Your new mum survival plan

A stress-free guide to the first few weeks of your newborn’s life

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Feeling a bit nervous about coping with your new little person? Just follow our week-by-week guide for a (mostly) stress-free guide to brand new parenting.

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Week One

What’s happening to your baby?

“For the past nine months your baby’s been snuggled up somewhere dark and warm and now she’s been brought out into this bright, noisy environment,” says midwife Gail Johnson of the Royal College of Midwives.

“So it’s no surprise she cries a lot. In fact for the first week, babies don’t do much more than cry, eat, sleep, poo and possibly puke.”

One thing that might be surprising to a new mum is your baby’s poo. “At first it’s a sticky, blacky/green colour that sticks like superglue to her skin,” explains Gail.

“Within two to three days, as the milk starts to go through her digestive system it will change to a greeny yellow and in time it will turn to a mustardy colour. Bear in mind that sometimes breastfed babies won’t poo for a couple of days.”

What’s happening to you?

“Your breasts will probably start to tingle soon after your baby’s born,” says NCT breastfeeding counsellor Jules Jones.

“Size-wise they’ll stay about the same until three to four days after the birth when most women experience what’s called primary engorgement (getting bigger). This is not because of the milk, it’s down to your lymph system and blood and lasts about a day, so you might find you can’t get your bra on for 24 hours.”

What’s happening to your life?

This first week will be a complete blur as days and nights merge into one and you try to get your head around having a tiny person relying on you.

“Your midwife will visit you at home within 24 hours of you giving birth,” says Gail, “giving you the chance to ask her lots of questions.”

Difficult though it is, try to make sure you’re getting enough sleep. “It’s hard to get any proper rest because you’re always watchful of the next feed,” says Laura, 28, mum to Charlotte, 2 weeks.

“It seems the minute I put my head down, Charlotte wakes up hungry again. I’ve now started expressing so at least in the evening my partner can feed her.”

Week Two

What’s happening to your baby?

“The second week can be a tough one as your baby begins to be awake for longer periods and may be a little more fussy, especially in the evenings,” says Megan Faure, baby development expert and author of Baby Sense (www.hippychick.com).

“He’ll be busy trying to focus his eyes and will love your face and familiar voice.”

What’s happening to you?

If you have any nipple soreness now you’re into a breastfeeding routine, it may be that you’re allergic to breast pads, or your skin may be more sensitive to perfumes and other chemicals because of your hormones.

Try changing washing powder or lay off using lots of deodorant. Breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt, but if you have any problems, call the NCT breastfeeding helpline on 0870 444 8708 (8am-10pm).

If you decide not to breastfeed, your boobs will be leaky now and feel full for about four weeks.

What’s happening to your life?

This week try to get out and about with your little one, especially if your partner is still around to help you with car seats, prams and all the extras.

“Try to go out of the house at least once a day, even if it’s going to your friend’s, your mum’s or your neighbour’s house for a coffee,” says Hannah, 30, mum to Ben, 12 months. “You’ll really feel like you’ve achieved something.”

The 10th day after your baby is born will be the last time your midwife will visit you and the health visitor should then pay a visit. She’ll advise you of your nearest clinic where you can get your baby weighed and checked.

Mum’s story:

“Tea tree oil is the answer”

“For the first few weeks, Finlay was waking every two hours to feed, so some nights I was only getting 3-4 hours sleep. My middle and the top of my legs ached, but I found that a cushion behind my back helped, as did a good soak in the bath. I had to have stitches and they were sore but a friend’s tip of a couple of drops of tea tree oil in the bath eased the pain. The hardest part has been getting a mushy baby brain – I’ve become really forgetful so I write lots of lists. The best part is seeing Finlay smile and watching him change every day. If I could do the first six weeks again I’d buy fewer clothes. I’d also ask visitors to bring things to eat to save cooking – one friend bought a box of doughnuts, which went down rather well!”
Mandy, 32, mum to Finlay, 11 weeks

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Your baby starts to recognise voices by week 4.

Week Three

What’s happening to your baby?

“By the third week, your baby recognises the voices of those close to him and will begin to turn towards the source of sounds,” says Megan. “His involuntary movements can be disconcerting, so help him stay calm by swaddling him.”

What’s happening to you?

Your newborn will sleep for around 16 hours a day but sadly not all in one go.
“I was never a napper,” says Carol, 27, mum to Dylan, 5 weeks. “But once I got through the first couple of weeks when I was almost too tense to drop off, I can now easily catch 40 winks once I’ve got him down. Having dark curtains in the bedroom also really helps when I’m napping in the daytime.”

What’s happening to your life?

Your partner has probably returned to work and it’s time for you to cope on your own. “Set yourself easy goals,” says Patricia Carswell, life coach for mothers http://www.coachingformothers.com.

“Focus on the task in hand, rather than building up lists of everything you have to do. And when visitors pop round, don’t wait on them hand and foot, get them to help make the tea and wash up.”

Week Four

What’s happening to your baby?

“He loves to look at your face and can be calmed just by making eye contact at times,” says Megan. “You may even see short-lived smiles starting to emerge about now.”

What’s happening to you?

The heavy vaginal blood loss you’ve been experiencing, known as lochia, is finally starting to lighten and may even have stopped altogether. “However, you might find that after a feed or if you’ve been particularly active you’ll still see a slight loss,” says Gail.

What’s happening to your life?

You’ll need to start thinking about registering your baby’s birth – legally it has to done 42 days (six weeks) after your baby is born. If you aren’t married, you and your partner will both need to go to the register office if you want your partner to be on the birth certificate.

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Your baby begins to light up in response to familiar faces by week 6.

Week Five

What’s happening to your baby?

“Your baby loves to suck and will be calmed by sucking a dummy or his hands. Swaddle his hands near his face and he will be more likely to self soothe,” advises Megan. “He may start to lift his head to 45 degrees for short periods and you may hear his throaty little noises as he tries to communicate with you.”

What’s happening to you?

Sleep deprivation may start to impact physically and emotionally.
“Many mums worry that saying they’re feeling a bit down is an admission of failure, and reflects badly on them,” says Dave Munday, health visitor and professional officer with Unite/CPHVA.
“Talk to someone about this, whether it’s your health visitor, mum or friend.”

What’s happening to your life?

“This is the time to focus on your own health,” says Patricia. “Fresh air will help you feel stronger and even putting your feet up for 10 minutes will make you feel more human.”

Week Six

What’s happening to your baby?

 “Your baby begins to light up in response to familiar faces and funny noises,” says Megan. “He’ll also stay awake for up to an hour and his sleep and feeds are a little more predictable.”

What’s happening to you?

“By six weeks your uterus will be just about back to normal and your hormones should have stabilised,” says Gail. “But if you’re not feeling yourself, contact your health visitor or GP.”
Six weeks is also the time health visitors say you can start having sex again. But use contraception, as breastfeeding doesn’t stop you getting pregnant.

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What’s happening to your life?

“When I hit the six-week mark, I suddenly felt much more in control,” says Jessica, 32, mum to Lois, 12 weeks. “I was starting to be able to tell when Lois was tired or hungry, which helped me get her into a routine and made me feel more confident.”

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