Six week survival guide
Before leaving the hospital make sure you know your cradle cap from your crying schedule and have plenty of support staff on standby.
If you’re in the home stretch of your pregnancy, it’s likely you’re beginning to think about those first days, weeks and months at home with your baby. They’ll be amazing, emotional and unforgettable, but also exhausting (sorry, just warning you). And while the first six weeks will include some seriously special moments between you and your baby, buckle up, because there is a lot to learn if you’re new to the parenting game.
What to know about your baby
After getting home from the hospital, it’s important to manage some pressing issues as soon as possible. We’re not talking curfews and dating rules just yet - rather, think setting up feeding and sleeping routines, working out what your baby’s individual cries mean, monitoring their umbilical cord and keeping an eye out for things like cradle cap.
Newborns tend to sleep between 14 and 20 hours per day throughout the first weeks of their lives and generally stir every 40 minutes or so. In other words, micro-naps will become your new best friend.
According to the Better Health Channel, most newborns will gradually cry a little more each day during the first six to eight weeks of life (something that, understandably, can be confusing and hair pull-ingly frustrating for new parents). But rest assured, crying should begin to decrease and become more predictable by the three month mark.
Crying can also be an indicator that your baby needs to be fed, something that is required every two to three hours in these first weeks and months. In addition to nourishing your baby, this is also a wonderful time to have some skin-to-skin contact with your baby, which strengthens your bond together.
READ MORE: How to settle a crying baby
These first few weeks are also when your baby’s umbilical cord should fall off. This will generally happen naturally and is unlikely to cause any discomfort.
If at some point your baby has a touch of dermatitis on their scalp, try not to panic - it’s probably just cradle cap. This can form in these early weeks, and while it may look bad, it is simply the baby’s skin making too much oil and can be easily fixed with some shampoo and gentle combing on your part.
What to know for yourself
The first few weeks of living with a newborn baby will be hard work, not least because of the postpartum changes your body will be going through.
During these first six weeks it’s essential that you give your body adequate time to recover. It should begin to feel stronger over time, but your energy levels will take a while to get back to normal. The best things to help with your recovery are (situation permitting) rest, eating well, undertaking mild exercise. Doing things you enjoy and partaking in community groups and programs for new parents can also help you feel like yourself again.
It’s also normal throughout these first six weeks to experience accidental urination or slight discomfort when going to the bathroom, difficulty in learning to breastfeed, a return of your period, and for many new parents, the baby blues. The latter is thought to be a side-effect of changing hormones, a lack of sleep and the anxiety of caring for a new baby and are all completely normal. However, if you are feeling overwhelmed or like the feelings are not changing, it’s important to see your GP as soon as possible.
Creating your own routine within these weeks is also something to aim for. While newborns tend to be unpredictable in the first six weeks or so of life, they generally become more sociable and predictable as time goes on. Try not to beat yourself up if it’s taking longer than you’d hoped, every baby is unique. If you’re having trouble with any of this or breastfeeding (which is more common than you think) it’s best to get help as early as possible.
You’ll also need to tackle administrative tasks like registering your baby’s birth, providing relevant information to Medicare and contacting the Australian Government’s Family Assistance office.
Most importantly, though, don’t be afraid to say yes when help is offered. Looking after yourself and your baby is the primary importance during these first weeks at home, and your life and body has just gone through a major change. Having just a little time to do something for yourself can make a big difference!