It is almost your due date. You feel ready. You’ve got a drawer full of baby clothes, a huge pile of newborn nappies and probably a year’s supply of baby wipes.
But are you really prepared for what will happen when you bring your baby home?
There are some things you can do and think about now, rather than Google in a panic later. Google is a glut of information from which one must decipher the flecks of gold from the hectares of ahem… poo. So here is some hand-me-down advice on what to do in the final days before you have your baby.
8 ways to prepare for a new baby
Sleep is the Holy Grail. Get as much sleep or nap time as possible, especially in the couple of weeks prior to your due date. Labour is exhausting and afterwards you will never sleep again. Well, at least not for another 12 months, or possibly years even.
Seriously, a good night’s sleep should be your top priority in the late stages of pregnancy; aim for at least eight hours. While your metabolism slows down at night, junior, of course, is going five rounds.
A nice, warm bath before going to bed is calming and makes you sleepy; sometimes a hot, milky drink, reading, or listening to music can also help you drop off. Otherwise, deep breathing and relaxation exercises are excellent treatments for restlessness. If sleep continues to elude you, then get up and do something – go into the nursery and look at things, rearrange them if you like. If worrying is keeping you awake, write down your concerns on a piece of paper, then screw it up and throw away those anxieties. It is a busy, exciting time and sleeping can seem impossible. If so, make up for lost slumber by taking catnaps during the day.
2. Know what to pack
Contact the hospital and see what they provide in the way of nappies and clothing for your baby, then draw up your list and pack your bag well in advance, about six weeks in case your baby decides to come early.
Hospitals also supply gowns for labour if you prefer not to use your own clothes. Otherwise you’ll need a loose-fitting nightdress or resurrect that old band T-shirt to wear during labour.
Pack at least two or three maternity bras and front-opening cotton nightdresses, a dressing gown, slippers, a decent supply of breast pads, several pairs of socks, underpants, and an abundance of super-duper absorbent stick-on sanitary towels.
Pack toiletries for labour as well as your postpartum stay such as lip balm, toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, hairbrush, hair band and barrettes, moisturiser, and makeup if you like. Hospitals have soap, shampoo, and lotion but you may prefer your own.
Grab a magazine for the early stages of labour. I would also highly recommend some serious massage instruction for your partner beforehand. Mine tried to nap and simultaneously carry out one-handed massage on my aching back during contractions. So be sure to include a tennis ball or spinal roll in case you have back pain. For the ride home, some comfortable, loose-fitting clothes and sensible shoes will suffice.
Packing for your baby is less complicated; muslin wraps, onesies, singlets, socks, and a hat. Your partner can always bring in extra if necessary. Don’t forget a cute going home/photo opportunity outfit – keep it simple as trying to push and pull their limbs into a complicated get-up will most likely upset them.
Other important items to include are change for parking, phone and phone chargers. Snacks and water can be packed at the last minute.
3. Schedule hospital visits
Most hospitals allow your partner and other children to visit at any time. Some birth centres and hospitals even allow your partner to sleep over. Otherwise, hospitals allocate visiting hours at various times in the morning and afternoon with a rest period generally between 1pm and 3pm.
It is lovely having visitors, but they can tire you out more than you expect. Speak to your family and friends before the birth so they are aware of your expectations for visitors in the first few hours and days after your baby is born.
While it may be tempting to allow unrestricted access, bear in mind that you may not want your father-in-law as a permanent bedside fixture while you fumble around with the modus operandi of breastfeeding. Try to limit each visit to half an hour and set up a roster system so everyone does not come at once.
Even if you decide to have the entire clan from great Aunt Peggy to Gideon, your second cousin removed, visit, remember there are other new mums to consider if you’re sharing a room.
4. Think about your hospital stay and early discharge
Usually a hospital stay is between 24 hours to five days depending on whether you have a vaginal or Caesarean delivery, the type of facility you are in, and the condition of you and your baby. The checking out procedures for maternity patients vary from hospital to hospital so it is a good idea to find out what policies are in place and let the hospital know how long you intend to stay. Some women leave relatively soon after delivery, within 24 hours, as long as they have hospital approval. Other women stay for over a week or as long as is necessary.
