You went to the classes, read the books, and scoured the internet. You quite possibly sent yourself into information overload…and now you have the tiny human in your arms. YOUR tiny human. But suddenly, you can’t remember anything past the fact that you’re hurting, sleep deprived, and seriously overwhelmed. So breathe, Mama. If you haven’t heard it yet today, you are a Superhero. You are strong enough, smart enough, and you have what it takes to rock motherhood.
Even still, you have questions. Thousands of questions. So, I enlisted the help of some of my Labor and Delivery/ Postpartum nursing friends in an attempt to compile a quick list that will put your mind at ease. Virginia Bain Burkhart works in Labor and Delivery, and Lauren Cummings and Allie Williams both work as Postpartum nurses. I work in surgical recovery, which is completely unrelated…. but I did birth my son, and learned a couple of tricks along the way. Without further ado, let’s dive in.
* This post is in no way intended to be professional medical advice. The opinions in this article are our own, and should not supersede the advice of your doctor.
- In order to ensure your baby latches correctly, introduce your nipple at the baby’s nose instead of the mouth. If you feel pinching/pain at this point, just stick your finger in your baby’s mouth to break the latch and start again. Letting baby feed with a bad latch can wreak havoc on your nipples, making it difficult to feed effectively. (Allie and Lauren both talk about this, and the importance of a good latch!)
- Gatlin did not feed on both breasts every time. The idea is to get a full feeding on the first breast, and then offer the second. Gatlin was almost always full after one. My lactation specialist told me to think of the first breast as dinner, and the second as desert. You always offer the second one, but it is OKAY if your baby is not interested.
- It is NORMAL to wonder if baby is getting enough to eat, because you don’t know exactly how much milk you are producing. I get it. The unknown of the whole thing produced SO much anxiety for me. One great resource is the breastfeeding clinic offered at many hospitals. St. Thomas Midtown Hospital offers them FREE a few times a week, and they work with you one-on-one. They will even weigh your baby just before feeding, and immediately after, to give you an idea of how much milk your little one consumed. What a relief! There is also a breastfeeding hotline open 24/7, and support groups full of other new Mamas. USE YOUR RESOURCES! Generally, though, if baby seems satisfied after feeding, is having consistent wet and dirty diapers, and is gaining weight, then you are doing great. (I would weigh G all the time on my scale at home. I would just stand on it then stand on it with him and subtract my weight.)
- If you plan to introduce a bottle: Do it early! (Typically by the first 3-4 weeks of life.) Because Gatlin was in the NICU, he was getting a bottle from the first hours of life. We were lucky that he also took to breastfeeding just fine, but the fact that he was used to the bottle meant Connor could take a night feed… and I could get a few extra hours of sleep. Can I get an Amen?
- Allie provided some awesome bottle feeding trouble shooting, if your little one needs a little help with suck and swallow coordination! They are linked below.
- Your breasts are going to feel very full, even uncomfortably tight, for a while. Use warm compresses or hop in a warm shower in order to stimulate milk release. I would have to express a few times daily due to fullness. Express instead of pumping, to prevent your body from thinking it needs to produce even more.
- If you do not want to breastfeed, use cold to relieve pain without stimulating milk letdown. You can run water over a diaper and freeze it, and they fit really well in a bra. You can also use cabbage leaves to “dry up” your milk supply. I did this, and it worked like a charm. Peel the leaves, wash them with cold water, and put them in the fridge. Once cold, Roll them with a rolling pin until you hear the “crunch” of the veins. Put them in your bra, directly against your breasts, and change when they wilt (roughly every 30 minutes). Also, Wear tight sports bras all the time. Not binding, just snug.
- Frozen diapers/ ice packs intermittently for the first 24 hours. After that, ask your doctor. Some won’t want ice longer than the first 24-48 hours.
- Use Tucks pads and sits baths for comfort. Bring home your squirt bottle for cleaning.
- Lauren emphasizes the importance of emptying your bladder every 2-3 hours. It helps with pain and the prevention of “boggy uterus”. This is true for C-sections as well.
- Because you are awake for this surgery, most people seem to think recovery will be a breeze. The fact is, you had major abdominal surgery. You have a surgical incision. Your body needs to heal. TAKE IT EASY!
- That being said, you are given medications for a reason. Narcotics and NSAIDS (Ibuprofen usually), each have their role. If you need the narcotics, take them. But even if you don’t need the narcotics, take the Ibuprofen. It is an anti-inflammatory, and will help tremendously after birth when everything is super swollen and inflamed.
