We take classes on birth, classes on how to breastfeed, classes on how to give baby a bath and how change their diaper. We prepare a lot for baby’s arrival but sometimes we neglect to prepare for how to take care of ourselves during the postpartum period. Yes, life as you know it is about to fully revolve around a perfectly cute little human you created but you also need to make sure you are taking care of yourself along the way. You are an essential part of this journey!
To be frank, there is no way to fully prepare for his time. Just like you’ll never be fully prepared to become a parent, there is no true ‘preparing’ for your first postpartum experience . It is something you will go through uniquely. However, there are some things you should know that can help you understand and make sense of everything that is happening.
Be Kind To Yourself || After birth your body goes through a major hormone shift where your estrogen and progesterone levels go from an all time high to a new found low. This can contribute to the “baby blues” (which is a common period of mood swings, sadness, anxiety or irritability which should resolve itself in a week or so) or can lead to postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety. I had my own battle with PPA and never knew that the increase in anxiety can be related to the surge of oxytocin, or the “bonding hormone”, which floods your system right after delivery. To balance that you need progesterone, which is naturally anti-anxiety, but like I previously mentioned it is really low after birth. You may find yourself in this constant dance, wondering why you can’t seem to get it together. Instead, accept that your hormones are in the driver’s seat right now and you are just along for the ride! Start with a daily affirmation or a reminder to be kind to yourself and accept that it is totally okay to feel all over the place with your mood for the next couple of months. It takes time for your hormones to regulate and level out again. If it ever gets too overwhelming, or if you feel like you are struggling, talk to your doctor, midwife or counsellor to discuss ways to manage.
Wash Yo Dang Face || Mama, you gotta make sure you are doing the basics – and I am not going to call washing your face and taking a shower ‘self care’ because that is insulting. When a man showers we don’t applaud him for prioritizing self care, do we? These are basic needs that you need to make sure you are prioritizing! These simple tasks will help you feel like a human which is kind of an essential feeling you’ll need as you’re now operating and living under the reign of a tiny baby czar. Remember, you are going to feel an intense need to take care of your new baby but it cannot outweigh the drive to take care of yourself. Some days this will be a fight because you feel that life is too overwhelming right now to battle for you own needs- but this drive needs to come from a place fueled by self love, self worth, and self advocacy. You will need it to pay attention to and honor both your and your baby’s cries for self care. Did I wash my hair every day? No, that’s why I say I get by on dry shampoo. However, I did either jump in the shower to wash up or at minimum wash my face every day. These are just my core basics but there are other ways we can remind ourselves to give a little TLC like with a Postpartum Self-Care Assessment.
Ask For Help || Maybe it’s the mindset of the modern woman, but we don’t like asking for help. We want to show our bosses and coworkers (and sometimes our partners) that we are completely capable of handling whatever comes our way without intervention. We value being strong and independent. However, when it comes to taking care of our babes, there is a reason “it takes a village” is one of the most recognizable phrases out there. After birth, we are not only tethered to a newborn, we are dealing with recovery pain, sleep deprivation, burping, changing, feeding – you get the picture. If there was ever a time we needed, and deserved, a little extra help it’s now. As a first time mom I was really bad about asking for help. I felt that I was capable of doing everything on my own and was determined to do so. But being capable of doing something yourself is different than allowing someone to help you, this is an important distinction to remember. Make a game plan with your partner for diaper changes or feedings ahead of time so you are not taking on all the duties by yourself. If you are nursing, ask them to help you always make sure you have a full glass of water (hydration is KEY) or to grab you a snack while you are feeding. Whatever it is you need or something that is important to you, its crucial you communicate that with your partner so that they can feel useful and you can feel supported! If you have family coming over to help you do not be afraid to divvy out the chores list. Let them wash your dishes, vacuum, take the dogs for a walk – heck make a list and put it on the fridge so they can pick what they want to do! People who want to be around you and your newborn will genuinely want to help you – so let them, and get over the awkwardness (or stubbornness) of asking.
