So you made it. Nine long months of carrying your little one as they grew from a poppy seed to…well….a full on baby! Maybe your pregnancy was a delightful experience, perhaps it was wretched, either way you made it. We will skip over the little part known as the birth. Congratulations by the way, that sh*t is no joke. Today we are talking postpartum and how you can set yourself up for success.
Postpartum is hard. Harder than pregnancy. Sure, you aren’t throwing up anymore or dealing with wicked heartburn or feeling crippled by pelvic girdle pain but now you have a new wack of issues: lack of sleep probably being the most difficult, followed closely by the fact you just had a baby exit your body. You might be struggling with breastfeeding, learning to hold a wriggly newborn who has zero neck control yet every intention of flopping around like a wet noodle, and enjoying the first few diaper changes before baby eats enough for things to get serious.
The first 24 hours will fool you, baby will sleep most of it away because he is exhausted from his journey from womb to world. Imagine that? How about YOU?! You are exhausted, you’re the one who turned inside out for him! But alas, you will not sleep the first 24 hours away. You’ll be in awe of what you and your partner created. You’ll be loving him up, skin-to-skin, marvelling at your creation. But you’ll also be an idiot for not sleeping that day. Night two will teach you that. That’s when baby realizes he’s no longer floating in his familiar sensory deprivation tank. Instead he has awoken matrix-style like Neo having his plug removed by Morpheus. He is aware. Thankfully, while you stay in the hospital the nurses will help you care for baby. This is good and bad. The good thing is you can get some rest to recover from birth. The bad part is you won’t remember a thing they did and you’ll feel clueless when you get home. The changing, the swaddling…it will all be a blur. So get your partner to pay attention so you take home a few tips with you.
So. How do you survive postpartum? No…how do you thrive in postpartum? I’m not sure but here are some tips that might help. I am going to divide them into two categories: practical tips and emotional tips. Postpartum is forever. Not in a bleak way, just you will forever be on the other side of having a child. There is no going back! Hope they told you that in your prenatal course…there’s no “take backs”….
Practical tips are just that, practical. Actionable items you and your partner can take to increase the chance of a positive postpartum experience. Emotional tips are for growing your mindset to accept what you can and can’t control. Having a growth mindset is imperative to getting through the early postpartum weeks. Even though postpartum is forever, the feelings you experience in the first 6 weeks are not. This is a very trying time. Ok, buckle up, grab a snack and take some notes. Here are my best tips for a positive postpartum experience:
Buy a portable phone charger.
You will spend 98% of your day with/about/around the baby and most of that time will not be within range of an outlet. You will want your phone for entertainment, communication, and generally for connection to the outside world. When the battery dies, a piece of you will die as you stare at a blank wall too sleep deprived to think.
Buy stretchy comfortable clothes.
You will still look/feel pregnant for several weeks. That means your belly will be too large to fit into your normal clothes but maternity clothes are probably too big. Buy stretchy pants with pockets - you will always need pockets - for your phone, snacks, the remote, whatever just get pants with pockets. Buy comfy tops that button up. Like flannel pajamas. If you are nursing or pumping you will have your shirt off. A LOT.
If you are nursing buy nursing bras.
You can go for the ones with clips but early on it’s nice to have the stretchy kind that you can just pull open without fussing around with complicated clips. My favourite bras that were recommended to me by a friend are these ones.
Make meals ahead of time and freeze them.
I cannot tell you how much I appreciated having a freezer full of meals that we just had to heat and eat. Shephard’s pie, lasagna, meatballs, meatloaf, stew, chili, soup, premade rice/quinoa, oh and of course some treats….I spent a weekend with my Mom making a few meals and filled up our deep freeze with them. It was a nice bonding weekend for us before baby and the meals lasted us several weeks.
Get a sleep mask.
Personally I am sensitive to light when I sleep, I like it real real dark. Alas, I am not always in my bedroom with my blackout blinds when the opportunity for a nap arises. So instead I wear an eye mask on my head for most of the day in case I need to grab some shuteye on the couch….or standing in the kitchen. Those first few weeks you can fall asleep at the drop of a hat. A sleep mask is a cheap and effective way to help you get some zzz’s no matter where you find yourself getting those zzz’s…..nursery room floor anyone?
Invest in a good baby wrap.
There will be times when you will desperately want to put the baby down and do anything else. Alas, baby may not let you. Wearing your babe is a great way to get something done around the house or get some fresh air while baby sleeps. I use the Boba wrap and would highly recommend it. It’s confusing to wrap it the first few times but thanks to YouTube I figured it out fairly quickly and if I can do it, you can do it.
Learn how to swaddle your baby.
