Bringing Home Baby
There is always so much attention placed on pregnancy and labour that often the postpartum period is one that is forgotten about and neglected. Mums are often so overwhelmed by well meaning visitors and “advice” in the first weeks after baby is born, that once they are able to settle down and try and parent their new baby, confusion, worry and self-doubt immediately becomes all consuming. Before baby is born, try and think of strategies to get through the first few weeks and months. These are few things I try and encourage my clients to think about…
1. Limit visitors in the first few weeks.
For some reason people think that although they haven’t seen you in the last twelve months, immediately after you have a baby would be the perfect time to visit. You really do need to employ a “gatekeeper”. Whether this be your partner, mother or nurse, make it very clear that you are not being rude, but need to preserve your emotional energy for yourself and your baby.
2. Use the professional resources available
If you have a hospital birth, most places have free classes available such as feeding, settling and bathing. If these are not available most midwives can assist with a lot of this or have the right resources to refer you on. It is ok to ask for help….
3. Stock that freezer
If you are lucky enough to have some time before baby comes, try and cook some bulk meals that can be stored in the freezer. Nutrition and diet are paramount in your physical and emotional health. Easy access to some quick healthy meals for both you and your partner can make such a difference to how your coping. In addition to this, if people really do want to help you, ask them to make a meal. Flowers and baby gifts are a lovely gesture, but a fresh home cooked meal can make such a difference to a day that has been challenging to get through
4. Some days will be better than others
Just when you think you have this parenting gig nailed, baby will cry all day, not feed properly and have trouble settling. Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason to unsettled babies, and you just have to ride it out. Baby can be fed, changed and well slept and just wont settle. These days happen to everyone. Change up your scenery a bit, go for a walk, give baby a bath or if this all seems too hard, it is completely ok to stay on the couch, binge some tv and nurse baby all day.
5. You will second guess every decision you are making
Some of the most frequently asked questions I hear, and I asked it so many times with my own babies was “is he getting enough milk?” “how do I know if I have fed him enough”. Usually if baby is wetting and pooing his nappies regularly this is a good sign that baby is getting enough to eat. If you have extra concerns, get baby weighed every few days to ensure that he is putting on weight and seek out the help of a lactation consultant to watch you do a feed and give you advice on latching and positioning of baby. It is normal for a newborn baby to feed between 8 and 10 times a day for short periods, but this should over time reduce in number as both mum and baby get more efficient at feeding.
6. Your emotions will surprise you
Exhaustion after a birth is real and this is then compounded by the constant lack of sleep that is normal with a newborn. Your body is recovering, and your hormones and emotions are fluctuating constantly. You will cry, you will laugh and you will learn to love in a completely new and overwhelming way. Try to talk with your partner about these feelings and new anxieties as usually these are a shared experience. If at any time these feelings feel like more than this, seek help. The resources available for new parents are truly amazing. Midwives, doulas and doctors have some connections with facilities and professionals that can truly help you in a totally non-judgemental and supportive manner. They can often come to your house, if getting out is difficult or even provide support over the phone.
In summary, try and enjoy this time. It is often described as the “fourth trimester” and is just as important as those first three trimesters. If you would like some further reading on this, Heng Ou has written a beautiful book…”The first forty days – The essential art of nourishing the new mother”. It has gentle advice on nurturing and caring for the new mother in the postpartum period. If you are concerned about your emotional health both during your pregnancy and postpartum, gidgetfoundation.org.au is an excellent resource that can help in supporting you.