It can feel very surreal to be sent home from the hospital or birth center with your brand new baby. I remember feeling amazed that they let me do that! I didn’t really know what I was doing, or what to expect. The staff at my birth center had been helping me with my own physical recovery, and they were also helping me feed, diaper, clean, and clothe my baby. When it was time to go home, it was hard to imagine how I’d be able to manage!
It’s very normal to feel this way, and it will get easier. Your confidence will build as you get through each day, and each challenge. You will learn skills from others, and you will develop your very own methods and hacks for taking care of your baby. But the first 24 hours, even if you feel unsure, insecure, exhausted, or possibly downright freaked out, is a special time. It might also feel like a very long day.
Know that you aren’t alone. There have been MANY mothers, many parents, before you who have had the same experience and many of the same feelings. They got through it, and so will you.
Here are a few things that might help you prepare for this time and maybe ease through it a little more gracefully:
- Set up some help. This matters A LOT. Having supportive people around you makes a big difference, and it’s smart to set that up ahead of time instead of trying to do it when you’re just getting home with a new baby!
- Have someone come stay with you. Maybe a mom or sister would be available to spend a little time at your house while you recover and get things figured out. If not, consider hiring a postpartum doula to come to your house to provide the support you need. A postpartum doula is someone who provides physical, emotional, and informational support to a woman and her family during the postpartum period.
- Before you go into labor, create a Meal Train or a Care Calendar, or something similar to help with meal preparation and other tasks during your first days at home. You can share the link with friends and family who want to help. There are probably a lot more people than you think. Friends and family can sign up to help you on the days that you request it.
- Have an “on-call” advice-giver ready to answer your questions. Do you have a family member, friend, or co-worker who you consider extremely WISE? Is this person also a parent? If you have someone like that in your life, ask them if they’d consider keeping their phone on 24/7 so they can take your call if you’re having a tough time or just have a question. It can feel really good to know you have sound advice if you need it.
- Have some great nourishing foods ready before your due date, or at least have some recipes chosen so you can recruit someone else to make them for you! Nutrition is key to a great recovery. When we eat nourishing foods we feel better, we heal better, and we can even make milk better! I love Lily Nichols’ books and posts. She’s a registered dietician and nutrition expert. See her post about REAL FOOD POSTPARTUM RECOVERY MEALS for some recipe ideas.
- Take opportunities for sleep WHENEVER POSSIBLE. If you need to fall asleep with your baby sleeping on your chest, that’s OK! Can your partner or another helper keep an eye on you while you do that? Babies take a while to catch on to the idea that nighttime is the best time to sleep, so rest when your baby does or you might get WAY behind in your sleep!
- Put a favorite fun or relaxing thing on the schedule for your first day home. Do you love to play UNO or video games? Is there a book you’ve been dying to read? Do you love foot rubs? Think of something that’s easy to do in bed and put just that one thing on the schedule! You’ll have something to look forward to that can make you feel a little more normal while you’re getting the hang of having a baby.
- Focus on lots of skin-to-skin snuggles with your baby. This benefits everyone. Your baby benefits from being on your body, your milk supply benefits, and YOU will feel better and recover more quickly. Babies are little oxytocin makers. This natural chemical helps you feel good, helps you make milk, and literally helps your uterus recover from pregnancy and birth.
- Recovery takes priority. Remind yourself often that there is nothing else you “should” be doing. You are doing very important work by staying off your feet and focusing on your baby and your healing. A few weeks and months down the road, when you don’t have any recovery complications, you’ll be so grateful that you gave yourself the time to rest. You also don’t need to be hosting visitors. Your job is to recover, not to entertain.
- Your breasts might get very swollen and uncomfortable as your milk comes in. It can take some time for your body to regulate the amount of milk that is needed. Expressing milk may be helpful and can be saved for later. Our Breastfeeding 101 class can help you learn more about breastfeeding and hand-expressing milk. Our pumping class is great for learning more about expressing and pumping milk.
Here are a few things to know about BRAND NEW babies in their first 24 hours at home:
- Their bellies are TINY! They need to eat OFTEN and if it seems your baby is eating ALL THE TIME, it’s probably a good thing! It means your milk production is getting a good foundation. Most newborns will need to eat 8-12 times in a 24-hour period. Some may eat more or less often.
- They have black or greenish/black poo for a little while. This is called meconium and it’s normal. Once they’ve been getting milk for a few days it will look more normal. In the meantime, cleaning their bottoms with warm soapy water and a washcloth might make those diaper changes a little easier. You also might want to apply diaper cream or coconut oil after a diaper change so clean up is easier next time.
- How many wet and dirty diapers should you expect? On your first day back home, most babies will be 3 days old and you can expect 2-3 dirty diapers and 3-5 wet diapers. Sometimes a diaper will be dirty AND wet. You can definitely count both.
- They might be very sleepy at first. Sometimes they are so sleepy that they might need to be woken up to eat. This might be hard, especially if you’re getting a nap too. But you might want the baby to eat frequently because you may have a lot of milk building up, making your breasts feel uncomfortable.
- Your baby will have a pretty fresh umbilical cord stump. After the umbilical cord is clamped and cut right after birth, the part connected to your baby’s belly will remain until it dries up and falls off. This usually takes 1-3 weeks, but they occasionally fall off a little more quickly. You mainly just need to make sure it stays outside the diaper, that it stays dry, and that it doesn’t smell bad. You will also want to watch the skin around it to make sure it doesn’t look red or swollen, and that there’s no oozing. If it starts to look or smell iffy, call your pediatrician.
TAKE SOME DEEP BREATHS, RELAX, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY AND LISTEN TO YOUR BABY.
Your baby got a checkup before you got home. You and your baby had to be healthy to be discharged. Take a deep breath, and know that for at least this first day, you’re in pretty good shape. So just tune in to your body’s needs and your baby’s signals to help you know what’s next. There are no schedules or routines needed. I promise that will come later. Right now is just the time to rest and respond to needs.
You are all going to need some time to figure out life together, but in those first few days and weeks, set VERY low expectations. This can be really hard for most of us! It’s a challenge to be able to let go when we’re used to having very predictable and structured adult lives and routines. Consider this a retreat from the normal. This is your chance to practice zen principles and live in the moment.