by Melissa Jaramillo Just a couple generations ago, new moms could count on a one to two week "vacation" in the hospital or a relative living in for a few weeks to help with chores and childcare.
Today, most moms head home after 24 to 48 hours. While early release has its advantages, you lack the support system women used to enjoy.
What can you do? Get ready! You owe it to you and your baby to prepare in advance and line up as much support as you can.
Plan ahead for baby's first weeks
Dr. Laura Riley compares bringing home a baby like starting high school. You were so excited to get started. But you couldn't get your locker open, you kept getting lost, you got no sleep and you were afraid you'd do something wrong.
During your first weeks together, you and your baby may feel just as dazed and confused. Soon you'll both begin to relax and enjoy each other. These plan-ahead tips can make the transition much smoother.
Stock up on easy to prepare meals
Grocery shopping and cooking are bound to be low on your "must do" list in your early postpartum days. You can avoid the empty fridge syndrome or a game of take-out roulette.
Make and bake: Pick up a batch disposable baking pan. During your last two or three months, double your favorite recipes. If you only make an extra meal a week, you'll have ten or twelve days worth; two or three a week will get you through the first month with a new baby.
Fill your cupboard and refrigerator with easy-to-eat and easy-to-prepare foods like instant oatmeal, granola bars, nut butters, hard boiled eggs, Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, string cheese, nuts, hummus and already cut up vegetables.
Let others help with kitchen duty. Changes are that others will be happy to help out with a meal or two. Be upfront about your family's food preferences and any allergies.
Carrie remembers, "One of the best baby presents I got was family-sized casserole dish already filled with the meal already cooked, frozen and ready for the oven. My friend had included reheating instructions and serving suggestions."
Keep on top of the household chores
When the nesting urge hits, go ahead and take advantage of it. Clean out and organize the cupboards and closets. It may be months before you have this much free time again. While you're at it, you can do some things to help reduce the stress of life after baby.
During your last few weeks, keep up on the laundry. Toss in a load first thing in the morning or every evening. Not only will you have at least one clean outfit to take to the hospital, but you'll be in the laundry habit once baby's here.
Keep the kitchen and bathroom reasonably clean. If your mega-pregnant self can't face those chores, ask your partner to take them over, see if a sympathetic friend can or hire someone to give you house a go-through right before your due date.
Make your living space convenient. Arrange your new nest with a water bottle, tissues, a pillow and blanket, a book or the remote and baby supplies. Pretend you're curled up on the sofa with your new baby. Take a look around. Are the things you'll need handy?
Set up a changing station on each floor of your home. You won't need tons of furniture. Just have a couple changes of clothes, a waterproof change pad and a stash of diapers.
Get the rest of your life in order
Now that you've gotten the house ready for post-baby, here are some other tasks you'll want to handle before the baby arrives.
✓ Choose your baby's doctor
✓ Take care of finances
✓ Pick up gifts and cards for upcoming birthdays
✓ Have your postpartum supplies on hand
✓ Get your must-haves for baby
✓ Write down those offers for help.
If you find yourself overwhelmed, don't hesitate to ask. What would make the first weeks easier for you? Can you arrange it now or ask someone else to handle the task?
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.