Watch the nurses do it in the hospital and practice while they watch. Invest in either muslin blankets (a bit more manual) or sleep sacks (super easy to use). Babies love to be swaddled. Swaddling is literally our #1 parenting strategy at this point. If John is fussy, he’s getting swaddled. You might think your baby doesn’t love it, but secretly he does. He will fuss when he is first swaddled but you have to bounce/rock/soothe him until he sleeps - that is the key. Eventually just being swaddled will make him sleepy. But good luck putting him to sleep without being swaddled. Those dang startle reflexes will wake him up throughout the night unless his arms are snug as a bug in a rug. Our favourite sleep sack is the newborn Halo swaddle sleepsack.
BIG TICKET ITEMS TO CONSIDER:
A fancy pump.
You never know if you’re going to struggle with breastfeeding and need a pump but if you’re thinking, “hey, I’d like to pump some bottled milk so my partner can participate”…..invest in a good pump. By good I mean one that is easily portable, with the capacity to pump both boobs at once, and one that is electric. Certainly you can buy a manual pump and express one boob at a time but honestly, I pump both boobs at once and I still find it inconvenient. If you find yourself in a scenario like mine where you are exclusively pumping bottled milk for your baby, you’re gonna want the best pump you can get. Me and my pump are BFFs we go everywhere together. I have the Medela Freestyle. I love this pump because I can be handsfree! Bra sold separately (but 100% worth it), don’t buy the pump without this bra. Having two free hands is like catching a solar eclipse, incredibly rare so seize the moment!
Not all babies will love the swing, but for some parents the swing can be a lifesaver for a fussy baby. Pro tip: I just realized this week that John loves to be swaddled in his swing. We have tried putting him there without being swaddled and it buys us maybe 15min at a time. Swaddled he will fall asleep in there! Do your research for the best swing for you. You can go top of the line and get the Mama Roo which has a zillion cool features, or something more basic that just swings back and forth. I highly recommend checking out the Facebook Marketplace as a go-to for these items, many have been barely used.
Be gracious with yourself.
Your relationship with baby will come with time, through caring for baby you bond and love baby. Your relationship with yourself is the one that requires attention and focus. Your body has done something miraculous, created life! But that is not without sacrifice. You will not feel the same, you will not look the same. Although you’ll likely be grateful to no longer be pregnant, the post-birth body can be hard to accept. As mentioned above, you will still look quite pregnant in those first few days maybe even weeks. Your uterus will continue to shrink, your organs will settle back into their original resting places, and the swelling will go down. Slowly but surely you will return to a more recognizable shape. However, this shape will not be the one you remember pre-pregnancy. Your skin may be stretched, it may feel loose. You may have squish where you didn’t have squish before. Be gracious with yourself. This is not the time for nit-picking, for shame, for guilt, or for self-consciousness. To your baby, you are the most beautiful thing he has ever seen. You are everything he needs. He doesn’t want you to change one bit. It’s not easy but you must forgive your body and accept the incredible journey it has undergone. This will get easier week after week as your body shifts and reshapes but somethings may never look the same so self-acceptance is a major part of this journey.
Breastfeeding isn’t everything.
Breastmilk is amazing for your baby and so too is the act of breastfeeding. However, your mental health is not to be forsaken in the pursuit of breastfeeding. Your baby needs to be fed. This can be through a breast or a bottle. Postpartum is a time of healing and recovery. As your body heals, so too must your mind. You must cope with a massive shift in your life priorities and your identity. Tacking on shame and guilt struggling with breastfeeding is not productive. Connect with other Moms. If you are not able or not willing to breastfeed, you are not alone. Let me repeat that, you are not alone. Every Mom is struggling, if not with breastfeeding than with something else. If you need a Mom friend, I am your girl. I have been through it. I am still going through it. I tortured myself with breastfeeding and I wish I didn’t. I wish I could go back in time and hug myself, tell that girl that she is doing just fine and she is making all the right decisions for her son and for herself. You will too. You will make all the right decisions for your family. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Be kind to each other.
You and your partner will be tested by this baby. He will demand everything you have and then a little more. You are both doing your best. You both have no idea what you’re doing but you’re both doing your damn best. When the rage monkey is on your back and you haven’t slept in way too many moons, dig deep…way way deep and assume positive intent. Assume your partner is doing what they are doing with the best of intentions. This is hard. The tired you wants to blame, wants to lash out. If you do, get some sleep and apologize in the morning. This is an ongoing process. You are both finding your place in a new dynamic, a family instead of just a marriage. Remember that your marriage is the priority over baby. I know that sounds harsh but I firmly believe that a baby thrives when a marriage thrives. Don’t ever stop working on your relationship. It is too easy to be all consumed by baby. Don’t lose sight of each other, passing like ships in the night. Remember where this baby came from, from the love you two have for each other.
There. That is my maternal wisdom summed up in a blog article. I don’t have all the answers, in fact I have very few but these are the lessons I have already learned in 10 short weeks. If this article helped you let me know! If you really liked it, share it with someone you love. And as always, if you want a Mom friend, I’m your girl!
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