The ABCs of Postpartum – A note to self
At 10-weeks postpartum, this is my short list in a long read of a few key things to remember for next time (should I ever find myself having a baby again).
During pregnancy I was curious and interested in learning about little bobo’s development in utero every step of the way. I read blog articles about what to expect, I signed us up for prenatal classes, I had tracker apps, I kept lists, and I asked my doc questions at every appointment. But still, there are things that I hadn’t quite thought to prepare for…
B is for Breastfeeding (Busy Nurses and Repetitive Stress Injury)
In my situation, I felt like I was totally prepared for labour and delivery and totally at a loss when it came to breastfeeding. The moniker “billions of women have breastfed before me; it’s natural” just didn’t seem to apply (at first). But it was something that I
wanted needed to do. Bottle feeding, in my mind was not an option.
So, future self, I strongly recommend when you go skin-to-skin after baby is born to let baby try to latch on his own. This time around, I was so worried we’d have issues and I didn’t want the busy nurse to leave without finding out how to do it from her first. So before Bobo even had the chance to try on his own, I asked the nurse for help. My first mistake.
Please note: nurses in hospital are not lactation consultants. In-hospital nurses are super busy, bless them, and have a hundred and one other things to do to care for you. They also may not be properly trained in the art of the latch — so, future self, just give it a go on your own first and see how it goes.
Babies might be completely helpless at birth but babies and their mommas have got years of evolution hard-wired into us. Apparently a mother’s nipples smell like amniotic fluid so baby will naturally crawl to it after birth. Also, baby has been hearing your heartbeat for months now, so they know you.
It’s the latch or rather the technique of the latch that, for me, was the bane of my nursing sessions.
In my case, Bobo had a ridiculously recessed chin and he had swallowed some amniotic fluid during birth so he might have been having a harder time of getting the breathe-suck-swallow thing down. So we might have been on the road to cracked nipples from the start.
In any case, I feel like there were a number of things that people/nurses told me that were either completely wrong or just wrong for me. Still, I am 100% happy with my choice to breast feed, there are just a few things I would have liked to have known first now that I’ve been through it:
- Time at the breast has nothing to do with how full your baby is.
- Supply and flow are not the same thing.
- Ergonomically positioning your baby to the breast is SO SO important because tendonitis in your wrists is REAL and is incredibly painful.
- Pay attention to baby’s suck. This will tell you more about how much your baby is getting than anything else in the moment.
- Cracked nipples is nobody’s cup of tea. Get the All Purpose Nipple Cream (prescribed by a doc) ASAP.
As amazingly fulfilling and rewarding and awe-inspiring as it is, breastfeeding is hard and time consuming and — as I’ve heard it said before — “nipple shredding”. My advice is to go see a lactation consultant as soon as you can and as frequently as you can even if you think you’re doing well.
The consultants at the Peel public health clinics have been amazing and I fully intend to use them again and again as Bobo grows.
Okay, this was a long one.. the rest are shorter, I promise.
G is for Growth Spurts
When it came to my stress levels so far, growth spurts are a close second to breast feeding and the two go hand in hand. During a growth spurt, the feedings increase — no, duh. But baby may also get more fussy (or less) and he may sleep less (or more) too. Basically, watch out for growth spurts. They are frequent to begin with and just when you get the hang of them, they slow down. G is for Go figure.
(G is also for Google. A wondrous network of expert info and/or information written by real moms who may have gone through just what you are going through, is available to you — with all the usual caution of information on the interwebs. All you have to do is ‘search’ and you can inform yourself with information to have an intelligent conversation with your doctor or an expert…
It can at least give you the tools you need to ask the right questions and to help you dig a little deeper when your gut tells you that something is off.
…I guess G is also for Listen to your GUT.)
H is for Hospital vs. Home
That is to say, the care you receive in hospital could be amazing and if all goes well they’ll discharge you 24-hours later… and then you go home where there is no nurse to help or answer your questions at 2am. But when you get home is when the real party begins. In the beginning, being at home sort of feels like you’re living in an alternate reality cuz you’ll have family/friends over to help with the dishes and diaper changes etc. Just be prepared for a lot going on during the first week or so. Honestly, my house didn’t feel like my own until about the third week when it was just the three of us and we could really get a feel for our new life together. Fair warning. 🙂
S is for Sleep
Sleep is something I wish there was a baby gauge for (in fact it would be great if there was a fullness gauge for them too). At 4 weeks Bobo already had his first 4-hour stretch of sleep at night — this felt like such a luxury to me! 4-hours of solid sleep, so wow! Such amaze! But during the day..? Not so much. Bobo did not nap well at all. For the first couple weeks he would only sleep in my arms, which limited my ability to do things to… well… zero.
But there is no sleep gauge. All you can do is try really hard to pay attention to your baby and their cues.
They may yawn or look dazed when they’re ready to doze off, they might not be as chatty. Every baby is different, but look out for those “I’m tired” cues and try to calm things down to help them doze off on their own… without you (or your husband) cradling them to sleep — and without you nursing them to sleep either!
Try to follow the Sleep-Eat-Play-Repeat routine — in that order. The sooner you can help them learn the skill of falling asleep on their own (without the boob) the better for everyone. Once they can do this, it will be easier to know when to put them down for sleep and they will (fingers crossed) naturally get all the sleep that they need in a day. Oh yah. Just as simple as that. 😐
R is for Relationships
Everything will change. This goes without say. But all of your relationships will change too, and that’s really what makes having a baby so earth-shattering.
Your parents will treat you differently, your friends will treat you differently, your partner will see you differently — for better or for worse there’s a lot to process with this change and for me it came down to “community. Pre-baby my community was my work peeps. These were people I saw more than my family even. In the few days immediately post-baby my community changed temporarily to a lot of immediate family and fond well-wishers but then it got pretty dank at home by myself especially when hubby would go off to work.
So I am so glad that I got myself out of the house and found the Bridgeway Family Centers by Ontario Early Years.
OMG. The best thing was walking into the centre around the corner from me, signing up for every friggin’ workshop they had and then meeting the wonderful, caring new mommas JUST LIKE ME whom I now call my community. Truly, I have never before met another more welcoming, non-judgemental, knowledge-center of a group of people. Enough said.
S is for Scent
This is a happy one.
I hope to never forget the intoxicatingly sweet scent of Bobo’s breath. Never ever. Honestly, it’s such a trigger of love/happiness for me. Eau de Milkbreath. It is just Everything.
T is for Time
I thought that maternity leave would be just like pre-baby life, only with a little baby. I mean, I thought I’d be able to be just as productive with my time as before. I thought that baby would nap for 2 hours at a time I could while away my time at a local Starbucks and do some work on the side on my laptop. HA HA HA.
Time is precious, and don’t expect to be able to do it all. People without babies will think that mat-leave is a vacation from work and you just sit at home all day watching Netflix and that your mental health will be at an all time high with all the “me” time that you have on your hands.
Again, HA HA HA.
Let people think what they want. People are funny. 🙂 Having and raising a baby makes you a rockstar no matter your situation and I will always wish that I had more time to just do “me” stuff. Because the days are long but the weeks/months/years are just too damn short. Time flies and it will always feel like time is running out. Such is life… there’s never enough time, amirite?
Speaking of time… this turned into a much longer post than I originally set out to write but I hope it’s helpful to someone out there and at the very least, I hope it’s helpful to future me for next time. …IF there even is a next time!