As Kate Middleton and Prince William will have discovered, the first few weeks at home with a newborn are tough. Juggling irregular sleep patterns with getting to know your baby, learning how to function as a family, and the need to rest and recover both physically and emotionally, is far from easy.
With that in mind, HELLO! Online turned to The Portland Hospital’s midwife, Amanda Adam-Wells, for some advice on caring for your baby in their first few weeks.
What should new parents expect during their first week at home with their new baby?
Becoming a new parent is an exciting time and you are likely to receive a lot of requests from family and friends keen to visit you and your new addition. Whilst you will undoubtedly be pleased to receive their well wishes you should try to limit visitors and get as much rest as possible.
During this time do not expect to keep your house perfect. You may find that all you can do is eat, sleep and care for your baby. This is perfectly okay and you should pace yourself from the first day that you arrive back home. Try to lie down or nap while the baby naps, do not try to do too much around the house and don't be afraid to ask for help with cleaning, laundry, meals or with caring for the baby.
How will having a newborn at home affect my daily routine?
Every new parent soon learns that babies have different time clocks than adults which can greatly impact your daily routine. A typical newborn awakens about every three hours and needs to be fed, changed and comforted. This can be quite an overwhelming experience and new mothers and particularly first-time parents can feel exhausted.
While a solid eight hours of sleep for you may not happen again for several months, the following suggestions may be helpful in finding ways to get plenty of rest to help your body recover from childbirth.
Accept help: Close friends, parents and parents-in-law can quickly become an invaluable asset to new parents by helping out with household chores and cooking meals, thus giving you and your partner a much needed opportunity to rest and recover.
Sleep when the baby sleeps: With a newborn at home you may find that you only have a few minutes rest several times a day. However, these minutes can add up, helping you to feel refreshed and energised.
Keep your baby close: Saving steps saves time and having your baby's bed near yours for night-time feeds can be of great benefit to new parents adjusting to a new routine.
Excuse yourself: Many new parents enjoy visits from friends and family, but new mothers should not feel obligated to entertain. Feel free to excuse yourself for a nap or to feed your baby and make sure that you and your new family get plenty of rest and an opportunity to bond.
Get out and about: You can begin walking and postpartum exercises upon the advice of your midwife or obstetrician and will quickly notice how the combination of light exercise and fresh air helps you to feel refreshed and relaxed.
When and how can I start to establish a sleeping routine for my newborn?
When your baby is as young as six or eight weeks old, you can start to follow a set pattern every night. Your baby will quickly come to appreciate the consistency and predictability which will help them learn sleep habits that will stand you both in good stead for the future.
Every new parent will establish a routine in their own time that works best for them and their family but you may find the following tips helpful:
Consider baby massage: Some babies enjoy being soothed to sleep with a gentle massage. The first few times you may just want to do your baby's legs until they get used to the sensation but you may soon find that massage not only enhances the bond between you and your baby but also helps both of you to relax and improves your baby’s sleep pattern.
The Portland Hospital’s baby massage classes are designed especially for new parents and provide a great opportunity for you to meet other parents and learn from each other's experiences.
Get musical: Create a playlist of lullabies and classical music to play while you settle your baby to sleep. Leave it on after you leave the room to help ease their transition from being awake to falling asleep. Gentle music has the added benefit of drowning out other household noise.
Avoid rocking your baby to sleep: Leave the room while your baby is still awake, happy and relaxed and they will learn how to fall asleep on their own in their cot. Try to avoid getting them to sleep by rocking or cuddling them in your arms. If they get used to falling asleep in your arms, they may need nursing back to sleep if they wake up again.
Stick to your routine: Once you have established your routine try to stick to it as much as you can, even when you're not at home. It can make it easier for your baby to settle down if they are in unfamiliar surroundings.
Take turns: Make sure you and your partner share the care of your newborn. If you are breastfeeding, encourage your partner to bath the baby. Not only will this give you time to rest but it will provide an opportunity for them to bond in their own time.
Where can new parents go to for more advice?
If new parents want extra advice on caring for their newborn they can arrange a private 1-2-1 class at The Portland Hospital with our experienced midwifery team. These classes are available to everyone and not restricted to those who delivered at the Portland only.
For more information or to make an appointment please contact The Portland Hospital Maternity Services Advisor on 020 7390 6068.