It’s exciting to bring a new child into your home. It can be overwhelming, stressful and exhausting. Hilary Baxendale is a childbirth educator in Hastings-on-Hudson and a doula.

Parents share their favorite tips and hard-earned lessons to help you through the first few weeks.

1. Have a network of support.

You need to know who you can turn to for support in the first few weeks. Baxendale advises that you should do some research before the baby is born so that you don’t have to scramble when it’s time for the baby to be born. This group could include:

  • Families and friends can be a great help. You may have to take vaccinations such as Tdap or flu vaccines to protect your child. Ji Sterling, of Rolling Hills in California, says that her mother stayed with them for two months and was a real lifesaver. She did the cleaning and cooking while I looked after the baby, and my husband was working and watching our older two.
  • Lactation Consultant: They teach new mothers how to Breastfeed. They can help you with things like how to position your baby. Sterling says that Breastfeeding is not always a natural thing. It’s hard to get your baby to latch on those first few weeks and know how much milk is being consumed.
  • Postpartum doulas: They assist families in adjusting to the new baby. They can teach you how to soothe your baby, listen and assist with chores.

2. Establish a policy for visitors.

Everyone wants to see the baby. During COVID-19 this is not always possible. Baxendale advises that you should be frank about who is allowed to enter your home and whether or not they need to go through quarantine, or undergo a test before entering your bubble.

Rachel Huryn, Edgewater Park NJ, was able to see her daughter only once a week. She was also visited by friends and family in socially distant visits.

3. Stock up on the essentials.

Stock up on these essentials so that you don’t need to rush to the store at night. Baxendale recommends preparing three caddies with:

  • You can also get relief from postpartum discomfort with pain reducers and witch Hazel pads. Also, disposable underwear and pads can be useful.
  • Burp cloths, nipple lotion and phone chargers are all essentials for feeding your baby. Baxendale recommends that you also have a phone charger and snack on hand for yourself. Even if you plan to breastfeed, have formula on hand. Liz Winer, of Cresskill in NJ, says that breastfeeding is a steep learning process. These bottles were lifesavers when she was struggling.
  • Diaper Station: Fill up a separate container and add diapers, wipes and diaper-rash lotion. Baxendale suggests that changing the baby on the couch is the best option. “Even getting up to the nursery may be too much effort,” he says.

Buy your favorite health snacks in bulk, like granola bar. Huryn claims that you’re always hungry when nursing.

4. Let your friends and family help you (safely).

They want to. Baxendale says that there are many ways to help without having people enter your home. She suggests that you share a list with others, including tasks like picking up groceries, walking the dog, or delivering food. Winer says that family members left meals on our doorstep. It was a great help, because we didn’t need to worry about cooking or shopping.

5. Connect with others.

COVID makes it worse. Aleeah Alexandre felt less alone after meeting other new mothers virtually. The Atlanta mom says she used Facebook mom groups, the Peanut app and What to Expect. I was surprised to see how many moms felt the same way as me. You can find an online support group or a local one.

6. These staples are a must-have for new moms.

These are the items that new moms can’t live without.

  • The gentle glow of a nightlight makes it easier to feed your baby at night.
  • Velcro swaddles are a great option for those who don’t want to fold their swaddles in the middle night.
  • You can do more with a baby wrap or carrier.
  • This gadget allows you to store extra milk if you are nursing.

7. Make time for yourself.

Each day, set aside a certain amount of time to yourself. You may want to take a shower in the early morning, make a Zoom call with friends or go for a long stroll. Baxendale advises, “Make your needs clear.” This time will help you to recharge so that you can be a more effective mom.

8. Be flexible.

You’re still getting to know your baby in the first couple of weeks. Baxendale warns that trying to stick to a strict schedule will only lead to disappointment. As babies grow, their sleeping and feeding needs will change. Try to adapt to these changes and learn to go with the flow. You should also build extra time into your day. Winer says, “I’ve learned that nothing goes according to plan when you have a child.”

9. Fresh air is good for you.

Get outside if you are feeling stir-crazy. If you are around other people, it may be best to put your baby in a stroller cover or a carrier. Winer recalls that strangers have pulled down their masks and played peek-aboo with her. It’s sweet, but not COVID safe. “I move the stroller so they get it.”

10. Spend time with other people.

You’re stretched to the limit as a new mother. Make time for your partner and older children. Huryn says that she tried to do a puzzle or read a book with her older kids at their bedtime during her pregnancy. I continued doing this after the baby was delivered, so it didn’t feel that different.

11. Self-care is important.

The first few weeks of being a new mother are a physical and emotional challenge. Huryn says that after three pregnancies she has finally learned to be more forgiving of herself during the newborn phase. You shouldn’t expect to have a spotless house or to do the dishes right away. She says that when she was on maternity, “there was a lot of laundry and more screen time.” “But it’s temporary and normal.”

12. Speak to others.

Parenting is a big change. If you are struggling, or you feel depressed or anxious talk to your doctor.

13. Keep things in context.

Babies change quickly, Alexander says. She says that if you are feeling overwhelmed or frustrated, you should take a moment to step back and realize that this phase will only last a few months. This can help you enjoy and appreciate your time with your child. Winer agrees, saying “it does go so fast.” “I already miss the tiny newborn stage.”

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