In the early days and weeks after a new baby arrives, it’s common for parents to have some extra help and support around – from midwives to mother-in-laws, it’s fantastic to have someone there who helps with feeding advice, shows you how to bathe your baby, helps you in and out of the shower and takes care of tasks such as laundry and cooking when you barely have the time or brain power to remember to brush your teeth (what day of the week is it again?).
At some point, though, this extra help will inevitably fade away, and mums and dads will be faced with the return of the normal routine.
Whether you’re staying at home with your newborn, getting ready for your partner to return to work, or heading back to work or study yourself, here are some tips to help you prepare.
Coming home from hospital
Whether your baby arrives prematurely or right on time; and you’ve had a natural birth or caesarean, the moment you pop your baby safely in the car seat to take home with you is a daunting one.
You’ve likely had a few days in hospital with professional help from nurses and midwives, and meals – however lacking in appeal – delivered to you. Then, before you know it, you’re being discharged from the ward with a brand new bub in tow.
That first drive home with a newborn is always a big moment. Get someone else to drive so you can sit in the passenger seat or in the back with your baby, and ask for particular care to be taken over ramps or bumps if you’re still in the early stages of recovery from surgery or stitches.
Preparation is key, so if you can, store a few pre-prepared meals in the freezer that you can easily reheat in the early days. If you haven’t had time to do this before you left home for the hospital, don’t be shy about ordering groceries online or looking up a ready-meal delivery service in your area – fast but healthy dinners you can quickly heat and eat will be incredibly helpful in the early days.
Ask for help and company, too – preferably from someone you love, and someone who’s been through it all before. Your mum, a close relative or friendly neighbour who’ll happily help out with general chores or even fix you a cup of tea will be excellent help – just avoid letting too many visitors overtake in these early days as it might be a bit overwhelming. If you feel comfortable doing so, ask friends or relatives to cook you a dinner in place of a gift for the baby. If people around you are genuinely willing to help, don’t be shy about taking them up on the offer while you settle into life back at home.
It’s absolutely normal to feel overwhelmed as you come to terms with life as a mum or dad. If you do feel teary, sad or worried about yourself or the baby in any way, at any stage, or you begin to feel as though you can no longer cope (this is very common too – you’re not alone!), talk to someone about it.
Look up parenting helplines in your area and make a list of resources to have at hand for a range of issues, including phone numbers for your GP or health nurse as well as contacts for breastfeeding support and postnatal depression in case they become relevant to you. Using your Moment Health app’s symptoms checker and emotion tracker will also help you keep track of how you’re feeling.
Preparing for your partner’s return to work
If you’ve been fortunate enough to spend time at home together with your partner after the baby is born, it can be daunting as that paternity leave draws to an end and you’re faced with going it alone as your teammate returns to work - be that nine-to-five, irregular shifts or large portions of time travelling on business.
In this case, staying in touch with one another while your partner’s out of the house will help you feel less ‘alone’. Their reassuring voice at the other end of the line once or twice a day can help break up the hours and give you an opportunity to share with them how you and the baby are doing, and how you’re feeling. If you’re single, make a similar arrangement with someone close to you so you have someone to chat with regularly to feel connected and supported throughout the day.
Set up a routine that will allow your partner to bond with baby once they’re home – and give you a chance to feel a bit autonomous too! Perhaps they can bathe bub while you go for a short walk, prepare dinner or do something small that will help you ‘fill the well’ in some way.
It’s tough to make time for you when there’s a newborn on the scene, but it’s important to carve out small moments; tiny ones even – a quick cup of tea or hot shower while the baby naps or a visitor comes round. Little acts of self-love like these can go a long way to boosting your mental wellbeing daily.
Preparing to return to work or study
You might be excited to return to work, sad to leave your baby in someone else’s care after spending time with them at home, or both. Whatever your plans are in terms of childcare – from having a grandparent take the reins while you’re away to placing your infant in a day care facility, begin that routine before you go back to the office so you have time to practice pick-up and drop-off and settle your baby into their new normal before you have to add a full day’s work into the mix.
If you’re returning to work full time, consider asking your employer if your start day can fall on a Wednesday or Thursday to help you ease into the new routine with a short week.
If you’re breastfeeding and planning to keep it up, consider how you’ll manage the logistics of it all, and speak to a trusted boss, school head or human resources member about your choices for pumping in private or anything else you might need.
Preparation will be key in terms of making this transition as smooth as it can be for everyone. Taking steps such as pre-preparing meals (for you, and for baby if they’re already on solids) on weekends, ordering groceries online, hiring a cleaner once a fortnight/month for the short-term if you can afford it, and organising your outfits the night before will all help.
And don’t forget the bit about reminding yourself often what a fantastic job you’re doing. Not all days will run smoothly, and even getting everyone out the door in the mornings can be a challenge (see also: finding everyone’s shoes, remembering water bottles and blankies and every other essential item day in day out, and leaving the house without an errant strawberry jam mark on your shoulder).
The working parent guilts are a total menace, but call the child minder as many times as you need to, and remind yourself often that your baby is loved and safe and well fed. Try not to doubt what an incredible parent you are. If you’re reading articles like this and searching for tips because you’re worried about how everyone will cope, then there’s no doubt you’re a gorgeous, loving mum.
And if no one has said it to you lately, let us add that you are doing everything you need to do – and doing it brilliantly.
A bit about Moment Health…
Moment Health is a technology company that aims to prioritise Maternal Mental Health and provide new parents with the tools and knowledge they need to sustain good mental wellbeing – from pregnancy through to parenthood.
The Moment Health app has been developed with clinicians and healthcare professionals. It screens for perinatal, postnatal and associated anxieties, and includes additional features such as a helpful guide to practical and accessible coping strategies.
At Moment Health, our mission is to make maternal mental health mainstream #MakeItMainstream.
Download our App today