Taking Care of Mom After Baby’s Arrival
By Contributing Writer Brandy Ferguson
Most moms will admit that those first few weeks after giving birth are the most challenging, and as a mom of a newborn myself, in spite of the fact that he’s our eighth, I am no exception. Due to new demands of caring for a tiny baby and trying to figure out how to keep our home and family balanced, all while trying to recover, we very quickly find ourselves sleep-deprived, hungry, feeling run-down, perhaps lonely, and often, can’t remember when our last shower was.
If this sounds familiar, don’t worry. You’re normal!
No matter if you’ve just had your first baby, or your eleventh, it’s important to remember that in order to be the good mother you desire to be, you must take care of YOU, too!
- Remember that this season of motherhood is temporary. It’s such a short phase, and goes by so very quickly. Enjoy the slowed pace, and try to focus on snuggling, nursing, resting as much as possible, and caring for you and your new baby.
- On the other hand, the occasional outing is therapeutic for new mothers, too. Getting out allows us a healthy diversion, social interaction, and reminds us that there is life beyond the baby’s feed/wake/sleep cycles.
- Recognize that trying to balance the needs of a new baby with the rest of the family’s needs will not be an overnight transition. It takes time to adjust.
- If this is your first child, I cannot stress enough how wonderful it is that you can take a nap whenever your baby sleeps. Never again will you have this opportunity; take it. Mothers of many children are often unable to take an afternoon nap, but it’s possible to still find a quiet window somewhere in their day to sit down and rest. Even surrounded by children playing, a tired mother can prop her feet up while snuggling her tiny baby and just relax a couple of times a day.
- For middle-of-the-night feedings, with our first baby, I thought I needed to get out of bed, get my newborn, sit in a chair to nurse, then put him back to bed. But I realized quickly that that is usually unnecessary. A mother can very easily nurse her baby while sitting semi-upright propped up with pillows, and even if not fully sleeping, can continue to rest while the baby nurses. I also keep a bassinet/travel crib close to my bed so that when the baby is finished, I can lay him back down with ease, and still don’t have to really get up.
- When mothers responded to the question on Facebook, “As a mother of a newborn, what is your biggest challenge when it comes to taking care of yourself?” they almost unanimously answered “eating”. I’m always surprised how much my appetite decreases just after giving birth, but even more surprised by the fact that I really do forget to eat. It’s so important that mothers remember to eat. We get so busy taking care of our tiny, precious one and trying to remember to feed everyone else, that we forget about ourselves. Not just because we need the extra calories for making milk, but mothers need to remember their own nutrition because it’s important for our own health.
- Don’t forget to drink! Keep a water bottle with you wherever you go. Take a glass of water with you to bed at night. Pack a water bottle in the diaper bag.
- When you do remember to eat, focus on healthy proteins, whole grains, and fresh fruits and veggies. I’m not the biggest fruit fan, so I sometimes have to drink mine. Make smoothies if/when you can (or if you have older children, teach them how so they can do it for you and the rest of the family, too). Sometimes I buy Odwalla or Naked or Bolthouse Farms green juice to keep in the fridge, which makes it even easier to get some good nutrients in fast.
- Take time to spend with friends, sisters, and husband when you can. Struggling a bit as those hormones continue to change? Talk to those you can trust. It’s helpful, many times, just to discuss with others what we’re feeling as we’re often reminded that we’re not alone and that we are important to them.
- It’s also important to take the time to process your birth story. Some moms struggle with this more than others, but discussing the baby’s birth if you need to, with your midwife or doctor can offer a lot of clarity and even closure for a mother who experienced less than “the perfect birth” she had envisioned for herself. Remember that every birth is different, and while all births are not the easy, candle-lit version we might have had planned, all births ARE beautiful!
- Don’t try to do too much too quickly!
- Walks, as simple as they are, are amazing at helping shed those post-partum pounds. The fresh air of the outdoors and sunshine offer healing to our minds and bodies. In a stroller, the baby often naps, giving us time to think, pray or just enjoy the stroll.
- Add other exercises in as your body adjusts and as you and your family adjust to new dynamics.
