What’s the secret to surviving the first few weeks at home with a newborn?
Getting help. If possible, have your partner take a week or two off after the baby arrives. That way, you’ll both have time to bond with your newborn, and your partner can help take care of the baby – and you. If that’s not an option, ask a close relative or friend to come over and provide the same kind of care.
Getting help with meals
Bringing food is one of the best ways friends can help. Sitting down to dinner – especially one you didn’t have to shop for or prepare – can provide some welcome order and a civilized break in a newly chaotic world.
Forming a postpartum dinner group is one idea making the rounds in baby showers these days. The host circulates a sign-up sheet and guests mark an evening when they can bring dinner.
It can also be a big help to order groceries online. Set up accounts before your baby is born and test out different sites to find your favorites before your baby arrives. Some sites that aren’t local may be a good bet for nonperishable staples, while local stores may offer a wider range of foods, including frozen and fresh. Stock up on healthy frozen entrees you can pop in the microwave or oven.
Nap when you can
When family members or close friends or want to come visit the baby, don’t worry about playing host. Ask if they mind keeping an eye on the baby while you catch a quick nap. They’ll get the chance to fuss and coo over the baby to their heart’s content, and you’ll get some needed rest.
Consider hiring a doula
Hiring a postpartum doula is another way to get the help you need. Not to be confused with birth doulas, postpartum doulas take care of you and your home so you can concentrate on your baby.
“The doula we used got us through the first two weeks after my son was born,” says Lee Madison of Northampton, Massachusetts. “My partner and I had no idea what we were doing, and she made us dinner, took care of Willie, and kept the house clean. I got to nap and catch up on lots of sleep – and was glad I had after she left.”
The doula association Dona International has a “find a doula” tool that allows you to search for a postpartum doula by location.
Expect some emotional bumps
As your body readjusts after pregnancy, it’s not unusual to feel overjoyed one minute and blue the next. Factor in sleep deprivation and the stress of a crying baby, and you may find yourself feeling pretty raw.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to your friends and family for support, and check in with your doctor if you think you might need help from a mental health professional. Your emotional well-being is just as important as your physical health.
Finally, recognize that your life is going to be pretty hectic for a while, so go easy on yourself and try to keep your expectations realistic. Chances are, your home isn’t going to be as tidy as it was before the baby was born. The laundry may pile up and the bathtub may not get scrubbed, but you need to take care of yourself in order to take care of your new baby. It’s okay to cut corners to get the rest you need and have more time with your little one.