by Colette Brown, Postpartum Doula
I am no stranger to the weeks that follow a birth of a new baby. After four amazing births of my own plus supporting other families, I’ve learned the secrets to a rested mom and a happy baby.
Let me start off with a little story for you before I get to the point: When my first child was born and the doctor handed her to me, I had no clue what I was doing. I tried to follow the books I had read and then when I didn’t have any luck I was tired and cranky, and so was my baby. We cried together. The learning curve can be a tearful and frustrating one, even for the experienced mom.
Here is my list of the Top 5 Survival Points to Navigate the First 6 weeks
Now don’t get me wrong, you probably aren’t going to sleep like you did before you had your bundle of joy. Their needs may be calling at all hours of the day and night. Your baby won’t know or care if you have slept. The recent tradition of having your baby in a nursery down the hall was only developed in the early 1900’s. Before that, we had cots by the bed or baby in bed with us. I recommend trying co-sleeping. Co-sleeping means when baby wakes up in the night…you don’t have to GET up. You can have all your supplies beside the bed and get back to sleep. When following the safety guidelines for co-sleeping, it can be a very rewarding and restful experience. It also facilitates a good breastfeeding relationship. And let’s face it, baby will most likely sleep better, and longer, closer to you. There are also options out there if you are not comfortable having baby in bed. Sleeping arrangements should be set up so everyone is getting the most sleep possible. Put 3 mattresses on the floor? Why not? It doesn’t matter, as long as everyone is getting their sleep safely. Lack of sleep can make postpartum depression worse, cause accidents, and may make the experience of enjoying and caring for your baby an unpleasant, tearful one.
2. ESTABLISHING FEEDING
There is absolutely no routine with a newborn so feed your baby when they are hungry! If you are breastfeeding, you can latch the baby on the breast anytime, for any reason, as you cannot over feed a breastfed baby. Although breastfeeding can be a big challenge for some in the beginning, there are many resources in the community to help with establishing breastfeeding, including your postpartum doula so don’t be afraid to reach out. Once you have a proper latch, the second most important thing to know is that breastfeeding works on supply and demand. If you are feeding every hour and your baby still seems to be hungry, feed every half hour or even every twenty minutes. Your baby is growing at a rapid rate and his or her needs for milk will change. Your body will be adjusting supply often for the first year. To build your milk supply, you may need to nurse around the clock until the supply is at par with your baby’s needs. If you start supplementing with formula your body will not feel the demand therefor will not make more supply. Don’t be afraid to nurse around the clock for the first 6 weeks at least while establishing supply. Producing life sustaining milk is work for the body so I also recommend drinking 3L of water a day and eating a nutrient rich diet.
3. VISITORS and SUPPORT
Your body just went through a monumental physical event and rest is absolutely necessary. Keep visits short and only visit when you feel like it. If people are offering to help, take it! Ask for help with housework, meal prep, and errands. Also have people wash their hands before holding baby as newborns immune systems are just getting up and running. Never wake your baby for visitors. Give baby to dad or grandma etc. between feedings if you need to sleep or rest. If you have been on fussy baby duty too long, your arms may feel tense and baby will sense this and become even fussier and more agitated so don’t be afraid to utilize your support systems. Sometime fresh arms are all it takes. Let people help.
4. BE A HOMEBODY AND BE KIND TO YOURSELF
The exciting weeks after baby is born can be a bit of a blur. Stay home. Lay in bed with your baby. Read. Go for walks if you need to get out of the house. Make visitors come to you. Dragging yourself and your newborn all over town puts you both at risk for illness and will wear you out fast. The first 6 weeks after baby is born is a time for the new parents to bond, rest, and resupply nourishment to their bodies. If you have to go out, be quick and comfortable. Always dress baby warm enough and use hats or toques when going outside as babies can lose body heat quickly. Be kind to yourself. Your body and hormones are undergoing radical, beautiful changes. Cut yourself some slack and just enjoy your baby. If you don’t feel like you know what you are doing, it’s okay. You are the perfect parent for your baby and everything will fall into place as you get on your feet. Trust me ;) If you are unsure if you are starting to show symptoms of postpartum depression, make sure to mention it to your doctor or midwife.
5. WEAR YOUR BABYSince your baby has been inside you the whole time until recently, it is only natural that they want to be close to you. There is a plethora of benefits to baby wearing including less crying (need I say more!), nursing on the go, hands free snuggles while multitasking and an overall happier baby. There are many different kinds of baby carriers to choose from and personal preference and style is really the key when deciding which one will work best for you. Sometimes you have to try a couple different kinds to find the right one and you may end up with carriers for different occasions. Have fun with it!
Overall, the postpartum stage can be a wonderful nesting, bonding time for the whole family. And don’t forget, enjoy these moments because they don’t stay new born for very long ☺
Interested in learning more about how a Postpartum Doula can support you as your transition into parenthood? Meet our doulas and schedule your complimentary consultation.
Colette Brown is a Port Moody based postpartum doula who supports families across the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley. She is a mom to 6 kids and has long supported new families in their transition into parenthood. Have questions for Colette? Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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