The new mum survival guide: The first 24 hours at home with your baby
There is no moment more exciting and terrifying in equal measure as when you bring your new baby home from the hospital and realise that you are now in charge of keeping this tiny human alive, protected and safe.
It is a pretty overwhelming thought.
I mean; never mind the very stressful car journey home, after which you can complete a report to Toyota on just how slow their cars can go and still keep the engine from cutting out. And the classic day-three-baby-blues big, sobby tears.
No, the moment the reality this new life of yours will really hit you is when you get home and place the baby car seat on the floor of your living room and realise that you have no idea (seriously, no idea) what happens now.
I remember cursing time spent on reading up on the wrong things before this moment. Like, what the hell does it matter if you know what week baby transforms in size from kumquat to kiwi when you have no idea what to actually do with it once it gets here – in all its full watermelon sized glory?
The thing is, mamas, we all make it through these very overwhelming first few days. Of course we do. Little by little, amateur hour after amateur hour, you will learn, adapt, readjust and get on with things. You are a mum now, after all.
But if I could give myself some very good advice for those frantic first 24-hours at home with my new baby, this is what I would tell my clueless self:
1. Limit visitors
There will be plenty of time for everyone else to get a hold of the baby. These first few days, though, make them all about you and baby. After all; you are only getting to know each other.
2. Get into your pyjamas and don't even think about getting out of them for days
Out of tea-bags? The dog needs his walk? Let someone else head out to do it.
3. Cocoon yourself on the sofa (or in bed) with your baby
Make a little nest of blankets or duvets, and stay there with your baby for as long as you want. Feed when she wants feeding, let her sleep on your chest, marvel at this tiny human you have made and that needs nothing but you right now.
Let your partner do those fist few nappy changes while you rest up (or even seize the opportunity to use the bathroom!). It is good for his bonding with baby too.
5. Forget about the state of the house
I know this is hard, but the overflowing laundry basket does not matter right now.
6. Get all your props and keep them at arms reach
Get your partner to assemble a "breastfeeding basket" (or feeding basket) for you with everything you need to have on hand right now. Nipple cream, water bottle, one-handed snacks, headphones for night feeds, phone, charger, remote control, muslin cloths for little spit-ups, iPad; whatever you think you will need to be able to get your hands on for the next couple of days, get it and keep it in a basket with you at all times.
7. Stock up on pillows
Grab them from the bed, steal them from the spare bedroom, it doesn't matter, just make sure your back and baby are supported for those feeding marathons you are about to endure.
Remember, you've been carrying and supporting a rather heavy "watermelon" for many months, your back ligaments and joints are only getting used to your new posture.
It can be all too easy to forget to feed yourself right now when the only thing you are concerned about is how much food your baby is getting. But getting enough calories and nutrients is important, especially to keep the flow of milk if you are breastfeeding.
Simple, bite-size snacks are great. Things like carrot sticks and hummus are good, as are cereal bars, small crackers and washed berries.
9. Ask for help
If you are struggling with breastfeeding, call a lactation consultant immediately.
Know that it is perfectly fine to ask for help; breastfeeding can be really tricky to master. A lactation consultant also checks for tongue-tie, which could be a really simple reason why breastfeeding is hard for you.
Oh, I know, the aul' "sleep when the baby sleeps" advice again, but it is so, so true, mamas. Take these first few days and hours to allow yourself to let your baby set the schedule, both when it comes to feeds and sleeping. You will feel so much better for it. Sleep will also help balance those all-over-the-place hormones and can do wonders for your milk production too.
Enjoy this very special time!