Planning for your postpartum? Not sure where to start?
Are you pregnant or thinking about it? Its never too early to start planning for your Babymoon (postnatal period). The first weeks and months after a baby is born can be joyous, nurturing and beautiful. Unfortunately, they can also be anxiety raising, tiring and painful; particularly if you aren’t prepared.
It can be really hard to think about and plan for your postpartum period when thinking about your pregnancy and the impending birth takes up most of your time but a little prep can go a long way. Even if you are interested to find out more about how to prepare for this time information can be rather thin on the ground, I get so frustrated when the postpartum period is limited to a couple of pages at the back of most pregnancy books.
So here it is, an easy guide to planning for your postpartum time. What you need to consider and plan for to ensure you have covered all of your bases. Whether you are prepared to spend thousands or even just a couple of hundred dollars getting yourself and your family ready, these are really the main points that are worth considering.
Having a baby is a big deal for all women, it affects your relationship with your partner and other children, with your family and even forces you to reevaluate your own identity. If there are fractured relationships in your past or bad experiences in previous pregnancies this is likely to all come to the surface. Do you have someone you can talk to, someone you can trust and who hopefully has been there before and can understand where you are coming from? Postnatal doulas, best friends and new mum’s groups are great for this kind of support. Check out my post about ‘unpacking’ before birth and start looking at the different options for you in your local area.
Have you thought about who is going to make dinner, vacuum, feed your cat or keep your toddler entertained because it is highly likely you won’t be able to do this straight away or at least it is ideal if you don’t.
Beside possible complications from birth including surgery there is a lot of healing and bonding that needs to take place between nursing sessions and hall pacing so it really is best if there is someone else there who you can rely on to take on the lion’s share of physical tasks around the house for a while. This allows you the space needed to do the most important job you have during this period, getting to know your new baby. This is something you are going to want to discuss with your partner, friends and family before the baby arrives. You may also consider hiring a cleaner, preparing meals before you are due or organising a meal rosters and streamlining some activities like grocery shopping.
Birth is a big deal on the body no matter how you deliver your baby. The hormonal transition from pregnant woman to lactating mother coupled with sleep deprivation can make for one sore and uncomfortable mum. There are a lot of different opinions about what you might like to do to assist your body to heal but healthy, nutritious and easily digestible food goes a long way so does Panadol or some healing teas or bath herbs as well as items you may need to sooth sore nipples, relieve a swollen perineum or help heal a caesarean scar. Ask any new mum friends what worked for them or check out some suggestions for postpartum kits on the internet
Have you spent much time with a newborn before? Until we have children of our own the answer for most people is ‘no’. Most newborns are hidden away from everyday life and for good reason, unfortunately this also means that until we find ourselves with this tiny little life in our hands we may not have any idea about what to expect. Here knowledge is key so learning as much as you can about newborns what they do and why can help you understand and navigate your new baby’s behaviour in those early days. If you are planning on breastfeeding learning as much as you can about breastfeeding, milk production and good attachment can help you understand and trouble shoot any issues that may arise, considering you could be spending up to 12 hours a day nursing it can definitely come in handy. You could consider taking a breastfeeding education class as well as finding books about breastfeeding as well as books and articles about infant behaviour such as ‘The Fourth Trimester’ by Susan Brink.
Are you pregnant and thinking about how to best use your time before baby arrives? What about after baby is on the scene? If you are looking for a meaningful way to bond with your baby while learning the 'art' of being a mother then a Babymoon might just be for you.
If you search for ‘Babymoon’ on Google this is the first thing that pops up “That's just a fancy way of saying short holiday for expectant couples, squeezed somewhere between the time morning sickness eases off and you get too big to want to go anywhere.”
Generally, the idea behind a "Babymoon" is to try and take a holiday before the new baby arrives as you assume life and holidays will never be the same again so you’d better get it in now. The idea of a Babymoon also seems to say that this baby is going to ruin your life and you are never going to have fun again, what a shame that this idea is so common these days and a lot of expectant mums feel like they better do it too 'before its too late.'
There are some who are pushing to give the term Babymoon a meaning that is more in tune with its origins, the term 'Honeymoon' which also sends a far more valuable message about pregnancy, birth and the newborn period.
