It is almost hard to believe that four weeks has gone by since our little Maxwell was born. A week late on August 22nd at 2:34 am, our lives changed forever. To be quite honest, I have been in a bit of a haze the last two weeks surviving on cat naps and coffee. Tons and tons of coffee. It’s all good though, because when I look at this ridiculously adorable face, it makes it all worth it.
Throughout my nine months of carrying Maxwell, I was told all the cliché things about pregnancy and motherhood; “Giving birth is the greatest gift!“, “Motherhood is the hard but the most rewarding job” and a slew of other Hallmark sounding phrases. All 100% true statements but what I needed to hear the most that realness on what to expect post labour in the first few weeks. Documenting my journey to baby has allowed me to connect with a lot of you in the IG community and I’ve discovered that so many of you are expecting your first baby this year. So, here’s eight things you should know (but nobody tells you) about post pregnancy to help you survive the first few weeks.
1. The Importance of Skin to Skin
Skin-to-skin with a newborn is important and crucial in so many ways for both you and your baby. Most advocates of doing skin-to-skin would recommend that this start at birth. Both Réjean and I created a hug plan very early on during my pregnancy which we shared with our midwives and doula as we were keen on having our skin hug with Max as soon as she entered the world. That first contact is the most intense connection ever! When we placed her on our chests and she starred into our eyes, it was like she knew exactly who we were. But more importantly, there’s actually some scientific stuff according to Canadian Association of Paediatric Centres that makes skin-to-skin so beneficial:
- It helps promote healthy weight – when baby’s are warm they don’t use their energy to regulate their body temperature, so they can use that energy to help them grow instead.
- It can help make breastfeeding easier – newborns have a heightened sense of smell so placing your baby skin-to-skin helps them seek out the nipple and begin breastfeeding faster.
- It reduces baby’s stress and pain – just 10 minutes of this skin cuddle time can reduce your baby’s stress hormone and increase oxytocin.
- It promotes better sleep – less stress = better sleep
- It helps dad and baby bond – we have a whole nine months to bond with our little one when they are in our stomachs and once they enter the world it’s almost as if Dad has some catching up to do. This is a great way for Dad’s to get in their quality baby bonding time.
2. The Truth About Diapers
Oh my goodness…we were not at all prepared for the amount of diapers we were going to have to change a day. Trust me, probably one of the most surprising discoveries since becoming parents. The first couple days were not so bad as the baby was only getting colostrum and my breast milk hadn’t come in yet but holy moly, once she hit a week old,things got hectic. Our midwifes gave us a rule of thumb to go by when it comes to the number of changes Maxwell should have per day. Basically, the number of diaper changes should mimic how old they are. For instance, if you’re baby is 3 days old, he/she should have gone through 3 diapers. On day five there should be five changes and so on. However, after a week, the daily nappy change should be anywhere from 6-9 diapers.
Using Huggies Little Snugglers has made our lives so much easier and has been reassuring knowing that little Maxie is in a diaper designed to keep her delicate newborn skin clean and healthy. For you fellow new time moms out there, you can receive a free pack of diapers to trial on your little one by supporting Huggies “No Baby Unhugged” initiative. The wetness indicator on this diapers are amaaaaazing and has taken the guess work out of knowing when it’s time to change her diaper. When the baby starts crying, Réj has a mental check list he runs through of the possible reasons for her agitation and looking to see if that indicator has gone from yellow to blue is the first thing he checks out. Most helpful during the middle of the night especially. Maxwell’s belly button healed in record time too, partially due to the umbilical cord cut-out on her Newborn diapers which is brilliant.
3. Midwifery and Doula Post Natal Support
I had planned to discuss this at more length when I share my birth story but in short, the support we have received from our midwives and doula has been phenomenal. Both during our pregnancy and post labour. To be honest, I am not sure we would have made it through the first week at home with Max without Kristen and Alusha at Toronto’s Community Midwives and our Doula Leah Jackson. We chose this avenue of care because of the extra benefits during the prenatal stage but it wasn’t until much later that we learned that the postnatal care and assistance was even more critical and useful. What most don’t seem to realize is, having a midwife comes at no extra cost for the Mum and Dad. I know the assumption from many has been that it costs thousands because the idea of this personalized care sounds fancy but in Ontario the costs are actually covered by OHIP. We had 5 in-home medical visits for Max within the first week after her birth and a little extra postnatal care from our Doula whose role is to not only help with the baby but to also provide assistance and care to the new Mama. Max and I have enjoyed Leah’s massages, lactation assistance and she’s even helped with the first couple bath times. Ladies (and gents) do yourself a favour and be open minded about these options and also know that they can be used in conjunction with hospital births.
