It has been 6 weeks now since we became parents so I figured it’s time for an update on this – how did we experience it? What happened from the day we brought Giovanni home until now? Maybe you are thinking about having kids yourself and want to see what it’s like? Then don’t read this, because Every. Child. Is. Different. You cannot compare our child and situation to yours. That being said, this is how it was for us!
Ok so after we arrived home from the hospital on Sunday morning the 6th of February, there was already Kraamzorg coming to our house at 10 AM. Of course as new parents you are thrown into it and have no idea what this little creature needs. The first 24h they can still be pretty startled from the birth, so they don’t even drink that much. A newborn anyway has a stomach the size of a big marble so there’s a lot of small feeding sessions. Most importantly now is to bond and cuddly with this tiny human. And change its diaper every now and then 😉
If you are familiar with Kraamzorg, you can skip this part 😉
So like I touched upon in my previous post, in the Netherlands you don’t stay in the hospital after giving birth (if you had a normal delivery) but go home and get a dedicated caretaker to come to your house for one week for a minimum of 3h/day and a maximum of 8h/day. They medically check on you (your blood pressure, sutures, position of your uterus,…) and the baby (poop, weight,…) but most importantly guide you and teach you most things you should know. For example breastfeeding positions, how to change a diaper, how to bathe the baby, which clothes are easiest. They also give you a hand in the household (vacuum, make your bed,…) or let you rest while they take care of the baby. This service is covered by your health insurance here.
Now when I first heard about this, I was skeptical – what do you mean, I don’t stay in the hospital for a bit but have to go home? It seemed weird that a woman who just gave birth was just sent off, but looking back I would not have wanted it any other way. In my opinion, it makes so much more sense to be in your own trusted environment and to get help there while you ask questions fit to your situation. I can imagine there are questions arising at home that you don’t think of in the hospital just because it’s also a foreign environment for you. Anyway, I was really pleasantly surprised about this! Our kraamzorg (Hajar) was fantastic – sweet but direct and very hands-on. I could also call her day and night with questions. This first week really flew by – there is so much to learn!
What about the sleep deprivation?
A joke that every pregnant woman hears multiple times is: enjoy your sleep now because it will be over soon! And that is partially true of course – this tiny human at first needs to eat every 3 hours so you will have to wake up several times and catch up on sleep whenever you can. Vittorio had 2 weeks of paternity leave (waaay too little if you ask me) and while I was breastfeeding at night in our bedroom, he would lie awake and be on his phone. After he went back to work (from home), we decided it would be best if he would sleep in the guest room for now. During weekends he takes the baby at night and gives him a bottle of extracted breast milk so I can get a full night of sleep.
Take it from us: you both need sleep, and you don’t do each other a favor from both being tired and snappy. So find a way where you both get your sleep, whatever works for you.
Handling the visitors
When the baby was born, all our friends and family wanted to come and visit and admire this tiny human we brought into this world. We talked about this beforehand and decided we didn’t want any visitors the first days. We wanted time to adjust to our new role a bit before facing the world. It’s only on day 5 that we received our first visitors: Vittorio’s parents. And a few days later my mother. All very proud to become grandparents 😉 Vitto’s parents prefer not to have their faces shown online, but my mother doesn’t mind:
Again, looking back, I am happy we did it this way. As a mother, your body is still recovering – you are both adjusting to your new role as parents and trying to find a rhythm. Having visitors immediately would have caused stress and probably us overstepping our boundaries.
I really wanted to breastfeed, if I could (you never know). Luckily I can, but it hasn’t been easy. The latching on was super painful at first, and I was afraid I was not producing enough milk. But 2 weeks of pushing through, and the pain got less – and now it’s mostly pain-free! As a mother, you are so insecure if your baby is getting enough milk, so I went to the consultation office a few times to have him weighed to be sure he was gaining enough.
One big “reality-check” for me was that if I wanted to go to bed early and have Vittorio give Giovanni a bottle with formula milk, I still had to pump my breast milk. Otherwise, my production would decrease. So it’s not like you can take a break as a mommy – you either breastfeed or pump.
Finding a rhythm
So as a parent with a newborn you have a choice to make: do I let the baby decide the rhythm or do I? If you let the baby decide, you basically feed on his request and let him sleep on his request. If you decide, you wake him when it’s time for a feeding and put him to bed according to a schedule. I think this is a very personal decision and you should do what you feel comfortable with. For us, we are sticking to a schedule that gets adjusted every 2 weeks. The goal is to get the baby into a certain rhythm where he understands the difference between day/night and we set his “biological clock” right. So we start the first feeding at 7 AM, then 10AM, then 2PM, 5PM and 10PM. In between there are some naps and awake time. He goes to bed at 11 PM and during the night we don’t wake him to feed – then we let him decide when he’s hungry. So far it’s been 3-3.30 AM. So we only wake up 1 time per night.
Again: every baby is different, so if you read this and your baby is/was completely different, that doesn’t mean anything. For us, the past 6 weeks have been really positive – but we count our blessings that we are lucky to have such a good baby. He already sleeps very well at night (only wakes up once for a feeding) and does not cry a lot in general. One challenge is that he cannot entertain himself yet during the awake time, and there is also not much you can entertain him with.
It has been a rollercoaster for sure, but we are sooo in love with our little guy, have taken already hundreds of pictures and have become the cliché parents that only share baby pictures anymore 😉 But we wouldn’t have it any other way and are so grateful and happy about this new chapter in our lives.
Until next time!