Treasure or Trap?
The first two weeks of your newborn's life is a separate stage. During this time, your baby will basically only eat and sleep. This grace period is precious: allowing you to recover from pregnancy and birth, get breastfeeding established, and get settled in with your newborn. Once your baby hits their first growth spurt (around 2 weeks), everything changes.
Most new parents don't know about this. They think their baby is just "easy" and will continue the same way. Still riding an adrenaline high, they may waste their energy on day to day chores, entertaining guests, etc. When, all of a sudden, their baby gets fussy and doesn't want to be put down for 24-48 hours, they panic.
After the growth spurt, your baby "wakes up." Babies who seemed oblivious to their environment before may now have an opinion about everything. Reflux, food sensitivities and allergies often present themselves in the third week. The parents who missed their window to prepare are now overwhelmed and stunned.
If you recognize the first two weeks as a precious window, you can conserve your energy, maximize your sleep, and be ready when your baby's behavior dramatically changes. Postpartum largely depends on pacing--the slower you go, the easier it will be.
**This applies to full term babies. Preterm, postdates and late preterm babies often stay closer to their gestational ages. (i.e. my third baby, at 41.5 weeks, was literally born in her growth spurt.)
Be an Epic Dad
Most first time dads have never taken care of a newborn. Thankfully, you don't need experience--you need a willingness to learn.
*Start with your partner!
While she's recovering from pregnancy, birth and learning to breastfeed, someone else needs to handle all the tasks she used to do. It doesn't matter whether it's you, family, friends or a Postpartum Doula....What matters is that she isn't stressed about it! The more she can rest now, the faster she will recover.
Offer support and encouragement. Remember, it's new to her, too! Navigating the dramatic hormonal shifts and physical demands is more challenging in the first few weeks.
Anticipate her needs. Offer food, make sure she always has a drink, do everything you can to help her get as much rest as possible. If you're not sure how to help, ask her!
*Get to know your baby!
Bond with your baby: Make eye contact, talk, hold, and have as much skin to skin contact as possible. Offer your pinkie finger to suck on (newborns prefer fingers to pacifiers--and it doesn't create nipple confusion, which can complicate breastfeeding.)
Be patient. Remember that your baby is going through a huge transition and is still learning how to function outside the womb. The calmer you are, the calmer your baby will be.
Wear your baby. There are many different styles of carriers--you can find one that works for you both. Click here for babywearing basics.
The sooner you start building a relationship with your baby, the easier it is!
Have questions? Feel free to contact me--I'm happy to answer your questions.
Shield Your Baby from Stress
Pregnancy here and now brings: information overload, fear mongering, and social media drama. Often, people feel obligated to warn you about.....well, everything and anything on the ever-growing list of pregnancy dangers.
But, their efforts often ADD to prenatal stress! Ongoing stress becomes a problem in pregnancy as it boosts the cortisol levels your growing baby gets. But, there are so many things you can do to help your body relax.
*Breathing is the fastest, most accessible way to relax your body.
Consciously slowing the breath and especially doing 4 square breathing can immediately override your physiological response. (Breathe to a count of 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds. Another option: make the exhalation longer than the inhalation.)
*Exercise is amazing--and offers endorphins, too!
It doesn't have to be elaborate! Go for a 15 minute walk outside. Find a Prenatal Yoga video on youtube. Dance around. Just MOVE your body.
*Build your Support Network
You were never meant to do this all alone. Connect with people who will listen and support you every step of the way. Expand your net by meeting other expecting moms at your midwife's office, a prenatal exercise class, your childbirth preparation class, La Leche League, or on Social Media.
Check out Monmouth County Resources here.
*Things that RELAX you and bring you JOY!
I loved salt baths and belly dancing in my pregnancy. I also journaled a lot. And tea--all the time! What little and big things can you work into your day or week?
Prenatal Massage, Floatation Therapy, Eating out......
I wish I had discovered this type of meditation when I was pregnant! It is 4 times more restorative than sleep! (So doing a 20 minute meditation is the equivalent of 80 minute nap!)
No previous experience necessary--literally, just listen to the audio.
www.daringtorest.com is my favorite.
The sooner you learn to insulate yourself from stress, the better off you will be in your pregnancy and parenthood journey! If you're feeling overwhelmed and need some help figuring out a plan, contact me. I'm happy to help you connect with resources to empower you and ease your stress.
Baby's 1st Bath
When it comes to bathing newborns, most new parents are somewhere between intimidated and downright petrified. And honestly, putting a tiny baby in water is something to approach carefully. Here are a few tips from someone who has done it hundreds of times.
The first few baths are definitely a two person job! Make sure you have a helper--even if just for moral support.
If you or your partner enjoy taking baths, consider bringing your baby in. It's much easier to maneuver baby this way and it's a wonderful bonding opportunity. Make sure your helper is nearby to get baby in and out of the tub. Also, keep water temperature between 95-100 degrees F.
Have everything you need in arms' reach BEFORE you begin. I know it sounds obvious/basic, but it's important!
*Baby's Feet First*
Put just your baby's feet in the water first. If the water is too cold or too hot, your baby can easily let you know before their whole body is submerged in it.
