January 2024: Expecting Parents

5 (realistic) tips for preparing to welcome home your newborn

As an in-home newborn photographer in Ellicott City, MD, I spend a lot of time with families who have just welcomed a new baby into their lives. I’ve observed so many practices that parents use to successfully navigate this major transition. Of course, we all know there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to newborns! But if I were to do it all again, here are my 5 non-negotiables to set myself up for “SUCCESS” (if there really were such a thing).

Mama rocks her baby in her nursery chair in Fulton MD

1. Prepare a space to feed baby among the family

As it turns out, that meticulously designed nursery with the ergonomically correct nursing chair may not always be the ideal spot for feeding your newborn. For at least the first few weeks (maybe months), parents often wind up feeding their newborns in the rooms of the house that are most convenient to them, regardless of breast or bottle feeding. Typically, I see space set up in or next to the parent’s bed and on the family room couch. The reality is that babies sometimes take 30-45 min per feeding in the early days, and some days they feed quite frequently, despite attempts to get them on a schedule. So you’ll likely just feed them wherever you are at that moment, rather than relocating each time to sit alone in the nursery. Rather than scrambling to rearrange everything out of that lovely nursery the day you bring your baby home, it may help to set up some comfort items in both of these spots in advance. I suggest a water bottle and snacks (for you) in each space, plenty of burp cloths, some extra pillows to prop your elbows or back comfortably, your coziest blanket in case you also become chilly, and a nursing pillow (I suggest investing in at least two, so you’re not constantly shuffling it around with you). Set up a diapering station close by, as feeding and pooping often happen simultaneously. Maybe even keep a good book within reach, or a TV remote, because contact naps are bound to happen in these spots too (you’ll likely get some binge watching/reading accomplished here).

2. Set your visitation boundaries ahead of time

It can be hard to imagine the sudden onset of over-protective instincts you might feel once your new baby is actually here. Even if you currently feel like you’ll want every family member and friend to meet this baby while they’re still itty bitty – and of course these people WILL want to – it may be worth communicating more strict limits first, then deciding how you really feel about it after baby arrives. These days everyone should be understanding of your desire to minimize the number of people in contact with your newborn – blame the doctors advice, blame RSV, whatever you gotta do. I’ve come across many families (I’m writing this in 2024, though it may sound outdated) who are still asking extended guests to initially visit them virtually and I love that idea! One big difference between now and two years ago is that everyone else has mostly resumed life as usual (travel, concerts, school functions, large gatherings) except for new parents, so it’s easy to feel like you are on an island in this effort to protect your baby’s fragile immune system. But you are not alone, it is very common for me to meet a newborn for their photo session before most of their aunts/uncles/friends etc. and I hope those in your circle will also respect your efforts. Personally, I wear a mask in homes with a newborn year-round – I just never know what I could unknowingly bring to a newborn or their family. Communicating your boundaries to everyone before your baby arrives will save a lot of unnecessary worry and potential stress once your baby is here, and if you know it’s gonna become a hot-button topic for some in your circle, maybe just designate an outspoken buddy to spread the word on your behalf – some people love that type of job, I’m sure you know someone 🙂 Don’t be afraid to set yourself up for “success”!

