Bringing your newborn home from the hospital is exciting, but it can also be a daunting experience. Not only are you dealing with your own emotional challenges, but you are also helping your baby adjust to life outside your womb.
To make this transition easier, it may be helpful to think about the first three months of your baby’s life as the ‘fourth trimester’. A period of transformation for your newborn and a special time when you can bond with your baby. Be kind to yourself and remember that with plenty of love and support, this too shall pass.
Don’t worry about strict routines at this point, focus more on awake periods and watching for tired signs. Newborn babies do a lot of feeding and sleeping so just go with the flow as much as possible – feeding, sleeping, feeding, sleeping – with tummy time, cuddles, massages, and short walks in between. Routines will come later when your baby has longer awake periods and more consistent feeding and sleeping times.
Always do the first feed of the day in a well-lit room to signal that it’s daytime.
Some women are unable to breastfeed and for others it is a personal choice. However, it’s important to note that breast milk contains more tryptophan (an amino acid used by the body to manufacture melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate your baby’s sleep cycle) than formula. Most babies don’t start to produce melatonin until they are about three months old so breastfeeding may help your baby sleep better.
Feeding your baby to sleep at night or back to sleep during the night can be very useful in the first three months.
Keep bed times simple and fuss-free. Feed, bath (or nappy change and face wash), pyjamas, swaddle, another feed (top up), cuddle until calm and then pop down for sleep. Newborns often don’t settle until around 9pm and breastfed babies like to cluster feed in the early evening. It’s the perfect time to have lots of cuddles.
When it comes to settling your baby, a good swaddle can make all the difference. I’m a huge fan of Ergo cocoon swaddles as they are so easy to use and stop your baby’s arms from escaping. Make sure you work out what season your baby will be born in so you can buy the right TOG (thickness).
You don’t need to bath your newborn every day as it can dry out their skin. Just do it when you feel up to it.
Your baby is likely to cry more during the fourth trimester than at any other time in their life. Crying tends to peak at around 6-8 weeks but will usually ease off by the time your baby is three months old. Excessive crying doesn’t necessarily mean that anything is wrong. It’s often just a normal part of infant development. If you are worried then please seek advise from your Child Health Visitor or GP.
The help parents understand what their baby is going through, Developmental Paediatrician Ronald G. Barr coined the phrase PURPLE Crying. The term is an acronym meaning:
P–Peak of crying (your baby may cry more each week, peaking in month two, and then less in months three to five)
U–Unexpected (crying comes and goes, for no apparent reason)
R–Resists soothing (your baby may not stop crying, no matter what you try)
P–Pain-like face (crying babies may look like they are in pain, even when they are not)
L–Long-lasting (crying can last up to five hours a day, or more)
E–Evening (your baby may cry more later in the day)
The best way to ease your baby’s crying during this time is to give them a cuddle, a feed or put them in the carrier and keep them close and upright. Try not to let them get overtired or too stimulated.
Don’t read too many books or spend too much time on social media in the early days. You don’t need to feel as though you’re not doing a good job and we know social media isn’t a reflection of reality. This time is about you, your baby and your family. You can’t get those first precious months back so relax and enjoy them as much as possible.
There’s no denying that the first few months as a new mum will be challenging but there will be plenty of joyous moments in between. On days when it all seems too much, go for a walk and get some fresh air or spend a few minutes sitting in the sunshine. Simple changes can make a big difference to how you feel.
Don’t be ashamed to ask for help. Your friends and family will be happy to support you in any way they can. Ask them to cook some meals that you can freeze, pick up your groceries, help you with your cleaning, or babysit for an hour so that you have some time to yourself. I’m sure they’ll be delighted to help.
Your body and mental health
Your body goes through huge changes after giving birth. As a result, your energy, moods, and emotions can feel out of whack. Don’t try to rush the healing process. Maintain a healthy diet, get some regular exercise, and tell your loved ones if you are feeling down. This will all play an important role in restoring your physical and mental health.
Note: As most of you know, I’m more than halfway through my first pregnancy so I will have lots of tips and personal stories to share with you in the coming months!
Some great tips from other Mums
- Only plan one outing each day, a walk, a Drs visit, getting a coffee, going to the shops. Any more than that can be too much for both of you.
- Be kind to yourself. You are all your baby needs so trust your instincts, bunker down, rest, feed and snuggle because before you know it, they’re starting school!
- It’s ok to feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, stop googling and worrying about everyone’s advice.
- Don’t doubt yourself. Trust yourself and your baby. You’ve got this girl!
- Pretend you’re on a holiday of sorts. No need to be anywhere at a particular time, if you want to stay in bed then stay.
- Try to honour the slow pace at the start because things will get busy again!
- You won’t need that many clothes, you’ll be washing every day. Make meals in advance, keep yourself fed and hydrated.
- Ask for help! From anyone you can. You’ll get through it, it’s a foggy 3 months but you will pull through.