There are no two ways about it, when baby arrives you are thrown into parenthood right at the deep end. No matter how much reading or research you do, how much advice you take, or how many episodes of One Born Every Minute you watch, nothing can quite prepare you for the real thing. Those first few weeks are a rollercoaster of emotions and a very steep learning curve, as you and baby get to know each other and work out something that resembles a routine (for a day or two at least, before it changes again…).
As you’re no doubt aware, there is an abundance of advice out there which can leave you feel overwhelmed. A ‘suck-it-and-see’ approach is the best way to find out what best suits you and baby but, whatever works for you ultimately, these ten things will definitely be a great help during those first few days and weeks as you find your parenting feet…
Although your focus is on looking after baby, it’s important to take a little time to help your body recover too. However the birthing process was for you, you’re bound to feel a little tender, to say the least. Bathing can be daunting if you’ve got cuts, tears or stitches, but a few drops of lavender oil in a warm bath can work wonders! This essential oil has antiseptic qualities, can help to reduce inflammation, eases aches and pains, and also has a calming, relaxing effect. If you can, try a lavender bath before bed to help you to relax and make sure the sleep you do manage to snatch is nice and restful.
A swim ring
Don’t worry, we’re not about to suggest that in the first few days after giving birth you should head straight for the pool! It’s inevitable that you’ll have to spend quite a lot of time sitting as you get to grips with feeding your baby, and if it’s painful this can feel like torture. Sitting on an inflatable ring can help to relieve pressure and ease discomfort. Specialist post-partum ring cushions are available but, as you’ll probably only need it for a few days, often a simple swim ring is cheaper and can work just as well to help you sit more comfortably.
A good baby monitor
At first, it’s hard to tear your eyes away from your little one. Watching their facial movements even as they sleep is entertaining and heart-warming – and there’s nothing wrong with that at all!
Babies grow so quickly so don’t ever feel guilty for spending time just gazing adoringly at your precious bundle. However, there are times when you’ll want, and need, to put baby down and leave them to sleep alone! There are plenty of options available, and whether you prefer to be able to see baby on a screen or just listen over a speaker to the comforting sound of their breathing (and the murmurs as they start to wake) a good baby monitor can give you peace of mind as baby sleeps and you have some time to yourself – however you choose to spend it.
Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t feel like taking baby round the supermarket in those early days, or even the later ones! There will be times when you feel like wandering the aisles, but there are certainly times when it’s easier not to and with discount codes and special delivery offers available, it doesn’t have to cost any extra to do your supermarket shopping online and have it delivered (in fact, it can work out cheaper) – so make the most of it.
While you’ve been dropped straight into this parenting lark, baby has also been thrust into the unknown! They’ve spend nine cosy months curled up inside you but now they’re out in this unfamiliar world, and it can be a bit unsettling. There’s a misconception that you have to be quiet around a sleeping baby; in fact, they’re used to quite a lot of noise in the womb. If baby’s struggling to settle, white noise can often help to get them off to sleep. You can download free apps that play white noise via a smartphone or tablet, or the sounds of household appliances like the washing machine or vacuum can also do the trick.
Walks in the fresh air
Getting out there in the fresh air is excellent in many ways. Often, baby will be rocked off to sleep by the rhythmic movements of their pram or pushchair, giving them a good rest and you some quiet thinking time or a chance for an uninterrupted chat with a friend or partner. As long as you’re both dressed for the conditions the fresh air will be good for you and baby, no matter what the weather, and walking is excellent exercise too. Whether it’s long or short, a walk will do you the world of good!
Hand cream and a good conditioner
Any kind of beauty regime is probably the furthest thing from your mind at the moment, but there are a couple of essentials that will definitely help you to feel a bit better. Between feeds and nappy changes you’ll find that you’re constantly washing your hands, so a good hand cream will prevent them from becoming dry and chapped. As for your hair – you may notice that it seems to be falling out at an alarming rate! That’s because throughout your pregnancy, your natural cycle of hair growth and loss actually changes and you don’t lose much. If effect it thickens up slightly so after you’ve given birth, when it the natural hair loss starts up again, it can seem to be falling out in handfuls! While this is nothing to worry about, it may help you to feel better about your locks by giving them a treat. Try a leave-in conditioner to boost your natural shine.
You probably don’t want to see your maternity clothes ever again (at least not for a while), but the clothes in your ‘normal’ wardrobe are still out of reach. Don’t worry – to be honest during the first few days even getting out of your PJs might seem like a big ask! Invest in some comfortable, loose-fitting loungewear that’s both comfortable and makes you feel presentable enough to receive visitors. There’s some really stylish loungewear available, so you can both look and feel good without the pressure of squeezing into anything fitted.
You may already have friends with little ones, or you may have met people at a pre-natal group. If not, then look up your local baby groups, try sessions at your clinic, join online parenting forums, or chat to others at the local park – however you meet them, make sure you do – because other parents are a lifeline! Having someone to talk to who’s experiencing the same things at the same time makes a huge difference. Laugh together, cry together, talk about sleep, feeding and all the other things that are on your mind without the worry of being a ‘baby-bore’. Just knowing that everything you’re thinking and feeling is normal and you’re not alone in all of this will really help – and you’ll no doubt make life-long friends once you’ve bonded over a ‘nappy chat’!
Did any of the above help you through your first few weeks? Or was there something else that you relied on? Share your top tips in the comments below!