- And since we’re talking about narcotics, you also need to be taking the Colace. Just do it. Your abdominal muscles have been cut, and straining of any kind (ahem, going number two) is NOT going to be comfortable. Constipation is a part of the game with narcotics, but stool softeners will help!
- MOVE as soon as you can. You’re not going to feel like it, but you have to wake your body up. Moving is essential to healing. Even just short walks will make all the difference. Most people are scared to move because of pain, and this goes back to pain expectations. Take your medicine, and ask for help. Nurses are here to help you.
- Virginia suggests if your OB is flexible, discuss the possibility of being closed with staples. The scar heals a lot better with staples than sutures. I was closed with staples, and they were removed after three days. My scar healed relatively quickly, and I am really happy with how it has faded.
- Lets talk scars: Do NOT put any ointments, lotions, or powders on your incision. You risk infection, and you do not want to open that can of worms. Don’t worry about scar prevention this early, just focus on managing pain and healing correctly! Additionally, do not do any kind of scar massage until cleared by your physician. You will do more harm than good if you attempt while your body is still healing.
- Don’t bring a bunch of people to the hospital. I think Virginia said it best here:
“Let me paint you a picture: You’re terrified of becoming a parent, of surgery, and of the pain in recovery. You look terrible because you’ve been loaded with fluids and crying your eyes out. Your nurse is checking your incision and bleeding every 15 minutes… Oh, and you’re bonding with the baby you’ve been waiting your entire life to meet. You roll into your recovery room, an emotional wreck, and you’re greeted with 15 family members hovering over you. Each is asking you a million questions, and is dying to hold your baby that you’ve just barely laid eyes on. Need I say more? You never get that time back. There will be a time when you are begging your family and friends to take your crying baby from you- but don’t let them take away from those first crucial hours of bonding.”
- It is not wrong or “crazy” to ask people to wash their hands before touching your baby. It’s SMART. Newborns don’t have the immune system we do, and cannot fight off illness. Even the common cold. Do not be afraid to ask people to wash up, and to stay away if they haven’t been feeling well.
- Drink WATER. 2-4 Liters a day, especially if breastfeeding. Hydration is crucial for milk production, healing, and your health!
- Speaking of breastfeeding, your caloric intake needs increase to roughly 2000-2200 calories a day. That does NOT mean eat junk just to meet your calorie goal. I know this sounds hypocritical coming from someone who does not eat fruits or vegetables, but eat foods that meet your nutritional needs AND fill you up. This will help with milk supply too!
- Oats, almonds, and salmon were a few foods that I used to help boost my milk supply. There are thousands of articles listing various foods that moms swear by, but oats seem to be the number one tried and true supply booster. Also spinach, but I obviously haven’t tried this, because the idea of spinach makes me want to throw up.
- Swaddle, Swaddle, Swaddle. They need to be relatively tightly swaddled…not loose! Ask your nurse to show you. This helps to prevent the startle reflex from waking your baby.
- WHITE NOISE. Use it for naps and nighttime sleep. According to Mom’s on Call (referenced in my previous posts), you should be able to hear it clearly from outside the closed nursery door.
- The auto rock and vibration features on infant swings are lifesavers. Gatlin napped in a rocker for the first two months, and still transitioned to the bed for naps just fine after that. Call me crazy, but we both needed the sleep.
- It HAPPENS. Your hormones are all out of whack, your entire life has changed, and you are so tired you can’t even remember if you showered. I would worry if you DIDN’T cry every once in a while. Hell, I cried at least twice a day for the first two weeks… for absolutely no reason at all. Consider this the crescendo of the craziness. It will pass.
- It is a good idea to get out of the house at least once a day. Even if you just walk to the mailbox. Fresh air and sunshine is good for the soul, and can help to clear the crazy. A shower and a little makeup can have you feeling like a new woman as well. You’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again: Take time for yourself. Your goal is for a health baby and a healthy mom.
- Postpartum depression is different. It is not normal to have feelings of harming yourself, or your baby. Feelings of detachment, extreme anxiety, or hopelessness should be talked about and not swept under the rug. Anything you are feeling or thinking has happened to others too, and there is help! Don’t try to do it alone. Let us take care of you, so you can take care of your sweet babe.
For the sake of time, I will stop here. And if you only take one thing from this: Let it be that you CAN do this! Baby is more resilient than you think, you are smarter than you believe…and together you will find your groove. Congratulations Mama, and well done!