From a midwife: 30 tips to surviving the first 30 days with a newborn
By now, I'm sure you've heard all about how tricky it can be in the early days of the newborn bubble; sleep deprivation, recovery from birth and a new little love who needs a lot of attention. Minutes, hours and days roll into one and fly on by. I've learnt, both by doing home visits for new mamas as a Midwife and by having three bubs myself, some tips and tricks that make a big difference in the early days. I'm going to share those with you now as the third instalment of What a Midwife wants you to know: 30 tips + tricks for surviving the first 30 days with a newborn.
1. Have a postpartum plan
Many mamas + papa-bears get so caught up in planning for labour + birth that they forget to plan for once bub is at home, which is when support is usually needed most. So make a plan for things like,
- Who will do the night feeds if formula feeding?
- If breastfeeding, will a mama feed then pass to the support person to settle, or do both?
- What's your joint stance on visitors after birth?
- What are your thoughts on visitors needing or not needing the whooping cough vax?
2. Newborn nappies double as excellent boob ice packs
When your milk comes in, your chest might feel warm [note: this is different from hot that can happen in mastitis infections]. Open a newborn nappy up, pour in a small amount of water, let it soak in and naturally mould into a 'C' shape. Put it in the freezer, and bring it out when needed. It's the perfect shape to mould around your boobs and will absorb any milk leakage.
3. Stock up on extra groceries before bub arrives
Trust me when I say the last thing you feel like doing once bub goes to sleep at night is rushing to Coles because you used the last of your maternity pads, or there's no more toilet paper. Having extras of those essentials already on hand can make your life so much easier after birth.
4. Zippies are life; buttons are not
I know the button-up or clip-up onesies are really cute, but when you're having to do them up seven times a night, they're suddenly not so cute. Having onesies that zip up and down from the top and bottom make night changing so much easier, especially if it's cold and you only need to change bubs nappy instead of the whole suit.
5. Educate yourself + your support person
I know this one sounds cliché, but being educated on what to expect before, during and after birth is truly so important. Once you've done that, educate yourself on baby + child first aid. You never know when you'll need it, and if that day ever comes along, whether bub is five days, five months or five years old, you'll thank yourself for being able to step up and save your precious tiny heart if the worst was ever to happen. Plus, knowing what is and isn't normal after birth can make a huge difference to your postpartum experience.
6. Spares are super
If your bub is anything like mine, they might spew or poo on you right before an appointment, after you've already left the house. So, when you pack spare nappies, wipes and clothes for bub, throw a spare set of clothes in the nappy bag for you too.
7. Meal prep
One of the things I appreciated most after birth was the pre-made frozen meals. I could pull one out in the morning and heat it up for dinner. It was nutritious, delicious and required minimal effort when my brain fog was at an all-time high. It's also really easy to fall into the trap of meeting all of bubs needs while forgetting to look after yourself, so anything that keeps you well postpartum is a good thing.
8. Make some padsicles
Add 2 tbsp of water with 2 tbsp of witch hazel, 1 tbsp of aloe vera gel and a few drops of lavender essential oils into a small bowl and mix. Apply the solution onto a maternity pad and freeze until needed. Have a few on hand ready to go for when you get home. They're great for pain relief for sore bottoms + stitches after birth.
9. Get a night light
Having a nightlight in your room will help you see what you're doing when changing nappies, wrapping bub or feeding overnight while still keeping the room mostly dark. Dark rooms promote sleep, so keeping the room as dimly lit as you can may help keep bub settled overnight.
10. Skin to skin
Bonding. Improved breastfeeding rates. Newborn temperature regulation. Newborn breathing regulation. A calmer mama and bub. These are all things that skin to skin does. If you get home, and you're having trouble breastfeeding, bub is unsettled, you're overwhelmed, or they're crying, take it all back to basics with skin to skin and watch the magic happen.
11. Have an underarm thermometer on hand
I often get asked which thermometer is most accurate for newborns. A rectal temperature is most accurate, however, on the maternity ward, we measure a newborn's temperature with an underarm thermometer, so it's fine for you to do the same at home. It's important to have a thermometer on hand because any temp of 38 degrees or above in a bub under three months is NOT NORMAL and needs medical attention.
12. Cotton buds are fab for cleaning around bub's umbilical cord
Cotton buds are great for cleaning around bub's umbilical cord. They're cheap, disposable, a good size to fit in bub's little skin folds and can wash or dry the area.
13. Never underestimate the power of warm water
Tiny Hearts has shared this one many times, but it also works for newborns. If you've fed, changed, burped and tried putting bub to sleep but they're still unsettled, putting them in a warm bath or shower might just do the trick. Also, getting in a hot shower before expressing/feeding will open up your milk ducts and may help you get more milk out.
14. Prepare for pain
This one isn't to say that you'll have pain when you come home. Many mamas come home from the hospital feeling good. But there's no way to know who will experience that and who will come home sore. So, it's a good idea to have things at home that can help manage your pain if it does sneak up on you, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, heat packs, peri-ice packs, nipple cream and your favourite self-care items.
15. Take time off work [if you can]
This one relates more to partners + support people. Take some time off work, even if it's just a week or two, if you can. No matter how strong they are, every mama needs support and love after birth.
16. Blanket rules: no sick visitors, wash your hands + don't kiss my baby
Newborns don't have the same immune system that older kids or even adults do. What might present as something as simple as a common cold in an adult could be life-threatening to a newborn. Having these blanket rules in place helps protect bub from becoming unwell by avoiding exposure to illnesses by banning sick visitors, having guests wash their hands before handling bub or bub's things, and asking people not to kiss your little one, regardless of who they are. Our newborns are too precious, and it's just not worth risking it for anyone.
