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The Beginners Guide To Babies: The First Day Home
Bringing home baby
My first baby
When I delivered my oldest daughter, I had just turned 18. I was young and naive. I was pregnant during my senior year of high school, and while I enjoyed "playing house" with my new husband, I had no idea what it meant to be a mom to a baby.
After I delivered my daughter and rested in the hospital, it was time to head home. The nurse bundled her up, and helped me into the wheelchair. I looked at the nurse, confused.
"What am I supposed to do now?" I asked, my voice taking on an edge of panic.
"Well, you'll take her home and get to know her."
"But I'm only 18. I can't take care of a baby. What am I supposed to do with it?"
The nurse smiled gently. "You'll be fine. You'll figure it out as you go."
I tried not to get hysterical, but a sob escaped my throat. "You can't just send me home. What if something happens? It's irresponsible to let me take a baby home."
As we talked, she slowly wheeled me out to the car, where my husband waited to take us home, and away from the help I so desperately needed.
The nurse was correct, over the long run. I figured out what to do, and pretended my way through the rest of it. Now, 30 years later, taking a new baby home really isn't any easier or less daunting.
Bringing home baby
Baby finally arrives
You've waited nine long months. 40 weeks. Seen the pictures from the sonogram. Felt him kicking you at all hours. Experienced false labor. Experienced real labor. Suffered through the delivery. Recovered for a day at the hospital. The pregnancy and delivery has been a roller-coaster ride, to say the least. And now, you have the pleasure and responsibility of taking care of a brand new human being. One that you created.
Every time you look, you can't believe the little guy is finally here. After all the waiting, worrying, hoping, praying, your new baby has finally arrived. The nurse cruises into your room with a wheelchair, and you realize with a twinge of fear in your gut that its time to head home.
You see that wheelchair and you think, "I don't need a wheelchair. I'm young. I can walk myself out of the hospital." But as you stand, you become a little lightheaded. Your body feels slightly different and off balance. Things don't feel like they did just two days ago, and now, you don't feel quite steady on your feet.
And then there's the baby. You look at him lovingly, as he lays sleeping in the plastic hospital bassinet. He's sound asleep, his beautiful lips puckered. His little hands make tiny fists, and he is wrapped firmly in a receiving blanket. He looks so peaceful. He's going to need to come with you, from the safe confines of the hospital, out into the world. You decide that perhaps a wheelchair ride would be the perfect transition from the sanctuary of the hospital room to the chaos of reality.
As the nurse pushes you through the brightly lit echoing corridors of the hospital, you hold your new baby close. Your husband walks beside you, a nervous new dad. He has no idea. If he did, he would run from the building and never look back. Instead, oblivious, he walks beside you, carrying flowers, the overnight bag, balloons. You reflect on the past couple of days. What a whirlwind. So busy that you really haven't had a spare moment to think.
What surprises lie ahead, as you bring your beautiful baby home with you?
Bringing baby home
Help for nursing moms
Still leaving the hospital
By now, the labor and delivery float like wisps of fog on your memory. You know it hurt. But did it really hurt that much? You wonder, as you peer into your sleeping infant's beautiful face, if it was as painful as you remember. And as you look closely at that beautiful face, you see a few blotches and marks.
Of course your baby is beautiful to you. He's a little splotchy. His skin is drier than you would have guessed. There are little pimples on his nose. That umbilical thing is gross. The baby's head is a little misshapen, fortunately, they covered his cone head with a hat. The nurses have assured you that your baby is perfectly normal, the skin will clear up in a few days, and then his inherent beauty will be evident to the rest of the world.
You think about coming here, just two days ago, a lifetime ago. Your entire lives have changed, in just two days. Two people came in. Three people are heading home. You came in wearing maternity clothes.
Optimistically, you packed a pair of your fat jeans, knowing that as soon as the baby was delivered, you would be back into them. You leave wearing maternity clothes. The jeans came up over your hips, but you were horrified to realize that your stomach is still huge. Your breasts were larger than normal when you came into the hospital to deliver. Now, they are monstrous. They don't really resemble breasts. Engorged melons is more like it. Your husband has yet to see these massive appendages.
As you get closer to the door, your body is wracked with cramps. They are painful, almost as much as contractions. You gasp with pain, startling the baby, who begins to cry. At first quietly, as it turns it head into your chest, then more desperately as its seeking mouth discovers the rough cloth of your sweater. It continues suckling, gasping and crying. Your husband stops in his tracks, looks at you, questioning. Unsure of yourself, you try to uncover your bosom under your shirt, stuff the baby's head under there, and hope that it latches on. In all the commotion, your other breast has emerged from under your shirt, while baby angrily searches for food, it's cries becoming louder.