The tradition of the Honeymoon started long ago in Europe when a newly married couple (who may have barley known each other) were given one lunar month alone together in their new martial home and were plied with honey mead while their family and friends took care of all the work they would usually need to do. I’m not sure if this sounds appealing or not but the basic principle of taking time out to just be together and get to know each other without having to worry about chores and usual day to day activities is a great analogy for successfully navigating those early first few weeks and months with a new baby.
Wouldn’t it be great if taking this kind of Babymoon was standard practice in our culture? Life with a new baby takes time, most of your time in fact and many mums complain that they can barely find the time to shower never mind make dinner and keep the washing under control. Wouldn’t it be great if Mum and her partner didn’t need to worry about these things and could instead focus on their baby, meeting her needs knowing that their support network is there to make sure that the dishes still get done and there is fresh wholesome food ready for them in the fridge?
Many cultures, particularly in Asia still practice these kinds of Babymoons except we like to call it confinement, which frankly sounds awful. How long would you like to be ‘confined’ for? What actually happens during these periods of confinement is that mum and her family are nurtured while they take time to heal and get use to this new little person in their lives.
We may not have the tradition of confinement in our culture anymore but there are still things we can do to create a similar environment. It all starts by setting out firmly a time period for which you would like to take your ‘Babymoon’ and making it clear to family and friends that you will need their support during this period. You may want to limit any visitors to strictly only grandparents during this time or only one at a time for no more than an hour visit.
You could ask friends or family to bring meals or have them ready in your freezer. You could also hire a cleaner to come twice a week during this time period (great baby shower gift idea!) and just generally be aware and have everyone else in your life aware that for the first perhaps three weeks after baby’s arrival you will be on your Babymoon, not answering emails or taking mobile phone calls, not doing the laundry or possibly even getting out of bed depending on how you feel. Making this commitment to a set time period also sends a signal to yourself that you are going to let things go and commit to resting, recuperating and bonding with your new baby.
So who needs Bali when you have a newborn and a fridge full of goodies! Embrace your Babymoon and take charge of your postpartum experience.
5) Know why Breastfeeding is awesome
We’ve already established that you are planning to breastfeed, because its better for the baby right, the natural thing to do and all that, but do you know why?
In the final installment in this series on five things you need to know about breastfeeding before your baby arrives we look at probably the most important thing, actually understanding why breastfeeding is important for your baby and for you. It seems like a no brainer but even long-time nursers can get spun out when they find out some of the amazing facts about breast milk, its qualities and how it benefits your baby.
No pro-breastfeeding organisation today would use the slogan ‘Breast is Best’ but formula companies do. Why is that? It is because everyone knows that human breast milk is constitutionally better for the great majority of human babies, the science is in and there is no dispute. Formula companies like to use the slogan ‘breast is best’ because it gives the subtlest clause, ‘formula is almost as good’. Don’t get me wrong, I have no ill feelings towards formula or mums who use it to feed their babies and thank god we have access to it and clean drinking water!
There are so many amazing things about breast milk and breastfeeding which can’t be replicated and it can be helpful to know some of the real benefits of breast milk and breastfeeding so your desire to breastfeed your baby isn’t just because it seems like the right thing to do. If you find yourself exhausted, sore and fed up hearing that breastfeeding is ‘biologically the norm’ isn’t going to get you through the dark night. If you do know some of the benefits but still decide that switching to formula is the best thing for you and your baby than at least you do so with your eyes wide open and you will be less likely to regret that move later on or join the ‘I thought, I couldn’t breastfeed so now I’m going to hate on anything that promotes breastfeeding or makes me feel guilty because I didn’t know’ club. Rant over ladies, phew!
I’m not anti-formula feeding, I’m just anti-ignorance. Don’t ever feel guilty because you did what you had to do at the time to ensure your own mental health and stability or the health of your baby. Your baby needs you more than anything else in the world and they don’t really care what you feed them. But if you want to know the low-down on the good stuff then here is it……
I could write a 10 page blog post just on why breast milk is great but to paraphrase I’d say the most impressive thing about breast milk for me is the immunoglobulin which gets passed from Mum to bub which is basically like a little mini vaccine so every time you feed your baby breast milk you are also topping them up with antibodies to whatever bugs are floating around in your environment, you can find out more about this here.
