Week one with a newborn: What to expect
Welcoming a new baby into the world is the most joyful day of your life, and also the most terrifying! As new parents, we wonder: How will I know what to do? How often should I change the baby's nappy? And will I ever sleep again?! This day-by-day guide to the first week with a newborn should help you prepare for the days ahead.
Our family was recently blessed with the arrival of our second daughter, and I have to admit, I'm coping so much more easily the second time around because I vaguely knew what to expect!
In the first week of becoming a new parent, it's not unusual to feel completely overwhelmed and out of your depth. Speaking from experience, it can feel like you're a bit unsure about what to do, a bit confused about all the conflicting advice and a bit worried that you'll never string more than two consecutive hours of sleep together ever again.
I'm here to reassure you that it does get better! And it's much easier to cope and enjoy this period if you have a rough idea of what to expect in advance.
Day one: Delivery day
Overjoyed, overwhelmed, exhilarated, exhausted, energetic, tired, excited, sad: Expect to feel any one (or all) of these emotions, plus so many others, on the day your little bundle arrives. Regardless of whether you delivered naturally or via the sunroof, the fact is, your baby has entered the world and exited your womb — your hormones are going crazy, your body is in shock and the whole experience is more than a little surreal. Try as best as you can to go with the flow and rest between visitors because the fun is only just beginning!
Day two: Feeding frenzy
Forewarned is forearmed, as the saying goes, and I am forever grateful to have crossed paths with a particularly shell-shocked and helpless couple when my baby was two days old. I was visiting the in-hospital lactation consultant (LC) when I overheard the couple ask, "Is it normal for our baby to feed every 45 to 60 minutes? Because she was feeding all night, every hour or so, and, ah, well — is that going to happen every night?"
"How old is bub?" the LC asked.
"Three days," the exhausted parents replied.
"Ah, the feeding frenzy. Around days two and three, your baby suckles constantly to get your milk supply going. Once your milk is in, she'll settle into a routine of feeding every three to four hours."
I raced back to my husband in my hospital room. "The feeding frenzy is coming," I warned gravely. "It's going to be epic." And it was. That night, I think I slept a total of 90 minutes combined. But I made it through by holding on to the LC's comforting guarantee that it wouldn't last.
Day three: The blues
New mums can feel upset, weepy and anxious a few days after birth, which is confusing, especially if you've just welcomed a much-loved and planned-for baby. The cause: the baby blues, which are "thought to be linked to hormonal changes," according to Baby Center. These feelings generally only last a few days and they don't impact everyone. I was lucky enough to avoid the blues, although I did cry when my husband brought me burnt toast (does that count?). If you still feel depressed a month or so after having your baby, you could have postnatal depression (PND).
Day four: Reality sets in
You'll generally head home from the hospital between days two and four, depending on your hospital, and that's when reality sets in that you now have sole responsibility to care for your new charge. Confession time: The night that I brought my first baby home from the hospital, I called a health hotline for help because… my baby was crying. My mum laughed when I told her, but as I pointed out, I had no idea what to do! She'd been screaming for over two hours and no amount of patting, rocking, shooshing, cuddling, feeding or burping was making a difference.
It turned out she was hungry. When I explained to the lovely health nurse on the phone that one of my breasts felt empty and the other full, lumpy and sore, she realised I had a blocked boob and recommended I express some milk to unblock the flow. Fifteen minutes later, my baby daughter had a full tummy and happily went to sleep for four hours.
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Days five and six: Will I ever sleep again?
The short answer is yes. But at this stage of the game, you will likely be angry with yourself for not fully savouring every moment of shut-eye you enjoyed prior to starting a family. The common advice is to sleep when the baby sleeps, which can be hard to manage in between friends' and relatives' constant visits, but it's a good survival strategy if you can make it work.
Day seven: I think I can do this…
You're one week in and you deserve a massive pat on the back! Make sure you accept every offer of help, whether it's a friend offering to cook you dinner, your mum watching over bub while you nap, or your aunty making you a cup of tea when she visits. The good news is, each week gets easier from here and, most importantly, your little one will sleep through eventually... and so will you!