How to Survive Your First Week (and beyond) with a Newborn

I loved being pregnant. The second time it wasn’t as enjoyable (as I was chasing around a toddler), but I loved it nonetheless. And, I miss that feeling inside my belly; those little flips and twists, jabs and kicks. Also, being pregnant was a cake walk in comparison to life once baby is earthside. I did as much as I could to prepare myself emotionally, physically, and mentally for life with a baby (and then 15 months later, another baby). And through my two experiences of life with a newborn, I have come up with some tips on how to make the transition easiest for you, your baby, and your partner. There is a lot of info here, and I apologize in advance for this. I just wanted to provide all the tips and info I possibly could. 😁

Rest, Rest, Rest!

Giving birth is a marathon. And immediately after your baby is born, your body goes into recovery mode. This means your body needs to rest. You need to force yourself to do this. I know you’re so ready to show your baby off to the world, but for your sake and for your baby’s you both need to just be shut-ins for a little while. You will heal so much faster, more efficiently, and be in less pain if you do this. Take care of yourself. Your body is mending, exhausted, and you are probably learning to mother for the first time. So sit back, relax, nurse your baby, and take care of yourself. Use padsicles for pain and inflammation and (whichever) pain killer your physician said you can use. But, don’t let these two things trick you into thinking you’re further along in the healing process than you actually are. You should stay off your feet as much as possible for the first few days, if not for a whole week.

Skin to Skin

Skin to skin with your baby releases so many happy hormones. Not just for you, but for baby too. Doing skin to skin helps your baby transition into life on land. This will help immensely in keeping them calm, learning their cues, and also for stimulating development and bonding. The benefits of skin to skin go beyond the first few days after birth. Do this as much as possible in the first few months. So take off your baby’s clothes (save for the diaper), take off your shirt (bra optional) and just snuggle. If you’re worried about your baby catching a draft, lay a blanket over the both of you to trap in that body heat! Also, your little babe will benefit greatly from doing this exact same thing with your partner. So, don’t hog all the cuddles.

Use Your Support

I cannot stress this enough. If your partner is able to take time to be home with you and the baby, then take full advantage. This goes hand in hand with getting rest. After your baby is born you have three jobs: nurse your baby, rest, nurse some more. What does this mean for your partner? Well, to put it plainly: (s)he does everything else. This can include (but may not be limited to) preparing food, doing laundry, taking care of the other kids (if you have those) or animals, stepping in when guests overstay their welcome, grocery shop, manage other household duties (bills, maintenance, etc.), bring you the baby whenever you need him/her, take the baby when you need time to yourself. Am I painting a clear picture?

This may sound like a lot and you may think that it’s too much. And that may be true, so let your partner know what can be put on the back burner until you’re able to take on more responsibilities. Nursing is a full time job, do not discredit how hard you are working at being a new mom.

If you do not have this sort of support, then make a list (before baby comes ideally) of things that MUST be done. And prepare as much as you can before baby comes. This could include setting up all your bills on autopay, preparing freezer meals that are ready to toss in the oven, don’t let your laundry pile up, prepare a postpartum kit for a quicker recovery.

Reach out to Other Mamas

Being a new mom, even a second or third time Mom, can be a daunting thing. If this is your first child, you may feel at a loss some of the time or just need some mama support. You may feel this way even if you have children already. It’s easy to forget how exhausting those first few weeks can be, and how much work a newborn really is. So, reach out to your other mom friends if not just to vent. Use the resources at your disposal. Get involved in some Facebook groups to ask questions or get immediate tips for any roadblock you might come across.

It’s such a relief to know that someone else is experiencing or experienced exactly what you’re going through. Motherhood is tough, and that’s normal.

Nurse on Demand

A lot of people are under the impression that they’re doing something wrong if their baby isn’t sleeping well (or through the night). This is not a thing. Newborns do not have the capacity to distinguish day from night and they do not have the capacity to adhere to a schedule. Your life will be so much easier if you come to terms with this. Your days and nights will go smoother if you nurse on demand. When your baby is showing those hunger cues (sucking on its tongue, shaking head back and forth looking for the boob, trying to eat its hands, etc.) offer the breast. Even if your baby just ate, offer it anyway. Newborns have extremely small stomachs and cannot eat a lot at a time. And, depending on their metabolism, they may burn through breast milk very fast. I fed my second child, Declan, every hour to an hour and a half for almost his first 3-4 months of life. Don’t refuse to feed them just because he or she ate an hour ago and shouldn’t be hungry, you’re just setting yourself up for a screaming fit. Be sure to always have water readily available. Actually, you should always make sure you have the following near you when you sit down to nurse. The last thing you want is to sit down for a 30 minute nursing session and realize you left your phone in the kitchen and now your husband is calling you and your baby fell asleep at the breast…

  • Cell phone
  • Water – This is very important. My mouth was like the Sahara Desert the instant my babies started to nurse. You also want to be sure you are replacing what the baby is drinking (and more!).
  • Snacks – The Brest Friend has a convenient pocket on the front that you can easily put a snack bar or some nuts in.
  • Remote Control – Because sometimes we need to just tune out and watch some television
  • Burp Cloth(s) – My son was a spitter. I had to have at least 3 with me when he nursed.