Several studies show that there is a reduced rate of breast cancer in women who have breastfeed and the oxytocin which is released each time you breastfeed your baby not only helps your uterus to contract back to pre-baby size in the early days but also helps you bond with your new baby and feel awesome (highly recommend for mums with PND). There are lots of studies around which show that breastfed babies suffer less infection, lower rates of diabetes and obesity and have a higher IQ, it is also a major factor which can reduce a baby’s chance of dying from sudden infant death syndrome. Lastly the composition of breast milk subtly changes to meet the changing needs of the infant at different stages in their life, it is always at the right temperature and when you are out and about it is a lot easier to sling out a boob on occasion rather than hauling bottles, tins and whatever else once you get the hang of it. I wrote lastly there but actually I could go on and on but there is plenty of information our there if you are interested to learn more, in fact if you have a link to a fascinating article about breastfeeding please put it in the comments section for other 'mum's to be' to check out.
4. What supplies do you really need?
Its hard to know what you are going to need in those early, newborn days but luckily there is still plenty of time to send runners out to get it even after bubby is born. The reality is that the pram, the cot and the automatic baby wipe warmers are not it, (although its still nice to already have these things sorted.)
Have you thought about what you are going to wear postpartum? Sounds funny but access is important, seeing as how you could be spending anywhere from six to 12 hours a day nursing you aren’t going to want to be doing cotton gymnastics every time you need to get easy access to your boobs. Lots of mums find shirts that button or zip down the centre are a lot more comfortable than having a long style dress or shirt to pull up or down. A good, comfortable nursing bra a couple of cup sizes more than you ever wished to be are essential and lots of mums rave about nursing singlets that clip open at the straps. They are also good for nursing in public if your shirt is going to be lifted up but you don’t want your newly acquired stretch marks to be on show.
I know a mum who in preparation of the birth of her first child bought only a change table and a pram with a bassinet attachment, maybe a few onsies. Her biggest regret? She hadn’t stock piled premade meals in her freezer! If you have a slow cooker your life will be much easier for you as you can prepare a stew up to the point where you would normally add the liquid, freeze it and then have a handy bag ready to be thrown into the pot with a couple of cups of water at some point in the day (assuming you can tell if it is day but even if not it should be fine) and voilà, stew, curry, mornay, pie whatever. Foil bbq trays are also great for this as you can fill and freeze and then reheat when ready, bonus points for not having to wash up afterwards.
Another important thing to consider here is that whatever may seem easy now will not seem easy after three days without sleep, having a baby and then not sleeping so if you have a breast pump, a baby monitor, car seat or anything which requires assembly or any kind of usage more complicated than pushing a single button then get it out now, while you can still think straight. Play with it and make sure it is working right and safe, you may be surprised how long it can take you to get batteries in the right way when you’ve just had a baby and most times your partner will be just as foggy so you’ll likely have no luck there either (a lot of this ‘baby brain’ actually is a result of hormones and brain changes during birth and pregnancy which is a response that evolved to ensure our species survival, they obviously didn’t have to worry about setting up online grocery shopping back then.
What about creams and cooling gel pads and lansinoh and breast pads and pumps? Surely these are essential ‘breastfeeding tools’? These things are awesome and can be very handy but to be very honest they are not essential for everyone even the Lansinoh (lanolin) it provides a waterproof layer to help your nipples if they are getting sore but dabbing a little breastmilk on your nipples after a feed and letting them air dry can but just as helpful. As long as you have one to two boobs and preferably two arms your newborn will have everything they need right there.
3. Babies spend a lot of time on the boob
You knew that right? Most newborns nurse anywhere from 8 to 12 times a day and the space between a feed can be anywhere from two to four hours although there is a big range of ‘normal’. What a lot of mums don’t realise is that the time between feeds is measured from the start of one feed until the start of another, not the space in-between. So if you have a baby that likes to nurse for an hour, once your precious bundle is finished you will find you have an hour or maybe even less before they are ready to go again, for another hour.
This means you could basically be spending every second hour, day and night nursing your baby for weeks on end, this can be as arduous as it sounds. Some new babies may only need 20 minutes to have a good feed everyone is different and the time it takes them may also change as they grow and develop but the fact remains, babies spend A LOT of time nursing.
