Hospital to Home: How to make a smooth transition
While you're at the hospital, recovering from the birth of your baby, one thing you will notice is that most things about your stay are "convenient". Your meals are brought to you, everything is confined to a little space, you have around the clock, 24-hour care and someone to answer questions. Yet some of us simply cannot wait to leave the hospital and get back to the cozy surroundings of our own home. There is nothing better than sleeping in your own bed!
With a little prep work before your baby arrives, you can have all of those hospital conveniences waiting for you at home too.
Food is such an important necessity, yet sometimes as a new mom, that is one area you might overlook. You are exhausted and the last thing you want to worry about is when or what you will eat next. There are a few options that allow you to make mealtime as quick and easy as possible.
* Stock your Freezer with made ahead meals. This can be something you and your partner put together during the nesting phase. Or you could have willing family and friends come for a day and make several at one time. There are plenty of websites that give you meal ideas and grocery lists. Once these are made and in the freezer they will keep well until you need them. Most of them will require just being thawed and cooked. If you write the cooking/baking directions on the container with a permanent marker, anyone who might be there helping or visiting can take care of getting it ready for you.
* Meal Train is a super useful FREE website that can be utilized by friends and family to volunteer to bring meals to you once you're home. You can choose how often you'd like to receive meals and list any allergy restrictions or food aversions. Friends and family are invited to participate via email, Facebook or Twitter (hello, technology) and they sign up for a day that's convenient for them AND you. They will have the ability to see what everyone has signed up to bring so you don't receive Lasagna 8 days in a row. While you would appreciate their thoughtfulness, 8 days of lasagna is just a bit much. Here is a link to their website:
* In the Cincinnati area, we have stores called Dream Dinners. Though this is the same idea as make-ahead meals, you simply pick from their menu and they prepare and chop all ingredients ahead of time. You go to their store and put meals together in containers that can be frozen. Then, they clean up the mess! You leave the store with your meals ready to go in the freezer until you need them. They have an introductory offer of $84.95 for 18 servings of food which figures out to just under $5.00 per meal. For this offer, you do have to pick from their introductory menu and choose 3 or 6 servings of each meal. 3 servings per menu selection, would give you 6 varieties of meals. I looked over the menu and the choices look delicious! If you want to check out their website: https://dreamdinners.com/
* Another great option in most areas of Cincinnati are the many food delivery services. Uber Eats, GrubHub, Skip the Dishes and Door Dash are some I've used and had great success with. Simply download the app on your phone and choose from participating restaurants in your area. The great news is, friends and family can also use these services to order food and have it sent to your home. If they don't live nearby and can't physically provide a meal, they could still utilize this service and provide you with a delicious dinner!
2. Diaper Changing Stations
While you're at the hospital, everything you need for a smooth diaper change is right at your finger tips. Typically the bassinet your baby sleeps in has drawers under it that is filled with diapers and wipes/washcloths. Once you're home, getting up and walking to the changing area every time the baby needs to be changed, can seem like an all-day event. Especially if you've had a cesarean delivery. Sometimes your changing area is not even on the same floor you will spend most of your time.
Creating a changing station in a couple of locations can be helpful. Simply placing a stack of diapers, wipes and a changing pad or towel in an accessible basket in your most used rooms can make this task a little easier. This is also helpful if you have friends and family helping so you don't have to give them a rundown of where they can find what they need.
3. Be Familiar with Your Breast Pump
If you plan to breastfeed, being familiar with your breast pump before the baby comes home, is a huge bonus! Trying to hook up tubes and cords and phalanges in the middle of the night when your breasts are engorged and you're exhausted, is not ideal. Most hospitals have Lactation Consultants available to you while you're in the hospital. I highly recommend meeting with them during your stay. Even if you've taken a class. Even if you've breastfed your other children. Utilize the hospital Lactation Consultant! They can walk you through how to use your breast pump. While you may not plan on pumping, chances are if you're breastfeeding, you will at some point use one. Breast pumps can be overwhelming and intimidating if you've never used one. There are also Breastfeeding Boutiques that can assist you with questions about breastfeeding and pumps. Blue Cocoon is one of my favorites in Cincinnati! Check them out at https://www.bluecocoonbaby.com/
4. Line Up Help and Support
Knowing ahead of time what kind of support and help you will have once you're home is key to a successful first few weeks at home. What does that look like for you and your partner? Do you have family nearby who will be willing to run errands? Or stop by to allow you to catch a nap while they hold the baby? What about keeping up with laundry or dishes?
