Having a baby, whether it’s your first or your third, is always a shock to the system. Try to be realistic about what needs to be done during these early weeks and be kind to yourself.
The first and most important thing to consider when figuring out your new lifestyle with your baby is what kind of mum you are – and to make sure you find a routine that suits you as a person. If you’re a laid back type then something flexible that fits around your baby’s own rhythms will more likely match your temperament. However, if you prefer a more structured type of existence a more formal, planned schedule will probably work better for you, although you will need to be flexible when it comes to feeding your baby.
If this is your first baby prepare yourself for a deluge of advice from friends, family and baby books and websites. Try not to get swamped by all the information you’ll be given. It’s really important to listen to your own instincts and to follow the routine that seems to fit with you and your baby best.
A new baby is exciting for everyone, but it’s your baby first and foremost and making sure you have time for just the two of you is vital for bonding and closeness. Keep visits from family and friends short and sweet in the first few weeks (stick to a max of one to two hours) and don’t be afraid to let guests make their own teas and coffees, or be too polite to tell them when they need to leave.
Carving out space for just the two of you can be even harder to do when you have other children and have school runs and activities to juggle; this is where family and friends can be invaluable so ask them to help out with some of these tasks.
Having a newborn gives you the perfect reason to concentrate on something other than household chores, so just do what you really need to – and make friends with online shopping. Again, if friends and family want to wash up/iron clothes/cook dinner/make lunch, then let them and don’t panic about the dust. Your focus should be on taking it as easy as you can with your newborn, so don’t spend every free minute cleaning when your baby is sleeping as you’ll exhaust yourself.
If you have other children – and they’re old enough – you could always enlist their help with some of the easier chores such as laying the table, helping with recycling and putting things away. It’s important though not to give them so much that they come to resent the new arrival.
There’s probably no one else on the planet that will be more excited about the baby than its grandparents, but make sure you set some gentle boundaries. Advice is brilliant, if it’s asked for. A tactful gran and gran-in-law should allow you to find your feet as a new mum first without stepping in and taking over. You may need to remind them tactfully that some of their baby advice might have become out of date since they had you. Also, if you’re not happy with them taking the baby out without you, especially in the first few days and weeks, just say so and direct their help to household chores or playing with older children.
A new baby’s arrival is always a tricky time for older brothers or sisters, but there are some things you can do to help them see the new baby as a friend and not a rival. Buying your child (or children) a little gift ‘from’ the baby is always popular, and briefing your partner, family and friends beforehand to make sure they share their attention with your other children can be helpful, too. If your children are old enough, helping out with the baby can make them feel involved – but don’t force the issue and when your baby sleeps take time out to play together.
If it’s your first baby, venturing out into the big wide world – especially on your own with the baby – can feel daunting. Remember that everything seems strange when you’re doing it for the first time, so it’s hardly surprising it feels tough when you add in stitches and sleep deprivation!
Practise putting your baby into the sling or a pram before you leave the house and for your first trip out don’t go very far just in case you’ve forgotten something vital. If you’re really unsure, ask your partner or a friend to go with you for extra support. Do try and make trips out regularly – despite the temptation to spend all day in your pyjamas – as getting out and about in the fresh air is good for you, and as an extra bonus will help your baby to sleep better too!