Intentional Motherhood Q&A: Postpartum and Newborns | Do Say Give

Intentional Motherhood Q&A: Postpartum and Newborns

Motherhood and Children

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!

Lee
What do you think?
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19 thoughts on “Intentional Motherhood Q&A: Postpartum and Newborns

  1. Such a great and helpful post. I completely agree about the hospital experience. It seems hospitals are trying to become more baby focused instead of family/mother focused. Some of those efforts are wonderful, but I think some cause way more stress for the new mom. I wish they realized!!

  2. Love this post! Agree on the hospital-why can’t they be mama and baby focused! And also appreciate you on the 6 weeks in. I had a healthy baby and our pediatrician said to stay in until her 2 month appointment. She even said no church! People treated me like I was crazy for listening but I knew that no outing would be worth the guilt I would have if she got sick. Now looking back I am glad we did that, I took it way easier than so many friends have for recovery.

    1. Exactly! I feel the same way. When our baby was in the ICU there were one week old babies there with RSV. You don’t think it is going to happen to you – but it happens to more than you think!

  3. YES, TO ALL THE ABOVE! MY OLDER TWO ARE 16 MONTHS APART. MY FIRST REQUIRED A NICU STAY AND OPEN HEART SURGERY AT 6 MONTHS. WHEN THE 2ND ONE CAME, I CRIED AS THE NURSE MADE ME FEEL LIKE A BAD MOTHER FOR NOT WANTING MY INFANT IN THE ROOM WITH ME. I DIDN’T REALLY SLEEP FOR 19 HOURS. AT SHIFT CHANGE, AN OLDER NURSE WAS ASSIGNED TO ME AND SHE FELT MY PULSE AND USED HER HAND TO GENTLY SWEEP THE HAIR FROM MY FOREHEAD AND ASKED ME HOW ARE YOU DOING? NOT THE BABY, BUT ME. I THINK I TOLD HER I LOVED HER ON SPOT. THANKS FOR MAKING ME THINK OF HER! GREAT POST.

  4. Yes!! I had a similar postpartum experience when my twins were born. I was recovering from a c-section, the nurses would not take my daughter to the nursery and stated the policy was for mothers to “room in”. My husband was splitting his time between the NICU with our baby boy and home with our 2 year old. I felt helpless, afraid to fall asleep, in too much pain to lift her from the basinette. I also wound up back in the hospital 10 days later for postpartum preeclampsia that went undiagnosed.
    One thing I noticed, the driving force behind the “rooming in” policy, was the hospital’s designation as a Baby-Friendly hospital. It’s a lucrative accreditation linked to a breastfeeding initiative. And while I’m all for promoting breastfeeding, I would advise expectant moms to be cautious if the hospital is designated or is seeking to be designated a Baby Friendly hospital.
    Thank you so much for calling attention to this important issue. The US has the highest postpartum maternal death rate among developed countries, and it has been increasing over the past 2 decades. As awful as it is to talk about, it is so so important to encourage new moms to speak up and advocate for their health. Thank you!!!!!!

    1. Yes ma’am I agree! “Baby Friendly” hospitals have to keep formula LOCKED up…as if moms who make that decision don’t already feel bad.

    2. I agree with so so much mentioned above! At our hospital they practice skin to skin after the baby is born. As much as I love my baby that’s one thing I don’t want to do for an hour after giving birth without any meds. I’m in so much pain all I want to know if she’s fine and meds for pain. Yes you’re right so many things have changed. With our oldest the nursery was not available anymore. But I was not getting much sleep because the baby was not latching on and was not eating. It was do difficult for me to get the hang of it and I felt like such a failure. My husband spent the night with us and was tired as well. On that shift that night the sweet nurses must of noticed our tired zombie faces and offered to take her with them to the desk while we slept the night and offered to feed her a bottle of formula. We were so thankful and told them how much we appreciated them the next day! BTW I’ve gone through post partum depression with my last 2 babies. I have 7 in total and with my past doctor I was never asked or given a survey on depression. With my new doctor he asked right away and informed me of all the signs. Now that I look back I can honestly say I went through it with each one but had no idea what I was going though. I agree, if you feel something is not right speak up please!! Thank you so much for giving us a platform to speak about our experiences and for giving us a voice!!

    3. 👆🏻 This comment resonates! With my first I was discharged 48 hours after an emergency c-section. I was in terrible pain and so so exhausted but both my doctor and the nurses said there was no reason to stay because I was “doing so well.” I’ll never forget that first night home because our son literally did not sleep, breastfeeding was going terribly, and it hurt to move. With my second we had a new doctor/hospital and were such better advocates for me as the patient. We spent three nights, sent the baby to nursery, and I actually felt relatively little pain when we went home. I still ended up re-admitted for postpartum preeclampsia…but it was probably only caught because we insisted on staying in the hospital as long as we did. I had all the same swelling and headaches with my first but they were dismissed as normal and no one ever checked my blood pressure. Oh and I’m married to a doctor for goodness sakes so I probably have more medical support than most. Hospitals have to do better when it comes to taking care of new moms. And sadly, I think the statistics for complications are especially poor for minorities and people from lower income homes.