In regard to nursing on demand… if you think your baby is just pacifying on you and not eating, maybe think about introducing a pacifier. Pacifiers are sort of controversial things, so do what you are comfortable with. My children had such an intense need to suck that they would constantly fuss when they weren’t nursing. I did not want to become a pacifier (at the sake of my nipples) so I gave them pacifiers. And they calmed right down. When you introduce a pacifier, you just have to be a little more keen to hunger cues. But more often than not, they will reject the pacifier when they want the breast. Declan took a pacifier on Day 2, and he loved it. It calmed his Moro Reflexes so much so he was able to get more restful sleep and calmer awake time.

Take Care of Your Boobs

Oh man, those first three weeks of nursing Blair were brutal. Her mouth was sooooo small and my boobs were huge. It was difficult for her to latch properly as a newborn. As a result, my nipples got so sore and chapped, and I cringed every time I had to nurse her. What I did do was take care of my boobs when she wasn’t nursing. Coconut Oil was my best friend. I was constantly using it to help moisturize my nipples. It was so soothing to me and even better, I didn’t have to wipe it off when it came time to nurse again. You can also use warm and cold compresses to help with any nipple pain.

Sometimes you can get so sore that it just hurts to wear a bra or shirt. So go braless/shirtless. I had a few days there in the beginning where I just walked around naked because having anything rubbing on me was too painful. The first 3-4 weeks are the toughest when it comes to nursing. Do everything in your power to make it easier and more comfortable. Try different holds/angles. Often nursing in a different position can ease discomfort and promote successful latching. Don’t be afraid to get creative.

When you are about 2-3 weeks postpartum (and your milk supply is established), you can definitely start pumping. I started pumping 2 weeks postpartum and I would pump (instead of nurse) every now and then to get some relief from nursing to give my nipples a break (especially if my baby was cluster feeding). I would pump for a whole (or half) day and bottle feed. I was comfortable with this. Some mamas do not want to introduce the bottle until later. But, know that this can be an option to give your nipples a break and help them heal.

If nipple soreness, clogging, mastitis continues seek out help from a lactation consultant! It’s amazing how easily they can help you correct your baby’s latch.

Check for Tongue Ties

It’s incredible how many babies are misdiagnosed when it comes to tongue/lip/side ties. This is a pretty common thing and can greatly impede the success of breastfeeding. If your baby is very fussy at the breast, pulls off and comes back on constantly, is very gassy, and all around just frustrated when nursing, get them checked for ties!!! So many women give up and guilt themselves because they “couldn’t” nurse… because their baby didn’t latch. This breaks my heart, because in a lot of cases it was because these various ties were not identified.

“But my pediatrician checked for ties at birth!” Don’t trust that. Your pediatrician is (typically) not properly trained to identify ties. Please seek out the help from a lactation consultant or even better, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). Ties are such a quick and easy fix and can greatly change how your baby nurses. I know some women that went from nursing for over an hour down to 15 minutes at a time when the ties were corrected. Additionally, it is believed by some professionals that ties can not only affect latching but also other health issues down the line (such as IBS).

Ties can also affect your milk supply! A lot of women have trouble producing when their baby doesn’t latch correctly. Insufficient latch = body not responding correctly to produce milk. Nursing is a hard thing. Seek out help. It may cost you $30-$50 if you do not have free resources available to you (like through the hospital), but in the end it will cost less than if you have to formula feed. Also, most lactation consultants will come to you, so you don’t have to leave the house!

Infant Massage

I love infant massage. There are classes you can take and YouTube videos you can watch for this. Infant massage, just like an adult massage (for adults, not happy endings people. Get your mind out of the gutter 😜), relieves stress and can correct any physical discomfort. Babies have stress too, and they went through quite the ordeal trying to exit your body.

Stress on your baby’s body can hinder restful sleep, cause gas and indigestion, and overall well being. Check out some of these videos to acquaint yourself with various techniques to help soothe your baby!

