Breastfeeding tips: Surviving the first week

Hell week

Your first week at home with your firstborn. I call it this because I had friends call me on day 4 postpartum, I was tired, no, I was beyond tired, I was in pain and I was overwhelmed. They called, not to find out how I was, or how things were going, or what they could do to help… No, they called to tell me they were pregnant with their second child. Sometimes, what is in my head comes out of my mouth. The words that day were, “good god, it must get good, because this is hell” and then I hung up on them and went back to my miserable life with my newborn. My long anticipated, much loved newborn who was making my life hell. Not because he was a difficult baby, or because he hated me, but simply because he was a newborn, who needed his mom 24 hours a day, and nothing, I mean, NOTHING had prepared me for this.

It does end

I think the key during those first few days and weeks is knowing there is an end in sight, even if you, as a new parent can’t see it or struggle to believe it. It must get better, people keep having children. I myself had another 1, and would have had another 2 or 3 if I had a willing partner. It is hard to see the end of this constant exhaustion and neediness of your newborn in the first few days, but it does end, you will one day get more sleep, be able to brush your teeth and maybe even shower. Just hang in there, dig deep, and get through it.

Newborns are delightful… or are they?

The next important part is talk about it. Your best friend, the one who has children, she knows. She remembers at least a bit. Or maybe she doesn’t… she is pregnant with her 2nd… why would she sign up for this again? Trust me, she does remember, she may not willingly talk about it, but she remembers. Somehow, in our society, we don’t get to talk about how hard that first week is, we are expected to be happy, joyous new parents who have a newborn. Newborn’s are delightful, miraculous and charming, grandparents, friends, strangers all tell us. So why do you secretly not feel the same way.

Because sleep deprivation is a part of life with a newborn, and sleep deprivation is a form of torture in some countries… It’s ok to love your newborn but really dislike the demands they make on you. Disliking the demands of a baby is not the same as being a bad parent.  Be kind to yourself as you experience this roller coaster of emotions. Remember, it does end, things get better, and once your baby finds a routine, and sleep becomes more of a reality than a distant memory, you will start to love the demands your baby makes on you. I know, easier heard than believed, I was there, I remember, but trust me on this, it does get good, it gets really really good.

Rules of the house

We are an entertaining society. We love to be entertained and to entertain, and what is more lovely than a baby. If you have one living in your house, all of a sudden you are on top of everyone’s must visit list.  But as new parents there are house rules to follow. I suggest you print them out and post them on the door.

Rule #1: Any one coming to see the baby must bring food. Price of admission is a meal or snacks. Either for now or for the freezer. No food, no admission.

Rule #2: Anyone who stays longer than 15 minutes is now considered family and will need to do some laundry, clean the bathrooms or start preparing the dinner they just brought

Trust me when I tell you, your baby will still be the most beautiful baby known to mankind in 2 weeks time, 4 weeks time, 8 weeks time… In fact, let’s be honest here, your new baby will grow up and continue to be wonderful. So, does it really matter if all those people see your baby fresh out of the womb? Surely they can wait a few weeks/months, surely they can wait until you start to feel a little bit more human and ready to entertain.

Be kind to yourself and your partner

If you are anything like we were, as brand new parents, you are feeling overwhelmed and maybe even a little alone. Not many people are comfortable talking about how overwhelmed they are feeling. Most of us put on a good show because it is expected of us. Somehow we feel that if we can’t handle this first week with grace we are doomed to be failures as parents. Not true at all. I have yet to meet anyone who has handled that first week with their first baby with grace. So, while you are struggling through and getting used to life as a parent, be kind to yourself and your partner. They are also overwhelmed. Stick together as a family, and soon you will be calling your friends with the news, “baby number 2 is on the way!”

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