After nine long months of waiting and an agonizing number of hours going through labor and delivery, your baby is finally here. At first, you may feel relieved that you have brought this beautiful new life into the world. But as the hours pass, reality sets in and you begin to worry about your new role as a mother.
Basically, the first month of motherhood (and fatherhood, for that matter) is that time when you are learning the hard way (and with a lot of trial and error) the intricacies of baby care. You also need to learn how to balance your own personal care since you are still recovering from childbirth.
It is also a time when you discover the ways and means by which your baby communicates with you, whether it’s ear-piercing crying or gentle cooing, and a light touch on your skin while you breastfeed.
Of course, it’s not just about the baby. You and your spouse need to rediscover your bond and work together as a team in the care of your child. You also need to rekindle the fires of intimacy that had been doused while you were pregnant.
Here’s a list of things to do during the first month of motherhood:
You are still in the hospital recovering from childbirth. Use this time to get to know your baby’s body by looking at him or her during your pediatrician’s examination. Take note of qualities such as birthmarks, the shape of his or her head, and other features.
The sight of your baby’s umbilical stump may worry you at first. But your pediatrician will surely give you advice on how to take care of this.
Do not forget to talk to the nurse to teach you on how to properly breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby. In the case of breastfeeding, this would include helping your baby to correctly latch on your breast and nipple. It may hurt at first, but it is a beautiful bonding experience.
You finally bring your baby home. Perhaps the one thing that will have you in a frenzy is feeding. It would seem that your baby is hungry all the time, so you can’t get enough sleep. Since this is still a period of adjustment, alternate with your spouse especially in the evening when it comes to feeding your baby. For your convenience, you can place the baby’s crib in your bedroom and set up a comfortable rocker or armchair beside it.
Take the opportunity to learn your baby’s signals. Sometimes, your baby may smack his or her lips to indicate that he or she is hungry before crying. By anticipating these signals, you can be prepared to feed him or her.
You should also observe your baby’s elimination habits. Does he or she pee or move his or her bowels immediately after feeding ? Also take note of the quality of the stools: a baby’s stool during his or her first two days are colored black (known as meconium), but can change from yellow, green to brown as you feed him or her. Always have clean diapers ready beside your baby’s crib.
The first sponge bath is also an exciting encounter with your baby. Use a soft cloth dipped in warm water without any soap and gently scrub his or her face, going down to the body and legs. Keep the umbilical cord dry and clean, and make sure you dry him or her quickly with a towel. Let your baby wear a loose diaper or shirt to hasten the drying process.
But don’t neglect yourself during this period! It’s okay to take a bath, but be careful of the stitches if you had an episiotomy or a cesarean section. It may seem impossible, but try to grab as much sleep as you could in between feedings.
Your routine continues as usual. By this time, you may have observed that you feed your baby at two-to-three hour intervals or, if you prefer, you feed him or her on demand. You may notice that your baby is prone to hiccups, which can be remedied by letting your baby burp halfway through a feeding.
If your baby is a persistent crier and you cannot figure out what is wrong, you might want to try rocking him or her in your arms. Maybe your baby is also sensitive to the temperature. A good rule is that you need to put an extra layer of clothing on your baby compared to what you are wearing at that moment. For example, if you are wearing a shirt, let your baby wear a cotton tee as well but swaddle him or her in a blanket. Always feel your baby’s hands. If your baby feels hot or cold, you can dress them down or up accordingly.
You might find some relief when family members come to visit. Accept their offer to watch your baby so you could take a nap. If your legs are still swollen at this time, make sure that you keep your feet elevated with pillows. Request your relatives that they wash their hands first and use alcohol before holding the baby to prevent the spread of germs.
By week three, you would be relieved to discover that your baby’s umbilical stump had already fallen off. At this stage, you can already give him or her a tub bath. Use mild baby soap and shampoo, just make sure that you do not get any shampoo into your baby’s eyes.
As your baby becomes more aware of his or her environment, he or she becomes stimulated easily. Get ready for more crying fits.
Since your spouse may have returned to work at this time, your baby’s crying and exhaustion may make you susceptible to the “blues.” When this happens, look for someone to talk to, even if it is on the phone. Or you can have a neighbor or a friend look after your baby while you take a short breather to calm your nerves.
Do not be afraid to talk about your feelings to your husband. This will impress upon him how you need his help so that he would be more inclined to get up in the evenings to help feed the baby. Of course, do not let this situation be a one way street. Offer him loving, encouraging words. If the both of you are not too tired, you can be together with the baby during feeding time and just share a quiet bonding moment.
By this period, you would have already established a routine with your baby. You can more or less predict when to feed him or her or when he or she needs diaper changing. While there may still be bouts of crying, there will be more occasions when you see your baby staring at you in wonder, smiling with such delight, and making soft “oh” and cooing noises.
However, do not keep your baby in the crib. You can give him or her more freedom by letting him or her play on a play mat.
At this point, you might want to consider introducing baby to the world by taking her out in a stroller and carrier. If you belong to a support group for new mothers, you might want to breastfeed him or her in public for the first time and learn new tips from your fellow moms.
Do not forget to bring your baby to your pediatrician for her first month appointment. Your doctor will take his or her measurements to see if he or she is growing well. Your doctor may also inform you to that a growth spurt can be expected by the sixth week, which would require more feeding.
To congratulate yourself for surviving the first month of motherhood, you and your husband can leave your baby with your in -laws or a relative and have a nice dinner out. Not only will this break give you some relief from the weeks of baby care, you will be able to enjoy a moment of intimacy with your spouse.