By Dr. Jennifer Kurtz
You’ve waited about nine months for this, and perhaps you’ve been waiting for this your whole life. You’re a mommy. No matter how you arrived to mommyhood, someone is handing over this tiny little person into your care, and you are about to take him/her home. Well, now what?
As a mom of two, and a pediatrician, I have some insight into how those first few days are going to go, and allow me to give you some do’s and don’ts that may alleviate some of the anxiety surrounding welcoming your darling baby home from the hospital.
Before you leave the hospital parking lot:
- DO make sure you car seat is installed correctly. There is a great article about car seat safety HERE. If you are confused about installation, and YouTube videos aren’t cutting it for you, you can likely head to a fire station for some assistance. (And I know in some areas, there is an actual “Carseat Lady” who is an expert on installation.)
- DON’T forget to add your newborn to yours (or your partner’s) insurance plan. This is something you will probably forget the moment you get home, so take care of this before you leave the hospital.
- DO have an appointment with the infant’s pediatrician set up before you leave the hospital. That first newborn visit is a big deal, and it may just be a comfort knowing in 2-3 days that you will be seeing your baby’s doctor.
- DO make sure you have the basics at home. Diapers, formula (if you are using it), baby wipes, bottles (if you are using them), and clothes. Everything else can be purchased once you are home from the hospital!
Once You Arrive Home:
- DO give yourself a moment. There may be thirty family members that can’t wait to squeeze your bundle of joy, but a quiet entrance to home is ideal. A complete stranger is moving into your house FOREVER, and you may not even be sure where to put him/her. Give yourself and your partner a few hours to adjust to having your new family member without having to act as host to family and friends.
- But DON’T be afraid to ask for help. Having a family member, friend, or baby nurse stay with you for the first few days home (or weeks) is incredibly helpful. Having someone around to help cook, with laundry, or allow you a few minutes to shower, use the bathroom, and take a nap will mean the world to you.
- DO designate safe sleeping areas for the baby. The SAFEST place for an infant to sleep is in his/her crib, on his/her back, on a firm mattress. However, your baby will not be spending the entire day in his/her crib. Other appropriate sleeping surfaces are a bassinette or moses basket, rock-and-play, swing, pack-and-play, amaroo…well, the list goes on and on. However, make sure that all of these items are bought from trusted manufacturers, have no recalls, and that all safety precautions (seatbelts, etc) are followed. Additionally, make sure you are watching your infant, at least every few minutes while they are sleeping in something other than their crib.
- DON’T freak out about a feeding schedule. You may have read tons of baby books, many of which schedules for your baby with the goal of getting a full night’s sleep. This is great, but entirely not appropriate for a newborn. Your infant may want to eat every three to four hours. Or every two. Or every 45 minutes. All of this is NORMAL. Breastfed babies tend to eat more frequently, and again, this is normal. Do not panic if for the first few weeks it seems like all you are doing is feeding your baby. As the weeks go by, you may want to consider sticking to a feeding schedule, but do not consider doing so in the first few days. Just go with it!
- But DO attempt some normalcy. Keep the shades open during the day to allow sunshine into you house, and keep your home at a normal (ie, one where you are not sweating) temperature. Try to keep you infant around during daytime to hear normal conversation, and background noise so he/she gets used to it. Designate a time for bath, “bed”, and drawing the curtains. This sets your baby up for a normal circadian rhythm, and helps he/she adjust to day and night.
- DON’T be afraid of the outside world. Unless it’s freezing, snowing, or raining, there is no reason you cannot strap your newborn into his/her stroller and go for walks. Or for a drive in the car. The fresh air is good for you and your baby, and is definitely something I recommend for all new moms! But on that note, DO avoid crowded spaces (indoor shopping malls), and sick contacts.
- DO take time for yourself. This can mean anything from a long shower, a walk outside, or a manicure. It can mean a dinner or a movie with your significant other. You are still the YOU that you were before your baby entered this world, and that is nothing to feel guilty about. When your baby sees you calm and happy, then he/she will be calm and happy.
- Lastly, DON’T forget to enjoy this time. Having a newborn is exhausting, and for most, this time goes by in an absolute blur. Take pictures, savor the snuggling, the nursing, and that yummy newborn smell. Before you know it, you will be chasing after a muddy toddler!
Dr. Jennifer Kurtz is a Attending Neonatologist.