Feel free to write in with other suggestions, or to say, "Arrgh, no, you're doing that wrong!"
If there are two of you looking after bub, share it as much as possible. Sounds obvious, but it's not what ends up happening. You should each be able to change nappies and wash baby on your own, but for the first few weeks, doing nappy changes together is useful for the surprise moments when you need a second set of hands or someone to go grab something that was forgotten.
Even if you're going to use cloth nappies, buy up disposables for the first few weeks. The learning curve you're on is huge, anything that reduces that is a help.
Buy flat nappies! They have many, many uses beyond just being used as nappies. We have 18, which gives us plenty, even when a bunch are in the wash.
Our change table set up as follows...
- flat nappy on the change table to catch spills. If there is a nasty spill you can fold a part of the flat nappy over it so the baby isn't lying in it or spreading it around with its feet. Basically it stops you having to wipe down the change table in mid-change anytime things go wrong.
- Spare flat nappy for the really impressive spills
- Cloth for wiping up vomit
- Cloth for covering willy to minimise the chances of you getting sprayed, or him soaking his clothes, the change table, the floor, the walls, the dog, etc.
- Baby wipes
- Nappy sacks. We always pre-open the next one when we finish, as some are hard to open and if you're dealing with bub on your own, you don't need to be trying to open the thing one handed.
- Nappies. We try to keep a small pile of at least three ready to go.
- Stuff for dealing with nappy rash.
We have a bin with a plastic bag in it next to the change table. We are filling the bin to the top daily. The plastic bag can be easily washed out and re-used.
Wherever Sharon goes to feed Lex, there is a flat nappy for burping or vomit catching, face-washer to catched leaking breast milk, and cream to put on sore nipples.
If bub has a sore tummy, laying it over one of your knees, with its legs hanging down one side, head down the other while you rub its back, can help relieve the immediate discomfort. Flat nappy over the knee to catch baby-vom.
This advice came from our favourite midwife Wendy, and over a week in, makes perfect sense. If people want to visit, don't be afraid to say no. And if you say yes, make it on the condition that they come over, do some jobs, then leave - no socialising - it's tiring, distracting, and ultimately distressing. People don't realise how much them just being there can disrupt your few chances to rest. To them it's a nice visit, to you it might be that one chance you had to catch an hour's sleep. So if they're going to be there, don't be afriad to get them to wash nappies, do dishes, cook meals, go shopping, etc. Everyday jobs are the most useful things people can do for you. Once they are done, they can leave. It sounds horrible, but you can make it up to them later. i.e. if they are coming around to help, that's what they should do.
Sidenote - according to one of the midwives, Post-natal Depression is almost unheard of in Vietnamese families. When the new mother comes home, family members come to stay for a few weeks. They cook, clean, wash, and basically do absolutely everything they can so that the new mum has nothing to do but get used to her new child. Other than tend to her needs, they don't disturb her.
The baby is not made of glass. If it were, coming through the birth canal would do lots of damage to it. If babies were so fragile, we wouldn't have survived as a species.
Do test trips as soon as you're able, before you need to actually be somewhere at a certain time, or away from home for hours. Pick a time that you want to get somewhere, then make a note of the time you start getting ready to leave, and the time you finally arrive at your destination, ready to do whathever.
We had two trips out in as many days, they killed us, but also showed us things we need to bring, things we could have left behind, etc.
On average we are doing a load of baby clothes, flat nappies, blankets, etc. every second day. This is without us changing clothes every time there is a bit of vomit on them. We've had a few days where we've had to do emergency loads because Lex managed to go through way more clothes than normal.
Travel bag - the bag we take with us on a trip to the shopping centre currently has the following in it...
- 2 nappy sacks
- 2 plastic bags (for dirty clothes, flat nappy that gets messed up, etc.)
- 2 face-washers (one for face, one for doodle coverage)
- 2 flat nappies
- 3 disposable nappies
- 1 Huggies disposable changing table cloth (given to us by another parent - good for when bub messes the one's you're carrying with you)
- Cream for nappy rash
- Nipple cream
- Hat for baby
- Baby wipes
- Headache tablets for us
- Water bottles for us
- And before we head out, we put two outfits in the bag, too. (When we were out recently, one outfit was taken out by a nappy leak within the first hour)
Based on advice from friends, we will be preparing a second travel bag. This allows us to return home exhausted, as we did last time, and have a bag ready to go if something crops up, even if we haven't gotten around to washing/replacing everything in the first bag.
A drive in the car is a great sleeping pill for the baby. Just make sure you have a light blanket that can be placed over the baby capsule to avoid direct sunlight sitting on bub's delicate skin for too long.
A trip in the pram is also a good sleeping pill. According to our favourite midwife, laying a bit of hose on the floor and rolling the pram back and forth over it is often a good way to get baby off to sleep. Haven't used that yet.
Your baby is already communicating with you in hundreds of small ways, you just need to learn to pay attention. Look and listen to them. When we're changing Lex, I'm pretty good at spotting the body movements and facial expressions that mean he's about to launch a bottom attack. I'd say I'm right about 60-70% of the time. It's changed a bit since he got colic. But it means that when Sharon's working down south, I can give her a warning, something for which she is rather grateful.
