Continuing our motherhood series by answering questions about postpartum, breastfeeding, and newborns. All opinions and experiences are my own!
Q: Tips for New Moms in the Hospital?
Y’all I really hate to write this but I’ve experienced many different wards of the hospital, and there is no place I dislike more than postpartum. The atmosphere was often cold, unfriendly, and either high pressure or judgmental when it came to how much pain medication I requested, breastfeeding decisions, or just asking the baby go to the nursery for a few hours. Maybe I was just hormonal, but I constantly felt like I was on trial! It seems that instead of trying to nourish and replenish you and baby so you can successfully go home, they are just trying to push you out as soon as possible.
Now I get insurance issues and that it’s good for moms to get out of bed to get their muscles working again. But somewhere in the mix it seems a complete lack of compassion and support for the mother has been lost. Yes, women’s bodies are amazing and birth is a natural occurrence. But there are many natural things on this earth that are also traumatic and a need recovery period.
Back in my grandmother’s day women stayed an entire week in the hospital. Even in many Asian cultures today women might stay in a postpartum type hotel for a month. Or a sister or mother might move in for a month to help with the baby. In America today it’s totally different.
I know I am on my soap box, but the fact that many hospitals have removed the “nursery” in postpartum flabbergasts me. What about moms who lacks familial support? What about single moms? Or if the husband is home caring for other children? Yes, some moms are machines and can do #allthethings five minutes after birth. I was not. My body was broken and I needed rest before I got home.
This last time around I knew something was not right (after four children, you know) but I was not taken seriously. I was back in the ER a few days later and almost died from a serious postpartum complication. I don’t say this to scare new moms, but the U.S. has one of the highest postpartum death rates in the world (why???). Complications do happen. You and your family are your best advocate, not the hospital staff who are seeing dozens of patients everyday.
So what are my tips: speak up, speak up, speak up. If you need more pain medication, don’t be bashful. If you need breastfeeding help call sooner than later. If something seems off about your body or your baby, and you don’t feel like you’re being listened to, ask to speak to the doctor. Not the nurse, not the resident. The doctor. And, for goodness sakes, if you need to the baby to go to the nursery so you can sleep and the nurse tries to guilt you, ask for the charge nurse.
Update: This USA Today piece really touches on the issue. I would highly recommend that expecting mamas and their families download this resource to know what questions to ask when choosing a hospital and when at the hospital. I also have a whole highlight section in my Instagram profile on this subject.
Also, enjoy this precious time with your baby and don’t feel like you have to accept all visitors. Read this post about what to say if you don’t want visitors. The more babies my friends and I had the less we wanted visitors. When you have other children the hospital stay can be like a mini vacation of quiet!
Q: Any postpartum products I need right when I get home from the hospital?
Take as many disposable underwear from the hospital as you can! I liked them for that first week along with the hospital pads, more than anything I could buy at the store. Nipple cream, a water bottle or cup that will entice you to drink a lot of water (for nursing), a beautiful robe/pajamas that helps combat the gross feeling you will inevitably experience for awhile. (My favorite brand is having a sale right now!) I like the cotton, washable nursing pads instead of the disposable ones (scratchy). A quality breast pump is worth it if you plan to pump often. I didn’t pump for my full-term babies, but did for my two preemies. For both of them I rented the hospital Medela brand. It’s better than anything you can get on the market and covered by most insurances now.
Q: What are your tips for the first weeks home?
1. Let people help you and give your body time to heal.
You are on a high the first few days and weeks, but by week four you will be spent if you overdo it in those early weeks. So take advantage of the meal calendars and the grandparents. If people ask how they can help here are specific ideas: a meal, lunch foods you can keep in the fridge, drive older children to activities/school, come over and hold the baby so you can really sleep, or drive you to doctor’s appointment if you had a C-section (good way to visit with friends!), or gift you a one-time maid service or grocery delivery membership. Many grandparents will pay for a baby nurse to come in the first few weeks.
I know I sound like negative Nancy here, but I’ve had quite a few friends who have had complications from overdoing it. Minor, but still not fun.
2. Enjoy the reset with your family.
There is something so sweet about the newborn time. Whether it’s your first or third, it is so rewarding for the entire family to slow down and enjoy the new baby period.
So drag out the “I just had a baby excuse” for as long as possible. You will appreciate it more with subsequent children. A friend and I joked that with our fourth children we used that excuse for a good year to get out of school volunteer events!
3. Protect your baby.
It’s interesting to see how much things have changed since I had my first baby twelve years ago. That really wasn’t that long ago, but back then it was still very normal not to take your baby out in public for six weeks. Now I see newborn babies everywhere!
Having had an infant in the ICU I do not think the laissez-faire attitude people have about germs is wise. You think people know basic etiquette rules about germs, but they don’t. Strangers touch babies hands, people let their toddlers get in newborns’ faces. You will be surprised by the number of people who don’t want their hands, and we all know people send their children to school and Sunday school l sick. Bottom line: you really can’t trust other people to do the prudent thing so you have to do everything you can to protect your little baby.