Let Go of Expectations || Mom guilt is a real thing guys. It is so easy to compare ourselves and our babies to everyone in our mom groups or to moms we follow on Instagram but let me just reiterate that social media is a highlight reel and we all go through and process things differently. For some, becoming a mom may seem really easy and natural. For me, it wasn’t right away and that’s okay! I wrote about this in Porter’s Birth Story and I think it’s important we not put an unrealistic expectation on ourselves to love everything about motherhood. Will we love all the middle of the night feedings and exhaustion? Probably not. Did I love my chapped and cracked nipples when we were learning how to latch? Ma’am I did not. Does this mean I wasn’t a good mom and didn’t love my child? No! So as hard as it is to not compare yourself to either your own expectations or someone else’s journey – it’s crucial you remember that it just takes time and it will all be okay. That goes for your little one too! Try not to obsess over milestones or how long your baby is sleeping compared to others. Babies are not robots, they are tiny little people who have their own personalities, likes and dislikes. They will develop on their own timelines, in their own way. If your pediatrician isn’t worried- you shouldn’t be either! So let it go, give yourself a break, and try to relax as you settle into this season of motherhood.
Breastfeeding || The choice to breastfeed or not is entirely your own but if you do decide to give it a try, there are a few things to note. It will feel like your newborn baby has an entire set of alligator teeth in that tiny mouth of theirs. I don’t know what I was expecting at first but I cried at the hospital because I thought it would be this very natural easy process, and it wasn’t. For some reason I was expecting that babies just knew what to do like how puppies know how to swim or cats know where their litter box is. But there is a learning curve for both you and your newborn! There is a lot that goes into breastfeeding but once you get it, you are good to go. The best advice I ever got was ‘don’t quit on a bad day’ and I am so glad I didn’t. I will eventually write more about breastfeeding and the sources I found helpful but in the meantime, here are the top highlights. 1) Always, always, always break a painful latch so make sure you know how to properly break and guide your baby back on the breast. 2) Breast milk is by far the best “nipple cream” out there. 3) There is no need to obsess over ounces if your baby is producing the right number of wet diapers a day and gaining weight successfully. 4) If you offer a bottle make sure you are using “first flow” nipples (these are the ones I used) the entire time you continue to breastfeed so they don’t learn a preference for bottles over breast. 5) Lastly, I had no idea I needed a whole new wardrobe for breastfeeding but these sleep nursing tanks are so easy and comfortable and these nursing shirts are what I wore exclusively and what I highly recommend until you feel more comfortable whipping it out in public. Yes, breastfeeding is work, but you can do it as long as you want and are comfortable doing so! There are so many resources out there, and many of them conflicting, so try to trust your gut and let your baby lead the way. You’ve got this mama!
Down There Care || There are lots of care kits you can buy but honestly I find them to be just a lot of fluff and they can be unnecessarily expensive. There were 3 major items I would recommend everyone have and I made sure I had enough supplies for each bathroom in the house so no matter where I was when nature called, I had everything I needed right there. You’ll definitely want a irrigation bottle for when you go to battle the sting and to use in lieu of wiping. I always filled with warm water from the sink right before I went. Since I had a small tear a topical anesthetic was a literal lifesaver for me but this can also be used to battle itching and irritated skin too. Since the spray I used was cooling, I didn’t feel the need to create padcicles or sit on ice. You can apply directly onto you or you can add it to a pad and it was particularly useful post shower. This is another popular brand of spray as well! Lastly, to battle hemorrhoids I cannot recommend these medicated cooling pads enough. They are what my hospital provided and are half the price of the Frida Mom brand and you get more than 4x the amount in the box! Other than that, make sure you are taking your prescribed pain relievers, eating well balanced nutritious meals when you can to help with postpartum constipation, and wearing all the comfortable clothes (you will find me living in these lounge pants which are still great for wearing postpartum and beyond).
I hope this helps either prepare you for the postpartum period or gives you a little sense of relief if you are knee deep into it now. Remember, we all have our own unique journey and we navigate challenges differently but I hope that sharing some of my experiences can help some of you with yours.
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