  5. I’m in tears reading this because it resonates with me so much! I was terrified of giving birth and never thought once about the aftermath in the hospital. Turns out I was lucky with an easy birth but my time in the maternity ward was a nightmare. I was in pain and the doctor lectured me about asking for pain meds and I was left in tears. My nurse was the meanest person I have ever come across in the healthcare field. It was my first child and I was so overwhelmed with not knowing how to care for her and no one would help. My husband and I did not sleep the whole time I was in the hospital because we were trying to care for a newborn and I was in excruciating pain. It was truly one of the most traumatizing experiences of my life. I’m scared to have another baby because I don’t want to go through that again. Should I just research hospitals and try and find one with a nursery? Thank you so much for this post. I feel like it’s an issue rarely talked about. I certainly had never heard of it until I experienced it myself.

  6. Yes to so many things you have mentioned! The skin to skin is something our hospital practices. Well I don’t agree with it, as much as I love my baby I don’t want to hold them at tgag

  7. Beautifully written and so much truth here. I couldn’t wait to get Mary Margaret home just so I could give her formula. I was so worried about her size, I was sneaking formula to her in the hospital. I love nurses, but the ones who were on duty acted constantly annoyed with me. For a people
    Pleaser, this is a nightmare. They pushed us out way to early and I should have fought harder. I knew she wasn’t ready to come home and call it mothers intuition, but I was correct. They didn’t want to retest her newborn hearing test because of the inconvenience. Ugh. Nightmare. Your post is timeless and encouraging. 💗 I love it. Press on!!

  8. i love this post. I was on hospital bedrest for preeclampsia for 2 months and had to have an emergency c-section completely put to sleep at 34 weeks. I lost almost half the blood in my body and didn’t see my daughter at all because she was in the NICU.

    I was told giving birth would cure the preeclamsia and as soon as that baby was out, it was like MY care totally stopped. I spent the next 24 hours in the postpartum ward literally dying. So many things were going wrong from low blood pressure to blood transfusions not working to no urine output and eventually liver and kidney failure. It took SO LONG for them to get me to the ICU at another hospital. And they KNEW I had been there and really sick for 2 months. I probably owe my life to one nurse that insisted I be transferred. It was my first baby so I had no clue what was normal.I even demanded to call one of my OBs on call and remind her that she promised me I wouldn’t die from preeclampsia. She was performing surgery on me hours later to save my life.

    When I got back to the women’s hospital after 3 days in the ICU it was like I was in some kind of boot camp to be ok. I had had 2 abdominal surgeries, countless blood transfusions, and hadn’t been allowed to walk for 4 months between home and hospital bedrest. All of the sudden they expected me to be up and walking to the NICU constantly. The NICU doctor made me feel like a drug addict bc my baby was withdrawing from the anxiety meds I was prescribed in that hospital when I was there for 2 months. I was told my child couldn’t have my milk if I didn’t discontinue all pain and anxiety medications immediately.

    Thank you for sharing this. You feel like you’re the only one when you aren’t home and healthy a day after giving birth. It’s so taboo I late found out some close friends that also had traumatic births and recovery that never said a word. It’s like you’re expected to put on lipstick and take a perfect family photo and not talk about anything truly scary. But it helps so much to know you aren’t alone in these situations. And it helps for women to know signs to look for and to demand that American hospitals make some serious changes to make sure mamas get to go home and be healthy! A healthy mom is what helps a baby!

  9. Such an important post. I have to give presby Dallas credit because with my first in spring 2016 there was no nursery because they wanted to focus on bonding mine was in the NICU the entire time so I didn’t think much about it. Fall 2018 and my second was with me and as they wheeled me from the delivery room to my PP room a nurse explained that recovery would be more painful with my second and that I would probably need to send my baby to the nursery to rest properly. I was surprised to hear they had a nursery again but assured her I wouldn’t need it. I think it took two hours for me to realize how right she was. I sent him to the nursery every evening and all of nurses were so compassionate except for one who I reported for poor bedside manner and my husband took care of that. Let your family advocate for you in the hospital and always report a difficult nurse so that their next patient will hopefully receive a better experience.

  10. SO HONEST! I love it. I delivered both of my babies via C Section (one with barely any anesthesia, but that’s another story) at presby in Dallas and got SO much push back when I sent them to the nursery. With my first, I was so shy to push back I kept thinking if the nurses are telling me to keep the baby – I don’t want to be a bad mom. The second time I was much more sure of myself – Day one I insisted she go to the nursery for a few hours and wouldn’t accept any questions/comments about my decision. When/if we have more children, I’m definitely bringing a sign for my door that says “Mom of 3 – just do what I say”.
    As an aside, my husband values hospitals for a living and while neither of us are doctors, so I cant’ speak to the medical reasons to have baby room in vs go to the nursery – I can tell you for a fact that having the baby room in saves the hospitals TONS of money (while I’m sure the amount we pay stays the same).

  11. It’s so cathartic to hear other women speak of their postpartum experiences. I had a very traumatic experience after the birth of my first child during which I was accused of having postpartum *pychosis* for simply challenging a discharge procedure (they wanted me to take a group class before I left the hospital, and I simply asked for bedside teaching instead). The hospital threatened to call child protective services (!!). They sequestered my husband and would not let him have access to me or the baby. I have never been so terrified in my life. It took over five years to recover from that experience enough to face pregnancy and delivery again. The second time around was bliss compared to the first; certain that was due to our elective upgrade to a private wing in the hospital. We really must do better for mothers.