Sleep when Baby Sleeps

Turn off that inner voice that’s telling you that you need to be doing chores or binge watch Netflix. This can be a hard thing to do because in the beginning (especially) you can start to feel like you are just a cow and have zero time to do the things you normally do (even if those things are chores). But, as newborns don’t adhere to a schedule or routine, you can never really anticipate how your day/night will go. So, mimic your baby when it comes to sleep. Try to nap when he/she naps, because the last thing you want is to have a super easy/smooth day where you didn’t take any naps and have it turn into a sleepless night. You need to rest. As I mentioned above, sleep is so vital to normal day life, so just think about how much more important it is when your body is mending and you are now also a food source. Lack of sleep is another nasty thing that can hinder milk production.

I had so many days when I was like: “it’s cool, I’m just going to watch a movie while my baby is napping or maybe I’ll clean the kitchen.” No. I wish I could go back and tell myself that I would so dearly regret this decision when 2am hits and my baby has been awake for three hours and won’t let me put her down. Those early morning hours are so tough when your partner is sleeping, you have to be up with the baby, and you’re so physically and emotionally exhausted. So make sure you take advantage of being able to recharge your batteries during the day. I would continue to do this until your baby starts taking routine naps and their sleep cycle starts to show a pattern. I took naps when my baby slept until my leave ended and I had to return to work (12 weeks PP).

Use Essential Oils

Just like during pregnancy, while you are nursing you still can’t take normal medication, eat certain things, or drink certain things (cough medicine, too much fish, alcohol and caffeine for example). So, if you got oily during your pregnancy, keep on using them! There are definitely some oils you should try to avoid (like peppermint and clary sage can decrease milk supply) and some you should start using (fennel is great for boosting milk supply).

You can even use them on your baby (speak with your physician about it!). I used Digize for tummy issues, Lavender, Peace and Calming, and Cedarwood for calm/sleepy time (and then also Sleepyize)! Using oils around or on your baby can greatly affect moods, emotions, and sleep! With babies, they have to be GREATLY diluted for topical use (see below).

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Alternatively, if you do not want to apply oils directly to your baby, it is also safe to diffuse around them. Just ensure that the diffuser is not placed directly near their face. Keep it up high and free from wandering hands.

Some of my favorite roller ball recipes (all 10 ml bottles):

For Sleep: 1 drop Lavender, 1 drop Peace and Calming, 1 Drop Cedarwood, fill with carrier oil. Roll on and massage into the soles of the feet for naptime or bedtime. Also, Young Living recently released the Kid Scents line which are pre-diluted for 2 year olds. So, they are easy to dilute further for babies! For sleep: Sleepyize

For Tummy Issues: 1 drop Digize, fill with carrier oil. Roll on the abdomen to promote healthy digestion. Or from the Kid Scents line: Tummygize

For Teething: 1 drop Copaiba, 1 drop Lavender. Fill with carrier oil. Roll on the jawline.

For Illness (colds, flus, etc): 1 Drop thieves with carrier oil on the feet.

For Milk Supply: 3 drops fennel, 3 drops basil. Fill with carrier oil. Roll on the breast (avoid nipple area) after nursing/pumping. See other tips for boosting milk supply here.

For diffusing: I love diffusing Peace and Calming during dinner to help the kids wind down, and diffuse Sleepyize for bedtime. Purification and Thieves for overall wellness. Orange and Lemon for a morning wakeup! I could go on for days about different things to diffuse. Feel free to reach out to me for more ways to use oils with kids and babies!

Lastly, please please please make sure the oils you are using are legitimate. I use Young Living for their Seed to Seal guarantee. They are 100% pure, undiluted (unless specified) oils. They are extremely potent so be sure to test them on a small patch of your baby’s skin before full applications.

Additionally, you can use them to help speed up your recovery and promote healing! Go here to read my post and recipe for a postpartum perineal spray! This recipe helps disinfect and clean your sutures, promotes tissue repair, and helps calm inflammation.

Want to get started with Young Living? Click Here!

Wake Up Your Partner

It’s true. In the beginning there isn’t much your partner can do in regard to the baby other than change diapers and help you get ready to nurse (i.e. bringing the baby to/from you). But, don’t be afraid to wake your partner in the wee hours of the night when you need help. The middle of the night is often the hardest part of the day. You’re tired, it’s quiet and dark, and if your partner doesn’t automatically wake up with you, you are often alone. This can be very difficult and discouraging and frustrating.

There were so many nights I nursed my baby and she (and then he) could just not calm down. Screaming and screaming and shushing and rocking and nursing and still, no calmness. I was convinced that I needed to soothe the baby. I did not want to wake my husband and burden him (um what? It’s his kid, too!). But, eventually he woke up on his own and would take the baby from me and they would calm down almost instantly. I now believe that sometimes the smell of mama’s milk is so intense that baby just can’t calm down, and just needs to get away from mom and away from the scent of milk. Enter partner.