Side note: if your baby gets a high fever in those early weeks he will most likely have to get a spinal tap, and you will be literally sick about it and all the “what ifs” will flood in your mind. Y’all it is so scary and dangerous and just not worth it. So keep them away from crowds as much as possible or coverup with a car seat cover, etc. My favorite ones are in this post.
On that note, I had no problem asking visitors to wash their hands before touching my baby.
Q: Any tips on breastfeeding?
I wrote an entire post on how to breastfeed a preemie but many of the tips are the same. One odd difference is that with full-term babies moms are often told that pacifiers will hinder breastfeeding, but with preemies it is almost essential they learn to use the pacifier in the NICU. It strengthens the mouth muscles to they can get better at feeding. When the sucking reflux disappears around four months, the pacifier has strengthened the muscles – and gotten them into the habit – so they will keep going. (Things you learn from years of feeding therapy!).
Also, breastfeeding my full term babies was more stressful because there was more pressure to get it right sooner. I’m so glad I stuck with it those first few weeks with my first baby despite the awful engorgement and bleeding and other horrible things people don’t like to talk about! It is worth it in the end.
Q: How long did you breastfeed?
Twelve months on average. Our second born had severe reflux and feeding issues and had to get a feeding tube (and didn’t eat by mouth for three years). But that’s another story for another day! In a future post I will discuss therapy and doctor tips.
Q: Favorite Nursing Tanks and Bras
See my essential baby registry post.
Q: Did you use any sleep training methods?
When I had my first baby On Becoming Babywise was very popular. What I took from it seems to be similar to some of the other popular books today: the idea of a flexible routine (with few sleep props). Looking back I did get a little obsessive – and not so flexible – about that routine and would get out of sorts if, for example, a grandparent didn’t follow it to a tee:). I wish I hadn’t been that way because in the long run it’s not that important!
Having said that, my oldest two napped until they were five years old and my third until four. I totally credit that routine for their amazing sleep habits. They all napped 3+ hours and still went to bed at 7 pm! If you read this article from The Tot you know I prioritize nap time for my sanity! Mamas, you need that downtime and, for me, it was helpful to know about when that was going to be each day.
Note: Babywise is not meant for preemies. With Louise I did more ‘on demand’ feeding to develop good breastfeeding habits (after our first preemie experience I was terrified of that repeating.) Thankfully Louise quickly fell into a routine after she mastered breastfeeding.
As much as I liked the idea of sleeping with our babies I never “coslept” becuse I was scared of my husband or myself accidentally smothering the baby. But our babies did sleep in our room for a long period of time. Longer with each baby!
Q: How did you fight the postpartum blues?
Looking back I am certain I had full on postpartum depression with my first, but was too proud or too much in denial to ask for help. She was a very difficult baby and we were in Connecticut far away from any support system. I was so worried about being on medications and breastfeeding simultaneously, but I think I would have been a much better wife and mother if I had received the help I needed sooner rather than later.
I don’t think I had postpartum depression with all my children but I certainly felt in a fog for the first year. I am always so impressed by other moms who seem to do all the things shortly after their babies are born. My mind just didn’t seem to kick into gear. And I think that’s okay. Go easy on yourself, mama. And get outside when you can!
Q: How do you manage older toddler with a newborn?
Not easily! My oldest two girls are two and a half years apart, but I know a lot of moms have children much closer in age. (Hat off to y’all!). Here are my tips:
1. Have a lot grace because their world has just been rocked.
I think moms can put a maturity level on their oldest child that really isn’t there. At the time I thought my two year old was so old, but looking back she was just a baby herself!
2. Reduce your stress levels so you are less likely to take things out on your rambunctious toddler.
As mentioned above, accepting help from family members and friends and taking to heal and rest is a huge way to reduce stress. Cutting back on activities and commitments could also alleviate your stress level. It might be the best decision you ever made to forego Little Gym or ballet for your two year old. (Or maybe your mind needs to get out of the house!) Bottom line: I would just consider what makes you stressed out and reduce those things as much as possible!
3. One-on-one time.
We all know the “quality time” tip, but I wouldn’t stress too much about taking the older child to do costly/fancy things outside the home. Even just 10 minutes of undivided time throughout the day in your home can give toddlers “the fix” they need for your attention. Also, this is huge, but look them in the eye when speaking to them and vice versa because eye contact makes children feel heard and that is so important during this time of change.
4. Read to your toddler while you are feeding the baby.
Ask him to hold the book, turn the pages. It won’t be the prettiest/smoothest reading session but it gets in reading for both children and includes your clingy toddler. This post has some great tips for reading to babies/toddlers.
5. Toy Rotation.
Don’t put all his toys out at the same time. Have a stash ready to go for emergency breakdowns. Also, keep a bag/backup in car with activities for doctor appointments, etc.
Okay I know some of that was heavy but I hope it was helpful. If you found it helpful please share with your mom friends on Facebook!
Have any new mom tips? Share below!