April 11, 2018
You spend your whole pregnancy researching and seeking advice from different sources; your care providers, your mom, your grandma, your best friend, facebook mom groups, etc. You learn everything you think you could possibly need to know about pregnancy and childbirth. Then you come home from the hospital, where you had nurses and professionals to guide you. But now? Now you are on your own to keep this little human happy, healthy and safe. You probably start to wonder why they let new moms go home after only a day or two. How can that possibly be enough time to figure this out? It’s not, most moms don’t even have feedings down before it’s time to go home from the hospital. But that is ok! We are here to help and wanted to give you some tips of things you can expect when you bring that bundle of joy home.
You are going to be the most exhausted you’ve ever been and will wonder if you will ever see sleep again. Lots of babies get their days and nights mixed up. They must get their internal clock calibrated and learn when the waking and sleeping hours are for this new world they are in. Things that can help is to not try to darken or quiet the house during the day. Live your life as normal as possible when it comes to the volume on the TV and having the curtains open. At night, keep it as dark and quiet as possible. A small touch lamp that has different settings for brightness is a life saver, usually the first and dimmest setting is enough to allow you to see what you are doing without being so bright it wakens and stimulates baby. By doing these things routinely you will likely have a baby who can sleep through the normal day to day noises and not need you to walk on eggshells during nap time.
You are going to probably feel icky and sticky a lot in the beginning. After birth, your hormones that promoted the pregnancy drop and the ones that induce lactation rise. This shift can cause random hot flashes and may even make you break into a sweat. Even if you do not decide to breastfeed your body will start to produce milk anyways and likely will become engorged (rock like fullness in your breasts). You may or may not leak, so keep some nursing pads in your bra to catch any dribbles. Every woman has a different amount of postpartum bleeding but if having periods have ever prepared you for anything, it’s this. Be prepared that your PP bleeding may look and smell different from that of your normal periods. Your doctor should be able to give you’re their guidelines for what they consider normal/abnormal. You’re going to want to shower, even if energy is low (it can help wake you up too!), it will be the most amazing 10 minutes ever. Don’t be afraid to ask for a friend or family member to come by and cuddle baby just so you can shower. Who passes up baby cuddles?
Breastfeeding moms, you are going to likely feel more hungry breastfeeding than you did pregnant. While you’re no longer growing a human from the inside, you are still growing the human but from the outside now. Your body takes nutrients from your bloodstream and turns it into the perfect meal needed by your little one. Eating healthy is always important along with staying hydrated. But don’t be afraid to eat a burger or drink an occasional soda. Remember, it’s made from the nutrients in your blood stream, not your stomach contents.
Keep extra burp cloths everywhere. You seriously can’t have enough of these or receiving blankets.
Don’t overdo it. Some women feel completely normal right after birth and have no trouble with the monkey wrench thrown into their sleeping schedule. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t relax and rest. Your body is healing and needs time to do so. Your muscles may be weak, and it can be easy to damage them. Be patient with yourself and listen to your body. If you had a cesarean birth you need to be even more careful and patient with your body. Often women notice an increase in their postpartum bleeding after increasing their activity, this is one of the ways your body will let you know that you are doing too much and should rest. Your care provider will let you know when you can return to things like work and exercise.
Breastfeeding, while natural, is hard freaking work. Even for moms who have breastfed all their children, there can be difficulties and obstacles to overcome. Your baby has never nursed before. They have instincts and an idea of what they want to do, but they can sometimes use some help in learning how to become the most effective nurser. This next part is really important ok? DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP. Mom groups, WIC, lactation consultants at the hospital you delivered at, a friend, a doula – all of these can be amazing resources to help you should you need it on your breastfeeding journey. Never give up on a bad day.
It can be hard to learn to advocate for yourself while pregnant (or in general in the health care system), but you need to learn how to use your voice now more than ever. Your baby will not be able to tell the doctor what hurts or why she’s crying, so it’s up to you to be your baby’s voice. Know what to expect at your baby’s doctor visits, ask questions, research common newborn interventions. We even suggest researching vaccines and circumcision, so you can make sure you have all the information necessary to make the best-informed choices possible for your family.
Make time to care for yourself too. Some days are going to overwhelm you and make you wonder if you are capable of doing this mom thing. It’s ok to put baby in a safe place (like a crib or pack n play) for a few minutes while you step into another room and take some cleansing breaths and recollect yourself before going back and trying to soothe baby. Sometimes Mom needs a little time out too.
Postpartum depression doesn’t always look like sleeping and crying all day. It can come in forms of anxiety. Examples could be feeling like you can’t trust anyone to help care for baby, worrying about something terrible happening to baby constantly, feeling distraught or helpless or overwhelmed continuously. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. PPD/PPA is more common than you think and doesn’t always happen in that first month after birth. It can take several weeks or even months before you realize that something may not be right. Speaking with your doctor is a good first step to getting better should there be an issue.
What would you wish someone would’ve prepared you for after birth?