No matter how many moms you talk to before you give birth, you won't truly know what the first few weeks of motherhood really are like until you go through them. Sure, you know you will need standard supplies for Baby, like diapers, burp rags and bodysuits, but what about you? What will you need to survive the 24-hour grind of regular feedings, endless diaper changes and lack of sleep? We have compiled a list of what we think are mommy must-dos and must-haves for the first few weeks of motherhood.
Before Baby Arrives
Make meals ahead of time and freeze them, so you can easily pull them out and heat them when you're hungry. Lasagna, chili or casseroles freeze really well. You don't have to cook for hours. Just make a double batch of whatever you happen to be cooking and put half of it away for a future meal. It's also a good idea to make sure your pantry is well-stocked with simple things you can make if all of a sudden your days become nights and nights become days because baby doesn't sleep. Great things to have on hand, especially when you're sleep-deprived, are dried pasta, soup, cereal and crackers.
Before having a baby, if you need anything like food, clothing or toiletries, you can just run to the store whenever you feel like it to restock. Not anymore! After baby arrives, if you want to go out, you need to take the baby with you. Because it's silly to spend a half hour or more getting a baby dressed and stocking the diaper bag just to buy one thing from the store, it's a really good idea to stock up on items you may need. Here are some things you will not want to run out of:
- Formula and bottles: Obviously you'll need formula if you're not nursing, but you may need it to supplement even if you are.
- Diapers: You're going to go through 8 to 12 per day at first.
- Wipes: Because something always needs wiped!
- Household paper products, like paper towels, tissues and toilet paper: Again, because something always needs to be wiped.
- Laundry detergent: You'll be doing A LOT of laundry.
- Extra crib or bassinet sheets and blankets: So you can stretch out time between laundry loads.
- Baby bodysuits or one-piece outfits: They are the easiest to open and close through all those diaper changes.
- Acetaminophen: It helps with the aches and pains of recovery, and it's safe to take while nursing.
- Heavy-duty feminine napkins: This is not a fun topic, but trust us, you will need a supply that will last several weeks.
- Stain remover: To keep baby's spit-up marks from turning all your clothes into a polka-dot theme.
- Nursing pads: Your breasts will likely leak a bit between feedings, especially if it's close to feeding time and you hear a crying baby! Even if you're not nursing, your body will still produce milk for your little one at first and your supply will take a while to dry up.
- Stool softener: Even though you'll be leaking elsewhere, the one place you will want to may elude you. Be aware that some pain medications can make this problem worse. Ask your doctor which stool softeners are safe to take while nursing, and for heaven's sake, listen to the nurse when she tells you not to push when you go to the bathroom. You don't want to deal with hemorrhoids on top of everything else!
- Antibiotic cream, like Neosporin: This helps with healing, especially if you have a C-section. It works wonders healing the incision.
- Protein or meal bars: These are good for easy snacking because some days you'll even be too tired to consume the frozen meals you prepped ahead of time.
- Mouthwash: You may not have the time or energy to brush the protein bar breath away.
- Cotton swabs: These work to snag the ever-elusive baby booger that hides just out of reach of your adult-sized hands. Just be careful not to stick it too far in.
- Two kinds of diaper-rash ointments: Regular diaper-rash ointments work well for daily diaper changings, but when the diaper rash overpowers them, stronger ointments, such as Triple Paste, work shockingly fast to clear up Baby's bum. Sometimes even overnight!
- Antibacterial gel: You'll learn quickly that not every public place has a changing station, and you will have to change diapers in weird places without areas to wash your hands right away.
When Baby Gets Home
The reality is newborns eat every 3 to 4 hours, and delegating some feedings can give you some uninterrupted rest. Granted, this is easier if you're using formula. Whoever happens to be around, Dad or a visiting relative, can feed the baby while you do something else (most likely sleep!). If you're nursing, you can pump some breast milk into a bottle or save it for later by freezing it, although experts advise waiting a few weeks while mom and baby are getting into the rhythm of breastfeeding before introducing a bottle to avoid nipple confusion and to encourage milk production. Nursing moms may find that it's simplest to nurse rather than pump—the milk is always ready and always at the right temperature, with no stressful pumping or bottles to wash—and others can pitch in in other ways.
Ask for help when you need it
In a perfect world, every mom would have a baby nurse waiting for her when she came home from the hospital. The reality is, most of us are on our own with a new baby, especially if Dad has to go back to work right away. If you feel overwhelmed caring for a newborn, reach out to a friend or relative for help. If you're feeling particularly sleep-deprived or can't remember the last time you bathed, taking a break to take a nap or a shower should help even the most nervous new mom relax so she can savor her time with her little one.