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