The first three weeks of motherhood: Here what you can REALLY expect
Only just arrived home from the hospital with your brand new little bundle? Feeling all sorts of deliriously happy/exhausted/terrified/weepy/weary/high on life and sleep-deprived beyond measure – all at once? Relax; that is exactly the way you are meant to feel right now.
We are not going to lie, these next couple of weeks are going to be a little bit along these same lines, mamas, a bit of a rollercoaster, both for you and your baby – and why wouldn't they? Just think about the job your body has just done – you have grown and given birth to a brand new human!
And as for your baby, well, you imagine how he feels, having been living in the cozy cocoon of your belly for ten months and now suddenly being on the outside? It's all very new and overwhelming for both of you.
But fear not; we have created a little cheat guide for you – just so you can feel (at least a little) more prepared for these next few days, mamas. Because guess what? You will make it through. Amateur hour by amateur hour you will be OK. And more importantly, you will miss these oh-so-brand-new days when they have come and gone.
What to expect: Week #1
This week, when you are coming home from the hospital, should really be all about you and your baby, mamas. You two need to get to know each other and get used to each other, so limit visitors as much as possible (much as we know there will more than likely be grannies literally banging on your door as we speak...).
Focus on getting the hang of feeding, whether you are breast or bottle-feeding. Your baby will have no rhyme or rhythm when it comes to night or day, so the best thing to do (and look; we know it's a cliche!) is to wear your pajamas around the clock and just try to follow your baby's lead. Sleep when she sleeps, and when she is awake, hand her off to anyone eager for some baby snuggles and treat yourself to a long hot shower.
Make sure you eat. It is vital at this time, when hormones levels are going crazy and you are trying to get used to this new life, that you eat nutritious, lovely food (preferably prepared by someone else – you have deserved to be waited on hand and foot, mamas). Make sure you drink enough water especially if you are breastfeeding, as this can take a toll on your hydration levels.
Your baby might still (here's hoping) be very sleepy, and spend large parts of the day snoozing away – in which case you should try to rest up as much as possible, you will need energy for the weeks ahead.
Don't be alarmed if your baby drops a little weight before she starts to gaining it again, many babies lose as much as five-ten percent of their birth weight the first week due to post-delivery fluid loss. Make sure you feed whenever she is hungry, this is important too if you are breastfeeding to get your milk-supply up.
What to expect: Week #2
Congrats, mama, you made it through week one and are by now probably so besotted with your new baby you can't even remember what life looked like without him?
Week #2 will, to be honest, more than likely continue in much the same way as Week #1, in that life is blur of boobs and bottles and trying to sleep when the baby sleeps. Which you should, of course, much as we know it is tempting to put her down and actually sit down with your arms free to drink some tea or even just slump in front of the TV.
Your baby might cry more than she did last week, but keep in mind that this is her best and pretty much only way to communicate with you at this stage. Your task is to try and learn to decode her cries, is she hungry, uncomfortable, tired? And while it all yet sounds the same to you, trust me when I say you will soon become an expert on your baby and what her cries and noises really mean.
The little stump that is left of the umbilical cord will probably have fallen off by now. If not it should fall off this week.
If the weather is nice, you might venture out for your first little neighborhood walk this week, and get to road-test that pram for the first time. Lots of babies love the motion of the pram and will sleep for as long as you can muster up the energy to keep walking for.
If you are breastfeeding, your boobs might at times of the day (especially in the morning when you wake up!) feel heavy and tender. Make sure you get a feeding bra that fits perfectly and invest in some nipple cream of your nipples are getting cracked and sore.
What to expect: Week #3
The days are flying in, mamas, and you have made it into Week #3 of motherhood. If your partner or husband is heading back to work this week (sob!), make life easier for yourself by setting up little mini changing stations in all the rooms you spend a lot of time in (sitting room, kitchen, your bedroom). This will save you having to traipse up to the nursery or main bathroom every time you have to change a nappy.
The same goes for laundry baskets – invest in one for all the most used rooms in the house, especially wherever there is a changing mat or table. Then, when family comes to visit, get them to gather up the baskets and throw it all in the machine. Well, they did ask if you wanted help!
Remember to feed yourself. Keep plenty of healthy snacks nearby that are easy to prepare or eat – you might find you have a baby in your arms at all times, so the easier something is to eat, the more likely you are to actually eat it.
If anyone asks if they can do anything for you, ask them to prepare or buy some simple, bite-size snacks, things like carrot sticks and hummus are good, as are cereal bars, small crackers and washed berries. Keep your food simple if you're feeding, limit coffee and be careful of eating too much dairy or anything spicy as this might upset their little tummies.
Your baby might start wanting more food right about now, as many newborns go through a growth spurt around the three-week mark. If you're having trouble breastfeeding, call your local health nurse or a Lactation Consultant immediately. Log on to Cuidiú or any breastfeeding support website, where you can call a consultant to pop over to help out.
Expect more and longer periods of being awake too (that's your baby we are talking about, hopefully not you, mama) and an increasing ability to focus on objects (your face is her favorite).
Good luck and please share with us any tips we've left out – knowledge is power, people, and everyone's experiences are different – your newborn experience might have gone swimmingly, or been really hard – we would love to hear your stories and tips.