Life after Birth
In late April 2019, Elise and her husband Alex celebrated the birth of their third child, Robert. We asked Alex to take a few minutes out of his parental leave to jot down all his wisdom on getting a newborn home from the hospital and settling in to a ‘normal’ life again. Here’s what he had to say:
Before my first child, my Mum warned me. She said “your time is no longer your own after having kids” and for once, she was right.
Learning how to cope with a newborn can be a real shock to your routine. As new parents you will need to come to grips with the fact that your life will revolve entirely around the baby and your needs take second priority. For me, this realisation set in as soon as my wife and I left the hospital. We suddenly found ourselves alone and without ready assistance from the birthing ward nurses.
So with that and a little bit of hindsight in mind, below are my top 5 tips to help get you home smoothly and settling in to life after birth.
1. On the road again
Getting everyone safely home from the hospital presents the first challenge. Common options include taking a taxi, driving your own car, or using public transport. However, if you are using a car, the baby must be in an appropriate car seat. Aside from its illegality, the consequences of not restraining your child can be horrific (queue crash test videos link).
If you plan on travelling in a car, make sure you get a seat that suits your budget and lifestyle, then practise installing it prior to D-day. Here’s a buying guide to help select the right car seat (link).
A car seat keeps your baby safe. Get the right seat and practice installing it before his/her arrival.
2. Essential hardware
My first child was born at 36 weeks, which made my wife and I look fairly unprepared when we hadn’t yet bought a cot. Don’t make the same mistake and ensure you have the essentials well before il bambino arrives. You don’t need to buy expensive new items as most of this can be purchased ‘pre-loved’ (except nappies) to save some coin, but as a minimum have these four areas covered:
- Wheels: Pram / stroller and car seat;
- Meals: Bottles, bottle steriliser and infant formula if that’s your thing;
- Threads: Nappies, burp rags, swaddle blankets and baby clothes;
- Beds: Cot / Bassinette and sheets.
3. Sweet Dreams
The best advice I can give to help you acclimatise to life after birth is to get everyone in to a good sleep routine. Newborns feed every three hours. As a result, being able to get your baby back to sleep quickly at 3am is vital. There’s tonnes of literature on sleep routines, but as a start my wife and I have found this website to be quite useful (link, they offer a free 5 step guide and do e-consultations).
If you’re planning on feeding using infant formula, I would recommend Mum and Dad working complimentary ‘shifts’ (e.g Mum feeds baby at 9pm then goes to sleep; Dad stays up and does a 12am feed then goes to sleep; Mum wakes up at 3am etc).
Work out a sleep routine for the baby. If your baby is on formula, come up with shifts together with your spouse to feed the baby.
4. Clear the decks
Whilst you will be tempted to show off the new baby to friends and family as soon as possible, I would suggest giving yourself time and space to get into your baby caring routine before you line up all of your visitors.
Dads also need to be conscious of balancing work time and home time in the first three months after birth. I would strongly advise minimising non-essential work travel during this time unless you have surplus ‘brownie points’ to burn.
Allow some time to settle down before celebrating the birth of your child with your friends and family.
By no means is the following exhaustive, but there are generally three reasons why babies cry: i) hungry, ii) nappy change or iii) over-tired. Ask yourself if any of these apply. If not, refer to google or a doctor.
An over-tired baby is a fussy baby. Check online or head to the doctor's if you're not sure why your baby is cranky.
I hope that wasn’t overwhelming (there’s no going back now though). Persevere. Life will become more normal after a few months. Until then, be prepared to give up a few gym sessions and some Netflix until everyone settles in.