Surviving the first 12 weeks of parenthood

New addition ... Make the rest of your life as easy as possible as you and your newborn start to get to know each other.
New addition ... Make the rest of your life as easy as possible as you and your newborn start to get to know each other. 

As your pregnancy nears its natural conclusion and leads towards your child’s birth, you may be focussed on pretty much one thing: the labour and meeting your baby. But it’s also a good idea to start thinking about the next few steps – the days in hospital and those first few weeks at home – in order to make sure you, your partner and your newest family member get off to the easiest start possible.

Here are a few things to consider around the time of your child’s birth, and when you’re bringing her home for the first time.

  • Before the birth, try to stock up on frozen meals. You’re not going to want to cook – and living on takeaway isn’t the best idea for new parents – so having healthy options already in the house will be a lifesaver. Casseroles, pies, lasagna, quiches, curries and soups can all be frozen and reheated when you need them.
  • Fit the car seat in the car when you’re around 37 weeks pregnant – you don’t want to be ready to leave the hospital then realise you don’t have a seat for your most precious cargo! You should visit an accredited fitting station to have it done, or follow the instructions very carefully to make sure it’s fitted correctly if you’re doing it yourself.  
  • Once the physical part is over and you’ve had the baby, take advantage of any classes the hospital runs – new parents can learn how to wash their baby and change a nappy, and midwives can help you get the knack of breastfeeding.
  • Trying to take on too many visitors can be very draining for new parents. Of course everyone wants to meet the new arrival, but you need to save some energy for yourself – and your baby – too! It can help to turn on the answering machine and let mobile calls go to voicemail so you can deal with the calls when you have the time and energy. Some parents also leave a firmly worded but polite sign on the door warning against unsolicited visits from door-to-door salespeople or nosy neighbours.  
  • When you’re up to seeing people but don’t want to have a mass of visitors arriving on your doorstep, send some texts letting friends know you’d like to catch up with them. Give them a time that’s good for you (eg, “2- 4pm is usually okay for us”) and then ask them to confirm when they’ll be around, so you don't get any surprise visits.
  • Some parents like to arrange a group meet-and-greet to get a lot of first visits done at once – you might want to set aside a few hours when family and friends can drop around, letting them all know via text or email. If you like, you can set a specific end time, and then start encouraging your guests to leave when the time comes (you can say something like, “I’ve got to feed the baby and get her to sleep now. This could take a while, so it might be best if you come back another day?”). If you’re not up to having it at home, suggest meeting at a local park or a relative’s house (as a bonus, that means you can leave when your baby - or you! - has had enough socialising for the day).
  • Get help when you can. Whether it’s your sister dropping around to wash and change the sheets, your friend cleaning the bathroom, an old workmate dropping off dinner, or even your mother-in-law watching the baby while you have a shower and a nap, say yes when people offer you a hand. And it goes without saying that your partner should be doing everything he can to help out too!
  • Forget the housework – or at least try to! As you get used to the new human living in your home, try to let go of the usual pressures you might pit on yourself to keep a neat and tidy home.  If you can afford it, you might like to hire a cleaner for the first few months – it can help take the pressure off as you devote your time to your baby.

Got anything else to add? Have your say in the Essential Baby forum for expecting couples or new parents.

Say yes when people offer you a hand ... and it goes without saying that your partner should be doing everything he can to help out too!