Eventually my husband and I started working so well together at night. I would wake up, nurse the baby and if I could not get him or her to go back to sleep within 10 minutes or so, my husband would step in to relieve me. This served a few purposes: I got back to sleep quicker, he really got to understand my daily struggles, and also got much more bonding time with his baby. Yes, it wasn’t perfect every time. And there were nights when neither of us wanted to get up and take care of the baby. But, we kept that communication open and I learned to ask him to help me when I needed it. You are not in this alone, and you do not need to be alone. Try to remember that.

Stay Calm, and Mommy On

Okay, that was a little lame. But, I think it sort of illustrates my next point. Stress is not your friend. Tension is not your friend. Frustration is not your friend. Most babies will go through a period (or multiple periods) where they are just fussy. Whether it be from a leap (check out the Wonder Weeks), indigestion, hunger, overexhaustion, overstimulation, etc. Sometimes it is very difficult to calm them when they go into a fit. And in turn, you can easily start to get stressed and panic. I remember some of these moments very vividly. Baby screaming, me rocking and shushing, trying to stick my boob in his/her face, starting to sweat, starting to cry (me, not the baby), and now baby is screaming even more.

It is very hard in a stressful moment like this to just let go. It is hard not to get stressed. But, the more you can work on staying calm and collected, the easier these fussy moments will become. I really perfected this technique with Declan. His first few weeks of life he had extreme gas issues. He would just scream and scream in fits of discomfort. In the beginning I just broke down (and felt useless honestly) every time it happened. But, I quickly realized that wasn’t helping anyone. So, I started trying to remove my emotions from the situation. Now when my children scream and have fits, I just approach them in a calm quiet voice, hold them, rock them, sing to them, etc. And you know what, they calm down so much faster than if I just got angry or stressed or frustrated.

Babies especially can pick up on your emotions. When you get stressed out, they get stressed out. Try to remember that they are new at this too. And, when you can’t calm down you need to step away from the situation and let someone help you. Ask for it when you need it.

Do not Compare Yourself or Your Baby

Just because your girlfriend Jane had her baby sleeping six hours at night from 3 weeks on doesn’t mean your baby will (nor needs to) do that. What you may not know is that Jane’s baby also hates going in the car. Or maybe never lets her put him down. What I’m trying to say is that every baby is different and every mother is different. And, especially in regard to social media, you’re not always getting the whole story.

Do not compare your experiences to another mother’s/baby’s. It will not serve you in any way, unless you are perhaps asking that mother for tips. But just because your baby nurses every hour, only sleeps when being held, or has a fussy period every day at 5:00 pm doesn’t mean you aren’t doing an incredible job. You are so amazing and strong and you (and your baby) are learning to work together. This can take more time for some and less time for others. It may be a long journey until you and your baby come to an understanding on how things should be. So, just learn to ride the waves; the ups and downs. And know that you are unique. Your baby is unique. And that’s a beautiful thing, even when your baby cluster feeds every 45 minutes for 2 days straight.

This blog is an educational and informational resource for anyone interested in my stories and creations. It is not a substitute for working with a doctor or other medical professional. I cannot guarantee the outcome of  my recommendations and statements. I make no guarantees about the information and recommendations provided herein. By continuing to use/read/participate in this website/ blog/email series you acknowledge that I cannot guarantee any particular results, as such outcomes are based on subjective factors that are not within my control. Therefore, following any information or recommendations provided on this website/blog/email series are at your own risk. If you need medical advice, you should hire a physician or other professional. Please speak with your medical professional before using essential oils.

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Hi, I’m Allison! Mama to two beautiful babies (a girl and baby boy). I love period-piece movies and series, sushi dates, and helping other mamas! Thanks for stopping by! Please feel free to browse through my blog posts at www.downhomemama.com

4 thoughts on “How to Survive Your First Week (and beyond) with a Newborn

  1. Such great advice. Other than the essential oils (didnt have in my time) as a mom of five I have done most of your suggestions. They grow up way too fast and just enjoy your babies. There is a poem about – cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow, for babies grow up we’ve learned to our sorrow, so quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep, I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep. Enjoy!

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  2. Great tips. I used my mom as a 3rd helper while my other half had to return to work. Can’t really express my experience with “feeding” or “take care of boobies” due I never breastfeed. It kinda helps that I didn’t so the other half and no excuse to not help feed in middle of night 🙂

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    1. That is a definite upside of bottle feeding! Those first few weeks (and months!) are so difficult. It’s great that you were able to use your partner to his fullest!

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