They also like to throw you curve balls, for example you may start to think you have their routine all worked out and then they will suddenly decide they would like to nurse all afternoon, maybe non-stop. That dinner you thought you’d start cooking in the afternoon, forget about it, your baby has been nursing since 4pm with no sign of being done and its already closing in on 7pm. Maybe now you can see why new mums complain they don’t have time to get anything done and even taking a shower can feel like a big achievement.
Why do you need to know about this before your baby arrives? Am I just trying to scare the baby out of you?? A little bit of truth never hurt anyone, if you know that you are going to be busy then it gives you a bit of motivation to plan ahead, set up a meal or chore roster for all the friends and family who want to help and most importantly go easy on yourself. Some women decide they are going to be super mum, assume they will bounce out of the maternity ward and get straight back into their life, you’re not the kind of woman who is going to let your baby dictate your schedule are you?
Maybe you can be the kind of woman who knows that it is going to be hard work and is ready to just follow your baby’s lead and give yourself the space to chill out and let your baby do what they need to do to get big and strong. Don’t forget, your baby is running on thousands of years of evolution with a killer survival instinct, he knows what he needs to do to survive, no one has updated his programing much since we all slept in trees so he doesn’t realise a wild animal isn’t likely to eat him when you put him down, even though it seems like he really just doesn’t want to let you sit down for a meal ever again. Hang in there, by three months the spacing between feeds increases as does your window for a bit of sleep, someone much wiser than me wrote "dear mum, I wont always need you as much as I need you now but right now I really need you."
This week part two in this series looks at where you can go for help if things aren’t turning out as you planned.
2) Know where to go for help
You may not be interested in breastfeeding right now (it feels like you’re going to be pregnant forever right??) However, there will come a time when you may start to have a few questions, particular when you are faced with the reality of it all. It can be really helpful to have resources at hand and to know where to go for help well in advance so all you need to do is flip a page or make a quick call.
I can’t recommend the Australian Breastfeeding Association’s Breastfeeding Education Class highly enough, lots of women attend them during the middle of their pregnancy and then use their birthing hospital class (which is often right at the end of the last trimester) as a short refresher course. It’s a great way to get all the info you need to not only understand how to nurse your baby but to get an understanding of how breasts and breastfeeding works which can make it a lot easier to understand what might be happening when things aren’t working out the way you thought they might.
Not everyone has the time or inclination for attending a class so what about books? There are a number of great books around about breastfeeding and even if you can’t stomach reading them right now at least make sure you have one sitting on your shelf so you can easily pull it out when you need to. You’d be surprised how much easier it will be to read it once it’s actually happening to you. The ABA have a great book called “Breastfeeding Naturally” which you get free when you become a member and there are a few other great books including “The womanly art of breastfeeding” put together by the La Leche League and Sue Cox’s ‘Breastfeeding with Confidence’.
If you need some expert help you may want to get in contact with a breastfeeding expert, a Lactation Consultant. Try to ensure that they are a IBCLC (International board certified lactation consultant) as this is the gold standard and the process for becoming one is quite rigorous. Your hospital may have one on rotation you can access with no gap payment otherwise your midwife or maternal health nurse should be able to put you in contact with one. And for those desperate moments you can always call the Breastfeeding Helpline on 1800 686268 to speak to a breastfeeding counsellor, the line is open 24 hours a day. And the best resource of course is your postnatal doula who should be able to tell if you only need some simple guidance and adjustment or if its time to call in the troops!
Are you pregnant and thinking that you would like to breastfeed your baby? You’re not alone, 96% of Australian women leave hospital breastfeeding and why not? Its cheaper than buying formula, full of goodies especially tailored for your baby, helps you bond with your baby and can help your body recover after birth. Most pregnant women intend to breastfeed for at least some time once their baby is born.
So are you ready? Have you read all the books, attended all the classes, joined all the online chat groups? Probably not! Most of us are so busy dealing with pregnancy and preparations for birth that breastfeeding and the postnatal period get relegated to an afterthought. Maybe you’ve picked up a book on breastfeeding, skimmed a few pages and decided it can wait for another day, if this sounds familiar you are not alone. Breastfeeding may be something you would like to do but you may not be interested to spend hours researching and learning as much as you can about it, so what’s the big deal?
