What to expect: Bringing baby home
I found this post languishing in drafts from awhile ago, and decided I should finish it. I know a lot of people who’ve brought home babies recently, or who are about to, so I’ve been thinking about all of that newborn stuff lately. We also watched our neighbors 8 week old recently, and it’s insane to think that Jenson was that small just over a year ago. It took a bit to figure out how their baby liked to be held, and how to entertain him. I’m so used to Jenson needing toys or books or some sort of stimulation constantly now, that I forgot that babies that young mostly just want to be held. So be ready for that. They just want to be held, sung to, and to check out the world around them. That makes the first few weeks hard…you feel like you should be getting something done because babies do sleep so much, but by the time you feed them, burp them, and hold them long enough to make sure they are asleep enough to lay them down, the cycle starts all over again in 30 minutes. So just settle in with some good tv and hold that baby. When someone else is around to hold the baby – that’s when you can try to get something done…or just sleep. Yes, sleep.
It’s hard to decide what’s most important to have ready in the first few weeks, but just focus on what you would NEED if he or she were born tomorrow – a car seat, pack-n-play, stroller, diaper bag, rock-n-play (or other snuggly place for him to sleep), blankets, clothing, diapers/wipes, and nursing stuff – that’s really all you need. Have your carseat base in your car before you go into labor, or at least strap it in on a practice run so you’ll know how when the time comes. About that ride home…Lo will cite that as the most terrifying drive he’s ever made – and he drove a race car (at 130+mph weeks before). He drove well below the speed limit in the far right lane, even though there were very few cars on the road.
The hospital will probably send you home with a few pacifiers, and if your baby took to them at the hospital, you’ll probably want to stick with the same type for awhile. If you’re on the fence about pacifiers, just know that they aren’t the devil. They won’t ruin their teeth and they won’t “need” one until they are 5. Babies like to suck – it’s about the only thing they can do on purpose, so it’s comforting to them. Recent studies have also linked them to a lesser chance of SIDS. We tried to only give Jenson a pacifier when he really needed it. We didn’t pop it in his mouth anytime he fussed a tiny bit – only when he really needed to be soothed. He gave it up on his own around 10-11 months old, I believe. I don’t even know when it happened, but once we realized he didn’t seem to want one anymore, we put them away. He saw one the other day, popped it in his mouth, and then threw it back down. You may want to consider using one for the first few months, before your baby has the ability to get his hands to his mouth for comfort and has other methods of self-soothing. Oh, and find a couple good pacifier straps, as your newborn will drop his pacifier near constantly for awhile.
The baby’s nursery doesn’t need to be ready if you’re not really going to use it right away – many people don’t, as they prefer the baby sleep close to them. Wash and organize baby clothing – making sure to have both newborn and 0-3 month clothing ready. I didn’t have enough newborn clothing, as I was expecting a big baby (as did my Dr.), so when he was only 7 lb, 6 oz, I wasn’t prepared for that. Babies usually lose a few ounces before they leave the hospital, and he was only 7 lb, 1 oz when we left. Most 0-3 month clothing doesn’t fit well until 8+lbs, and some brands are more generously sized than others. I had to have my friend bring a newborn outfit to the hospital, and I had a slight meltdown (blame the hormones) when trying to figure out what to dress him in the night we got home, as I had just a few sleepers that fit him and wasn’t sure if he’d be too hot in the fleece ones that I had. Two friends who had babies and my mother-in-law brought us newborn sleepers, which saved us from having to run to the store. Keep the clothes where you intend to change diapers. We did (and still do) diaper changes on the pack-in-play changing table downstairs, so all of Jenson’s daily wear clothes are kept in fabric bins near there. I keep his dressier clothing and the next size up clothing in his closet, since we never change him in the nursery. I find the changing table in there awkward, as you stand to the side to change him, whereas you stand at the bottom of the changing table on the PNP. (my mom changing him on the pack-n-play)
Gather some stuff together for nursing if you plan to do so (burp clothes, nipple cream, nursing pads, etc) and have it ready for wherever you think you’ll nurse (probably on the couch in front of the tv) and/or another set of stuff upstairs or in another area of the house for when you need a change of scenery. If you have a breastpump (you should – they are free through most insurance!), get it sterilized and ready as soon as you have it (which will likely be after the birth for insurance pumps). Whether you breast or bottle feed, stash burp cloths all over the house…you need them everywhere. When I did laundry, I divided up the clean burp cloths and stuck them in the diaper bag and all over the house (family room, dining room, living room, bedroom, nursery) – and I still would end up needing to go in search of them occasionally.