17. Stool softeners and Ural will be your best friend
A stool softener helps you avoid straining after birth when doing a poo, which is particularly important if you've had stitches. If you had a lot of strong pain medication in hospital, you're at an increased risk of constipation, so a stool softener can help these mamas too, regardless of if you've had a c-section or vaginal birth. Ural helps neutralise your wee, so it doesn't sting, especially if you had stitches, grazes or any type of tear during birth. As always, check with your doctor before taking any new medication.
18. Don't be afraid to say yes to help but no to visitors
You'll come to see that some loved ones who come over are absolute superstars. They'll hold bub while you have a shower, bring snacks, check in to see how you're doing, let you have a cry, remind you that you're doing a good job, and top it off by hanging out some washing. Other visitors who stop in to meet bub can make you feel more drained than before they came. If your visitor makes you feel worse, don't be afraid to say no or suggest another time to visit. And if your visitor offers you help, say yes. Everyone needs some help sometimes, mama.
19. Put an old water bottle in the toilet
You've probably seen this one on our insta before, but it's too good not to share in here. Get an old water bottle, fill it up with clean water and leave it in the bathroom. Whenever you do a wee, spray the water down over your vagina to neutralise the wee and stop it from stinging. If you're really struggling and feel up to it, you could always try to wee in the shower.
20. Babywearing is a lifesaver
Babywearing is when a bub is held on a mamas chest using a sling, wrap or baby carrier. Bub has been held, rocked and listening to your heartbeat every day for the last nine months. So when they're born, it's only natural for them to want to be close to you. If you need to get things done, have to go out for the day, or bub isn't settling, try babywearing. It's a lifesaver.
21. Fresh air and Vitamin D are good for the soul
Getting out and going for a walk can do so much to improve your mental health, particularly in the early days. Put bub in the pram or baby carrier, and get out in the fresh air. Even if you have to walk slowly, or if it's only to the end of the street and back. There's something so grounding about being outside, and gentle exercise can help your postpartum recovery [get medical clearance first].
22. Write down your red flags
Knowing what you're looking for when it comes to your postpartum recovery, as well as your newest little love, can help you identify any concerning signs + symptoms early. When you're sleep-deprived, your mind can play tricks on you, so having these red flags written somewhere will only help you. Don't leave it to chance or to guessing - write them down and identify them early.
23. Chuck a cucumber in your trolley
Every time you're at Coles, buy a cucumber. I know this sounds strange, but they're a healthy snack, great for chopping and putting on your eyes to reduce swelling from being tired, and also good to chuck into some flavoured water to keep you hydrated, particularly while feeding.
24. Rest is an essential part of recovery
I know better than to you tell you, "sleep when the baby sleeps" because sometimes it's just not possible. But resting helps you recover physically and mentally, even if it's just putting your feet up, napping for 20mins or reading a good book. To put it in perspective, it took you 40 weeks to grow this bub, so how could you possibly 'bounce back' in a matter of days? The answer: you can't. Rest, take it easy and look after yourselves, mama and papa-bear.
25. Find your tribe
Parenthood is a wild ride right from the start. Having mama pals or papa-bear mates to laugh along the way with makes a big difference. You could link in with a pregnant mamas group, who often make the best mama tribe postnatally, search on socials for some pre-existing playgroups or start some regular meetups with some mamas or papa-bears that you already know. It's important that you look after yourself, and part of that is talking about the wild ride that is parenting a newborn with people who are going through something similar too. You can laugh together, cry together, swear together, and talk about all the things you love about your newest little family member.
26. Prepare a lunchbox or snack drawer each morning
If this isn't your first bub, I strongly recommend preparing a lunch box or snack drawer in the fridge each morning for your other little ones to eat during the day. Whenever I would sit down to feed my newborn, my toddler would ask for something to eat, guaranteed. I started making a lunch box for her, which I would get out right before breastfeeding, which equalled a happy toddler, an uninterrupted feed and a much less stressed mama. If it's your first bub, you could even make the lunch box for yourself and grab it out to eat while bub has a feed too.
27. Have a 'special activities' box for older siblings
Like the last one, my toddler would always ask me to play right as I needed to feed or change bub. I'd play when I could, but sometimes, I needed to tend to bub quickly. I ended up collecting some age-appropriate toys and putting them in a box. That box would only come out when bub was feeding or needed my attention, which gave it a novelty effect. My toddler was happily playing with her special toys, and I could quickly attend to bub and be back playing with my toddler in no time.
28. Divide the chores
Setting clear expectations of who will do what and when might make things a bit smoother in terms of managing the house and other little ones. Who will take the older kids to school each day? Who will do the washing? Who's going to cook dinner?
On a very important note: please don't worry about scrubbing your house for when your Midwife visits at home. We're much more focused on you and bub than the mountain of washing or a spew rag on the lounge.
29. Have a bedside box
A bedside box is a box you keep beside your bed with wipes, nappies, spew rags, spare baby clothes, nipple cream, a water bottle, snacks and anything else you might need overnight. This will save you from searching for everything you need in the middle of the night because it's already right there next to you.
30. TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS
This one is the most important one on this whole list. You have your mama and papa-bear instincts for a reason. If your instincts are telling you something, trust them. You are the expert on your bub, know them the best and are their advocate. If you are concerned, get bub seen. If they don't hear you and you don't feel reassured, keep pushing.
Remember that once bub arrives, your plans might change, but being aware of the things that need consideration later on can make for a much smoother transition into parenthood. Like I said earlier, it's a wild ride, particularly the newborn phase, and I hope these tips help a mama and papa-bear out there. On the original post, I'd love to see your tips for surviving the first 30 days! What worked for you? If it's your first bub, what are you excited to try?