I can hardly believe it’s been 8 weeks since I gave birth to our son, Micah-John. He is such a lovely little baby and very cuddly which is always nice. I am reminded of all the emotions and craziness that comes with recovery from birth and having a new baby in the house and thought I might talk a little about that today.
Let’s talk about Mommy first and then we will head onto baby! Mommy you are amazing! Seriously! You have done an amazing thing whether you had medical assistance (ie epidurals) or gave birth on your bedroom floor. For most of us the role of Supermom is familiar at some point; we are trying to manage the kids, cooking meals, keep a house clean, work, etc. Having said that Supermom needs to dial it back and recover for the first 2 weeks at least. Your body has been through trauma and it needs to heal so be nice to it! Sleep when you need to, keep your feet up, drink lots of water, rest, let people come to you if you want company. If people offer to help, let them! If you take care of baby and concentrate on taking care of yourself you will thank yourself later. For the first few weeks you will likely feel exhausted and emotional due to lack of sleep and hormones flooding your system. As you get a few weeks into nursing your hormones will start to settle. The first week really is the hardest and each subsequent week gets a little easier. By the time you get to 4-6 weeks you are usually in a pretty good rhythm and if you are doing babywise by week 8-10 they are sleeping 8-10 hours at night and you feel like a human being again.
Tips to help in the first 6 weeks:
- Nursing is a skill and it’s one you learn. Very few babies just latch on and away you go like they show you in the movies. My advice is make use of the lactation consultants while in hospital, or midwives to help you and baby learn this new skill. It can be painful at first but if you are getting a good latch the pain fades quickly and again by about 10 days in it’s not very painful at all.
- Enjoy all the firsts! Since MJ is our last baby I have especially determined in my heart to enjoy each moment even if its in the middle of the night and I’m exhausted. I saw his first big smile during a 4 am feed and it melted my heart. Now I’m not saying I love being sleep deprived but I do things to help me get up and stay awake and I’m trying to enjoy each moment. Having said that I still sometimes fall asleep while feeding and am afraid I might head butt my son before I wake up:-)
What do I do to help myself with the night feeds? Especially the first 6 weeks when it feels like you just got to sleep and now you are up again? I tend to portion out little snacks for myself for each night time feed and make sure there is plenty of water within reach. Since MJ was born close to christmas I would have a little snack of dark chocolate and a clementine ready for each feed. In addition I pick a new TV show on Hulu or Netflix and watch it only at night during the feeds so there is something else to concentrate on rather than the time and the fact that I am awake!
- Plan things to look forward to during the waking hours like a nice coffee date (Decaf:-) with a friend, a favorite food, a little shopping date etc. I spent the first 2 weeks basically in pajamas and rested tons but after those first weeks I found it helped my state of mind to shower and at least get dressed even if I didn’t plan to go anywhere just so the days and nights don’t bleed together.
- Give yourself loads of grace. Like loads and loads of grace. And ask questions! If there are moms around that are wise and have parenting styles that you want to emulate then ask them if you can text or call when you have questions. They say it takes a village to raise children and there is truth to that! Let the wise ones around you help and encourage you.
Ok Let’s talk about baby...
You are no doubt in love with this tiny little person. Part of you wants to hold them every minute and cover them in kisses and that is completely understandable and normal. The thing is if you do hold them every minute they never learn to sleep on their own and you will pay the price later on. I cannot recommend highly enough reading and following babywise. Don’t do your own modified version (I haven’t seen that work) Just do what they tell you to do. If you follow what they tell you to do it will work. In addition you end up down the road with kids that are easy to put to bed, pleasant to be around and kids that people want to babysit. You will be able to plan your days because you know when feeds, naps and play time happen.
I will post on this site a cheat sheet for Babywise to help you stay on track and for quick reference. I still recommend reading it at least twice before your baby comes if it’s your first and then I do a “recap” read between each baby.
For the first 3 weeks just concentrate on getting good feedings going. You are aiming for at least 20 minutes per side. Try for 2.5 to 3 hours between feeds and try not to assume that because baby is crying after an hour and a half that the issue is hunger. In the NICU they have all the babies on a 3 hour schedule. (Well at least the 2 NICU’s my babies have been in because of being premie) If premies can do a three hour schedule so can your baby! They are rare feeds when all of my babies “shorted me” on the feed because they were just extra hungry or hadn’t fed as well as they could on the previous feed but it’s not a regular occurrence. If my baby is legitimately hungry and is not just struggling with a burp or has been awakened by noise then I feed them but I still try not to go below 2.5 hours to avoid colic. Again if you read babywise you will see that adding new milk on top of old milk (which is still processing) is a huge contributor to colic as it creates gas.
Tips for the first 6 weeks:
- Babies cry. They are supposed to and even need to to strengthen their lungs. Now I am not saying I love to hear them cry at all, It’s incredibly hard on the heart. My point is that just because your baby cries doesn’t make you a bad parent. Crying will not hurt your baby or his/her psyche. Babies cry for a number of reasons; gas, burps, wet diapers, overheating, noise, or just because they are babies!
- Babies like to suck on things, it doesn’t mean they need food. Babies comfort by sucking. Just because they are making a sucking face (or hungry mouth as I call it) doesn’t mean they need food. That’s where the schedule comes in handy because it help you assess if this sucking face is due to hunger or because they just like to! Babies also make the sucking face if they have burp they need to get out. The challenge is to learn your baby and what his faces and body language is saying and that takes a few weeks. I know that sucking face feels like it needs a response but I highly advise not getting in the habit of using pacifiers. The reason for this is explained in babywise more thoroughly but basically anything you teach them to need to be able to settle or sleep means something you have to have with you all the time and they always need to sleep. So you end up with a baby who needs a pacifier to sleep, but when the baby falls asleep and it falls out the baby wakes up and cries until it is replaced, and you get to reenact this horrible 10 minute replacement dance all night! I have 2 pacifiers that I use only in situations like being in a car and trying to get home to nurse when baby wakes and starts crying so to comfort and hold him over until I get home I *might* use a pacifier.
Remember to be kind to yourself! You really are doing well.