What’s best for healing and adjusting to a new family member? Take care of your body, rest, relax as much as you can, and snuggle with your baby. A midwife friend of mine calls the first few weeks a period of “lying in” wherein you do as little as you can around the house, leave the scurrying and worrying to your family and friends who come to help, and just bond with your new family member. Be as present as you can!
Here are a few things that have helped me acclimate to a new child, and recover faster.
1) Soak in the tub.
Sitz bath, tub, whatever you’ve got. Just soaking for 8-15 minutes in a warm water tub will greatly aid in postpartum healing. After my first birth I posted about bath salts here. It’s a great little recipe for bath salts, but even just plain old warm water has healing properties. Try to get in the tub every day for a few minutes for the first few weeks, or as necessary.
Yes, if you have any tearing, it is going to hurt to go to the bathroom. Use the peri bottle that the hospital or your provider gives you. Have it filled with warm water so it’s ready to go when you are. You may experience the funny thing that when you need to use the toilet, you need to use it NOW.
If you have any bruising, it is going to hurt to sit down, sit up, or sit in general. This is extra fun when you sit often to nurse. It’s a good reason to nurse in the biological nursing position. See my post about nursing positions here. Time heals all wounds. Offer it up, and if you are in lots of pain, call your provider for tips on coping.
2) See a lactation consultant.
Breastfeeding doesn’t work out for every new mom. Hopefully you’re open to giving it a chance, and even if you only do it for a short period of time, that’s a great gift to your new babe. I’ve got a nursing series going on the front page, so look for more there. Even if you’ve nursed your first child, as I did, it still is very helpful to see a lactation consultant. That hour or so is worth its weight in gold.
Breastfeeding most likely will be painful at first. Your nipples will HURT! See post on nipples here. Correcting the baby’s latch will definitely help with that. See post on latching here. Also when your milk comes in, you will likely be engorged until your body and baby figure out the right supply amount for her. Engorgement is also painful and can impede nursing because it’s difficult for a newborn to nurse from a hard breast. I had to deal with both these things this time around (and last!).
Don’t rely on google to help you when it comes to latching issues or engorgement. You’ll only be stuck looking at diagrams of a baby’s mouth (yeah, not helpful as you can’t physically see from underneath your breast up) or getting conflicting advice (cabbage leaves are good, no! they’re bad!).
We called on our good friend, Aszani, who is a veteran midwife and lactation consultant. She rode her bike over from Minneapolis and did an old fashioned house call. It was a life saver for me and SweetPea! Mamas in the Metro, you should see her as well! Contact me for her info!
3) Share sleep with your newborn.
Co-sleeping is wonderful with a newborn because you don’t have to leave bed to nurse, and you can even have your diapers very close by so you barely have to leave for those. For us, it has meant we get lots of snuggle and skin-to-skin time with our children, and studies have shown that it is better for their respiratory tracts & heartbeats to at least sleep in the same room as their mothers.
We also sleep better, and feel that our babies have (and do) as well. See a great article on the benefits of co-sleeping over at PhD in Parenting, or my sister’s post on it here. Mothering Magazine has an excellent and lengthy article on breastfeeding and co-sleeping here.
The controversy over co-sleeping appears to be when parents are abusing substances, smoke, or otherwise neglecting their children along with big pillows and blankets that can suffocate babies,. If you’re engaged in an unhealthy lifestyle, yeah, don’t share sleep with your baby–and if you’re going to share sleep, make sure it’s a safe environment.