How to Prepare for The First Weeks at Home with a Newborn

“I’m thinking he’s going to sleep the entire first month. I just expected us to cuddle and hang out,” says the San Francisco resident, whose son was born in December.
Aggie and John Tragas shared Milleson’s vision.
“I thought it would be just the three of us bonding, and our families would drop in with warm meals and a helping hand,” says Aggie Tragas, mother to Dimitri, born in June.
But the reality is something more harried and frightening for new parents who look back on those first few weeks and say, as Milleson did, “Why didn’t anybody tell me it was going to be like this?”
The first few weeks are full of sleep deprivation, a lot of tears – mom, dad and baby – urine, breast milk, hormones, night sweats, pain and fear, says Jessica Berman, a doula who works with mothers pre- and post-natally. Dump in a bevy of eager friends and family eager to meet the new bundle of joy, and new parents have a recipe for turning their living room into what Milleson affectionately described as “my personal dungeon.”
“I understand why sleep deprivation is a form of torture now,” Milleson says.
Those first few weeks are difficult, and often families struggle as much with the physical and mental challenges as they do with the fact that their expectations don’t match reality, Berman says.
“We like to say that it’s the difference between watching a tornado on TV versus having one in your home,” she says. 
For every parent, life at home with a baby is different. Some will struggle with breastfeeding, while others will find sleep deprivation difficult.
The New Normal
Your life will be ruled by something the size of a sack of flour. What you are used to accomplishing will seem daunting.
Milleson is a do-er, so reducing her tasks to changing diapers, feedings and resting with baby, while precious, became unnerving.
“Different things that I would normally do are piling up and it’s just killing me. It was driving me absolutely bonkers. I needed just an hour to myself,” she says. She felt guilty about wanting that. “I felt bad that I wasn’t enjoying him when I felt like I should be.”
Almost every parent goes through this, Berman says. You have to give yourself permission to do what you need to feel in control. That may mean putting the baby down and vacuuming for 10 minutes. “Things can seem magically easier when your environment is free from visual clutter,” she says.
But it also means practicing patience when that isn’t possible.  “This will help in the future when your toddler unrolls an entire roll of toilet paper all over the bathroom in the two minutes it took you to find your shoes,” Berman says.
It’s helpful to have something to look forward to everyday, such as a trip to Starbucks or a walk around the block. After the birth, you operate in small, achievable goals, Berman says. &pagebreaking&Really, it’s about living in the moment – something difficult to do in our society today, says San Bruno resident John Tragas.
“I was so consumed with everything else – the visitors, the house being clean, work – that I should have spent time marveling at my son,” he says. “We are so go, go, go in this world. I should have put my iPhone down, stopped posting pictures on social media and just hugged my wife and held my child, uninterrupted.”
Social Life With Baby
Help was both a blessing and a curse for the Tragas family. Aggie Tragas says the home-cooked meals and assistance with chores allowed her to shower and rest. But with three to four sets of visitors a day, pressure was on the tired family to entertain and keep the house tidy. John Tragas spent a lot of time organizing the visitors, when he felt he should have been enjoying the baby and supporting Aggie, who was recovering from birth.
Milleson chose to go the other direction and limit visitors and offers of help. While it was nice to have the quiet, next time she’d ask for help.
When you are thinking about recruiting and organizing help, consider saving some visits and meals for when baby turns two weeks old, Berman says.
This is often the time when your sleep deprivation really kicks in and baby becomes more difficult to settle. Most importantly, be clear about what kind of visit you expect. Do you need social engagement or do you need help? Have a list of everyday tasks written up to direct your helpers when they come by.
Making and Burning Fuel
Nutrition is very important when a mom is recovering from birth because her body needs the calories to repair and/or make breast milk. Having a full belly helps fuel the triathlon-like experience of long days and nights, Berman says. But making food will seem daunting post-partum.
