After nurturing your body and your baby for 40 weeks or so, you’ve given birth. Congratulations! This is usually a wonderful and challenging time as you get to know each other and be everything your baby needs. I call this time babying, as it's not quite parenting, as such.

In truth, we don’t really need so much to take care of an infant— what we do need now is information. While no one can prepare you for your own specific experience, you want to prepare yourself by researching nursing, feeding, and sleeping before you give birth-- so you can look back at babying and feel like you were empowered and able to make choices you can remember and feel good about— to not make choices out of fear. You will most likely be sleep deprived and nervous and scared and just want to feed your baby—fear produces cortisol in our brains and makes it impossible to think things through the way we usually do.

The overwhelming odds are that with support, forethought, and planning, almost all women can nurse and most babies will sleep.

Your child should be sleeping a lot-- babies shouldn’t be awake more than 2 hours at a stretch for the first few months at least. When the baby is awake longer his brain produces cortisol-- this produces a baby who looks “wide awake” and who will have trouble falling or staying asleep, thus continuing the cycle.

There are many ways to help your child get back to sleep within 2 hours-- some babies nurse to sleep (single-side nursing ensures that the baby gets the hind-milk, which has essential fats and helps promote sleep). Some babies like to be swaddled (which you can do with a regular receiving blanket or special swaddling blanket). Other babies like to be rocked, and some like a low humming or shushing sound (your voice or a white noise machine). Some babies like to be propped up a bit (more about this and something called “silent reflux” in a later post). You will help develop your child’s eventual independence by being a reliable presence for him now, and bringing him into a world where he feels comfort and safety. I now have an almost 6 year old who falls asleep by herself (not nursing) walks, and uses the toilet-- it all happened progressively.

Nursing will be easiest if you have some support at the start (post-partum doula, lactation consultant, sometimes a very experienced friend) to make sure you and the baby are positioned properly. Find phone numbers for these people before you give birth-- if you need to call, the faster the better. If you’ve hired a post-partum doula you should call her when you are in labor or just after the baby is born. She will arrange to be at the house the day you bring the baby home. If you planned to bottle feed, have a selection of bottles and nipples available, and research formula brands. There are online videos that demonstrate nursing and bottle feeding.

Try to take a walk outside EVERY DAY with your baby, no matter how hard it seems. A good time might be after the first nap your baby takes-- it clears your head and makes everything seem a bit easier. (While your baby is sleeping prepare everything so you can actually make it outside.) Many people talk to you when you have a baby—it’s like a natural high, breathing outside air (pollution aside) and seeing people smile at you.

If you’ve met other women/men/couples in your neighborhood who were pregnant or have babies, this is the time to call/email/text/facebook—even if you are tired. Try to find a neighborhood group of parents to connect with-- many are organized on-line. New parents are waking up during the night and may not look interested in chatting, but most are happy to connect-- making the first move ( introducing yourself while you wait for the street light to change, or at a coffee shop) is bold and will pay off.

You want to look back on this time and be able to be honest with yourself, know that you were prepared and made choices from a place of power, not fear.

Over the next week, this thread will stay open for questions and comments around these opening moments, weeks, and months with your baby.

For a more comprehensive look at this time and suggested readings, you can also visit www.askyourfriendkira.com

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Kira,

Let me first say that I love your website. Went right to it after reading this post and see a lot of value in your mission statement in italics: Welcome to askyourfriendkira, a parenting and family-lifestyle reference website. I’m a mother of two, former middle school teacher, parenting columnist and consultant. By being well informed and thoughtful, your parenting will thrive too-- if you don't have time to do all the research on your own, you can ask me!

Awesome. As a first time mom with a 9 month old, I can always use new ideas, suggestions and information in general. I'm definitely going to explore the site.

Secondly, I agree with everything you said in this thread, and especially connected with that advice to get outside with your baby every day. As a home birth mom, my "nesting" experience was pretty long and intimate. For the two weeks before and two weeks after Ella was born, I considered my home a safe and sacred space. I did a lot of walking, but other than that, I segregated myself from the outside world. It was what felt natural.

I remember going outside for the first time since Ella's birth, (once I was comfortable to hold her and walk at the same time) and the world seemed so HUGE and vast. Along with that, I suddenly felt a real sense of connection to all of woman-kind. It was an awesome moment.

I began bundling up Ella (this was the latter half of February in Michigan) every day for a short walk down the street and back. The sun felt so warm. The breeze so real. It was a soft and welcoming way to introduce myself back into society without actually entering back into it (which I waited for until just over two weeks after Ella was born - following my midwife's advice).

This social site is a great resource for pregnant women, and will always do very well because there will always be pregnant women looking for resources and information about birth. But we're only pregnant women for so long, and although it feels like a long time, it really isn't.

