Picture this: you get home from the hospital with your fresh babe and are excited and terrified that yes, this child really is yours. You’re going to be taking care of her. You have so much love and so.many.hormones. So many you can’t really even wrap your head around how much your life has changed in the past few days.
You’re home for a couple of days when reality sets in. This new gig is literally 24/7. You’re a sleepwalking zombie since you haven’t gotten more than three consecutive hours of sleep in over a week. Your house looks like a baby bomb went off. You haven’t showered in 36 hours and there is a pile of dishes from your leftover takeout (because who has time to cook) in the sink.
This was NOT what you expected your life to look like immediately after having your child. You feel like a crazy person with an immense pressure to clean up constantly to get your house back in its pre-baby shape.
Mama, I’m going to tell you something you don’t want to hear right now. You need to let it go. Take Elsa’s words to heart. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just wait two years—Frozen is coming. And just let it go.
I get it. I basically just told you to accomplish the herculean task of relinquishing control over your house and let the mess take over. And this 100 percent goes against your nature.
It basically feels like nails on a chalkboard. You get hives looking at the blankets and bottles and burp cloths strewn about your living room. Don’t worry—I’m not going to tell you to leave dirty dishes in the sink for a week, that’s just gross. BUT, you can let your hubby or a friend who comes to visit do them.
You can’t do it all. There. I said it. In this vulnerable time of bringing new life into the world, you need help. It’s just a fact and embracing or at least accepting that now will help you move on down the road.
It’s time to delegate (a.k.a., what you don’t need to be doing right now).
Delegate out household tasks that anyone else can do. Hopefully, you have a husband or partner or someone who is helping you out immediately after birth. You also have friends who want to come to visit and meet the new little one. These are your people. They CAN and WANT to help you. Let them. Here is a very specific list of things you should give yourself grace with and accept help.
- Meal Prep
- Cleaning the house
While all these tasks pile up (literally—we did at least a load of laundry a day with our newborn) they aren’t things YOU need to be doing yourself.
Here’s what you need to make your priority right now.
Resting. Your body just went through major trauma. If you had a C-section that’s major abdominal surgery. If you had your appendix out would you feel compelled to get up and clean your house the next day? Take time to rest and recover. Your body needs it and your baby needs you to be healthy.
Breastfeeding and/or pumping. At this point, you’re waiting on or have just had your milk come in. Nurse as much as possible so baby learns what she needs to do and you can begin to help your supply regulate.
If you’re having trouble, get help immediately. Don’t wait until your next doctor’s appointment. Getting help early and often will improve your outcomes with breastfeeding. And help you avoid plugged ducts and mastitis, which nobody wants.
The number one thing you should be focused on at this point is helping your baby grow and thrive outside your body. This means lots of cuddle time with mommy and ensuring she gets enough nutrition. This is something that can’t really be outsourced. The first few weeks postpartum, that is your only goal. Feed yourself and feed that baby.
(FYI: If you choose not to or can’t breastfeed that’s perfectly fine; this article is written from the perspective of a breastfeeding mama.)
SLEEPING. I know, this gave you a good laugh. Nobody’s sleeping at your house! However, if you’re able to give up all the other tasks above, you can hopefully get a catnap when the baby sleeps. I do realize that the baby is up every two to three hours all day and night, which is why I’m suggesting you sleep during the day too. After your baby is taking a bottle (usually after 2-4 weeks) you can give dad one of the nighttime feedings and get a longer stretch of sleep..
Eating. You must eat. I know you don’t have any arms and there’s no way you’re cooking a meal, but you have to eat something. You’re recovering, you’re feeding a baby and not sleeping. To keep yourself healthy and provide adequate nutrition for your little one, you need to make eating a priority. Even if you can only snack multiple times throughout the day.
Showering and brushing your teeth. One would hope that this is a given, but self-care and personal hygiene can easily go out the window with a new baby. You can put the baby in a bouncer for five minutes every day to take a shower and brush your teeth.
Gone are the days of the 30-minute steam sessions, but you’ll be able to increase your time away as baby gets older. Trust me, it will make you feel 1000x more human if you commit to getting a shower every day.
Here’s how to hush your inner Type-A and just accept the help already.
Laundry. Write a list of how to separate your laundry, what detergent you use or any other special instructions and tape it to the top of the washer or dryer before you give birth. If someone offers to help, you can just point them in the direction of the machine. Then go nap.
Meals. When your friends call to see if they can come over and/or bring something, say yes and be specific about what you want for dinner. Many times people don’t know what you feel like eating or if you have any dietary restrictions while breastfeeding. You can also send out a short list of your favorite meals and/or places to eat to your closest friends before the baby comes. Again, they want to help and will probably appreciate the direction.
Household chores. If the dishes and household are too much for you and your spouse at first, see if you can budget for a housekeeper or cleaning service for the first six weeks postpartum.
A lot of times friends and family will come over and be happy to help, but if you’re uncomfortable asking your friends to fold your laundry you can always outsource. Coming from someone who loves to budget and save money—help postpartum is something I’d definitely splurge on again and again.
The addition of a new baby is life-altering in so many ways. One of the most immediate is the impact on your sleep and household right after birth. Letting go of all the responsibility will reduce some of your guilt and help you focus on your main priority—that new little one. It’s not going to be easy but let it go, mama. Accept the help and allow yourself to thrive with your baby.