*Keep it to a Minimum!*
Newborn skin is very delicate. Even if you aren't using soap, it's irritating for their skin and requires a lot of energy. Twice a week is the maximum for a full baths. Spot clean the rest.
*Keep it Positive!*
You want baby to have a positive introduction to bathing. Do your best to be calm and happy. Your baby will be taking their cues from you.
Not How You Pictured
"When I have a baby......"
"When we have kids....."
"We will NEVER EVER......"
Most of us enter parenthood with expectations. The more rigid the expectations, the harder it may be to accept if it is different. With birth and babies, most of it is beyond our control. At some point, you have to reconcile these expectations with reality.
It may mean coming to terms with a birth or interventions you didn't want, discovering breastfeeding challenges you didn't anticipate, or your baby might be totally different than the one you've been imagining. There are many unpredictable variables in this stage of life. Your reality might end up drastically different than you pictured.
For many, Postpartum is laced with messy collisions between what you thought you'd do/be/feel and what is actually happening. And this baggage can drain your energy unnecessarily. (And one thing you'll notice quickly is that you have little energy to spare!)
*If you haven't given birth yet, reflect on your expectations and see where you can be more flexible and open to whatever happens.
Educate yourself, make your support team, and then do your best to surrender to birth and all the chaos that comes with becoming parents.
*Remember that how you feel in this moment is not how you'll feel forever.
The hormones, the sleep deprivation, the roller coaster of those first weeks can be overwhelming. It is a process, but your baby will grow, predictable patterns will emerge, you'll recover from childbirth and your body will heal. The initial weeks are typically the most intense.
*Get it out.
Express how you are feeling. Journal, share your feelings with friends and family, talk to your baby, draw, paint.....the point is to give these emotions an outlet so they don't fester or grow.
*Expand your Network.
Especially if you're feeling stressed or overwhelmed, get out there and connect with other moms. It makes a huge difference to see other people who are dealing with the same struggles. We're lucky to have many options right here in Monmouth County. (Click here for a full list!)
*Remember there is no perfect in parenting.
There is only doing the best you can with what you've got at the time. The more gentle you can be with yourself, the smoother the transition will be for everyone.
If you're feeling stuck or overwhelmed, you're not the only one! There is so much support and help for you. Make a call, go to a meeting or class--REACH OUT. It will be such a relief to realize you don't have to do it all alone. Sometimes it's hard to know where to begin. Don't hesitate to contact me. I'm happy to help and fluent in postpartum-ese.
Fill Your Cup
Your needs as a human being do not cease when you become a parent. You still must breathe, eat, sleep, and relax. Many moms get so caught up in taking care of their babies, children, partners, and pets, that they forget to put themselves in the line-up. There is a limit to how long you can ignore or neglect your own needs before you begin to slowly breakdown.
Early signs are irritability, resentment, stress and weepiness...followed by guilt for all of these symptoms. Infections, breastfeeding complications (blocked ducts, mastitis, low supply), illness, forgetfulness and being accident-prone are further indications of neglect. Unchecked, these can escalate to more serious health issues like depression, anxiety and worse.
But, here's the really crappy part: Our children, the ones we are sacrificing all this for, are the ones who pay the price. They cannot understand the intricate trap our culture has created for so many moms. Essentially, the prevailing message is a good mom is a good martyr. One who successfully suspends all her needs while cheerfully tending to everyone else, indefinitely....But how can you pour from an empty cup?
In other times and places the grandparents and extended family live nearby and naturally help share the responsibilities of child care and housework. But, most of the families I know don't have family who can help--their parents are either still working, live far away, aren't in good health, or the relationship is.....tense. (or at least, not conducive to asking or offering the help that's needed!)
So, this February, I'm extending a special love offering for all the mamas. Let me help fill your cup. Whether you need some sleep, some time alone, a break from the unending meal/bath/laundry grind, or some space to do whatever brings you joy, I would love to help you, (Or if you want to give it as a gift for your friend, partner, or sister, etc.)
Let's sow the seeds of a new ideal in mothering: balanced health. One where we express our needs, and take action to meet them. Let's choose to feel good about setting a more holistic model of self care for our children and the next generation of mothers.
To give yourself or someone you love the Fill Your Cup Gift, click here. If you have any questions, please message or call me.
What is the difference between a Baby Nurse and a Postpartum Doula? A Baby Nurse cares for your baby while a Postpartum Doula cares for your whole family.
A Baby Nurse is a "non-clinical newborn care specialist with extensive hands-on baby infant experience." A Baby Nurse will change diapers, feed your baby or bring baby to you for feedings, organize your nursery, bathe and care for your baby. A Baby Nurse will also do the baby's laundry.
A Postpartum Doula cares for the whole family. (The mother is the primary focus because that is the best way to insure baby's optimal health and development.) A Postpartum Doula does all the baby care things a Baby Nurse does...And, she'll do YOUR laundry, make meals for your whole family, spend time with your other children, do your dishes, help you heal more quickly and be a source of positive support. Whether you are a first time parent, recovering from birth trauma, facing feeding challenges, or just wanting an objective third party to help without emotional politicking every parenting choice you're making, a Postpartum Doula will help.
