By:  Karen Sullen

Congratulations!  You've made it through labor, now the lifelong work begins.  Whether you feel prepared or panicked, no can deny that you have an awesome job that lies ahead.  As you and your baby embark on this wonderful, challenging journey, taking one day at a time will be your motto.  So it's helpful to make the first day at home a good one by following these helpful tips.  With any luck, your first day will be a positive precursor to each day that follows. 

Stock Up
If you're reading this article, chances are you probably haven't delivered your baby just yet.  So there's still time to prepare your home and nursery for baby's arrival.  Repetitive trips to the store can really waste time, gas and money.  Use this handy checklist to make sure you have enough items on hand and can spend time bonding with your baby instead of with the sales clerk at the store:

- Waterproof pads for the crib (2-5)
- Quilted mattress pads (2 sets)
- Hooded bath towels (4)
- Receiving blankets (6 – 8)
- Burp cloths (10)
- Disposable diapers (5 dozen - or at least 3 dozen cloth diapers)
- Bath sheets (4-6)
- Washable quilts, baby blankets or comforters that have no fringe (3-4)
- Bath products (baby soap, shampoo, baby oil, lotion, baby wipes, diaper rash ointment, cotton balls and swabs, nail clippers and nail file, baby powder, petroleum jelly, bandages for the umbilical cord stump and rubbing alcohol
- Sanitary pads for you

Successful Departure
These days, unless you're having a cesarean, you'll be in and out of the hospital before you know it.  Make a successful departure by sending everything but the bare essentials home the day before you check out.  It's also a good idea to have practiced using the car seat so that you know how to secure the baby.  Don't let your departure day be the first day you've tried to use the car seat.  Give yourself ample time for check out.  You'll be walking and moving a lot slower, so try not to get frustrated with the process. 

Schedule Visits
In everyone's excitement, there is usually a barrage of visitors flowing in and out of the home.  While you may need people coming to assist you, this is not the time to play hostess or have show and tell with baby.  It's exhausting for you and your baby.  Instead, try to schedule visits for no more than 20-30 minutes each and space them out so that you and your baby can rest and bond. 

Soothe With Sound
Chances are your baby will be a little cranky while trying to adjust to life on the outside. Whether you speak or sing, keep a consistent flow of communication and contact with your baby to help keep him calm.  While in the womb, your baby has gotten used to the sound of your voice and even your heartbeat.  And it will be those same sounds that will soothe baby as he adjusts to his new surroundings.  Baby slings are a great way for him to experience both while you move about through the day.

Stay In The Moment
You'll probably be exhausted and a little overwhelmed by all that is happening, but try to enjoy every moment as it unfolds.  There will be so many endearing moments that you'll need to have a camera or camcorder always available.  Take a moment to capture those shots.  You’ll appreciate the extra effort when you're sitting around looking at photo albums later. 

Solicit Support
Parenting is a big job, but you don't have to do it alone.  Hopefully you have already surrounded yourself with proud supporters who are ready to pitch in at a moment's notice.  If not, don't worry.  People always say, "Let me know if there's anything I can do."  Be prepared with an answer and be specific.  Family and friends can help with chores, cooking, errands and even babysitting so that you can get some rest.  People want to be helpful and you need the help.  It's a win-win situation. 

While the first few days at home will be filled with both momentous and mediocre events, you will cherish each one and soon learn to take it all in stride-day by day as your journey of parenthood unfolds.