Surviving Motherhood: The First 6 Weeks
Welcome to the Mom club! The first 6 weeks with your newborn is challenging for all new moms. Discover survival tips that will help you ace the first 6 weeks like a pro.
When your beautiful baby is born, there is much excitement and anticipation of your new role: new emotions, responsibilities, expectations, and a new stage in your life. It is easy to be so focused on your baby and neglect nurturing yourself. Here are some ideas to help you not only survive but thrive in the first 6 weeks with your little one.
Be kind and look after yourself
Your baby needs you and your world has changed, hormones are raging, and you now have a new job. This job might be 24 hours a day, with no instruction manual, no sick leave, and no holiday pay, but if the mum falls apart, the family will fall apart.
You don’t have to do everything
Lower your expectations of yourself and forget everything you’ve seen on TV. If you don't have a helper, only do whatever housework is essential.
Plan simple meals or accept any offers of cooked meals
If you are breastfeeding, avoid spicy or heavy meals, make sure you eat each meal every day. Your baby can wait for you to get your meal down, or might have a cuddle with dad while you eat. Plan simple meals and make sure you have bread, cereals, fresh fruit or yogurt, or simple healthy snacks you can grab if you feel overwhelmed with caring for the baby and think you don’t have time. Ask your helper to make you lunch so you don’t have to prepare so much.
Don’t go au naturel
Try and get dressed and do your hair each day. It will make you feel alive and you won’t have to panic when you have unexpected visitors.
Let them help themselves
Introduce the visitors to your kitchen and don’t run around making everyone cups of tea!! They have come to see you and the baby and hopefully offer some help, not for you to wait on them.
Get your rest
Sleep will become more precious than gold! Rest when baby sleeps. Have a pre-arranged plan with your partner for handling visitors. Put a note on the front door and take the phone off the hook!! Let everyone know that when the phone’s engaged, you are sleeping and will call back later. Don’t even put the answering machine on when you rest because it will wake you up! Your rest is more important than visitors right now.
Time the family’s visit
Think seriously about when the grandparents should come to stay with you if they live far away. Maybe give yourself a week or two first to settle into family life, establish your confidence in feeding baby, and see how you feel yourself.
You will get the hang of it
Your new baby has just come into the world after being inside mum’s tummy for 9 months where everything was on tap. Now all of a sudden they are out in the open, in clothes, wrapped up in bunny rugs, getting stripped off for a bath, dried with a towel like a football, having to cry for a feed, a nappy change, cry because they have wind, cry to go to bed and to be rescued by well meaning overexcited dads/grandparents/friends and other hairy monsters (children). Naturally it is going to take mum/dad and baby a few weeks to get to know each other and settle into a family routine. It may take even longer for the parents to learn and interpret the baby’s different cries/wants and desires.
Know baby’s sleep patterns
In the first 0-12 weeks of age, expose the baby to routine household noises, have a radio or music on so the phone can ring, or you can have visitors without disturbing baby’s sleep. However, if baby is having trouble sleeping when the house is quiet, we will need to reduce the noise at bedtime so the conditions when going to sleep are the same as the conditions when waking, i.e., quiet. It is also a good idea to try out different sleeping positions, such as port-a-cot and stroller so baby doesn’t become reliant on the same sleeping environment and mum doesn’t feel trapped at home.
Establish a routine
0-6 weeks of age baby will be awake for up to 1 hour, and then sleep for 1.5 - 3 hours on average.
Each baby is different and your baby will let you know when it's enough for them. In the first six weeks, baby will take about an hour to feed and have a nappy change and then will either fall asleep wherever they are or be ready for bed.
If you are breastfeeding and baby appears to fall asleep on the first breast, just lay them in front of you on your lap and watch them for a minute or two. This is a good test to see if baby was ‘just tricking’ and not really asleep so you can offer them the next breast or, fast asleep and ready for bed again.
If you haven’t changed their nappy yet do it now while baby is up. If they were just tricking they will soon wake up to finish a feed after a nappy change. It is important to aim for at least a few minutes of floor play and tummy time in each up-time, to stimulate the brain and wear the baby out for sleep.
© 2016 Natalie Ebrill- Sleep and Settle®- Baby Sleep Consultant 0-5 yrs
RN, Child and Family Health Nurse. Mother of three daughters.