Guest Post By Genevieve Kane, MSN, RN
Whether you are currently expecting or it's the baby's first week home, you likely have questions about your first week home with a newborn. Maybe you’ve spent months preparing for your baby. However, nothing quite prepares you for that moment when you and your new baby head home.
Or perhaps you recently became the proud parent of a surrogate baby, adopted a baby, are fostering a newborn, or have a little one in the NICU. This newborn baby guide to your baby’s first week home is for you, too!
So regardless of how you just became a parent or caregiver, we recognize the first week home with a newborn can be exhausting. So, here are five newborn tips to help you during your baby’s first week at home.
Recognize Babies Sleep a Lot
Newborn babies require a lot of sleep. According to Nemours KidsHealth, a newborn will sleep approximately 16 hours in 24 hours. However, unlike adults, sleep is typically not in long stretches.
Instead, your new baby will sleep in short stretches and only be awake for a little while in between. Because of this, it is easy for newborns to get overtired and cranky quickly! Fortunately, newborns usually give several clues that they are tired.
Stanford Medicine Children’s Health lists several sleepy cues. These include:
- Rubbing their eyes
- Avoiding eye contact or looking away
If you notice these sleepy cues or signs in your newborn, they likely need a nap.
If your new baby is screaming, and you find it unbearable, it is ok to place the baby down in a safe place. Examples of a safe place include a play yard designed for an infant or their crib Every new parent experiences a moment where they just need to breathe. This is a great time to call a friend or eat a snack.
Ideally, you would ensure the baby isn’t crying because of a need such as hunger or a dirty diaper. However, setting your baby down in a safe place and then taking a moment to yourself is absolutely ok.
Practice Safe Sleep
Frequent naps and snuggles are essential for a newborn. And when the baby sleeps, it is crucial to practice safe sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) explains that safe sleep means:
- Put your baby to sleep on their back for all naps and at night.
- Place babies on a flat, firm surface for sleep.
- Avoid bedsharing, but DO share a room with your baby with them. They should sleep in their own safe sleep environment (i.e., crib, infant play yard, or bassinet).
- Have the baby sleep alone with nothing else in their sleep environment (i.e., no blankets, stuffed animals, or toys).
- Ensure your baby’s sleep environment is at the right temperature and avoid them getting too hot.
- Consider offering a pacifier at naps and bedtime.
Contact naps will likely happen. Just make sure that if you notice yourself feeling drowsy, you place your baby in a safe sleep environment for the rest of their nap. A couch or recliner is not a safe place to fall asleep with a baby.
Ask Your Partner for What You Need
If you have just given birth and this is your first baby, this is probably a new experience for you and your partner or support person.
So, it is crucial to ask for what you need. For example, if you are a new mom who is breastfeeding or pumping, you will likely feel more hungry and thirsty than you have ever felt. While your partner can’t feed the baby in this situation, they can help by bringing you water or a plate of your favorite snacks.
Or, maybe you can delegate the baby’s bath to your support person so you can take a quick nap or shower. They likely want to help—especially if you recently gave birth. Clear communication allows them to help during your baby’s first week at home and beyond.
Seek Mental Health Support Before Your Six Week Appointment if Needed
Know that your hormones go through a massive shift after you give birth. It is normal to feel happy one minute and be in tears the next. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 in 8 women experience symptoms of postpartum depression (PPD). There is also a more severe condition known as postpartum psychosis.
While you should be screened for PPD at your standard 6-week check-up, don’t wait this long if you are struggling. Options for help are available, and your healthcare provider can advise you on the next best steps.
It’s Ok to Say No
Having a newborn is exhausting. As wonderful as they are, some new babies cry a lot. Others never seem to sleep for any length of time overnight. It can be overwhelming, especially during the first week at home with a newborn.
You might have several friends and family members excited to come over and meet your baby during your baby’s first week at home. It is ok to say no to visitors. It is also ok to cancel at the last minute if you need to.
Ideally, you have a supportive partner who can help let friends and family know when is a good time to visit. And if you do have to cancel or say no to someone, setting a date (even if it is a couple of weeks away) can help soften the news if you need to rest.
For friends and family who want to help without coming over, there are several ways they can offer support during the baby's first week at home. Ideas include:
- Having groceries delivered to your home
- Shipping diapers or other baby essentials
- Having DoorDash or another similar service drop off dinner
- Paying for a housecleaner to come at a day/time you choose
- If you have older children, see if a friend or family member can pick up your older kids for a day or two
Any mama who has recently given birth or brought home a new baby needs to prioritize their own needs so they can take care of their newborn.
Looking for more newborn tips on your first week home with a newborn? You’ll find these helpful:
- How To Survive A Sleep Regression: What Every Parent Should Know
- Top 10 Health & Wellness Essentials For Your Baby Registry
- Hilarious Parenting Tweets That Will Make You LOL
- Productivity Hacks For Work At Home Moms With A New Baby
- 10 Parenting Podcasts To Help You Kick Off The New Year
Bonus Newborn Tips for Peace of Mind
While we’ve listed five main newborn tips to help you during your first week at home with your newborn, here are a few bonus newborn tips to help with your baby’s first week at home:
- Place your child’s healthcare provider’s number on the fridge and in your phone so it’s easy to find if you need to call.
- Also, place the number of a 24/7 nurse line (often through insurance, a local children’s hospital, or your child’s healthcare provider’s office) on the fridge and in your phone.
- Have the number of a lactation consultant on the fridge and in your phone if nursing or pumping.
- Know which emergency department or urgent care you’d take your baby too if it is after hours.
- Put together a rolling cart of essentials for you and baby (snacks, a bottle of water, diapers, wipes, an extra change of clothes for baby, an extra shirt for you, etc.). Place one on each floor if you have a house with multiple stories.
- Put together a first aid kit for the baby. Include helpful items such as the NozeBot for when the baby gets the inevitable first cold, infant acetaminophen (known as Infant TylenolⓇ), and a butt paste for diaper rashes.
- Schedule the next well-baby visit before you leave your healthcare provider’s office. Put it in a shared calendar with your support person.
We hope this newborn guide to baby’s first week at home helps you feel more prepared during your first week at home with your newborn. Becoming a new parent is exhausting; no matter how much you read or listen to information, questions will inevitably arise.
Your child’s healthcare provider is an excellent source of information to lean on when you have medical questions. Several hospitals, midwifery groups, libraries, and community centers also often have new mom groups. These are great places to get much-needed support from parents and caregivers who are living the newborn phase alongside you.
And most importantly, we hope you get lots of wonderful newborn snuggles in during your baby’s first week home!
Genevieve Kane, MSN, RN, is a mother of four and a registered nurse with a background in pediatrics. When she's not working, you can find her cooking up tasty family dinners or keeping up with her kids on a hiking trail in her home state of Colorado.
A clear nose means better sleep.
The Nozebot is a battery-powered suction device designed to clear nasal congestion in babies and children.