While I was pregnant, my birth was all I could think about (which I chalk up to it being my first) with no interest in learning about taking care of my newborn. I figured I would just trust my intuition, which luckily, worked out well for me because Ella was such an easy baby - breastfed right away, slept well in our bed with us, and was overall a pleasant/happy baby. My doula made three house calls, and my midwife two. I had a lot of support from my mother as well as my grandmother.

I realize, however, that this is not the case for everyone which is why having a resource such as the one you've provided at the bottom of this post is so crucial.

Look forward to following this thread,
Kaitlin
Hello Kira, and all other new mom's and mom's to be,

To help you get through those first exciting, emotional and exhausting first days after you had your baby you can hire a doula. As said in your post. But if you can not afford a doula or want to know more about how to take care of your baby and YOUR OWN BODY then take a look at the manual 'The First 8 Days of Being a Mom'. You could say it is a 'paper' doula which helps you and your family make the process of becoming a mother a more sound and sane experience. Take a look at www.thefirst8days.com or amazon.com for example pages and reviews on this practical manual.
Thanks for both replies. Kaitlin, I'm so happy that my site resonated with you and that you see the potential! I loved reading your story. We are all lucky to be able to share with each other.

Gea, I'm going to order the book you mentioned. There is so much about birth in the Netherlands that we have to learn from! Follow up midwife visits, etc.
I love your suggestion to walk outside EVERY DAY. Starting 6 days postpartum, I did just that. I put Michelle in my Moby Wrap, took the dog and away we went. The dog also appreciated this as he has had some adjusting to do with his change in status! I live right by the Puget Sound and could walk along the waterfront right from my house. Of course, I was fortunate that my baby was born in July to take advantage of the good weather. We walked maybe 1/2 mile the first day and a little more each day until we were up to a 3-4 mile loop. At 3 months and 2 weeks, I was just one pound away from my pre-pregnancy weight! Now that she consistently naps well in the morning, I take that time to do an exercise DVD when the weather is bad.

I also found tremendous support in cyber-networking during those first weeks on sites like this one, Facebook, CafeMom, etc. It gave me real perspective that I was not alone with the challenges of first-time parenthood. I also realized that being honest with my close friends about my feelings instead of trying to portray myself as supermom opened up wonderful dialogues about motherhood.
Kelly, it's true, our cyber-world is so helpful for new moms-- I think many of us at some point think doing this alone is a big accomplishment-- when in fact, we need people!

I wanted to mention that I had two winter babies, and that walking with a baby all snug in the winter is delightful too-- the rush of cold air is always good if your baby is fussing-- kind of like a trump card you can pull out-- crisp/cold weather usually is a good change of scene for a baby, and energizing for a mom.
Dear Kira,

Very interesting discussion here. I have no clue what I was going into and I didn't really care to read on anything about taking care of newborns and all that ... I just took the plunge and here I am with two children age 3 and age 2. I thinking trusting your inner guts is crucial.

And I like to add to it with some cultural emphasis. I am Chinese and the first 30 days after birth is the most important for the mother to recover and gain back all the nutrients that she give to the baby since the 9 months.

My mother insisted that I have a doula. She takes care of the mother and the baby and cook for the mother. Which was a great idea, because I learned a lot from my doula. She had taken care of 200 + newborns and has 25 years of experience.

We are not allowed to walk outside until after the 30 days and also not allowed to take a bath for the first 14 days and we had to wash with hot ginger water after from head to toe after just for that transition one day and then you can take your normal baths as usual.

Soup is a big thing in the recovery. Anything from fresh chicken with rice wine, fish with papaya and peanuts ( for milk production ) and certain type of vegetable medley. And a lot of ginger in everything.

I was eating so much I did not gain a single pound within that 30 days. I ate 3 big bowls of rice and drink a gallon soup everyday ... if your thirsty drink the soup not water ... LOL. I also felt a lot healthier than before giving birth.

What are some resources on depression studies with moms. I think I was depressed, but I am really not sure with my first child maybe cause I am always alone all the time after wards especially from age 3 months to 9 months. I think most Asian women in general keeps all those to themselves and rarely express this kind of feelings.

Thank you for reading and Thank you for sharing ... I will come back more often to read about this discussion.

peace + love,
Yvonne
Yvonne, thank you.

In regard to depression, post-partum depression can be different things for different women. For some it can be anxiety and anxious thoughts, for some it can be sadness, lethargy, and more. There are many on-line resources and I will list a few of my favorites below.

Most Important-- find a partner, parent, friend, doctor (your child's pediatrician), nurse, who will listen to you if you think you are experiencing-- everyone could probably benefit from therapy at this emotional and life changing time. If people try to dismiss you as just having regular, "baby blues" press on with an on-line connection or your own call to a psychologist-- someone who isn't emotionally involved with you will be able to help you see this situation more clearly.

If you ever feel like you may harm your baby, go somewhere with other people or call someone who can come over immediately.

http://www.postpartumny.org/

http://www.depressionafterdelivery.com/

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