10. Hydrate & Eat Well. You’re recovering from a major physical event, and now you’re the main caregiver and maybe even food source to a new person! You need good food and lots of hydration. Don’t think about calories or whatever at this point, and even if you’re breastfeeding, the list of what you can’t eat is much, much smaller than when you were pregnant, so dive in! Nursing mothers need even more hydration, vitamins, and an extra serving of protein each day, so don’t skimp! If you don’t get what you need to make from your food, it will come from your own body and you’ll be short-changing yourself.
9. Be amazed by yourself! You created this new life and brought it into this world! Whether you delivered vaginally, or by major abdominal surgery (cesarean), you did it!
8. Ride out the hormones. It’s normal to be a little weepy in the first few days after birth. Your hormones are going through major shifts and it can make things feel all off. It’s okay if you cry when you’re leaving the hospital because
7. Be alert for PPMD. Postpartum Mood Disorders can take many forms, not only the depression you’ve probably heard about. Women may experience postpartum OCD, anxiety, hyper-vigilance, anger and even in very rare cases psychosis. The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression test is a good place to start. Take it a week or so after the baby is born, and again at about 4 months or any time there is a major shift in your nursing schedule, as this can make hormones go wonky. If your moods are effecting how you care for yourself or your baby, causing you to think of hurting anyone, or just making it impossible for you to find joy in your life, please, please, please seek help! This is a hormone disorder not a reflection on you in anyway. There are support groups and medical interventions that can help you.
6. Nap when you can. This seems like an outrageous suggestion, and while we’ve all heard “nap when the baby naps”, we wonder when we’re supposed to shower, eat, do laundry, make food, etc. The first couple of weeks, though, napping trumps almost everything. Again – your body is in recovery. A vaginal birth is exhausting. A cesarean birth is an intense surgical procedure. You’re definitely not sleeping 8 hours in a row, so get a few naps in if you can. If your partner is around, hand off the baby for an hour and go sleep, no matter what.
5. Limit visitors. Everyone wants to meet your new baby. You’re probably thrilled to show him/her off, but you might also feel overprotective or overwhelmed. It’s okay. If someone wants to hold the baby while you nap (see above!), that’s great, but visiting for hours will exhaust you and the baby! The baby will still be adorable in a month when you’re recovered and on somewhat of a schedule. And remember, more people means more germs! It’s another good reason to limit visitors those first few weeks, and also to have the pump style hand soap and paper towels at every sink. Speaking of which…
4. Set and explain clear boundaries. If you didn’t do this before the birth, now’s a good time. You can always blame it on the hormones later! Limit visits to 30-45 minutes max, and make that clear before they arrive. Remember the hand soap and paper towels? Insist that anyone coming into contact with the baby use them with a good long hand-washing. Some other rules parents have adopted: No kissing the baby on the hands or mouth (since hands go into mouths). You still have the head, toes, cheeks, belly, plenty of kissy-space. No visiting if you’ve been around sick people, as some illnesses have a long incubation cycle. Some parents insist that only people up-to-date on pertussis and/or other vaccines can hold the baby. And of course, you’re the mother. If you decide that visiting time is over, it is.
3. Don’t do stuff. The first two weeks, nothing else really matters but caring for the baby and yourself. Don’t vacuum. Don’t dust. Do the minimum necessary laundry. Clean dishes live in the dishwasher, dirty dishes live in the sink, or better – get paper plates (Mother Earth is a mother, too; she’ll understand). Prepare easy meals or get take out if you can afford it. Let others help. If someone offers to vacuum, let them, and don’t worry if they do it differently. You can always clean something later. Take Elsa’s advice and Let It Go!
2. Remember it will get better. One mom said to us, “I’ve had nieces and nephews and been around babies, but I had no idea how hard the first two weeks are. I didn’t think I’d make it.” We’ve talked to moms who were in the army, EMTs, you name it – they all say the same thing, those weeks are killer. Even if (or maybe especially if!) you’ve had other babies, taking care of a newborn after giving birth is hard. It’s easy to get bogged down in the midst of the whirlwind and think that you won’t survive, but remember, it will get better. I promise. It starts to get easier, a little bit at a time. And before you know it, you’ll be in a routine and nursing your baby with one hand while you Facebook with the other. You’ll be okay. You’ll get there. You can do this. You will make it (Bookmark this for when you’re postpartum and you need to hear it. Read it out loud to yourself.)
1. Cherish this time. So after that scary bit about how hard it is, we tell you to enjoy it? Both are possible. Newborns are newborns for the briefest of moments. Suddenly you’ll look at the baby and realize he/she’s not a squishy, teensy newborn anymore. Of all the phases in our children’s lives, newborn is probably the fastest. Savor the cuddliness, the wrinkles, the “firsts” that are coming. Take lots of pictures, and some with you in them, even if you think you’re not looking your best. You’ll never be able to go back and get those shots again, so take them. Take a picture of you nursing, even if no one but you ever sees it, I promise, you’ll cherish it some day. Marvel at the tiny fingernails and the toothless grins, the thoughtful expressions and the fuzzy hair Enjoy your baby!