If you’re about to have a baby — especially if it’s your first — you will be in for a rough week or two (or six). Newborns are so unpredictable, and they don’t (unfortunately) come with manuals. Your only goal in these early days is to survive, minute to minute. I literally remember emailing a friend in tears during my first week or two, confessing how overwhelmed and uncertain I felt. She told me, “Just get through the next 10 minutes. And then the next 10. And this, too, shall pass.”
In the meantime, though, if you can prepare in advance, you’ll have some tools to get you through this first week. And sometimes, being prepared can make all the difference.
1) Some help
Okay, seriously. You shouldn’t do this on your own if you can possibly avoid it, and maybe you can’t, if you’ve had a c-section or a difficult delivery. Get someone to help you out — your husband, your mom, your best friend, someone! You will need them to help you with meals, basic chores (dishes and laundry), and even hold the baby while you sleep sometimes. Help is worth its weight in gold right now.
2) Lots of clean baby things
That means clothes, diapers, burp cloths, etc. Wash your entire stash before the baby comes and keep them near you. I kept my kids’ clothes stacked in a basket or on a shelf in my room in the early weeks, so I didn’t have to run down to their rooms to find it in the middle of the night. Once things were settled I put them away. It’s nice to have a cloth to grab if your baby spits up, plus an extra outfit if needed. Just keep them close.
You’ll get bored at some points. You’re tired of sleeping, or you can’t sleep (because baby needs you) but you can’t do anything else either. Have books, magazines, a TV, your laptop, a friend…something to entertain you. Bonus if it’s something you can do while sitting in bed and nursing your baby too! (That’s why I recommend a TV.)
4) A Breast Pump
If you’re breastfeeding, obviously. It’s possible that your baby may struggle to latch on, and a pump might save you from supplementing (and making the problem worse). I had to pump for my first baby for about 6 weeks until we figured it all out. Or, you might have such an oversupply that you’re dripping, sore, your breasts develop corners (yes really) and your baby can’t even latch on. In that case, you’ll need to pump a little until your baby is at least able to latch, or pump until you no longer hurt (don’t pump too much or your supply will just keep growing and you’ll make the problem worse. Just a little). I didn’t need the pump my second time around, but if I hadn’t had a toddler to help me out, I definitely would have — I was pretty uncomfortable for the first few weeks!
5) Clean, soft, loose clothes for you
You will not feel like wearing your usual clothes yet. You probably won’t even be able to. I spent my early days wearing either a short bamboo velour nightgown (short so I wouldn’t sit on it and bleed on it). Then I wore a nursing nightgown. Just wear something comfortable. And have extra clothes around in case you do bleed on them…or your baby spits up on you.
6) Lots of “pads”
You know…for the bleeding. You’re going to need it in the first couple of weeks, no matter how your baby was born (yes, even if you have a c-section). Some women even buy Depends (yes, adult diapers!!) for the very first week or so because you bleed pretty heavily and it does get everywhere. If you don’t go that route, you may want some chux pads to put underneath you where you sit, just in case.
7) Perineal soothers
By this I mean…a peri bottle (which you fill with warm water and wash with after you use the bathroom), a sitz bath, cloth wipes (even if you don’t normally use them…do it now. I had flannel wipes I used in the early weeks and they were so much softer and more gentle than paper), ice packs (make your own from soft cloth soaked in comfrey root tea…or just regular disposable pads soaked in water), even that no-pain spray they give you at the hospital for stitches. I hated that stuff, I thought it stung. But other women swear by it. Oh, and a small tip? If you’ve had stitches, drink a LOT of water, because it hurts to pee if you are dehydrated (it’s like acid burning). Should that happen anyway, get in a sitz bath and pee there. Gross? Maybe. But it’s a lot less painful for the first few days.
8) Baby soothers
You don’t know what your baby will like. So, unless you’re opposed, have a lot of options available to you. Borrow what you can in case your baby doesn’t like it. Swaddle blankets, swings, pacifiers, etc. I know some people say pacifiers interfere with breastfeeding and they’re the devil, but…both my kids used them early on and both breastfed (ultimately) just fine. Every baby is different. I also liked having Gripe Water (the baby version with no alcohol) on hand in the early weeks. A couple of times it stopped my babies from screaming almost immediately. Literally, once I put some in Daniel’s mouth and he stopped mid-scream, gulped, and fell asleep in my arms. Also, learn some tricks like baby massage, bicycling their legs, laying them tummy-down over your lap, and so forth. New babies tend towards hiccups and gas and such because their systems are so new.
9) Freezer Meals
Seriously, prepare and freeze some foods before the baby comes. Maybe several meals. This way, whoever needs to cook can just pull something out and heat it up. If you’re lucky, maybe a bunch of people will bring you meals after your baby comes, but…probably not for every meal. Stock up and it will save you so much time.
10) Miscellaneous “stuff”
Make sure you have enough of the basics: toilet paper, dishwashing detergent, laundry detergent, bath soap, etc. You don’t want to have to run out because you forgot something like this! Ideally, you don’t want to have to go anywhere in the first week. Stock up in your last weeks of pregnancy! (This goes for diapers and wipes, too, if you’re not using cloth.)
What were your must-haves in the early weeks?
Top image by k5dkzcom