Bringing a new baby home can be an overwhelming experience. On one hand, you are enamored with your new, perfect miracle. On the other hand, you are exhausted from giving birth, your hormones are all over the place, and your emotions are, well, also all over the place. When we brought my first son home from the hospital, everything was ready and waiting – the nursery was carefully decorated, the fridge and freezer were stocked, his tiny clothes had been washed, folded, and put away. What I wasn’t prepared for was the extreme exhaustion that comes with being a new parent. After all, I had never slept in 3 hour intervals before (and 3 hours was a long stretch!). Needless to say, these first few weeks after bringing baby home are challenging. In order to take care of your newborn, you also have to be able to take care of yourself – you are healing as well. Many of us try to do too much for others, particularly when baby is sleeping, when we really should just be thinking of ourselves. Of course we’ve all heard the phrase, “Sleep when baby sleeps.” And yet we seem to find so many “important” tasks to complete instead of resting. So, as a helpful reminder, here is a list of what NOT to do during those magical moments when your newborn is asleep.
#10 Check your email – reading and responding to emails seems like a quick, harmless activity, but before you know it, you’re looking at friends’ photos on facebook and reading some garbage about who wore their dress the best. You have a new baby at home – who cares what anyone else is up to!
#9 Scrapbook, send photos, edit the family video. Documenting your baby’s life is an important, yet never-ending task. While it is a wonderful activity and something that you will be glad you did later on, keep in mind that your child will always be doing something that deserves documentation. You’ll always have those moments when you’re thinking, “I should be recording this!” But, sometimes it’s nice to live in the moment – after all, with all the hard work you’ve been doing to care for this baby, it’s a great reward to know you’re experiencing those precious, intimate moments together. Keep a balance of making unforgettable memories and making sure every moment is caught on tape.
#8 Visit with guests, friends, family… Why is it that whenever company comes to meet the new little one, the baby inevitably sleeps through the whole thing?? While you can’t always plan your baby’s sleep schedule around visitors, you can keep visitors to a minimum, and make sure they only stay for a very short while.
#7 Call back curious friends and family. They mean well, but trying to return phone calls to people who are “just checking in” is an unproductive task – they called and left you their well wishes and that’s great. If you must call them back, at least have them do something for you, like bring over lunch or buy an item you ran out of.
#6 Catch up on missed TV shows. This isn’t a terrible activity because you are resting in a way. But honestly, if you’re sitting on the couch watching TV, you might as well be extra efficient and just take a nap.
#5 Pick up. Of course it’s nice to have a semi-organized home, especially when you’re dealing with the chaos of having a new (often screaming) baby in the house. But make this easy on yourself – keep boxes or baskets around in different rooms so picking up just means tossing some toys or diapers into them. The house will look picked up, and you’ll feel better about yourself – but you didn’t have to spend an inordinate amount of time getting the house back together.
#4 Run errands. You and your baby should be home a majority of the time, and your baby should be napping in his/her bed. The last thing you want to do is pick up milk and paper towels at CVS while your baby is sleeping peacefully in the car seat – this is time that should be spent on you!
#3 Shave your legs, paint your nails, pluck anything. First of all, I completely understand that due to crazy hormones, our hair seems to grow at super speed when we’re pregnant and even faster the first few weeks after baby’s birth – just ask my eyebrows. That said, grooming can be limited to basic hygiene these first few weeks – get comfortable letting yourself go a little bit and only taking care of the basics.
#2 Have sex. You’re exhausted, your body is recovering, and yet you still feel guilty for not being ready to go right after the baby pops out. The general rule is to wait 6 weeks after a vaginal birth to resume sex, and for many, that’s still too soon. As my doctor told me at my 6 week post-partum appointment, “I’m giving you the go ahead to have sex, but you don’t have to tell your husband that.” Per #3, you’re letting your leg hair grow out anyway, so that should hold him off a little longer.
And finally, #1…which is the hardest of all to avoid – Clean House. Ok, let’s work through this. I know as soon as baby falls asleep and you have some much needed peace and quiet, there is a big part of you that wants to collapse on the couch. But how can you relax when there’s so much else to do?? Bottles need washing, laundry needs to be folded, your work colleague will be over tonight and you don’t want her to see the dust balls that have accumulated under the dining table. First of all, your baby is your top priority right now, and the baby certainly doesn’t care about a dusty bookcase or a sink full of soaking bottles. Second, let your partner or other family members help out with the housework. They’ll appreciate you more anyway once they see what it’s like in your shoes. And lastly, there will always be something that needs to be done around the house – but most of us just can’t do it all. At least not for the first few weeks. Enjoy your time with your new baby, and be sure to rest when you need it. It’s not so easy to follow the advice, “Sleep when baby sleeps.” but we can think more about ourselves, about living in the moment, and about these precious first few weeks that will be gone before you know it – really!