The listening and watching also allows you to sometimes start to pick when they need a feed, a change, etc. before they get themselves actually worked up enough to cry. Nicer for them, better for your head.
Lex sleeps in our room. He makes little noises all night long, which we sort of like. He is unlikely to keep us awake, given how tired he makes us. It also means we're right there when he needs a change, feed, cuddle, etc. This stops him getting too distressed and hard to settle before we get to him, in fact we sometimes get to him before he actually starts to cry.
If your baby is crying, don't make it a habit to go immediately to them. Lex will be fast asleep, startle himself awake, cry for five minutes, then settle down back to sleep. If you go to bub every time they give a bit of a cry, you may actually stir them up more, or train them to expect/need you every time they cry, rather than settle themselves down.
I've seen footage showing a baby wake up, lie there happily for a few minutes, cry experimentally, go back to being happy, cry some more... you could see the decision to cry again cross it's face. It cried on and off until it's parent finally came into the room, then started crying continuously until it was picked up.
This is not to suggest that every time they cry something isn't wrong, but they learn fast that they can get attention as soon as they want it. And while giving them cuddles and attention when they want it isn't a bad thing, if they are trained to expect it immediately, it's just way more stressful for both of you those times when it can't happen.
Remember, sometimes you just will not be able to stop them crying. It may give you a headache and break your heart, but it's useless to get too upset by it. All your stress does is get the baby stressed, making it cry more. If you can't get it settled, don't be afraid to pop it in its cot and go take a sanity break. If you have a partner, or a friend you can call to come over during the long hauls, do it.
I was dealing with a screaming colicy baby for six hours last night. Trust me, you need to take a break from that.
Don't creep around your house trying to be quiet, otherwise you train you baby to expect and need quiet, so that then any noise will wake it. Every time my mum says "oh we should be quiet or we'll wake the baby," I make a point of yelling loundly for several moments, often with Lex in the room, once while I was actually holding him. He rarely even stirs, and I have an overly loud voice. If you have a second child later, do you really think you'll be able to keep a toddler quiet all the time?
Additional note to this, a friend of mine who works in child care said that if children are being put in child care, it's even more important not to creep around quietly at home. If they are in child care, there will be another 30-odd bunch of kids who will always be making noise, crying, etc. It's really not fair on your child if you've kept them in a quiet, dark home, then put them into daycare where it won't be able to get what it has been trained by you to need for sleeping.
So make noise! Play loud music! Call out to each other!
Breastfeeding is healthy in that it helps download regular immune system updates to your child, and more importantly, it's cheap! Given how expensive the little buggers are, that's great! However, lots of people have problems with it. You're not a failure if you can't breastfeed. Sharon was ready to give up on breastfeedng in the first week - sleep deprivation combined with the constant pain and discomfort were wearing her down. After one good night's sleep, she turned a corner, got him mostly attaching okay, etc. She still has problems sometimes though.
Breastfeeding can take a fair while before you get used to it - if you do. Breastfeeding in bed is slightly different and may require time to find positions where bub's not hurting you when he feeds. By time I mean days... or weeks... Learning to breastfeed in bed has its obvious advantages though, so it's worth trying once you're comfy with it.
Make sure you lay down a flat nappy to catch spills, though even that won't save you if bub does a super-huge vomit... like the one Lex blessed us with the other night. It's worth considering a mattress protector under the sheets in the area of the bed where feeding will take palce.
We haven't tried this ourselves, not even sure we would, but had to share this story. At the breastfeeding classes we went to, the people taking it commented on how babies are psychic. They know when their parents are trying to have sex, and will always pick that time to want a feed or a change. One of the ladies commented that that was when feeding in bed could come in handy - you could roll on your side to feed the baby, the sex could continue from behind, you get the nice hormones from the let down during breast feeding, and the nice sensations of sex. The other woman boggled at this, and the first one commented that it wasn't for everyone, but it was an option.
Babies really like skin contact. They also like to be cuddled. If they have colic, having them upright against your chest can do wonders for quieting them down, but don't be surprised if that changes moment after you have them off the vertical.
Sometimes, when bub is feeling poorly, all you can do is hold them.
Some babies don't like baths. You can take them in the shower. Have someone there to hand you the baby and to take it from you when finished. Make sure you have a bath mat in there, or you're sitting on the floor. Water shouldn't be too hot. A flannel on your chest gives you a good surface to hold them against in case things get a little slippery. Keep bub held against your chest for most of the shower. Once you've washed it, hand your baby to the other person to dry while you finish washing yourself.
Our cot currently has a mattress protector, a sheet over that, another mattress protector over that, and another sheet over that. What this means is that while we're staggering around at four in the morning after the baby has managed to soak the sheet, all we have to do is pull off the top sheet and protector, and the bed is ready to go again.
After two weeks, Sharon and I finally managed some together time yesterday. I was about to have a shower, Lex had been fed and was being put down to sleep, and I suggested that Shaz join me. There was no sexual aspect, it was just about us having a little bit of time being close with each other, rather than always having to think about the third person in our lives. Lex graciously stayed asleep while we enjoyed alone-time and skin contact.
Grab the time and opportunity for this stuff when you can get it! You don't know when the next chance will come.