You look at the nurse, desperate for help, afraid. Knowingly, she wheels the chair into a small, private waiting room, where you reassemble your dignity and modesty. Baffled, your man sprints to the parking lot to retrieve the car.
Unfortunately, in your moment of panic, your new baby has sensed your anxiety and is now wailing the distinct wail of a newborn. It is loud. It is shrill. It seems incessant. Finally, the little guy latches on and in a few moments, the content sound a suckling has replaced the crying.
While your baby nurses, you realize that your other breast has begun leaking milk all over your clothes. You now have a huge wet patch on your shirt and pants, from the dripping. You try to shift him over to the other side, but he grows agitated and begins to cry again, and you wonder if you really are cut out for nursing an infant.
Finally, he's eaten nearly an equal amount from both sides, and you are feeling better about taking him home. The baby has dozed off, and you lift him to your shoulder to begin the burping process. A few pats later, and he's burped loudly and nestled into your neck to finish his nap.
Thankfully, the nurse has given you some privacy, and you sit in the uncomfortable wheelchair, hoping that your husband or someone will wander by and give you a hand out to the car.
Getting baby home safely
The first day home
While you finish feeding, the nurse is helping your husband adjust the new car seat, then she arranges the flowers and bags in the trunk. The nurse finally returns and wheels you to the door, and you panic as you realize that you will soon be home. Alone. With a new baby.
That first day home is a daunting one. Even when you have the help of a kind mother, mother-in-law, sister, or friend, it is still an overwhelming task. You will still be home with a complete stranger. And, at some point, your husband must return to work, your mom has to go home, and your friends leave. Then it will be you and your baby, home alone and trying to figure out the world.
Newborn babies sleep a lot. They will even sleep through the night, for the first few nights, or even up to a week. The trip through the birth canal is traumatizing for both of you. Baby will want to sleep all day, eat, then sleep all night. These days are fleeting. Use them to get as much sleep as you can. Chances are, your baby will sleep between four and eight hours at a time. This would be a good time for you to rest and recuperate. Don't make the mistake of trying to get all the housework done while your new baby sleeps. You will need the rest later. If possible, try to arrange for your visitors and helpers to come after the second week. The real work begins then, and you will be thankful for all the help you can get.
What does baby need?
Changing lots of diapers
Newborn babies need lots of diapers. Each time your baby wakes, plan on changing a diaper. After baby eats, plan on changing another diaper. It is helpful to have small wipes with rubbing alcohol nearby, to treat the umbilical cord.
In addition, If you have a circumcised son, Vaseline works well to soothe the wound.
Changing a newborn baby can be surprising. Besides the belly button and the circumcision, there are the strange bowel movements. The first few bowel movements are dark black to dark green, sticky and smelly. This is the digested amniotic fluid, and is perfectly normal. It is called meconium. After a day or so, the bowel movements of breast fed babies resembles thick mustard. The spicy kind.
It is thick, yellow and not that fun to look at. Be sure to keep gentle wipes near your diaper stand, to clean your baby's delicate skin.
Babies must be changed regularly and kept dry. Their skin is extremely sensitive and urine can burn their delicate skin. Fortunately, most disposable diapers do a good job of keeping baby relatively dry. Just be sure to change your newborn frequently to help prevent rashes and irritation.
At first you feel great
Your first few days home, you will be tired, but excited. You'll be glad to be home and safe, and you'll feel ready to start life as a family.
You may feel so energized that you want to clean closets, change sheets, make dinner, then do an exercise video. Stop. Rest. You will have the rest of your life to paint, clean, exercise and bake. Right now, your body needs rest.
After a woman has spent nine months pregnant, she is ready to go, once the baby comes. The last six to eight weeks of pregnancy typically leave a woman feeling tired, drained and exhausted, not only from the growing baby, but also from the anticipation of delivery. Once that is finally over, women are often filled with energy and enthusiasm.
This energy and enthusiasm, unfortunately is short lived. By your second or third day home, you may begin to feel weepy, exhausted, overwhelmed and fearful. This is perfectly normal. Your body is moving an amazing amount of hormones through, and you will feel like you are on an emotional roller coaster. While it is unsettling, it is normal.
Rather than try to be superwoman and do everything yourself, enlist the help of family members and guests to help hold the baby, change him and get him dressed. You will have plenty of time to enjoy you little one. If you are not breastfeeding, you can have others help you with the feeding. If you are breastfeeding, it is a perfect time to lay down and get some rest.
