The early days with a new baby can be hard! But you can make them easier. Here are 6 simple ways to have a more enjoyable postpartum experience:
1.) Lower Your Expectations
It is very hard to slow down when you’re a “do-er” (as many of us are!) even after we’ve had a baby. We live in a society where it is often difficult to accept offers of help, and where ’doing’ and being busy are prized traits. We are exposed to a lot of media that normalizes the abnormal: babies that sleep through the night right away, bodies that are photoshopped to appear unchanged after pregnancy and birth, and expectations of bouncing right back to the life that existed prior to birthing your baby. It can be easy to wonder if you’re doing something wrong when that’s not your (or most people’s) experience.
Focus on feeding your baby, feeding you, and getting sleep. The rest will begin to fall into place, and the challenges of these moments will not last forever, although it can certainly feel like they will. Parenting is not easy, so be kind to and gentle with yourself. If you wouldn’t say it to your best friend, don’t say it to yourself!
Many families apologize for the state of their homes when we come for home visits in the postpartum. I am always reassured when I see dishes in the sink and a family curled up together in bed. We see you at home during the first week to ensure that you are able to focus on resting, healing, and feeding your baby.
Rest is what your body needs to heal. Folks often notice that their bleeding picks up if they’ve been busy. This is your body’s way of telling you to slow down. Take this time to catch up on your favourite TV series while you’re nursing and snuggling. Eat nutritious meals snuggled up in bed and drink a lot of water. The first week postpartum is not the time to go for brisk walks, go on grocery shopping expeditions, or march up and down the stairs with laundry…let it lie (or better yet, let somebody else do those things for you!).
3.) Side-lying breastfeeding/chestfeeding
Learn to nurse side-lying, so that you can rest while you’re feeding. It’s a skill that will serve you long-term, and one that will make the early postpartum days easier. Ask your midwife for help getting baby latched this way if you are struggling.
4.) Postpartum Baths
We do not recommend bathing babies within the first 24 hours for a few reasons, but when you do decide to bathe your baby, a great way to do that is to take a bath together. Some babies love the water, but others find baths quite jarring (and boy, will they ever let you know that!). Bathing together can be a relaxing experience for everyone. Run warm water and keep the bathroom door closed while the tub fills so that the room stays warm.
Even if you don’t have a tub or don’t like baths, sitz baths with warm water and epsom salts are soothing for healing perineums. Sitz baths are basins that fit in your toilet seat, and can usually be found for $10-$15 at your local pharmacy. While you’re there, consider picking up a bottle of witch hazel as it’s also soothing for a sore bottom.
5.) Learn to Wear your Baby
Babywearing is another skill that will serve you long-term, and it’s worth exploring after you’ve spent that time snuggled up in bed. Babies are accustomed to a regular source of food, touch, and movement in the womb. Being born and suddenly needing to ask for food and comfort must be a bit of a rude awakening. These intense needs can be a rude awakening for parents, too, especially if yours is a baby of the 99% who does not like to be put down. Babywearing is a great way to keep baby close (easier access to food) and comforted, and simultaneously allows you to regain access to your hands for things like eating warm food (novelty!).
At Generations, we will happily help you figure out a carrier that will work for you and your baby. Ask your midwife at one of your appointments if you’d like more information.
6.) Talk to Someone
Identify someone that you trust who you can tell if you’re not feeling like yourself. Check in frequently with yourself and that person about how you’re doing physically, mentally, and emotionally. And by that I mean check in on how you’re really doing. Having a baby can take as big a toll on your mental health as it can on your physical health with the great hormonal and situational shifts. Postpartum anxiety or depression can occur any time in the first year of your baby’s life, and at least 1 in every 5 of us is affected.
Help is available, but accessing help is incredibly challenging in the throes of postpartum depression or anxiety, which is why having a trusted person who will help you access care is so important.
Becky Yurkowski is a student midwife with Generations Midwifery Care. Learn more about Becky here.