The other week I shared what the first month with a newborn is *really* like! Those first 30 days were rough at points, but we did some things to make our lives easier. Before baby came, we got a lot of advice and recommendations from people. The best thing I can tell you at this stage is to listen to your gut and do what works for you. We were told we were crazy for rejecting some friends and family advice along the way, but my intuition said that another option would be best for us – and I was right. So take everything anyone says to you – or your read – with a grain of salt. Ultimately you really do know what’s best for yourself and your family. Don’t second guess it!
How To Make The First Month With A Newborn Easier
Postpartum Doula + Food
I’m lumping these two together for a reason. That’ll be clear by the time you finish reading this section! But first…
Postpartum Doula vs. Baby Night Nurse
That was the big debate we faced prior to baby girl’s arrival. Our family and friends all had night nurses. A night nurse comes to your house usually around 10 or 11 pm and basically takes care of the baby for a minimum of an eight hour shift. They will sometimes throw in laundry too depending on the person. Sometimes they’ll also help you figure out your baby’s cues, suggest a sleep schedule (depending for how long you have them, some people have them the first two months), help you with bath time, and really just boost your confidence as a mom while you get rest.
A postpartum doula does all of that too but so much more. Basically where a baby nurse is there to support the baby, the postpartum doula is there to support the family system. Granted, every baby nurse and postpartum doula is different so make sure you know what you want and ask questions when interviewing to make the right choice for you.
The right choice for us
Was a postpartum doula. I had talked with previous podcast guests Preston Smiles and Alexi Panos about the early days home with their son, and Preston said they opted not to have a night nurse since at the end of the day, Alexi needed to get up to nurse the baby anyway. Which was exactly my hesitation (plus I didn’t feel totally comfortable with a stranger in our house at night). Which leads me to how we got through the nights…
We have the SNOO, which is a smart bassinet. It’s basically like having a night nurse IMO. It’s backed by science and essentially re-creates the womb for your newborn – a total life saver! Newborns are already used to being rocked and hearing sound, and the SNOO does just that. It’s a bassinet that rocks the baby and has built in white noise. It responds to your baby’s cries too. So if your baby is a little fussy, but not quite awake it’ll rock more and get louder to help soothe the baby back to sleep when connecting a sleep cycle. It’s a LIFE SAVER and worth every penny!
But what about changing and burping the baby?!
So basically people told me I was crazy for skipping the night nurse because after each feeding you still have to rock the baby back to sleep (but not anymore thanks to the SNOO), change the baby (no biggie, takes a minute), and burp the baby… But here’s the thing: you actually don’t *need* to burp a baby!
I know, I know, shocker! I noticed that baby girl would burp herself a lot and that when I did burp her she’d spit up so much more than if I just let her body do it’s thing. So I decided to Google and sure enough, the evidence on whether or not to burp your baby isn’t really there on either side. Meaning the experts are basically undecided about how essential burping your baby really is. Now if you can tell your baby is uncomfortable and seems gassy, burp away! But if it seems to be more of a hassle that’s causing the baby to spit up more, try skipping it. Again, your mom intuition will guide you with what’s right for your baby! And talk with your doctor and see what they say!
…Anyway, back to our postpartum doula and food..
Since I didn’t want anyone helping out at night, I decided we’d go with a postpartum doula for a few days for a few hours each day. This worked out great for us for a few reasons.
1) E had to go out of town the first week we were home, so having her there for a portion of my first real day “alone” with the the baby and dog was really helpful,
2) I was still working
3) She helped with laundry and cooking!
4) She helped us give baby her first bath at home where we had to navigate the umbilical stump, and
5) She was there to answer my breastfeeding and random other Q’s as they were coming up
Getting our meals covered was *key*
Before baby arrived I made a bunch of freezer meals and we had some recent to-go left overs in the fridge. Our second day home, we had a postpartum doula come for a few hours during the day. She helped with some laundry, made lunch, and even a few casseroles that helped get us through to the next week when she came again. We also had a friend drop off two giant casseroles. So the entire first month, the only thing we had to make were smoothies for breakfast and if we wanted a salad instead of any of the prepared food for lunch. It made it SO easy to go on auto-pilot. And honestly, I think we ate better the baby’s first month than we ever have!
Rules on visitors
Before baby came, and after she arrived, we talked with one another as parents about our desires for visitors. After she arrived, we checked in to see if anything had shifted now that she was here. We agreed we wanted the first week home to be just us. After that, any visitor that wanted to stop by needed to bring food or feed us. We also decided on no out of town – fresh off the plane – visitors the first month. Meaning if someone was flying in from out of town, we’d have them wait four days before they could see her during that first month since it was cold and flu season. Since we were on the same page ahead of time, it made it easy to get on the same page and feel supported as husband and wife when these situations came up and we were exhausted.
If you haven’t already redefined self care through pregnancy, now is the time! Self care isn’t just bubble baths and chocolates. It’s deep inner work to show up for yourself, giving yourself grace and patience with whatever stage you’re in. Those first 30 days are about learning to let go of your expectations and visions, and remain present. Simple acts like brushing your teeth and taking a shower are self-care moments worth celebrating. Letting go of negative self talk because things aren’t getting done is a form of self care.
During pregnancy we started writing letters to our daughter. After she arrived I continued this practice the first month especially. Since newborns don’t talk yet or smile, it was like I could have little conversations with her in these letters and allowed me to bond deeper to our daughter. It reinforced the fact that we are building a relationship even if all she seems to do is eat, sleep, and poop at this stage.
We also did our best to take photos during this stage. I will say, my only wish for this stage was that I stopped worrying about her daytime naps (she was only napping like 20 minutes at a time and not getting enough sleep during the day) and instead focused more on capturing the moments. I would spend so much time trying to get her back to sleep during the day instead of just taking her out, cuddling, and documenting the experience. We certainly didn’t take enough video during this month either! After the first 30 days I got better though and started taking a video of her a few times a week and a daily photo of her. But again, do what’s working for you!
Switching up sleep for myself
Anyone who says “nap when the baby naps” never had a newborn! Seriously, our baby girl took short naps during the day which made it especially difficult for me to get a nap in. So around three weeks our lactation consultant suggested introducing a bottle and we happily did! So I would do her two or three am feeding and then go down to our guest room to get some sleep, and my husband would give her a bottle of pumped breastmilk around five or six, and then I’d do her seven or eight am feeding. It allowed me to get a little more hours consecutively and was so nice.
The best way in my opinion to enjoy this first month is to do whatever will allow you to bond deeper with your baby and relieve stress! Remember, that taking care of yourself allows you to take better care of her. So if you need to sleep in another room, do it! Don’t feel guilty!
In fact, I know most people have their baby sleep in their room until the baby is four to six months, but we moved her into her own room at nine weeks. Our daughter sleeps through the night now, but she is NOISY! So I was spending more time getting up at her every little peep and feeling anxious about whether or not she was really sleeping that she was getting eight or nine solid hours and I was getting five very broken up ones. So do whatever works for you and allows you to be the best mom you can be! And of course, remember you’re not alone. Just like your baby is learning about life on the outside, you’re learning how to become a mom.