If you’ve read Part I and Part II of my Pregnancy Series, then you already know that bringing a new life into this world is no joke! While this time is so absolutely incredible, it can also be a huge shock to new mothers- even mothers who already went through this before. Of course we love our baby and feel so blessed to be a mother but all we will have our tough emotional and physical moments and I want you to know that this is completely normal.
We are given a ton of information about what to expect during pregnancy. We have monthly or weekly check-ups, and then once the baby gets here, most mamas will only get seen one or two times during the first 6 months after pregnancy – if they are lucky. We are expected to know what to do and know what to expect postpartum, yet we hardly ever hear this part of the story. Many women feel unprepared for this life changing event, but educating yourself can be hugely beneficial during this time.
Whether you are about to give birth, or you are already taking care of a newborn or a 6-month-old, I want to share some insights into what happens during the postpartum period so you can feel a little better going through this exciting but difficult journey.
Before I dive deep into some topics, I want you to know that you are not alone. If you’re having a night where you’ve been up breastfeeding your baby, sleep-deprived, and are asking yourself if you are cut out to be a mother…know that millions of women have been right there with you. Some days are more difficult than others, but you can do it and you will get through it. There are ways to make this journey easier though and being mentally, physically and emotionally prepared are keys to being the best mama you can be.
Once you give birth, the nurse will give you a slight run down on postpartum care. But during this time, your mind is everywhere and information is flying at you left and right. Knowing what to expect after birth will help you through these tough couple weeks. After you give birth, you may experience heavy bleeding, pain, cramping, constipation, mood swings and crying.
Here are a couple of things you can have on hand to make these first couple days/ weeks a little easier on your body.
Peri Bottle – use this instead of wiping. Most hospitals will give you one of these but having extra won’t hurt!
Tucks pads for wiping
A pack (or two) of granny underwear that you won’t mind ruining.
Pure Encapsulations Magnesium Citrate to help keep stool soft
Hydroflask to keep you hydrated
Afterease herbal tincture by wishgarden herbs
Prepare Frozen Meals Ahead of Time- the last thing you and your partner will want to do is spend time cooking
If you decide you are going to breastfeed, this is another journey in and of itself. It is a difficult but extremely rewarding journey. Breastfeeding does get easier with time, but those first few days and weeks can be hard mentally and physically. Consult with a lactation specialist right from the start. Sometimes the hospital will have someone show you the basics for a couple of sessions, but please reach out for further help and resources if this is something you really want to pursue.
Breastfeeding is beneficial to you both, providing close bonding time. Babies who breastfeed also receive important antibodies from your milk, reducing the rate of infection and illness especially during those first couple months of life. Babies who breastfeed also have lower rates of allergies and asthma and lower hospital admission rates.
However, while breastfeeding brings about so many health benefits to you and the baby, your mental and emotional wellbeing is just as important. If you find yourself overly stressed out and sleep-deprived to the point that it’s getting to an unhealthy level, please know that it’s okay to supplement! Your baby will be okay and will receive better overall care when their mama is also making her health a priority. My favorite formula is Holle and Hipp. If you find that you are having latch issues, consult your pediatrician, a dentist or lactation consultant to make sure your baby does not have a lip or tongue tie. Also, if you are having supply issues, there are labs that can be drawn to help you optimize milk production, such as full thyroid panel.
Connecting with other mothers who are going through the same journey can be so beneficial to your wellbeing during this time. Sometimes it’s hard to express your thoughts and feelings even to your significant other because you think that they won’t understand. You’re expected to feel joy, happiness, and excitement after bringing a baby into the world, yet sometimes you’ll find yourself with emotions of frustration, loneliness, anxiety and depression.
Studies show that between 10-20% of new moms will experience symptoms of postpartum depression, with many more cases going undiagnosed. Having a support group whether it’s in person or online, from friends, other mothers, and/or from a professional can make you feel more sane and reduce your risk of postpartum depression.
Because this “fourth trimester” of the pregnancy journey isn’t discussed as much as it should, having other mothers to share your thoughts and feelings with can be incredibly stress relieving and beneficial to your well being. You will see that you’re not alone and that any struggling thoughts and experiences are more common than you think.
Getting sleep during the first months and even the first year after giving birth is one of the biggest struggles for new mothers. You will likely be advised to get sleep whenever possible, and I couldn’t agree more. You know the whole, “sleep when baby sleeps”. I used to think people were crazy that told me that because there is work to do, laundry to fold, meals to prep, but you guys, just trust me, sleep when you need it.
Educate Yourself on Sleeping Methods for Babies: Whether it’s books, online classes, or resources or help from a professional, there are tips and tricks to get your baby sleeping better through the night. Knowing certain sleepy cues from your baby can help you put them down before they become overly tired (causing an even more fussy baby).
Accept Help to Get Extra Sleep: Having a friend or family member come over to watch the baby for a few hours or to help during the night can be life-changing. Accepting help, especially so you can get extra (and much needed) rest is actually better for you and the baby.
Don’t Feel Guilty For Sleeping!: Many moms feel guilty if they take time to rest up and depend on someone else to care for their child. Hey mama, as a reminder, we were never meant to do this alone! You need to drop the expectation that you can do everything yourself because this thinking isn’t sustainable. When you get more sleep, you will be able to enjoy this amazing, and precious time more.
Let Your Body Recover: Your body does it’s best recovering during a good night’s sleep. It might seem impossible thinking about a “good” night’s rest, but even a 5 hour period here and there can do wonders. If you are breastfeeding, you can still go one night here and there without feeding every 2-3 hours. Have your partner give your baby a bottle so you can sleep a little extra.
Relationships Will Be Healthier: I think we can all admit that we aren’t particularly the best version of ourselves when we are sleep-deprived and tired. While bringing a new baby into the world can already be hard on couples at the beginning, being sleep deprived won’t make matters any better. Getting a few extra hours can greatly affect your mood and patience so that you can be a better wife and better mother to your baby.
One of the best things you can do during this time is to make sure you are fueling your body with nutrient-rich foods. Your body is dealing with hormonal changes as well as recovering from a huge life event. Don’t be surprised if you feel as though you’re running on empty. Giving your body the right nutrients to heal and support your body is vital to a healthy postpartum period. If you are breastfeeding, eating a healthy diet is even more critical as it will help you create a healthy milk supply for your baby. I encourage nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods as well as healthy fats, iron-rich foods and soluble fiber. Be sure you continue your supplementation of high-quality prenatals as this will help your milk supply as well. I always encourage mamas to take them at least 3-4 months postpartum.
See if you are a good candidate for this option. I used an amazing doula who did this for me. Yes, it sounds crazy but it can be helpful in minimizing postpartum depression and anxiety. It can also help with iron levels and an energy postpartum. I have no prior experience where I did not do placenta encapsulation but I know that I will do this for all future pregnancies.
These two therapies can help facilitate the physical healing process. Unfortunately, neither one are considered routine care postpartum here in America but they have amazing benefits. Once cleared by your OB or midwife, you may want to look into these options. I personally recommend webster certified chiropractors and postpartum they can help adjust your ribs, pelvis and correct alignment. As for physical therapy, most women are not referred until they have issues such as diastasis recti and incontinence. So many conditions can be improved and prevented through women’s pelvic floor therapy.
If you find yourself struggling during this time, please don’t feel ashamed to reach out. Experiencing feelings other than happiness and joy are more common than you think. Reaching out can significantly improve your overall welling as well as your baby’s. There is so much helpful information out there that many mothers aren’t aware of. Don’t wait until the 7th month of struggling to reach out. Sometimes simple advice or alternative therapies can have significant benefits.
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