Having a newborn means many changes to your household and schedule. It can feel like you are living a completely different life once you're home and on your own. The best way to get through this is to line up a few people you know you can count on to help out. Yes, most people will want to stop by and hold your baby. But they will also want to visit and chat with you. Having a few that are willing to unload and load the dishwasher, start a load of laundry or empty the garbage can be a game changer for you. Know that there are friends and family that desperately want to help but don't exactly know what you need. So if they ask, don't be afraid to give them a couple of options of ways they can pitch in. I don't necessarily mean "please clean my bathroom" but "would you mind to fold this basket of laundry while we talk".
You may not live near family. Or you may be new the area and have yet to establish a group of friends to help. This is a great opportunity to hire a Postpartum Doula. Postpartum Doulas are non-medical, professionally trained support for you, your partner and newborn. You can schedule shifts to accommodate your needs. Sometimes support comes in the form of help around the house: meal preparation, vacuuming, laundry or dishes. It can also be emotional support or talking over your birth experience. Postpartum Doulas, of course, also love to snuggle your baby so you can get some much-needed rest. But we can answer questions and offer guidance as you maneuver your way through the 4th trimester.
Bottom Line...NEVER feel like you don't have support.
5. Wardrobe for You and Baby
Let's talk wardrobe, or lack thereof, once you're home from the hospital. You've traded in the hospital gown and mesh panties so now what do you wear? I say it's all about comfort and convenience for both you and your newborn. Most days you wake up, get dressed and never consider things like needing your breasts to be available 24/7; you will be bleeding for days after you've given birth; your belly will be tender; you may have had stitches for a tear or episiotomy. Not to mention you're now also dressing a beautiful bundle of joy who pees (a lot); poops (sometimes blow out proportions); spits up everything you just fed them.
My first suggestion for you is to have a couple of super comfortable, well-fitting nursing bras. Most stores that sell nursing bras will be happy to fit you and help you find styles that you like. Getting fitted before you have the baby is not a problem as most places take into account your still growing breasts and rib cage. They will direct you to buy something that will continue to grow with you through the rest of the pregnancy and first few postpartum weeks. I also suggest getting one style that you know will be comfortable to sleep in. Once you have established a good milk supply and you are several weeks postpartum, you can go back for another fitting and purchase a bra to accommodate your now shrinking rib cage. On a side note, you can utilize your HSA to purchase anything that is breastfeeding related including Nursing Bras. If you don't have an HSA, save your receipts and apply them toward your medical tax deductions.
In addition to the nursing bras, invest in nursing pads, even if you're not breastfeeding. Once your milk comes in, it has a way of coming out when you least expect it. There are several disposable varieties or if you prefer, there are options that can be thrown in the washer. I recommend looking at the Bamboobies brand. They have disposable, re-usable and overnight varieties. Plus, they're super cute! Again, these are HSA/tax deductible too! https://www.buybamboobies.com/
Next up, I would suggest comfortable underwear, in bulk, that you don't mind getting stained and can be washed and thrown in the dryer. No one expects you to have sexy undies at this point. Go for the granny panties that just feel good. Fine lingerie that has to be hung to dry isn't what you're going for here. Did I mention to buy them in bulk?
For the rest of your wardrobe, I say wear whatever is comfortable. Again, easy wash and stain friendly is the best choice. Comfy gowns and robes are great so you don't feel exposed if visitors are there or soft legging pants and nursing friendly shirts work too.
Your baby will have no doubt received many cute, adorable little outfits. For your own peace of mind, save those for a bit. It's helpful to have plenty of cotton, one piece outfits such as footed sleepers or gowns. Gowns are particularly helpful overnight for quick, easy diaper changes. You can plan to change baby's clothes several times a day so have plenty available.
Onesies are a great addition to your baby's wardrobe. They have long and short sleeve styles depending on your climate and season. But they also have side snap onesies that are perfect for super messy poopy diaper changes. Pulling a full of poo onesie up and over your baby's head will ensure a complete mess. Again, no one wants to face this in the middle of the night!
6. Rest, Sleep & Heal
One thing that will make the biggest difference in your transition home, is resting as much as possible. Sleep may not always be easy, but allow others to help as much as possible so you can rest as much as possible. In other cultures, women from the village or tribe come together to stay with new moms around the clock so the only thing they have to be concerned with is nursing their baby and healing. Your body has been through some pretty incredible changes and the best way for you all to get settled into your new routine, is for you to rest and heal. It's okay to schedule time for visitors. Don't feel like you have to be hospitable when you do have visitors. If the baby is sleeping and you would like a nap too, excuse yourself and get some shut-eye. Your postpartum time will be exhausting. Create an environment that makes it easy for you to rest whenever you have the opportunity.
Your transition from hospital to home will be one of the most exciting times of your life. Having your postpartum plans arranged before you ever leave the hospital will make that time even more memorable.