Caring for your pepi is one of the most rewarding but challenging things you’ll ever do. But it’s a 24/7 job that (for a while) can turn your home routines upside-down.
However, there are some practical strategies that can help you handle the big, new changes in your life. Here are our top tips for looking after your new baby, while you look after yourself.
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1. Focus on feeding
Most babies feed every 1-3 hours, often more in the evenings. In fact, feeding your baby can sometimes feel like a full-time job, as you both adjust to a feeding routine. Whether it’s breast or bottle feeding, make feeding your top priority.
If you’re struggling with feeding, ask for help from your midwife, Well Child nurse or a healthcare professional. You can also call the 24/7 PlunketLine on 0800 933 922 for advice and support.
If you have a friend with a baby or small child they may be able to keep you company or support you while you and your baby are learning how to breastfeed.
2. Sleep, glorious sleep
Newborn babies sleep for about 16 hours in a 24-hour period. Babies tummies are small and they will be wakeful and need feeding every few hours, even at night. During the day, try and sleep when your baby sleeps. Turn off your phone and put a note on your door saying you and your baby are sleeping.
Make sure you establish visiting rules, where you let whānau and friends know which days and times work best for a visit. Ask visitors to wash their hands before holding your baby, and to stay away if they’re not well. You could also ask them to wear a mask while visiting.
Eventually babies need to learn how to fall asleep on their own, but in the early days, try not to worry too much about getting your baby into a good sleep routine. Do whatever it takes to get your baby to sleep – rocking, soothing, white noise or anything else you find works. Once your baby is a bit older you can work on developing a sleep routine and good sleep habits, such as being put to bed awake to self-settle.
Remember: Babies under the age of 1 should always be put to sleep on their backs as this minimises the risk of Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI).
3. Playing and learning
When your baby is awake, spend time talking, cuddling and reading with them. As babies are nearsighted, get your face up close so they can see you better. While simple toys like rattles, mobiles and musical toys help to develop your baby’s senses, the most important thing is for them to hear your voice. Talk to them about what you see, sing to them as you bath them, or explain what you are doing as you go about your daily tasks. Talking with your baby will help you feel more connected and does wonderful things for their mental development. Read more about the importance of talking with your baby.
4. Relax your standards
Don’t worry about the housework, the dishes, the laundry and the other jobs to be done. Just enjoy this very special time to bond with and get to know your newborn. Hopefully friends or whānau might drop off some ready-made meals – however there’s nothing wrong with cereal, porridge or peanut butter on toast for the odd meal either.
5. Get out of the house
There may be days you find yourself going a bit stir-crazy with a fussy newborn, so pop your baby in the pram or front-pack and head out for a walk. Better still, if there’s a trusted adult at home, let them take over while you enjoy a break and some vitamin D.
6. Take care of yourself and accept help when it’s offered
It’s easy to forget about yourself in the haze of feeding, burping and a lot less sleeping. Try and take sure you take time for yourself each day, even if it’s just a solo shower, a hot cup of coffee or five minutes alone in the garden. Be proactive and organise for someone to tag in and give you a break. Accept help if it’s offered and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you feel you’re not coping.
7. Know when to get additional help
More than half of newborn mothers experience post-partum blues, which aren’t helped by hormonal mood swings and lack of sleep. While these usually resolve a few weeks after the birth, if they persist and you feel like you can’t cope, talk to your GP or other healthcare professional right away to get the support you need.
8. Nurture your other relationships
While your newborn needs plenty of love and attention, don’t forget to enjoy the other special people in your life. This might be your partner if you have one, your other children or close friends and family/whānau.
If you can, take time to spend a little one-on-one with them or schedule a ‘walking and talking’ date with your baby in the pram.
9. Try and soak up every moment
Parenting is a challenge and you’ll have good days and bad where it can feel like a whirlwind of feeding, changing nappies and not enough sleep. Newborns are hard work but this phase won’t last for long. Before you know it, your baby will be sitting up, talking, running around then off to kindy/kinikātene! So stop and appreciate these early days and the small moments, even amidst the chaos. If you’re sharing the parenting journey with a partner, don’t forget to support one another – and keep a sense of humour wherever possible!