Perhaps you have heard the old adage, that ‘breastfeeding while natural is a learnt skill’. It is not just you that will have to learn it, your baby is going to need your help to learn how to attach and position themselves correctly so they can easily get the milk they need to thrive. In the past we learnt from our mothers, sisters aunties and cousins just by being around women having babies but these days some new mums may not have even held a baby for many years. It can be really helpful to try and find out the truth about breastfeeding so you don’t get caught out unexpectedly when it turns out things aren’t quite as easy as you thought they might be. Living with a new baby and recovering from birth are hard enough so why be burdened with breastfeeding questions? Here are five simple things that you need to know about breastfeeding before your baby arrives that should help you in those early days as a new mum.
Part 2 coming soon
We’ve all been there at one time or another, at home with a baby or small child, or maybe one of each or more. The endless monotony of meeting somebody else’s constant needs as the arms of the clock on the wall seem to start ticking backward.
I felt this way a lot when my daughter was very young, particularly around eight weeks old when she decided naps were for losers. I couldn’t get a break even for five minutes. I still feel this way sometimes now when my mummy cup is empty and I’m stuck for ideas to fill the long hours till Dad gets home and I can throw our child at him as I run for the car yelling about some errand I HAVE to run.
In the early days, during those weary times I would head to my local Westfield with about a thousand other mums, we would all be doing laps up and down the corridors with our tiny babies in carriers or jazzy prams and we’d smile wearily as we passed each other over and over, or at least I think they were smiles, it was hard to tell through our swollen, dark ringed eyes.
It doesn’t matter how old your child is there can still be times when we feel drained and find it hard to cope, they aren’t kidding when they say it takes a village to raise a child. These days a lot of us are finding our village online. Recently a new mum asked what things mums did to help get through these times, the number one answer unsurprisingly was eat chocolate closely followed by getting in touch with nature, deep breathing also featured a lot as did meeting up with friends whose kids are at the same stage.
Each of us is different, we all have different interests and find various things that bring us joy, the important thing is to find what works for you, but if you are unsure here are some great ideas from real Mums just like you, making it though one day at a time:
“For me, nature is my nurture. Fresh air and sunshine. I love water- ocean, river or a lake. Being outside (away from housework) really helps”
“Nature for me too, even if its just digging out a few weeds, or walking away from conflict to stand outside and breathe it in for a few minutes”
“Meet up with friends”
“Trip to the beach”
“Candlelit bath (who am I kidding, I've never done this since having children!)”
“I hide in the pantry and eat liquorice allsorts”
“Channelling your inner child! Either a gym session or block of chocolate and Netflix.”
“Music. Try to laugh. Have a cuddle. Food. Get outside. Essential oils.
Get out of the house, meet friends with kids the same age as mine, coffee, chocolate.
“Go to the beach. Breathe in the air and dig my toes in the sand. Or go outside at night time and look at the moon and breathe in the cool air. Xoxo”
“I eat a jar of nutella. Preferably the 1kg jar coz it lasts a couple of di-stresses
Also, bath, read a book, go for a walk, take myself for a swim, a shower, or even just lay down for 10 minutes”
“Chocolate. .... or exercise! A bit contradictory”
“^^Same for me!”
“On those days I take a nap at naptime and don't do any chores. Then once everyone's in bed I eat chocolate and binge-watch things I've recorded.”
“Walking or listening to music are my go to strategies when the day is going a bit pear shaped!”
“With the kids hanging off me or not? shower with them, fill the bath with bubbles and epsom salts etc, garden with a back wrap and give my toddler a hose. Mindfulness/meditation/ body awareness thingo when laying feeding. Eating ha! Call a friend. Go to mum's and work in her garden while she looks after the kids.”
“I go somewhere beautiful which helps me get perspective. I take off my shoes and get sun on my skin.”
“I do yoga. And buy my favourite (but expensive!) chocolate....”
“When I feel super overwhelmed I usually go outside barefoot and stand on the grass. Grounding myself always helps a lot and I release my frustrations through my feet into the earth to be recycled into positivity. I also like to hide in the pantry and eat snacks.
I hid in the car (parked in the garage) yesterday and fell asleep it was good lol”
“Nurture myself, for example with chocolate or a morning walk babywearing.”
