just a “pass” I gave myself. I threw all the laundry into the machine together and went to bed at 7 when the baby went “down for the night”

    DON”T FEEL GUILTY and DON”T LET ANYONE ELSE MAKE YOU FEEL GUILTY for doing whatever you need (within reason obviously!!!) to get by! This is even more true with subsequent babies

  9. says:

    I was so relieved at how easy it was to switch back and forth between breastfeeding and formula. I had been told that my baby, given a bottle, would never go back to the breast and that was absolutely not the case. It saved my health and sanity for my husband to be able to feed the baby overnight — and gave him (and my parental visitors) a chance to bond with her as well. If you must use breastmilk only, you can always pump, but I highly recommend getting used to not being the sole feeder early on. You will be grateful for the rest and your partner will be grateful to share such an important role.

  10. says:

    I agree with most of the advice in this article, however breastfeeding mothers should NOT keep formula in the house “just in case”. Breastfeeding can be hard in the beginning and having an easy out right under your nose is counter-productive. If the baby isn’t gaining well and you need to supplement, it can be easy enough to pick some up on the way home from the pediatrician’s office, as someone already pointed out. Also, pumping a little milk from engorged breasts will not make your body produce even more milk. It’s *emptying* the breast that signals the brain to produce more milk. Pumping or hand expressing a little to soften the breasts and allow the baby to latch easier, relieve the mother’s discomfort and prevent a plugged duct is absolutely fine.

  11. Jane says:

    I disagree with many of these comments. You should absolutely have a good formula on hand (organic!) even if you plan on exclusively breastfeeding. I had to go to the ER for postpartum hemmorhage when my son was just 10 days old, and I was there for 18 hours (had to have a D&C). I didn’t have time to pump before I went (obviously) and if I hadn’t had formula on hand at home, it would have been a lot more difficult for my sister to deal with at 3am in the middle of the night. And I’d rather have the best formula on hand than have someone run out and buy the crappy stuff, not to mention having a screaming hungry newborn who has to wait for them to go to the store and back and then make a bottle. Anyway, I believe in having formula on hand for other emergency situations (storms, earthquakes, etc). Be prepared! If you really want to breastfeed, you can do it and a bottle of formula in your pantry won’t deter you.

  12. Hi,

    Thanks for your valuable tips about Parenting. I am also a mother of 2 year old daughter and I know how naughty she is. Your tips is really helpful to calm in irritating situations as well

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