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All the parenting books and classes in the world cannot fully prepare new parents for that whirlwind first week at home with their newborn. Once you arrive and place your precious baby down, panic may start to creep in as you realise that you’re now fully responsible for this human being and no longer have a professional team of nurses and paediatricians to step in. It’s normal to be overwhelmed at first, and you will experience a mixture of  feelings from nervousness, confusion, anxiety, fear, laughter and joy. You’ve got some hard work ahead in what will seem like the longest week of your life, but the trick is to lower the expectations on yourself and trust that your instinct for parenthood *will* kick in. Here are some essential tips to survive week 1.

Recovery from birth

Regardless of the birthing method (vaginal or c-section), there is no such thing as an ‘easy labour’. Childbirth is a trauma on every woman’s body and you will be feeling the physical and psychological impacts for at least several weeks. This is especially the case for mothers who have endured a more traumatic labour or one that didn’t go the way they wanted/planned. In addition to nappies for your baby, ensure that sanitary pads make it onto your shopping list for postpartum bleeding.

Alongside physical pain, your hormones are in overdrive, so expect your first week to be an emotional rollercoaster – perhaps even more so than when you were pregnant. You may even get the ‘baby blues’ as your hormones stabilise and the enormity of parenthood sinks in.

Mums are troopers and your instinct will be to keep moving as ‘baby comes first’, but you must also take care of yourself and let your body heal. Don’t be afraid to share responsibilities with your partner and practice a little self care! It might be as simple as prioritising a shower first thing in the morning which makes the world of difference in giving you the strength to face the day.


Despite how natural it may seem, breastfeeding is a challenge for the majority of mothers. It will take some time for you and your baby to develop the techniques for successful latching, and it’s normal to feel discouraged along the way. That being said, getting the hang of it during this first week is crucial in nourishing your baby and establishing a healthy relationship with breastfeeding. Newborns will want to feed a lot – generally 8 to 12 breastfeeds in a 24-hour period – so you’ll get plenty of practice.

Many new mums worry they won’t produce enough milk to nourish their baby, but this is not the case. Within 72 hours of birth, you will notice your breasts have become fuller; filled with a sufficient milk supply that will be ‘topped up’ after every feed. Don’t be so concerned with a feeding schedule at this stage – your baby will instinctively tell you when they need a feed by crying, moving hands or fists to their mouth, making sucking motions, smacking their lips together and/or nuzzling against you in search for your breast.

If problems breastfeeding persist after the first few days, or you’d like assistance from the get-go, reach out for help. A doula or lactation consultant can visit you at home for the first couple of days to ensure things are progressing.

Deciphering his/her cries

Babies can cry for 2-3 hours out of every day, and this first week will be your crash course in decoding what each of those cries mean until you get a feel for what they need. It’s understandable that you will want to soothe them immediately, but give yourself time; babies are quite resilient and can cry for a little while without any harm. Parents’ sleep deprivation from such cries will also hit hard, but soon enough you will learn to distinguish the ‘I’m hungry’ cry, from the ‘I’m tired’ cry, to the ‘I need a nappy change’ cry. In addition to those ‘basic needs’ cries where your first port of call is to offer a feed, a sleep, or a nappy change, expect that your baby will also get bored or just plain fussy.

In such cases, try these techniques:

  • Soothe with white noise
  • Sing a song/play music
  • Try a gentle massage
  • Rock in a chair or glider
  • Walk with them in a front pack carrier
  • Entertain them with visual stimulation

Bonding with your baby

Cuddle time with your baby is magical, and certainly the most enjoyable part of the first week home. It makes all the soiled nappies, feeding complications, and crying worth it, and will cement a lifelong bond between you. Physical contact is essential for a newborn’s development, and will help them settle into their new environment. Remember that your baby has just undergone a massive upheaval by leaving the warmth and comfort of the mother’s womb, so you should mimic those conditions as much as possible.

Do this through plenty of skin to skin contact and by placing them on your chest, so they can hear the familiar reverberations of your heartbeat. Swaddling is another way to recreate the feeling of the womb and will help soothe them. Spend time talking and singing to them so they can learn the tone of your voice. This is also a wonderful opportunity for fathers to get that 1 on 1 connection to catch up with mum, and give her a much needed break.

Equipping your home

While there are many things you can’t prepare for in the newborn journey, there are certainly some things you can. It’s going to be a lot easier to cater to baby’s demands if you have everything you need at your fingertips, and don’t forget things to keep mum (and dad) comfortable too!

  • Create baby supply stations: Don’t just stockpile baby supplies in the bedroom. You’ll want to strategically store some nappies, baby wipes and odour-neutralising nappy bags in multiple rooms, so that when there’s a nappy changing emergency you don’t need to traipse back and forth to the bedroom.
  • Pre-prepared meals: Forget about cooking any elaborate meals (or even basic ones) as you simply won’t have the energy. Pre-cook big batches of food (soups, casseroles) and freeze them for later use. Being able to reach into the freezer and heat up a meal within 5 minutes in the microwave will be a lifesaver .
  • Pillows and snacks for feeding: Newborns alternate between long or short feeds, with a single breastfeeding session ranging anywhere from 10 minutes to 45 minutes, so mum will want to have pillows, bottles of water and snacks on hand by her favourite chair.

Asking for help

There’s no shame in asking for or accepting the help of friends and family. Focus on your baby’s immediate needs and learn to rely on others (your partner/family friends) to handle the rest. Forget doing housework and laundry for the first week – it won’t negatively impact your baby in any way. If the state of the house is really getting you down, family are usually more than happy to assist.

If you find you need more baby-related help, professional help is always available, so don’t suffer in silence – particularly if you live far away from extended family and have a limited support network. Be sure to check your hospital’s postnatal services before you get discharged, as they can usually organise a midwife to visit during the first couple of weeks.

This article is designed for general information only. We recommend seeking professional advice regarding your newborn’s individual needs.

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