One of the most common fears of expecting parents is ‘how am I going to cope with sleep deprivation?’ As your pregnancy nears the end often our friends, families and co-workers will all start giving us wonderful advice such as “the first six weeks were hell but then the fog started to lift” or even something as helpful as “I thought the newborn phase was bad but wait till they start teething”, or the winner of positivity, “I don’t think I’ve slept through the night once in the last five years and I can’t feel my feet anymore!”.
This all sounds daunting and down-right impossible, how can I wake every 2 hours for weeks on end and still continue to function like a normal person?
The good news is that maybe you will need to wake every 2 hours and maybe you won’t, every baby is different.
The hormones in your body that have helped it sustain your baby throughout your pregnancy will undergo a radical change after birth as you transition from a pregnant woman to a lactating woman. This can be hard going for some of us for the first few weeks but things do settle down eventually. Many mums speak or feeling ‘high’ after birth and some even complain of not being able to settle down and get some good, deep sleep. This is nature’s way of keeping mum up and functioning after the tumultuous experience of birth so she can see to the needs of her new baby this feeling can last a few days to a week or so. Overtime it should settle down and soon enough you’ll be fully immersed in the wonderful world of ‘baby bubble’ where life seems to revolve around baby's schedule and the hours and days melt away like your supply of newborn nappies.
One thing I’ve learnt over the years is that when it comes to babies and sleep, there is no normal. Some babies really do suddenly starting sleeping through the night at 6 weeks and others are still waking regularly at two years old. Since at least the 1950’s expectations on babies to ‘fit’ into our modern schedules meant that people started to put newborns into two categories; babies who slept a lot at night and were known as ‘good’ babies' and all the rest who must be ‘not good babies.’ So, if you have a ‘not good baby’ are you not a good mother or could it be that your baby is just normal?
Most newborns will feed between 8 to 12 times in a 24 hour period, so if you work it out you will most likely be waking regularly during the night, one way or another. How often you are going to wake and how quickly you can get back to sleep again is going to depend on your baby and how you have chosen to embrace the newborn period. I don’t want to talk about ways of getting baby to sleep here, rather looking at ways to get you through those sleepless nights and still have enough energy and presence of mind to enjoy those beautiful first days and weeks at home with a new baby.
All humans move through periods of deep sleep and active, light sleep know as REM (Rapid Eye Movement) even young babies do although they tend to spend more time in REM sleep and their cycles are shorter than an adults. It is not uncommon for mother’s sleep patterns to sync up with their baby’s. Breastfeeding and keeping baby close can help a lot with this. Often a breastfeeding mother will instinctively wake just as her baby is about to wake for a feed and this is a lot easier for our bodies to deal with than being woken from a deep sleep.
Co-sleeping can include having baby by the side of your bed in a bassinet or bed-sharing where you have prepared a safe sleeping environment next to you in your own bed. This is what most babies crave and studies have shown that safe bed sharing mothers will get the most sleep and be the least disturbed by night waking during those early days. Co-sleeping with your baby in a bassinet is a great option for mums who feel uncomfortable having baby in their bed as they can easily sit up during the night, feed baby and resettle without too much disturbance to themselves or baby. More information about safe co-sleeping can be found here.
Sleep When Baby Sleeps
Your first thought may be ‘should I vacuum when baby vacuums too’? It’s not always practical to crash out for an hour in the middle of the day just because your newborn is asleep, especially while you are still on that after-birth high but even if you can’t sleep just lying somewhere comfortably and resting can really help to recharge your batteries. Relax in a nice warm bath, seek out your favorite comfy chair and leave the too do list for a while.
Let Dad help too
Every relationship is different, maybe Dad or your partner isn’t in the picture or your partner works long hours and can’t take time off, in any case it doesn’t hurt to ask. I’ve heard lots of stories of new Dads who despite not being able to take a lot of time off work after their baby was born were still happy to take turns with mum pacing the halls at night or settle the baby back to sleep after mum has finished the feed. I even have a friend who woke every 2 hours and syringe fed his newborn expressed breastmilk for the first 3 weeks of his baby’s life. Every family is different and what works for one may not work for you but it doesn’t hurt to start the conversation, you may find it gives your partner more time to bond with the baby and a greater sense of personal responsibility for their care which will give them greater confidence handling the baby in the future.