4. Make Bath Time a Fun, Bonding Experience (Your baby will sleep better too!)
In these early stages, everything you do for your child is an opportunity to bond with your little one. Although it’s super easy to feel robotic going through a cycle of feeding, changing and putting your baby to sleep, try your best to do each thing mindfully and with intention as time flies so quickly. I was petrified at the thought of having to give this tiny human a bath alone after being shown twice the ropes from Leah, but now I look forward to this time with Max, especially because she loves the water so much. Plus it’s time for the three of us to connect as a family. After she is out of the water, we have added baby massage to our routine and it’s help tremendously with sleep time at night, even though she’s only a month old. Co-bathing and breast feeding in the tub has some tremendous benefits as well!
5. Sleep Deprivation is REAL!!!!!
Ok, so this is absolutely no joke. There is a reason why sleep deprivation is used as a torture tactic in some countries. After a 43 hour long labour and five days straight of no sleep afterwards, I entered in a mental parallel universe and trust me when I say it has not been a pleasant experience. No matter how many people told me, ” Make sure you sleep when the baby sleeps!” I did not listen. You will want to do all of the things you can’t when you bub is awake; like cook, clean, work (if you’re like me and work because you’re self employed) or something even as basic as have a shower, but trust me, not getting any sleep is not only going to affect you but it will affect the baby too. A happy, rested mama = a happy, rested baby. If you’re unable to take naps during the day, perhaps think about pumping your breast milk or using formula so your partner can help you out with the nightshift.
6. Teamwork Makes The Dream Work
Number five is the perfect segue way into pro tip #6…you and your partner need to work as a team. Bringing a little human into this world is no easy feat and caring for you bundle of joy in the first few weeks can seem overwhelming, especially for the Mum’s who are already suffering from drastic hormonal changes. Finding a way to tag team and share responsibilities with your partner is critical during this time and sets the foundation for how the household will run as a new family. Easier said than done, I know! Réjean and I struggled hard during the first week. I hadn’t slept well since month seven of my pregnancy, followed by a very long labour. By day five of no sleep post labour, I thought I was going crazy. This led to arguments and fuelled my postpartum blues. I was so angry watching him sleep blissfully for 11 hours a night on the couch while I tended to the baby alone in the bedroom all night. Thankfully, an intervention from our midwives and doula helped us realize quickly that we needed to implement a plan immediately which involved breast pumping my milk or using formula so Réj can feed Maxwell while I catch up on sleep or get work done. Splitting the nightshift when possible is key because two tired parents is truly a recipe for disaster. Since I am in more demand than he is with breastfeeding and all, he has stepped up to the plate with meal prep, coffee making and keeping the common areas of our home tidy. It has not only tremendously taken the pressure off me to “Do All and Be All” but it’s also made us better humans to each other and to Maxwell.
7. Breastfeeding vs Formula
Do yourself one big favour and don’t pay attention to anyone that makes you feel bad about your feeding choices – or any choices when it comes to you and your baby for that matter. Remember, if there was a manual with all the right things to do, our children would come with one. Some women have a very difficult time with breastfeeding; whether they don’t produce enough milk or they are suffering from chapped nipples or mastitis. While some babies find it challenging to latch or have nipple confusion. Full disclosure: I don’t love to breastfeed. Matter of fact, I don’t love it at all. I understand and appreciate the benefits it gives my baby, which is why I do it but if things continue to be uncomfortable, I will move to my plan B feeding plan. My advice, find what works best for you and the baby. If you are adamant about breastfeeding but finding it to be a challenge, there are free breast feeding clinics made available to women throughout the city, just ask your healthcare provider for the information. Formal lactation specialists can also be hired and they come to your home as well. At this point, we are doing about 80% breast milk and the remainder formula and you know what, the baby is doing just fine. As long as your baby is fed and not going hungry, that’s all that really matters.
8. Mind, Body & Spirit
There is so much going on with a woman’s body during this time, it’s easy to think that you are loosing control. Truthfully, at some points I’ve believed I actually had. The raging hormones that plagued women during pregnancy don’t disappear right away after birth. Often times, your hormones can cause you to be even more unpredictable once your bundle of joy has made it home. I spent the better part of the first two weeks crying uncontrollably and I am finding out this is very normal. Crying from exhaustion, hunger, physical pain from labour, no longer recognizing myself and the changes to my body, postpartum edema (swelling), painful symptoms from “Baby Wrist” also known as Tendonitis, discomfort from stitches due to vaginal tearing…the list goes on. Just four weeks in, I am very much still in what a lot of Mum’s refer to as the trenches, so I am trying to be mindful and gentle with myself but it’s difficult. The best advice I have been given about this is that it’s temporary and this too shall pass. These are all very normal feelings but it’s important to keep a watchful eye on it and to not feel embarrassed if we need to seek help of any kind.
“Birth is not only about making babies. Birth is also about making mothers; strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength!”
If you’re expecting and interested in creating a hug plan for you and your baby, you can create one right here.
This post has been sponsored by Huggies Canada however all views and opinions are my own