There is also the option of the early discharge program offered by many hospitals, which enables healthy babies and their mums to leave hospital 48 hours after uncomplicated vaginal birth and 96 hours after an uncomplicated caesarean. A midwife visits you at home every day for about a week to monitor you and your baby’s progress. She will advise and talk to you about what to expect with regard to feeding, sleeping, behaviour, bowel motions, and urination over the following 24 hours until her next visit.
She is there for about an hour and in some cases on call for any urgent advice. These visits are orchestrated to give both mother and baby the kind of routine care and support that they would receive in the hospital.
The advantage of early discharge is that you can get settled-in early at home and still have the midwife available to answer any questions about issues or problems as they crop up.
This option works best if you feel you are well prepared to take care of yourself and your baby, have help at home with meals, laundry, and other chores as well as telephone access to a health care provider at any time of the day or night.
On the other hand, staying longer in hospital has its plus side: room service, cleaning staff, and “do not disturb” gatekeeping nurses who appear (thank goodness) at the mere push of a button. If you are a first-time mum, consider the difference between having nurses available 24/7, as opposed to the home-style nurse, who has no sooner left when your baby starts fussing over an engorged-flat-nippled-breast and hubby is still trying to figure out how the breast pump works. On himself! Lord, save us.
Nonetheless, the most important thing is not to feel rushed out the door. Make sure all your questions, from bathing to breastfeeding to burping, have been answered. Speak to a midwife before you leave about a postnatal domiciliary visit at home. A domiciliary midwife will visit a couple of days after you leave hospital. She will check that you and your baby’s recovery is going well and help with the transition from hospital to home. Many public hospitals offer at least one domiciliary visit to all women irrespective of whether they have been discharged from hospital early or not. However, a variety of different protocols exist statewide in both the public and private sectors. Nonetheless, all hospitals are required to give adequate postnatal care for mothers and their families according to clinical and psycho-social needs.
5. Install a gatekeeper
Family and friends can be a great help, but if you feel you won’t be up for much company in the beginning, let everyone know. It is easy to lay down the law with your own family. The in-laws, however, can be a different story altogether. Speak to your partner about boundaries they can set for their own family and have them act as gatekeeper to fend off any well-wishers if you are not in the mood for visitors.
Don’t feel bad about accepting visitors slowly, and turn your phone on silent with a voicemail message informing all of your new arrival and their vital statistics. Send emails or text messages to extended family members and close friends. When necessary, put a sign on the front door saying mum and baby sleeping and ask anyone who is ill to stay away until they’re better.
6. Take it easy
Relax as much as possible. Sit down when doing tasks such as folding clothes or peeling veggies. Leave the housework until you are stronger and graciously accept offers from kind visitors who insist on cleaning your bathroom.
While you have them at home, involve your partner as much as possible with all things baby. They may not wipe her bottom quite as meticulously as you do, but give them a break. It is particularly important at this time to keep the lines of communication open between you both.
7. Arrange to have help
If your partner cannot get parental leave, arrange well in advance to have someone else stay with you until you have recovered enough to be home alone with your baby.
The obvious choice for most women is their own mum, but if she is not freely available or does not live close by, round up the troops and roster in desired friends and family until you feel confident on your own.
8. See if you can find a food fairy
Plan ahead with meals to get you through those first few hectic days. When you arrive home from hospital, you will not have the time, energy, or inclination to be planning any kind of menu. You’ll be lucky to manage a shower before 4pm.
In the days leading up to your due date, make some casseroles and soups to freeze. Get creative in the kitchen with some easy-to-follow recipes which will keep well in the freezer. Stock up on foods like pre-packaged fresh pasta, noodles, and quiches that are super easy to reheat. Accept offers, or ask family and friends to supply some meals for those first few days.
My mother-in-law was like the food fairy and for many weeks following her granddaughter’s birth. I would find a pot of freshly made pasta soup and a large Tupperware container of homemade sausage rolls on my doorstep. No sign of her, just that the food fairy had been and gone. So you need to find yourself a “food fairy”; believe me, they are a treasure.
The first few days at home are a very special time for a new family. The newborn stage is delightful, exciting, challenging, and relatively short. It is important that you have planned ahead and are prepared so you have the time to enjoy it. Those early days will be gone before you know it.
– this article was kindly supplied by My Child magazine