...brought to you by The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding
Despite childbirth classes and friends who’ve “been there,” many little things about those early postpartum days aren’t usually mentioned. So it might help to know what’s normalJ
1. There aren’t many diapers to change at first. The colostrum your baby gets from your breast is small in quantity, which is perfect since his tummy is about the size of a marble. His first poop will be sticky or black – that’s the meconium, the wastes that filled our baby’s intestines before he was born.
2. You’ll be having what seems like a heavy menstrual period that can last for a couple of weeks, sometimes longer. This is called lochia and at times the flow can be really heavy. Standing up your first time can cause quite a gush.
3. When you breastfeed your baby, your uterus will contract in response to the oxytocin released by the baby’s suckling and your may get a gush of blood each time. The cramps will soon fade but they can be almost labor-strong sometimes
4. Unless you’re recovering from surgery (and maybe even then), you’ll probably be hungry after the birth. You’ve just had a real workout and you deserve some real food.
5. Your baby doesn’t fit the books (not surprising since babies can’t read).
6. You can’t sleep. Part of it is the mental turmoil of having made the leap into motherhood. Then there’s the shift in hormones. And being a new mother raises your radar so that you sleep more lightly and wake more easily, especially if your baby isn’t with you. Keep your baby with you and you’ll probably sleep better.
7. You might feel overwhelmed by visitors. If you’re in a hospital, ask the staff to stop visitors at reception and suggest they visit when you get home. If you’re at home, post visiting hours on the door and stay in your nightgown. If you behave like you feel great, people will treat you that way and that’s not in your best interest right now.
8. You start leaking from everywhere. I’ve already mentioned lochia. Some women also find they have temporary bladder issues. As your milk comes in, you may find you can’t keep a shirt dry. Also temporary. You may sweat a whole lot at first, too, especially at night while your body goes through hormonal changes and simultaneously tries to dump any IV fluids you might have been given during delivery. Once baby starts getting a lot of milk, he will start filling a lot of diapers, so there are his fluids to deal with. And your eyes… well, they tend to tear up over just about anything!!
9. If you’ve been given a lot of IV fluids, you may look more pregnant after the birth than before, swollen eyes, swollen fingers, swollen breasts, swollen everything. (An epidural can significantly reduce blood pressure so the fluids were pumped in to help keep it in the normal range.). Eating protein and watermelon may help you unload the fluids.
10. These first few nights can be tough!! Take plenty of naps, even an evening nap and prepare your bedtime nest. You might want to have water or juice beside your bed as well - new mothers can get very thirsty.
11. You may be stunned how much you love your baby. Or you may be stunned that you don’t. The first is what we’re built for; the second often results from birth interventions. Love can come as a thunderbolt or it can creep up on you over the first month or two. But it comes.
12. Being a mother is a twenty-four hour a day job and it can be hard. Many mothers feel outraged and shell-shocked by the challenge of taking care of new baby.
The last one is why it’s so important to have a network. You need people who will take care of you so that you can mother your baby. Day by day you settle in, you learn new patterns and life smoothes out.
By Sarah Alberts