You will feel achy for about ten more days. The pains of labor will continue. If you are breastfeeding, you will feel contractions while nursing. Make sure to keep plenty of sanitary pads on hand because the amount of blood you have yet to lose is astonishing.
What is Colostrum?
Colostrum is produced by the body during pregnancy and for a few days after delivery. It is a special milk that is yellow to orange in color, thick and sticky. Colostrum is low in fat, high in carbohydrates, protein and antibodies.
Colostrum is easy to digest and full of necessary nutrients for your newborn. It also helps the baby's digestive system because it has a laxative effect, making bowel movements easier in the first days.
After about two weeks, the colostrum production shifts and the body begins producing milk.
The Great Milk Let Down
Be sure to drink lots of water. Whether you choose to breast or bottle feed, your body produces milk. The first few days after your delivery, and perhaps even up to a month before your delivery, your body produces colostrum. Even if you choose not to breastfeed, you might consider trying it for a couple of days. The colostrum is packed with vitamins and antibodies that will make your baby stronger. It will boost your new born's immune system to have the colostrum, even if you don't choose to continue breastfeeding.
After two or three days, expect a sudden feeling of being full, as your breast milk lets down. It is a mildly painful, curious sensation. If you are bottle feeding, the next few days will be torturous. Each time the baby cries, your milk lets down. When you nurse, your body continues producing milk. If you are bottle feeding, your milk will dry up in a few days, to a week.
These are painful days. To relieve the discomfort of engorgement, try placing warm washcloths on your skin. This may offer some relief. If you can't take it, and nurse your baby, you will continue producing milk.
Breastfeeding social experiment
Swaddling a newborn
Newborn babies sometimes flail and cry uncontrollably. The best solution is to swaddle them. This procedure effectively calms your infant, as it feels insecure and unsafe in the bright, open world. To swaddle an infant, begin with a receiving blanket. They are rectangle shaped, usually. Depending on the size of your new baby, fold one edge until it is a square. Now, turn the square to resemble a diamond shape. Gently place baby's head at the top corner of the diamond. For newborn babies, they often fit quite comfortably within the size of the blanket. Bring the bottom edge up to baby's belly. Tightly fold one side over, then the other side. Now, repeat this same procedure with at least one more blanket. The more tightly wrapped, the more secure he will feel. He will rest more soundly and be easier to carry around. Even in the summer, it is crucial for the comfort of your newborn to be tightly wrapped. This is effective for at least the first three months.
My first child was born in June. By July, I had returned to working out in the gym, dragging her along. I was just eighteen, and had no idea about babies. It was hot outside, so I dressed her in a cute little summer outfit. As I tried to workout, she cried and cried. Frustrated, I would try to feed her. I checked her diaper. Finally I decided to let her cry. There were only a couple of people besides myself at the gym, and I didn't figure my newborn wailing would bother anyone.
A kind older friend approached, and suggested I swaddle my daughter. I had no idea what she was talking about, so she demonstrated. It worked like magic. My warm, secure daughter fell asleep immediately. She seemed much more content after that, as I kept her tightly wrapped. While swaddling doesn't alleviate all infant crying, it reduces it, and helps keep baby much calmer.
In summary: Remember to take care of yourself. On your first day home, REST. Have plenty of sanitary napkins. More than you think you will ever use. Take metamucil or any other over-the-counter stool softener. You'll be glad you did. REST. Drink lots and lots of water. Plan on having contractions for at least another few days, as your uterus returns to it's previous size. REST. Don't panic, and enjoy your new baby.
Now that you are home, and taking care of your new baby, try to remember to take care of yourself. You will have a lot of time to be a parent, because it's a job that never ends. If you don't take care of yourself, you won't be fit to take care of anyone else, not even an infant.
On your first day home, REST. Take every possible opportunity to rest. When the baby naps, you nap. While the baby is eating, take a moment to sit and be still. Allow yourself time to rest and heal.
Have plenty of sanitary napkins. More than you think you will ever use. Your body is shedding the womb that nurtured your baby for nine months. There is a lot of tissue and blood to shed. It is perfectly natural to bleed for several weeks after delivery. You can also plan to have numerous painful contractions in the first week after delivery, as your uterus shrinks back to its normal, pre-baby size. Again, this is a perfectly normal process.
Take metamucil or any other over-the-counter stool softener. You'll be glad you did. After the trauma of labor and delivery, it will take some time to get your body back to normal. Be gentle and kind with yourself.
Drink lots and lots of water. Water will keep you hydrated and help you with milk production, bowel movements, and returning your body back to its normal state.
Don't panic, and enjoy your new baby. The time will fly by.