What to Expect Spending the First Night With Your Baby
November 17, 2021
Most parents have a plan for their time in the hospital for the birth of their baby. Many of us make lists, pack our hospital bags ahead of time, and make arrangements for things to be taken care of at home while we are in the hospital. Throughout labor and the delivery of the baby, the time in the hospital is a blur for many new parents. The hours roll together and you often don’t even know what time it is or when you last ate. Pain from birth and hours without sleep cloud your mind, and then suddenly you are getting discharged to go home! Many new parents have the same feeling at this moment: you’re sending us home with this baby? What do we do now?
No matter if it is your first baby or your fourth, the first night at home with your baby is both exciting and overwhelming! Below, we’ve highlighted some things you can expect during your first night home with your newborn.
Mom’s Postpartum Recovery
Feeling sore and exhausted are to be expected for all birth mothers. Regardless if you have had a vaginal or cesarean birth, your body probably feels like you just ran a marathon, as most of your muscles will ache from hours of labor, pushing, surgery and/or medical procedures. Be sure to take your pain medication as directed by your care provider. You also probably have not slept much in the time before and during your hospital stay. In addition, you may be feeling the emotional toll of all of these things mixed with postpartum hormones, so you might be tearful and cranky. And while you probably feel the pressure to stay up and be with your baby, it is critical that you try to get some sleep as soon as you get home from the hospital.
Try to make arrangements to have a trusted family member or friend there when you arrive at home so that there is a hot meal waiting for you. If you are breastfeeding, try to feed your baby soon after arriving home. As soon as Baby has been fed, allow your partner or another support person to take the baby so you can go to your bedroom and take a much needed nap. Allow yourself to sleep as long as you can while your baby is with your support person. The key is to try and sleep long enough to allow your brain to complete a sleep cycle, which for adults is 90-120 minutes. This important nap will help to make up for lost sleep, and also serves to support your body as it heals from birth. In the first few days at home, continue to make these essential naps a part of your daytime routine while your baby sleeps.
Although you won’t have a routine nailed down yet for you and Baby, the main things you’ll focus on during the first night with baby are feeding, soothing, sleep, and newborn care. Before each feeding session, be sure to change the baby’s diaper. You’ll also want to notice if your Baby’s diapers are wet or have stools in them. Most hospitals will have you track wet and dirty diapers, and we suggest that you continue to do this for the first days at home. Not only is this something to mention to the baby’s doctor at their first follow-up appointment, it is also a clue for you. Newborns should have at least one wet and poopy diaper per day old.
Therefore when you go home, you should be aware of how many wet and poopy diapers you are changing, as well as what the contents of the diaper look like. Newborn poop transitions in the early days after birth, and by day 3-4 postpartum, your baby’s poop should be greenish-brown in color. Frequent wet and poopy diapers tell us that your baby is getting enough to eat, so remember that lots of dirty diapers are a good thing!
You’ll notice that your baby is very sleepy during the daytime but more awake at night. Feedings can be challenging in the early days for multiple reasons. If you’re breastfeeding, you may be struggling with learning how to latch and position your baby during the feeding. You may also be dealing with sore nipples or breast pain from engorgement. If you are bottle feeding, your baby may be gassy or spitting up. And almost all newborns become very sleepy during feedings so it can feel like a constant struggle to wake Baby and keep them awake to get a good feeding.
If your baby just won’t stay awake during a feeding session, you’ll need to try to keep them awake. Try tickling the baby’s feet, getting them un-dressed, or going into a bright room. Whatever you can do to keep them awake will benefit both you and Baby. They’ll be able to go longer between feeding sessions, and it will help your milk come in faster, if you are breastfeeding.
After a feeding session and when you and your baby are extra sleepy, you’ll want to make sure you are not holding Baby during sleep. Allowing Baby to sleep in your arms while you are awake is fine, but if you feel like your eyes are getting heavy, it is important to put your baby down in a bassinet or a crib. For safe sleep, no extra blankets, pillows, stuffed animals or sleep positioners should be in bed with Baby.
Have Realistic Expectations
The first night home with your baby is often spent awake holding, soothing and feeding. Your baby was held inside you for your entire pregnancy, and newborns expect nothing less immediately after birth! You and your partner will probably have to take turns holding your baby for comfort during that first night at home. Newborns also tend to want to feed frequently during the nighttime, which is referred to as cluster feeding. This is why we encourage those essential naps during the daytime for new parents, because we expect that the nighttime will be challenging. Newborns will usually finally fall asleep more soundly in the second half of the night, and new parents can typically expect to get 2-3 hours of uninterrupted sleep after 3am.
In essence, the first night at home with your newborn may be more stressful than you hope due to the fact that both you and your little one have a lot of adjustments to make together. It’s perfectly normal and expected for newborns to be fussy and cry more when we try to put them down. It will take time for your baby to learn how to sleep alone on their backs, and they will need you there to soothe and support them during this process. There is no such thing as spoiling a newborn, so we encourage you to spend a lot of time holding your baby, and when possible continue to practice skin to skin frequently. This practice serves as a perfect way to support your baby’s transition from womb to world!
Although your first night at home with your baby may not live up to your expectations, it is important to realize that preparation is key. Lining up support for the early days at home can make a world of difference for new parents. This is a time in your life where you need some extra TLC, so let your family and friends spoil you with the love and attention that all new parents deserve!
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