If you’re a mother yourself, you’ll likely already know that so much changes the moment a baby is born. And, while society spends a lot of time preparing for pregnancy and birth, many don’t do nearly as much preparation for after the new bundle of joy arrives. Some of the most intense days in a mother’s entire lifetime happen during the first few weeks with her new baby—the moments also commonly referred to as the “fourth trimester”. For it’s in those first days and weeks that big transitions are happening for both newborn and mama. Below, are a few helpful tips and reminders to keep you grounded, empathetic, and sane during the start of this wild ride.
Remember that your newborn is exactly that, new
If you take a moment and simply ponder this experience for a newborn, it’s actually quite unbelievable. A tiny human has instantaneously transformed from an amphibious being into a mammal. They are suddenly existing in air, and no longer under water inside the vacuum of a womb. Almost every organ in this newborn’s body has completely changed its function—including its heart, lungs, tummy, and immune system. It’s no wonder that newborns need to be held and comforted during this season of life, and it makes sense that many babies take time to figure out new habits, such as how to latch and feed, in this brand new way. So many of the newborn “issues” that arise—such as rashes, spit-up, and colic—actually have to do with this tremendous adjustment in your newest addition’s microbiome, and the many organ systems it has just developed. So, during these first few weeks post-birth, try to remember that this sleep-deprived and incredibly exhausting time is an essential introductory phase for this baby to step into a whole new universe.
Keep in mind that your body is changing, too, mama
For the new mother, there is an equally intense physical experience occurring in the days and weeks after giving birth. Your body is healing, while simultaneously adjusting to completely new functions. You are recovering from a birth experience, sometimes one that went differently than planned. At times, you could also be recovering from a surgery or birth complication. And, you can even be dealing with common post-birth healing issues such as constipation, pelvic discomfort, suture care, and hemorrhoids, all while adjusting to major physical changes related to breastfeeding. And, even though it is all happening at once, it’s important to remember that it is truly interconnected. For instance, when a baby latches onto the breast, this not only stimulates milk production, but it is also stimulates the uterine muscles to contract, tighten, and heal.
Honor this time as a unique life moment that is completely different than any other
Once the baby comes, embrace being home. We live in a fast-paced society, and many individuals often have trouble slowing down and staying home. Many other outside cultural traditions have mothers and babies at home and resting for the first several weeks of life, as the entire family is healing and has just gone through a tremendous experience. So, remember to ask for help when you need it. There are wonderful postpartum recipes from all over the world. Don’t be afraid to call upon friends or family to gift you these meals or ingredients. Create a comfortable spot in your home where you can relax, and fill it with delicious drinks, snacks, stews, flowers, novels, music, and magazines—anything that will make yours and baby’s experience a more restful one.
Rethink time and sleep
Many new mamas are used to demanding daily schedules. You wake up in the morning, jet off to work, maybe take a beat for yourself, before heading to sleep for the night. In the first few weeks after your little one arrives, it is necessary to completely readjust your thinking in regards to time and sleep. Babies need to be fed around the clock, and usually can’t decipher day from night. Expect to be either feeding the baby, feeding yourself, soothing someone else in the family, changing a diaper, or sleeping. It is normal for this time to feel like a relay race. But, take it one step at a time and give yourself grace. The moments post-birth are very transient. This phase passes quickly, although each day can feel like an entire year. That said, it takes a tremendous amount of energy to get through each day. So, try to take it one day at a time and know that this is not what parenting looks like forever.
Be picky with your guests
Try to only invite friends and family over that bring good energy to your space. Ask guests to hold off on visiting if they or someone in their household are sick. Be respectful of your new family’s vulnerability—both physically and emotionally.
There will be tears
It seems as though society is just now beginning to have a real awareness and understanding of postpartum depression. That said, it’s important to remember that tears during the first few days of life are normal and healthy. Your entire family has just been through one of the most memorable and intense moments in its entire life. Sometimes the birth does not go as planned, and typically, the family feels overwhelmed. There are also hormones to take into consideration; hormones that operate at their highest levels during these days. It’s not uncommon to experience breastfeeding hormones, prolactin and oxytocin, also called “love” hormones” because they are associated with feeling deep emotions and connection during this time. Each mom may experience these shifts differently, so check in with your provider if you are not feeling safe, or if the tears don’t stop. However, allow yourself the space to feel big emotions and cry during this vulnerable time.
It does take a village
In the U.S., part of the reason that postpartum blues rates are high, and that breastfeeding rates are low, could have to do with the fact that one is hesitant to call on support. It’s not uncommon in other cultures that grandparents live with new mamas, and pass down their wisdom during this fundamental life moment. As tough as it may be, try your best to reach out and ask for help. Make shopping lists for friends to pick up and bring to you. Send recipes of meals you are craving. Encourage postpartum community meal drop-offs. Talk to your own mother or grandmother about her experiences being a new mom. Write down your birth story, and share it with others. In the end, it will help teach other women about your journey and hardships, and be a cathartic process for you. Each mother has to embark on this journey after the baby is born, so why not stick together and remember that you can help support one another, and also ask for help when it’s needed.
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