Several of my friends are expecting mamas-to-be to their first babies! Whee! Babies! I am fielding some really wonderful questions and feel so honored that my friends value my opinion on such a wide array of pregnancy, baby, and parenting questions. One question posed had to do with how much help a new mom needs with the baby during those first few weeks.
Here is my simple response.
You do NOT need help with YOUR new baby. You need help with EVERYTHING else.
Here is my expanded response.
The first few weeks as a new mother are so vitally important. This is a time for you to bond with your baby, embrace motherhood, learn to survive on little sleep, master the art of breastfeeding, establish a rhythm with your baby, and simply savor your new role as mama. This is NOT a time to pass your baby off to other people so that you can get stuff done. That is what all of the “other” people need to do.
Your baby NEEDS you, his or her mama! Your baby WANTS you! Your baby thrives on the closeness and warmth that mom provides. You are your baby’s life source. You are your baby’s “womb” outside of the womb. Do not miss out on these critical weeks and pass your baby off to well meaning other people. Everyone will want to “help” by holding the baby, feeding the baby, rocking the baby, etc… Although the decision is entirely up to you, I strongly suggest that you limit the amount of time that you are physically not in contact with your baby. (Dads of course should also do a lot of physical bonding with the new baby.) Be honest and tell your family and friends that the first few weeks will be a time of family bonding and that you will let them know when YOUR baby is ready to meet his or her fan club.
This will surely piss a few people off. Oh well. You won’t get those first few weeks back. Your family and friends have the rest of the child’s life to bond. It isn’t critical that they do so on day one. It IS critical that mom and baby bond early on. Period. I cannot make that more clear.
The only time I suggest someone “help with baby” is when you need a shower. Try to take one daily. It is good for the new mommy soul! Plus, no one likes to smell bad. It will bring you down. Have someone on hand to tend to your baby during this period of time. I used to try to sneak into the shower when Tiny was asleep but sure enough, as soon as I got shampoo on my head, Tiny would wake up screaming. Newborns are really amazing like that! They know when mama has left the vicinity to take care of personal hygiene. (Side note – during these first few weeks, it is OK if you do not brush your teeth as much as usual. They will not rot and fall out. Your breath might stink but that might be a good deterrent to anyone trying to sneak your baby out of your loving arms.)
Having said all of that, you will need help from your support system. Hopefully you have put one in place before baby’s arrival. For the first two or three weeks I suggest the following:
· Have your family and friends prepare complete, ready to bake dinners for you. Let them know of your food preferences in advance. If you have 14 days of dinners lined up, you will be eternally grateful. Trust me. You will not be in any position to try to cook a wholesome meal. Your husband/partner/etc… won’t be either.
· Have someone available to do last minute grocery shopping for you during that first week. You and your partner should be home together with the baby. Let someone else do your running around for that first week (or more).
· Have a team in place for general household chores. Ask family and friends to commit to one day during those first two or three weeks where they can come over and vacuum, take out trash, run a load of laundry, etc…
· If you have pets, have one or two people that your animal(s) is familiar with come over and spend some time with them. Seriously. Your pets will be very neglected those first few weeks and this can help circumvent some jealousy.
· Have a friend of two that you can call when new mommy emotions kick in. You will undoubtedly feel overwhelmed, frustrated, confused, sad, and a whole host of other emotions at some point during those first few weeks. You need to talk to another mommy who understands. Husbands, as well meaning as they might be, do not really get it. They try, oh yes they try, but their support is not as beneficial to you as another mama’s. Find someone who has been in the trenches and can talk you through your crazy emotional rollercoaster.
Keep in mind, if you have a cesarean section and your significant other is NOT available 24-7 for the first 4-6 weeks, you will need some extra help. You will not be able to drive and moving around will be a little (or a lot) challenging. Hopefully your own mother is available to take care of her baby (you) while you take care of yours.
Just a few thoughts as I remember my first few weeks of new mommy bliss.