If you don’t already have extra storage totes, they’ll be helpful to organize everything. Instead of putting everything away in cabinets and closets that we wouldn’t use at first, we put stuff in bins in the basement – extra bottle stuff, feeding stuff for after 6 months, other clothing labeled by sizes. Once he grows out of a size, I put the too-small ones back in their bin and grab clothes from the next size up. It just makes it easier to divide and conquer (and they stack well). Have one (or two) for your maternity clothes so you can just put them away after you don’t need them anymore.
For the kitchen…if you can spare it, designate a shelf or cabinet to baby stuff (bottles, extra pacifiers, extra pump parts/accessories, milk storage bags, medicine (do you have gripe water and/or gas drops?) etc.). If you’re going to use the kitchen sink for the baby bathtub, keep the baby wash and water thermometer in that cabinet too. We kept taking things back and forth and realized it was stupid. We keep the towels/washcloths in the PnP storage since its in the next room, and the rest of the bath stuff in the kitchen cabinet.
You’ll be sleepy and unshowered often, but leave the house anyway – with or without baby (obviously, leave the baby with someone you trust highly). Newborns are so sleepy that you can probably go grocery shopping or out to eat without them even waking, if you feed them right before you leave. It’s much harder when they are awake most of the day in a few months. Leave them in the infant carrier and shade them with a blanket if you need. Even if you don’t want to go anywhere, just do it. Put on real clothes and leave the house. Take a walk if the weather is accommodating. All of that stuff becomes more difficult as they get older. Lo’s parents came up one evening within the first two weeks and made us leave. I didn’t really want to, but I agreed to run to Chick-fil-a and to the store to get his vitamin drops. We weren’t gone longer than 45 minutes, and it felt weird, but it was good for us.
You don’t need to pack half of the house in your diaper bag when you are leaving the house for a couple of hours. You don’t need a “real” diaper bag – you can use a backpack or shoulder bag just as well. You’ll want to have 3-4 diapers, a pack of travel wipes, a small tube of diaper cream, 2 changes of clothing, 3 burp clothes and bibs, a weather-appropriate hat, a couple of small toys, and a spare pacifier if using. Keep a couple of plastic bags in there (we use dog waste bags), so you can tie up any messy clothing or a dirty diaper if you don’t have a place to dispose of one. If you are nursing, keep a couple of nursing pads and a light blanket or coverup if you want privacy. If you are using formula, have some ready to mix up in a bottle. Keep a light blanket in the bag at all times and replace it as soon as you take it out. That is the thing that was missing from there the most, and it’s the most versatile (blocking wind or sun, nursing cover, spontaneous naps or to lay your baby on the floor at someone’s house, cleaning up a mess, etc.). I like to keep items separated in ziploc bags if there isn’t a specific pocket – clothing in one, bibs/feeding aparatus in another, etc., as it can be impossible to find what you are looking for, no matter how many pockets you have. Ziploc bags can be used to contain messes, so don’t overlook them when you need one. Also, throw a $20 and a snack bar in your diaper bag for you – it’s easy to forget your purse when you aren’t used to carrying an extra bag. A few other things that we usually kept in there (but rarely used) are pacifier wipes, boogie wipes, and a thermometer.
Lastly, get rid of all of your expectations. You are not in charge anymore (at least for the time being). Your baby may have days and nights mixed up for weeks, may hate wherever you try to have him sleep, may have trouble breastfeeding or taking a bottle, may hate pacifiers, may love pacifiers (if you don’t prefer to use them), may have colic…and many more things that you can’t predict or even know how you’ll handle. Oh, and your baby will hate tummy time, but you have to do it. It doesn’t matter how many books you read, or how many people told you that you HAVE to do something “this way”, it’s not that simple. Every baby is different. You will be so tired – I remember feeling almost dazed – and Lo was home with me for weeks! Sleeplessness will do that. We just kept saying that we don’t understand how someone could do it all on their own, and that single mothers should rule the world. Truth? It’s hard. You’re emotional because of hormones, you don’t know what to do for everything, you aren’t in control. It’s hard. But it’s amazing.
And it DOES get easier. You learn your baby’s preferences and anticipate their needs, you realize they aren’t going to break when you are trying to dress or bath them, you feel more confident as a parent, your body heals and your hormones stabilize, and the love grows more and more everyday, even if you feel like it couldn’t possibly get stronger.