3. Make a plan to share feeding duties

Let’s pretend you actually will not sleep whenever the baby sleeps (I think most people have now been made aware, that is false advertising). In my experience, the parents who seem most rested and “with it” are those who share in feeding duties. Of course, if breastfeeding, this is only possible with use of a pump – and on that note, please invest $13 in a Haakaa if you haven’t yet, in the early days it could collect enough milk to save you a lot of pumping – this will allow the non-breastfeeding partner or support person to not only participate and give you a chance to get a longer stretch of rest, but also to enjoy the bond of feeding the new baby. (While I’m on this subject of shared-duties, I’ve noticed it also helps when someone who is not the pumping partner acts as the designated pump-cleaner and milk-storage-manager, whenever possible). And I don’t mean you’re going to alternate every feeding, but if each partner can find two opportunities per day (not in a row – that will get uncomfortable for the one breastfeeding) to sleep through a feeding, THIS is the actual key from what I’ve witnessed – sleeping while the baby sleeps is just completely unreasonable advice. If nipple confusion is a concern for you, I’d suggest consulting a pediatrician or lactation consultant to get their opinion – most of the time, the vote will be to prioritize the parents’ well-being. I hope you will set up this plan ahead of time. If someone else can take sole responsibility for that 1-5am window (or something like that) you may feel like you actually got some sleep. Babies don’t follow a clock schedule, but at least each partner will have a chance to say, “ok I just fed the baby, now I’m going to get a decent stretch of sleep through the next feeding, whenever that may be”. Add onto that at least one other feeding time during the day or even late evening when you can nap without interruption, and you may feel like you’re really a functioning human again 😉

4. Prioritize Mom’s recovery

In the hospital, both mom and baby have separate nurses to ensure they are each receiving the proper care after baby is born. So often, the family then goes home and the focus is totally on baby (understandably). It is so important to make sure everyone involved in caring for this new baby, including siblings, are also involved in making sure mom is getting the necessary recovery from labor or c-section. This will probably mean keeping track of mom’s pain remedies (medicines or otherwise), recognizing that mom might need to spend extra time in the bathroom without interruption, doing more of the running up and down stairs for items (big brothers and sisters can be great helpers) and making sure any errand and meal duties that mom typically handles are outsourced (friends and grandparents love to help with these tasks, delivery services are also a great tool worth budgeting for). This is another huge effort that is often left to be managed in-the-moment, but I am sure no one would argue that mom’s well-being benefits the whole family and requires a lot of moving parts to accomplish successfully. Everyone should prepare to be “team mama” in whatever way works best for your family – it takes a village from day one (please share this with your partner if you are the mama).

Ellicott City parents smitten by their sweet baby during their Lifestyle Photo Session

5. Book your newborn photos in advance

Ok so this may not be in quite the same vein as my other tips, but obviously as a newborn photographer, I am quite familiar with that feeling a lot of people go through. Consider: Currently, you haven’t met your baby yet, and your biggest concern might be that you won’t feel photo-ready soon after he or she arrives, and you have a pretty good camera so you’re going to hold off on professional photos. But then…here is your baby, and they are the most beautiful creature ever made, like how is it possible that your baby is the ACTUAL cutest one ever?? You do want those newborn photos now – and you suddenly are less concerned with your photo-readiness because what does that even mean anyway, the point is that this precious, perfect tiny person is here and they are yours and you will do whatever it takes to preserve these moments before they change one bit. But who has time to research and communicate with photographers while also caring for a newborn – and then, the one you find who just speaks to you is fully booked (typically repeat clients do book well in advance). I’m not trying to instill fear, (or am I? I’m sorry I promise that’s not my style) I just don’t know a better way to communicate the importance of preparing for this moment in advance. I recognize that some people just don’t even consider booking newborn photos before their baby has actually arrived because how does that work with scheduling? Trust me – all newborn photographers prepare for babies to be born at any point in time, most book 3-4 months in advance. And I will be completely honest, it was something I never did prepare for, I let a new photographer friend practice with my first because I missed out on the photographer I had my eye on, and I thought I could do it myself with the second (please do not attempt in a postpartum state) and it is one of the very few things I can think of that I still regret! I’m not even saying you need to book with me (do you even live in Maryland?) I just want everyone to have those memories captured professionally because it is crazy how quickly babies change while parents are still left in a sleep-deprived fog, and how impossible it is to DIY those perfect newborn photos!

I am happy to answer more questions about hiring a newborn photographer (even if you aren’t in my area) to help you make this decision with no obligation, feel free to get in touch. I truly love helping parents through the newborn stage and I hope you’ve found something useful to consider in this post!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *