Tips For Surviving the First Weeks of Motherhood
You’re home from the hospital left to figure out how to care for your brand-new tiny human. Those first few weeks are the hardest: this is the biggest responsibility you’ll ever have!
I remember coming home and thinking “now what?” I was seriously lost…I was SO tired, yet I had to push all of my needs and feelings aside to care for my baby. I learned things along the way that helped me keep my sanity (for the most part) during the first few weeks. But, I wish I had known some of these a LOT sooner!
1.) Get Out of The House
It’s easy to have the days blur together in those first few weeks of motherhood. For me, I lost track of what day it was since I was so tired and so busy. It also seemed like I was doing the SAME thing day after day, all while never leaving my house or stepping outside.
Pretty soon, it felt like the walls of my house were closing in on me. I think this was magnified by some pretty bad baby blues. I remember watching my her father leave to go to work every morning and I was so jealous. It felt like I was trapped: by my house, by my exhaustion and by my new responsibilities.
Soon after Adriana’s birth, my mom came to visit us. One morning, I really had a craving for some iced coffee from my favorite coffee shop in a town about 15 minutes away. Without missing a beat, mom started her vehicle, we left baby with her father and we made a special trip JUST so I could get coffee. Even though it was a short trip, it made me feel SO much better! The sun was out beaming hot but just breathing in the crisp fall air did me a world of good. When I got back to the house, I felt refreshed and more able to handle my motherhood duties! Even short trips can make a HUGE difference in how you feel.
2.) Set Up a Station By Your Bed With Baby/Mom Supplies
The hardest part of motherhood for me so far is the fact that sometimes I have to get up in the middle of the night! I LOVE my sleep so it was a pretty difficult adjustment for me to wake up every few hours to feed my baby and change her diaper. I also breastfed for the first 2 months so I was ALWAYS hungry and thirsty, especially during those late night and early morning wake-ups. To make things easier on myself (and on baby) I decided to collect all of the supplies we would need throughout the night and kept them right on top of my dresser so that way we wouldn’t have to leave our warm bedroom! Some of the things I included were:
- Extra baby clothes
- Snacks (granola bars, chips etc.)
- Diaper cream
- Boppy pillow (seriously a MUST-HAVE for breastfeeding)
- Hand sanitizer
- Plastic bags (throw away stinky diapers)
- Extra burp cloths
Having all of this within arms reach made those wake-ups so much more bearable!
2.) Do the Zipper Onesies
I don’t have much to say on this one other than BUY THE ZIPPER ONESIES. Sure, those onesies with a million buttons/snaps are cute but trust me: there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to button a onesie up at 3 a.m. when you’re still half asleep.
4.) Stock Up on Freezer Meals
I PROMISE you there’s one task you will not want to do, maybe even more than before you had a baby and that is cooking! I had a natural birth but standing at the stove and bending down to grab pots and pans was NOT in my cards for the first few weeks. My daughter’s father had to go to work relatively soon after she was born so I couldn’t really rely on him to cook us dinner.
Thankfully, we had a few people stop by with casseroles, soups, and lasagnas all of which we could freeze and just heat up when we wanted to. It seriously saved me so much time (and sanity) having these meals ready to go.
There’s also a cool website called “Meal Train” where people can sign up and coordinate meals for you. I did this for myself and it was awesome!
5.) Hand Baby Off to Someone So You Can Nap
I know it’s hard to imagine passing your baby off so soon but trust me: your mental health is 100 times better when you get adequate sleep. Granted, you won’t completely avoid sleep deprivation but getting a good 3-4 hour nap a few days after birth can really do the mind and body some good.
One day, I had her father watch her and I crawled into our bed and seriously slept for like five straight hours. It was amazing! Since I was breastfeeding at that time, I just made sure I had enough milk pumped for two bottles so I could enjoy my nap without interruptions.
Now if you don’t have a significant other to help you with baby, I recommend asking a friend or family member to take baby for a few hours. Chances are, they will be more than willing to come get some baby snuggles!
6.) Set Aside Time Everyday For a Shower
Trust me momma, I get it. Sometimes it’s impossible to get a break to do ANYTHING let alone get in the shower for 15 minutes. Personally, right after Adriana was born, I MAYBE showered every 2-3 days. There were a few reasons for this: I was busy and I was just too damn tired to shower. However, I noticed that on the days where I did take some time to shower, I felt like a new person. I had more mental clarity and I felt better about myself and my body.
Again, this was easier for me to do since Adriana’s father was able to watch the baby. If you don’t have anyone to watch the baby so you can go shower, try doing it quickly during baby’s naptime.
I know it’s nerve-wracking to shower and have baby outside of your view for a few minutes at first so when you’re ready to, put baby somewhere safe (crib, bassinet, pack-n-play) fed, dry, and sleepy. They’ll fall asleep soon enough.
7.) Be Honest about Your Mental Health
I am notorious for telling people I’m “fine” when I absolutely am not fine. My own mother warned me how serious postpartum depression and anxiety can get, however, so when those feelings started to show, I was honest with my doctor.
Chances are at your first postpartum checkup, your provider will give you a test that shows if you have postpartum depression or not. I scored pretty high on that; my doctor offered me antidepressants but I turned them down. I wanted to wait another week or so to see if my depression and anxiety subsided to which (thank God) it did.
It turns out I had a case of the “baby blues” and not full-blown postpartum depression and felt better being honest with my doctor so that he was prepared to give me what I needed to be okay mentally.
The same goes for when family and friends ask how you’re doing. If you are not doing well, SAY SOMETHING! I told my friends and family I wasn’t okay, which in turn resulted in people offering to help me with baby, housework, and whatever else I needed. You’ll be a better mom if you are healthy mentally.
8.) Go For Walks With Baby (if Weather Permits)
I cannot stress ENOUGH how much walking helped me, mentally and physically. The first few months after having baby, the weather was great! I put him in the stroller and we went walking ALL the time. Walking not only releases endorphins and makes you happier, but it also strengthens your legs and core, which I really needed to do after my C-section.
After being cooped up with baby all winter, going for walks in the sunshine really helped improve my mental health. My husband even commented that I looked happier, and that I wasn’t so quick to lose my cool.
9.) Join Some Mommy Facebook Groups
When I first had Mikey (until he was about six months old) we lived in Nordheim, Texas with my parents far away from most of our family and friends. I had hardly anyone to talk to (except my mom) about new mom stuff, and ask some pretty TMI questions: is my baby’s poop normal? Am I pumping enough? What’s the best type of nipple cream?
To have a place to go to 24/7 with all sorts of mom questions, I joined a few Facebook groups. For the most part, they were really helpful! Not only can you get your questions answered quickly at all times of the day, but seeing other people ask the same questions you have makes you feel less lonely. At least it did for me!
A lot of mom groups get bad reputations because of the mom-shaming. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see any mom-shaming, but the value of the groups for me outweighed the negatives. (Remember, asking questions in mom groups is NOT a replacement for doctors and hospital visits!)
10.) Enjoy It
Last, but not least, enjoy motherhood! Take a second to step back every day, look at your baby, and allow yourself to do NOTHING besides take them all in. Study their features: their little fingers, scrunched feet, and button nose. Soak in that love every day! Other things can wait. Dishes can wait. Vacuuming can wait. For now, your only responsibility is taking care of and loving that baby!
Also, make sure you take A LOT of pictures! Of the baby, of your significant other and the baby, and make sure you get photos of yourself WITH your baby. Even if you think you look bad, take the photo! And remember momma, you’re not alone! Raising little ones takes a village.