The baby has finally arrived, and they are so cute and the love of your life! So why do you feel so…..tired, uncertain, sore, teary, cranky, hot, sweaty, leaky, unattractive……happy, proud, organized, wise and joyful? Well if that is the list of emotions and physical calamities going on no wonder we need to chat about the first few weeks after baby’s birth!!
So here is some things to know, so it isn’t such a shock when it happens.
There is no denying it there will most definitely be changes with your breasts. The hormonal changes that occur in your body after the birth of your baby, will signal milk production. Add to that baby breastfeeding 8-12 times a day and your body will most definitely be in the milk production mindset. So by day 3 or 4 it is most common for your milk to come in and fill all the ducts that are within your breast tissue. (Remember those first 3-4 days your body will be producing colostrum which is the vital “milk” baby needs to get all that black tar poop out – that’s a good thing! Also remember it is very small in volume, 4-7 ml per feed, so don’t panic, baby is not starving and should be getting what it needs. Just remember the rule “what goes in must come out” so if baby is peeing and pooping as scheduled, gaining weight and is relatively content, baby is getting what it needs.) Back to your milk coming in, this will inevitably cause ENGORGEMENT. This is when your breasts are the famous “rock hard breasts”. This is obviously not comfortable. So hop in the shower (hot shower promotes let down and will allow some of the milk to leak out), hot or cold compresses, hand expressing some milk out, or using the breast pump to express some milk out and soften the breast tissue, can help relieve some of the pressure of engorgement.
So your uterus did some pretty amazing work, giving birth to that baby of yours. But the work is not finished yet. That amazing body part will continue to work for the next 6 weeks, contracting and shedding and shrinking back down to it’s original pre-pregnant state. The benefit of breastfeeding is that it helps out tremendously with this uterus workout. The same hormone that causes milk let down for breastfeeding also stimulates the uterus to contract, getting it back in shape. These contractions are often referred to as after pains. However many first time mommies don’t even notice them, others describe them as menstrual like cramps. So grab your hot water bottle, get hydrated and continue those awesome breathing exercises you rocked during labour and you will do just fine.
Okay giving birth is not the gentlest process on your down there parts. Even if you had the best labour in the world and gently guided your cutie into this world with the help of hot compresses, perineal oils and proactive stretching, chances are you still will have some swelling and bruising. Or more you have some stitching to heal from. Either way there is extra care needed. So some of the tried and true tips for perineal care is; use the spray bottle your care giver will give you. This will help you get clean with out all the wiping and rubbing. “Maxi Pops”, this ingenious invention is applying water to your pads and placing them in the freezer (just warn the house guests). This allows just enough freezing to be the perfect relief as your body heat will melt these puppies in about the 15-20 minutes that is good for icing any body part. Calendula! This is a homeopathic tincture that comes in an eye dropper bottle. Use 20-30 drops on your pad and you will notice a significant difference in healing time. This is found at most health food stores and holistic minded companies. Also and finally use common sense when it comes to your activity level. You just had a baby for goodness sake. Take it easy. Your body will absolutely tell you when you are pushing to hard and you will experience an increase in blood flow and a throbbing and increase swelling in your perineum. So put your feet up and just enjoy your baby.
Be warned! You are almost 100% going to be constipated. When you are in labour your body is really quite busy with that job. So most other functions shut or slow down. Your digestive system is no exception. So after the baby is born naturally things are backed up a bit. So you will want to make every effort to ensure that your first bowel movement will not be traumatic. If your caregiver offers some sort of stool softener, TAKE IT! Drink lots and lots of fluids and eat your fiber enriched foods. If you are prone to constipation or are concerned talk to your caregiver about other options that you can try. You will also want to manage this aspect of postpartum care to try and minimize the risks of hemorrhoids.
This is a fancy name to describe your blood flow. Expect that you may experience bleeding for up to 6 weeks after the birth. For the first several days your flow will be heavy and you may experience some blood clots, these should be small in size, if you are seeing any clots that are Loonie or Toonie sized let your caregiver know. The next few weeks will be like a normal period, gradually your flow will decrease and turn a more brownish color, then you will experience white or clear discharge. Every woman is different in the timing of these things, so the range is quite extensive. Do not use tampons during this time.
You will be burning many more calories during the first 6 weeks after the birth of your baby. You will have your uterus working hard and also if you are breastfeeding this burns calories also. Drinking extra fluids to maintain your hydration levels and eating healthy foods to maintain your calorie count is so important at this time. Not only is it a healthy choice it will help avoid constipation, help you lose baby weight more effectively and give you more energy.
Expect your emotions to be a little rocky. Your body has a lot of regulating to do, so as those hormones sort themselves out your emotions may take a beating. Common complaints include, increase in fatigue, increase or decrease of appetite, overwhelmed, easily emotional, lack of confidence. It is so important to keep an eye on new moms to make sure their emotional health is in check. Make sure you have a strong support system to help you navigate through this. If you notice that you struggling and begin to withdraw please seek medical support and find a women’s group that can support your struggles and help you find your strength. Also studies are now showing that incorporating placenta encapsulation can help regulate your hormones after birth and greatly decreases the risk of postpartum depression.
There are many options for birth control after having a baby, even if you are breastfeeding. So talk to your caregiver about options and to help you pick which one is right for you. Warning: Breastfeeding is not a form of birth control. Often you ovulate before your period starts so you would be pregnant before you knew your period was going to start. Also remember that it is recommended to allow your body at least 12 months recovery time before you get pregnant again. So keep those things in mind when deciding what method of birth control works for you.
This is a fancy way of saying to emit or give off waste matter. After you have your baby there is still some extra stuff needing to find it’s way out of you. This is in the form of excess fluids. So expect that you will have a lot of pee (this is also why it is so important to stay hydrated). You will also sweat a lot. Often you will find yourself waking up one morning covered in sweat and breast milk. Glamorous not so much, but totally normal. This will calm down when your body has gotten rid of your excess fluids. So hey take a time out and have a nice shower or bath. This can serve as double duty.
Although many of these things are not the most enjoyable to experience, remember, you just had your baby. Enjoy it! Take the time you need to recover and heal and soak up the attention, accept all the help and rest, rest, rest.