The Postpartum Doula strives to help you master baby care with confidence, rather than taking it over for you. However, she'll also care for your baby so you can rest, nap, shower, or have a break. Most Postpartum Doulas do not stay alone with your baby. If this is an important factor for you, be sure to ask ahead of time!
Baby Nurses and Postpartum Doulas are both fields without consistent regulation. It is important to ask about individual training, experience and CPR certification.
Have questions? Please ask! Feel free to comment with your Postpartum Doula or Baby Nurse experience.
End the 6 Week Myth
Postpartum Adjustment is not determined by the size of your uterus because it is not strictly physical. The overall emotional and mental postpartum adjustment typically takes months. And for some, it may take the full year.
Many moms are misled to believe that at 6 weeks, they should be recovered. And what if you reach that deadline and you are NO WHERE NEAR healed or feeling like yourself? Processing your birth experience, physical recovery from pregnancy/birth/c-section, integrating your role as a mother or adjusting to a new baby while still caring for your other children, not sleeping, and breastfeeding your baby.....in a time and place where moms are given very little preparation and almost no care? Not many moms are able to do all that in 6 weeks! Giving false expectations without tools to empower them in this process is negligent and cruel.
I've started with clients who were 2-4 months postpartum....and often this involves going back to heal birth trauma, the feelings of loss/isolation, help them rebuild or define how they want to mother and learning how to take care of themselves and their babies. (There are some Postpartum Doulas who strictly limit Postpartum Doula Care to the first 6 weeks. If you you are more than 6 weeks postpartum and unable to find help, please contact me. Regardless of where you live, I can help connect you with resources and create a plan to help.)
Finally, from a clinical psychological stand point, if mom develops Anxiety or Depression 8 months after birth, it will be diagnosed as Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum Depression, Postpartum OCD, etc.
I resent the "one size fits all" approach. Some mamas need more time. Some mamas have more to heal and recover from or less resources. For now, I'll stick with the "CHILDBEARING YEAR" because it is much more representative. There are stages and levels you'll approach way before the first year ends, but it's more realistic.
For my favorite in-depth exploration, please read and share this book: The Year After Childbirth by Sheila Kitzinger.
First Holiday with Baby
The Holiday Season is coming. It can be a fun and magical time, but when it's your first Holidays with your baby, it can bring extra stress. Keeping it in perspective will help you navigate gracefully.
*First and foremost, remember: it will not always be like this! *
This is just one Holiday Season--not a reflection on you as a parent or a person. Enjoy! Your little one will have no conscious memory of it anyway!
*Give yourself permission to take SHORTCUTS!
Be strategic with your time, energy and resources so that you won't be too exhausted to cherish it.....Question everything: what is necessary and what can be skipped? (Or at least tailored to be more mom/baby friendly.) If it's something that makes you happy, go for it. If it's something you do out of obligation, brainstorm other options.
*It's okay to nest in.
Many new moms find large groups overwhelming, especially in the first few weeks. Find a diplomatic out, and fib if you have to. ("The doctor said we can't have the baby around so many people....in a house with pets....etc.")
If some people might be disappointed to not see you at larger gatherings, offer an alternative visit at a later date. Your primary commitment is doing what is best for you and your baby. Often, the hidden consequence of overdoing it and trying to please everyone else can be a baby exposed to colds and germs unnecessarily or mom developing exhaustion or an infection, etc.
The best gift you can give your baby is a CALM, HEALTHY MAMA!
I'll be wishing you a peaceful holiday where you hopefully feel nourished and supported by your family and community and able to truly enjoy this season with your baby.
There is an unending stream of misinformation regarding babies and sleep Often, parents feel like they have 2 choices: coping with frequent wakings or some form of "Cry It Out." But, Elizabeth Pantley offers up an elegant, compassionate and practical alternative: "The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Newborns."
Elizabeth Pantley is a mother of four and grandmother who approaches sleep with sensitivity and common sense. She presents evidence-based information on how you can encourage healthy sleep habits from day one, while responding compassionately and individually to your baby. I love that all of her information SUPPORTS healthy bonding and successful breastfeeding. (Many Cry It Out methods jeopardize breastfeeding.)
With three children of my own and 13 years as a Postpartum Doula, I wasn't sure how much new information I would find,,,,I was delightfully surprised! Like her other books, The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Newborns is easily approachable, no matter how tired/hormonal/exasperated you are. You'll find clear techniques to help your baby sleep longer while avoiding many common pitfalls (like babies who want to be held, need to be in motion for every sleep event, or need a breast in their mouth to fall asleep).
I love that Pantley recognizes and respects both babies and parents as individuals and offers multiple options and strategies for different scenarios. Her approach is gentle, and takes into consideration both newborn and parents' needs during the early weeks, while keeping an eye on the long-view.
If all parents read this book before the birth, it could significantly alter the landscape of family life with a baby. Even if you are expecting your fifth baby, this book can empower you with tools to maximize your baby's sleep potential while avoiding the common crutches many babies tend to develop.
Postpartum Doula, Breastfeeding Counselor, Mother of Three.