Call in the troops
Shore up some helpers during the day. Don’t be frightened to ask for help, everyone loves babies and friends and family will flock to you if they think they can get some extended cuddle time. Leave the vacuum in the corner of the room, tell them you were going to get to it eventually and see if they take the hint! Asking for help doesn’t mean you are a bad mum, it just means you are normal and people will be so glad you asked. This is what people mean when they say it takes a village, humans weren’t designed to meet the needs of their new infant on their own, we are biologically primed to work as a team. Speaking to friends and family before the birth can be a great way of getting ‘team baby’ up and running smoothly. You can use a meal planning roster and organise helpers for an hour or two every other day. If you don’t have close friends or family near-by or if you don’t feel comfortable reaching out to them you can always schedule a meeting with a postnatal doula who can help support you through the early days.
Generally little babies sleep a lot, just not all at once and not always when you would like them to. There may be times when you just can’t get them to settle after a 2am feed, this is normal, you know it is but it still doesn’t stop you from freaking out when you realise its nearly 3.30 in the morning!
Sometimes we just have to accept that this is what our baby needs to do right now and no amount of shushing, rocking, bouncing or pacing is going to change that. If you can just be in the moment and not worry about how you may feel later or how much you wish you were asleep right now both you and baby will instantly feel calmer and better able to cope.
For the first six weeks of life your baby is still very much coming to terms with life on the ‘outside’. Moving from a life where food was constantly ‘on tap’ and there was very little if any variation in temperature, suddenly they find themselves experiencing things such as cold, light, quiet and stillness such as they have never felt before, it can be scary and even painful, you would cry too if this happened to you, in fact you probably did. You can’t spoil a newborn baby or teach them ‘bad habits’, this is just your baby learning how to deal with life earthside. One thing is for sure, they will get use to it and then they will change. Things will get better, then they will get worse and then something else will change again (and this is only the first four months!)
This week I have kept being reminded of how important it is to get your past in order before welcoming a new baby into your family.
It all started when I met with a birth doula friend of mine and she mentioned how common it was for women in her care to suddenly call out for their mum while giving birth. If there has been some unresolved issues in their past or present or their Mum is sadly no longer around it is all the more certain that this is going to happen. The Mongan method of Hypnobirthing also talks about the importance of unpacking our past and releasing hidden fears or issues before the birth as they can act as a block during the birthing processing even stalling labour. To me it seems like the importance of ‘unpacking’ and letting go is just as important for a successful and enjoyable postnatal period as a satisfying birth.
I have a friend who recently birthed her second baby, the labour was great and the baby is a dream, feeding well and even having the courtesy to nap when his older sister is napping. When I first visited Mum I was expecting to help her debrief from the birth and perhaps even discuss how her older child was coping but instead she felt like she needed to debrief about her experience of the early days with her older child. This baby had an undiagnosed tongue tie and some very serious latching issues which lead to a lot of pain and worry for Mum and a failure to thrive for baby. She ploughed through some very dark days before she was able to get the help she needed to have her daughter properly assessed and begin to work on their issues. The tongue tie was revised but the pain, worry and guilt were all still lurking unknown to her, deep down in her heart and it all came flooding back to her with this new birth. She wasn’t able to be proud of how great she was doing and how well her nursing relationship was going this time until she finally met again all the problems she had experienced before and heard the magic words she knew but perhaps didn’t really believe “this is not your fault, you are a great mum!”
In some cultures in South or Central America women preform a Closing Ceremony where mothers are ritually bathed and then ‘tucked –in’ with shawls and blankets which are wrapped around them over their head, chest and pelvis. It symbolises their body being ‘closed’ and marks the end of the pregnancy and birthing process. A woman can do this any time after the birth of her baby, even years later and still find that it can help them to ‘unpack’ their pregnancy and all the life changes which that can entail.
I really can see how valuable this could be, even in our modern society where this kind of ritual can look a bit silly. What we are really talking about is taking time out, stopping to reflect on where we have come from, meeting these feelings with an open and raw mind and then gently putting them down, not forgetting about them but releasing them and leaving our hands free to meet the challenges of our next great adventure.
Hello, my name is Celeste. I am a postnatal doula, a breastfeeding counselor and a mother.