A Postpartum Survival Guide
Let's talk about how to survive and thrive in the postpartum period. For me, postpartum life has always been blissful and magical. Nursing...cuddly newborn making little squeaks and grunts...being able to lie on my back and stomach...more nursing = bliss. It's my favorite stage by far.
|nursing Inga a few days postpartum|
But I know that many women struggle to adjust to life with a newborn baby. It can be a terrible shock after all that planning and preparation for the birth. You have a baby in your arms, and WHAT ON EARTH DO YOU DO NOW?
So today, let's talk about all the postpartum stuff that you wish you'd known, or that you figured out, or that surprised you, or that blindsided you. Let's talk about what to really expect postpartum for yourself, your baby, and the rest of your family. Let's share our tips and tricks for an easier postpartum adjustment.
Here are some things I've figured out:
Make a list of your postpartum responsibilities. Keep it short.
*Everything else* other people should be doing for you. My postpartum responsibilities are:
1. Nurse the baby
2. Stay in bed and snuggle with the baby
3. Take pictures of the baby
4. Read books and putz around on the internet
5. Eat dark chocolate
I'm quite serious about #5 (but it has to be at least 70% and preferably 85% cocoa). That's really all I do for the first few weeks. I don't look after the other kids. I don't prepare meals. I don't do laundry. I don't really do anything except hole up in my room and admire my baby. Now, sometimes I feel a bit stir crazy and I have to *make* myself stay in bed.
The first recovery is probably the hardest and longest
I was really, really sore for weeks on end after I had Zari. It hurt to sit and walk for a long time. But after my other three children were born, I hardly felt like I'd had a baby. Give me a day or two, and I was almost totally recovered except for the postpartum bleeding.There's just something about having had a baby before that makes subsequent recoveries so much easier (unless, of course, you have something unusual happen like a c-section or shoulder dystocia or vacuum extraction or whatever).
Learn how to nurse lying down ASAP
This was a lifesaver. It took me about a month to master after Zari and Dio were born. But with Inga and Ivy, we nursed lying down from day one. It is seriously one of the BEST THINGS EVER.
I don't care how you do it: in the bed, with a co-sleeper, or even with a crib or bassinet in the same room. The more you can stay in bed at night, the better you'll sleep. I usually get out of bed once at night--and that's to use the bathroom and get a drink of water. Otherwise I get to stay cozy and warm under the blankets all night long. I think I would DIE if I didn't co-sleep. I can't imagine having to get out of bed multiple times per night, sit in a rocking chair and nurse the baby, put the baby down and settle it to sleep, then walk back into my bed and go back to sleep. That sounds positively horrific.
Get a king-size bed if at all possible. I feel way too crowded co-sleeping on a queen bed.
Learn about breastfeeding before the baby is born. Get help ASAP if a problem arises.
Nursing has gone very smoothly with all four of my babies. Some of it was luck (no tongue-ties, no routine practices that undermined breastfeeding, etc.), while some came from learning as much as I could before my first baby was born. I felt really well-prepared and knew how to get help if I needed it. If you can, spend some time with nursing mothers. Watch them latch their babies on. Ask them questions. Watch them some more. It's so helpful to see breastfeeding up-close and in person.
Wait to buy nursing bras
You don't know what size you'll end up after the baby is born. Wait at least a week or two to buy your nursing bras, because you'll change sizes so much in those first weeks. You'll have crazy huge porn boobs once your mature milk comes in around days 3-4-5. Then they'll settle down to a more manageable size. You can buy your sleep bras in advance, since they're stretchy and less supportive.
Towels are very handy
I put a bath towel underneath me and the baby when we're in bed at night. It catches the inevitable fluids (leaking milk, blood, spit up, pee, poop...) and saves me from having to change the sheets every day. Because leaks happen. All the time. I also put a crib-sized mattress protector underneath the fitted sheet. If we have a big leak and need to change the sheets, this protects the large mattress pad.
So, I finally figured out how to avoid bleeding all over the bed every night. Before I go to bed, I put an extra pad in the back of my underwear. Do this maybe the first week or two, or until your flow lightens up.
Learn how to ask for help
When someone says, "If there's anything I can do, just let me know," I've become really good about saying, "Yes, actually, I really need help with ________." Don't be polite and turn down help.
Get a sling
(Or a Moby wrap, or an Ergo, or a mei tai...) I don't know how I'd survive postpartum without one, especially when my help leaves and I'm on my own with a newborn and several other little children.
Now for some crowdsourcing...
Time to share your postpartum stories (the good, the bad, and the ugly). Tell us all about what it's really like to have a new baby. Share any tips or tricks you've learned. What do you wish you'd done differently, or known beforehand?