Motherhood: surviving the first few weeks....
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Exhaustion, exuberance, excitement…..Just a few “E” words that come to mind when I think about those first few weeks after baby’s arrival. I had my second baby this past July, and I can tell you through experience that every child and each postpartum journey will be different.
I should preface this by saying that I was a Labor & Delivery and postpartum nurse when I first started my nursing career. I only say this because I had some knowledge going into both delivery and the postpartum period. Having that knowledge did not make any things harder or easier, it was just that—knowledge.
With my first baby, Jack, I had a very normal pregnancy and delivery. Pushed for about 30 minutes (I thought it would be much longer!), and had a normal postpartum stay in the hospital and the first few days. My second baby came even more quickly and I left the hospital after 24 hours.
The first few days: The excitement still hasn’t worn off, so complete exhaustion hasn’t hit yet. Enjoy those cuddles and baby sleepiness! In my experience, the sleepiness doesn’t last long! You will be very sore—use what the nurse gives you! Icepacks, dermaplast, proctofoam, those lovely disposable underwear, peri-bottle, witch hazel pads, pads, meds, etc… And take all of those items home with you! That peri-bottle comes in handy, trust me! As a nurse, I always tried to stay on top of my patient’s pain. Don’t wait too long to take medication or you will be constantly chasing the pain. Motrin and stool softeners are your friend :) Pads are a necessity. Lansinoh breast pads worked great! And take that stretchy disposable underwear home and ask for more in the hospital!
Feeding: I breastfed my son for his first year of life and I am currently breastfeeding my daughter. I can only speak to breastfeeding because that is what I know. Nothing against formula, I whole heartedly believe the saying “fed is best.” If you choose to formula feed: GREAT! If you choose to breastfeed: ALSO GREAT!
Since I have experience breastfeeding I thought I would share a few tips that have helped me. The first few days your body makes colostrum, aka “liquid gold.” The amazing thing about breastfeeding is that your body makes just what your baby needs! Under supply and oversupply are other issues some women face. I would say I had/have more of an oversupply. Feed that baby on demand. Look for feeding cues (rooting) and you may be feeding the baby every 1-3 hours. That is ok! And totally normal!
You always hear that breastfeeding should not be painful. I would have to disagree, because it is a strange sensation and can take some time to get an adequate latch. Breastfeeding can be a little uncomfortable at first, if the baby is not latching on properly. I didn’t have much discomfort with my son, but my daughter was a bit different. It takes you and your baby time to adjust and learn how to feed together. And every baby is different! You might easily feed one child and have a difficult time with the next. (I will write a more detailed post on breastfeeding in the future).
Newborns can be very gassy (at least mine were). Both of my babies were very noisy sleepers and grunted a lot! Their digestive system is immature and it take time to work. I think it took about 6 weeks until this normalized. Try to burp frequently and hold upright after feeding if you have a gassy baby.
Even if you choose to exclusively breastfeed, I would suggest starting to pump at about 4 weeks so your supply is well established. For the second baby, I found out that my insurance covered a pump and all of the accessories (breastmilk storage bags included!) and the Spectra pump has been great! Check to see if your insurance covers it. You will also need breast pads and nipple cream .
Sleep: The adrenaline and initial excitement will wear off after a few days, and sleep deprivation will set in. I can’t stress this enough, but sleep when the baby sleeps. It was harder for me to do this the second time around, but I highly recommend doing this! If you have family in town, let them make you dinner! Your body and your baby need you to rest! Babies don’t sleep through the night for a long time, so just get used to it. This was the biggest adjustment for me after having baby #1. There is a reason I titled this post “Surviving the first few weeks…” You are doing just that, “surviving.” And I found this was mostly due to lack of sleep.
Nutrition: Drink water, and lots of it. Breastfeeding is exhausting and I also found that I was ravenous, especially with my first. In my sleep deprived state with baby #1, I felt like I couldn’t eat enough. I was insatiable. And because of the lack of sleep, the last thing I wanted to eat was a salad. Looking back, I should have chosen to eat more foods full of good fat, whole grains, and fiber (avocado, oatmeal, nuts, etc…). I had a hard time losing the weight after Jack, but I am doing much better this time around with June.
Clothing: If you are breastfeeding you will need nursing bras and tanks . I basically lived in pajamas for the first few weeks. With baby #2, I bought some nursing clip down nightgowns and a matching robe to lounge in around the house.
Baby essentials: Baby is just in a vicious cycle of eat, sleep, poop for a few weeks. You really don’t need ALL the things. I came up with a list of my most used items and you don’t need to break the bank on fancy gadgets for baby. Bath time will require some soft washcloths , a mild baby wash, and I choose to use a bathtub . Baby clothes don’t need to be excessive those first few weeks. A few onesies, nightgowns for easy diaper changes at night, and zip down onesies (the zip DOWN ones are key!). You will be changing lots of diapers so practical attire will make your life easier. There are so many fancy sleep contraptions for baby nowadays, but just a basic swaddle and safe sleep environment will do. You really can get away with just a Pack n Play or Rock n Play sleeper for those first few weeks or even months, until you are ready to transition to the crib. *Be sure to check with your doctor about safe sleeping environments for your baby.
My kids never really loved a swing, so I’m not including that as a must have. We used a sound machine right away because it helps with the transition from the womb and drown out noise from outside. My son still uses his sound machine , and we got this sound machine/night light for June. You can personalize the settings and I love that it has so many different sounds and lights to choose. My absolute #1 must have is a baby carrier. Specifically, this one . You will also need the infant insert for the first few weeks. They are pricey, but they are well worth the money. During the fourth trimester, babies love to be close to you and a baby carrier just makes your life easier when you need to be hands free. I don’t really like pushing strollers around, so the baby is usually in the Ergo. I bought a wrap for June, but I honestly don’t use it as much as I thought I would.
Lastly, enjoy this time. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Your body has gone through and is going through so many changes physically and emotionally. I felt much better emotionally after the second one. Each and every pregnancy and postpartum journey is unique. What will your journey look like?
June seen here in the Graco Pack n Play
We actually were staying at my parents’ house temporarily when we had her due to a military move. The pack n play can be used as changing table, bassinet, and crib. It also folds up easily for travel. We have used ours a ton!
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