Fill your freezer with pre-made meals in individual servings, Berman suggests. Moms might also experience hunger and thirst due to breastfeeding. Berman recommends having a drink and snack each time the baby nurses. It makes sense to put these where you are likely to nurse most often.
Often, a mother’s milk arrives once home, which can be uncomfortable and alarming, Berman says. Babies may feed a lot, especially at night, during the first few days. These cluster feedings help mom’s body gear up for and transition into making milk.
They are also exhausting, and sometimes mothers think the baby’s frequent nursing and fussiness are signs that they don’t have what their babies need. Don’t fret. This is the key to establishing a good milk supply, Berman says.
Know that breastfeeding can be challenging at times and that there is lots of help available. Lactation consultants and postpartum doulas do home visits and give in-person assistance. If breastfeeding doesn’t work out for you, it’s OK. Berman says she sees many mothers who feel like they have failed and are overwhelmed with guilt when they decide to give their baby a bottle if they had expected to exclusively breastfeed. Your baby responds to your emotions, and it’s important to feed your baby with love.
Becoming Nocturnal
There is a lot of misinformation about newborn sleep. They nap in small, often tiny, chunks of time. Babies don’t know the difference between day and night until they are about six weeks old. Also, their stomachs are very small, so they need to eat often – every two to three hours in a 24-hour period, Berman says.
While you might have been used to getting four to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep before the baby arrived, you’ll likely get somewhere between 20 minutes to two hours postpartum. Once a baby is awake, it can take that long, or longer, to settle him or her back to sleep, at which point you might be too wired.
Milleson says prior to her son’s birth, she vowed not to use a swing or pacifier. Four days after Ben’s birth, she and her husband were desperate and started researching coping mechanisms.
Have a toolbox to handle a variety of situations before the fog of sleep deprivation blocks your ability to comprehend even Sesame Street, Berman says. Understand, though, that all babies are different, and don’t set expectations prior to birth that might not work for your child’s sleep patterns.
Wet and Wild
For moms, it takes a lot to physically recover from the birth and deal with changing hormones and sleep deprivation.
This can mean tears, sometimes a lot of them. Aggie Tragas and Milleson say they both suffered from the baby blues, a totally normal and very common side effect of changing hormones.
“I was slowly healing from the birth, but still very sore. Emotionally, I was not 100 percent,” Aggie Tragas says. “Everything was not clear. It did not feel real to me.”
Milleson experienced similar mood shifts.
“I was sitting there crying and asking my mom, ‘Why would you have a second one?’” she recalls.
At times it can feel claustrophobic. “As I was going through this monumental change emotionally and physically, I felt like I was alone and not being heard. I needed time to adjust in every way after giving birth,” Aggie Tragas says.
Additionally, not every parent bonds with the baby right away. While some people fall madly, deeply in love with the child, it absolutely doesn’t happen that way for everyone. Many parents feel like they’ve failed if the first week home is not how they pictured it. “Good enough is amazing. Be kind to yourself and step back from self-judgment,” Berman says.
Both Aggie Tragas and Milleson say it gets easier.
“Now I think I would do this again,” Milleson says. “I watch how quickly he’s growing, and it kind of makes me sad.”


Best Nanny Services in the Bay Area

Bay Area Parent readers voted these as the top Bay Area Nanny Services for 2022. Read the full list of Best of the Best winners here.

Best Children’s Boutique Clothing in the Bay Area

These children's clothing boutiques were voted the Bay Area’s 2022 Best of the Best by Bay Area Parent readers. Read the full list of winners here.

Best Children’s Resale Clothing in the Bay Area

These places to buy Children’s Resale were voted the Bay Area’s 2022 Best of the Best by Bay Area Parent readers. Read the full list of winners here.

Best Montessori Schools in the Bay Area

These Montessori Schools were voted the Bay Area’s 2022 Best of the Best by Bay Area Parent readers. Read the full list of winners here. 

Follow us on Social Media


Most Popular