Preventing/Treating Mastitis Naturally
- All of the above recommendations will help prevent mastitis, and as a mother who has lots of experience with overcoming this, I cannot stress enough the importance of preventing it and treating it as quickly as possible. Rest, drinking plenty of water, and proper nutrition can help us avoid mastitis. But sometimes, it happens, even with our best attempts.
- At first sign of mastitis, favor affected breast, nurse often, and pump when possible.
- Immediately try any or all of these natural remedies: Drinking a gallon of water a day, drinking apple cider vinegar (mixed with small amount of juice if necessary), drinking 100% cranberry juice, drinking “superfood” green juice, taking extra vitamin C and echinacea, eating a LOT of extra garlic and/or taking garlic capsules, taking lecithin, soaking our breast in marshmallow root “tea”, taking acidophilus.
- If you must, take antibiotics when necessary. I would rather take antibiotics to clear an infection than to have to stop nursing my baby due to an abcessed breast. If you do have to resort to using antibiotics, don’t forget to help restore the good bacteria in your system by taking a good probiotic.
Time for You
- Another thing moms said they struggled with as a new mom was showering. Amazing how such a tiny person can rock our worlds enough to even make us forget (or not have enough time) to shower! But so many of us have the same story. The answer? Just find the time when you can. Remember that this is a short season, and for now you may have to wait until your husband is home from work, or until someone else is tending to the baby while you get a shower. Maybe you’ll fit one in today. Maybe not. And either is okay. Do the best you can.
- When you do get a little window of time for a nice bath, try adding in 15-20 drops of lavender essential oil. Such great aromatherapy!!
- No matter how busy you are, don’t forget that God is always near. He is ever-present, always listening. You’re never alone. Instead of feeling guilty for not carving out a special prayer and Bible time in this season, know that each moment spent nursing in the middle of the night and while the house is quiet is a good enough quiet time with Him. Spend time in prayer and in His Word when you can. And know that He sees your work and He sees your heart.
I am going to save this post to reference back once my first baby arrives in early May. Great tips for a new mom…. thanks!
Just had my 4th boy and every single word is exactly spot on!! Thank you. Yesterday I went to the zoo with all my boys (and the help of my SIL & her boys) and it was one of the best days since the baby arrived. I needed to get out of the house & enjoy my older boys & feel somewhat “normal”. I totally agree with the “not as hungry” thing. However my girl mom friends tell me they are starving and hungrier after the baby is born. Don’t know if it’s true but interesting. Thanks again!!!
I agree with your friends! I am starving in the days/weeks after delivery!
I have to have c-sections and the biggest challenge is pain management. I’ve learned to create a time sheet so my husband and any help can see when the last time I took pain meds was and when my next dosage (and which one it should be… there are typically 3) is. It really helps in the middle of the night when everyone is groggy.
Also, to stay ontop of the pain and not try to be “superwoman” (there is no point)… you’re a better mom to baby when you are not whimpering and pale and whoozy after this major abdominal surgery!
And the challenge I didn’t know would be a challenge: Letting go of control of the house while you are recovering! With c-sections, recovery is long (and tends to be longer each one). Whoever is helping you is not going to do housework exactly like you, or serve meals like you, or interact with your big kids like you, etc. Let it go, be happy for the help, and rest. 🙂
These are great tips and encouragement! Any suggestions or links for good post-natal meal ideas / diet to stay healthy? (ie not dieting, but eating well!)
With my first pregnancy, I had a lot of natural snacks on hand like cut up veggies, fruits, and granola (I was obsessed with granola post-partum!). I wasn’t in the mood to eat meals, but I would snack each time I nursed and this worked great for me. For meals, I prepared a lot of home made natural dinners that we already enjoy the month before baby came and put them in the freezer for after the baby was born, this helped us not go and order pizza or buy a lot of pre-packaged meals from the grocery store, and keep our foods healthy. One thing I personally found was that dairy was not my friend post-partum. It really affected my digestive track, I don’t know if this is common or was just me, but for my current pregnancy I will not be preparing a lot of freezer meals with dairy this time.
I remember another mom telling me some of these things, and the one that stood out the most is that “this season won’t last forever”. With your first (or mine, at least) I remember the sleepless nights and the fear that it would just go on and on. I thought I’d never be well-rested again! The second time around, I knew it was just a season and that we would all, in fact, sleep again. This time (getting ready for number three) I can look forward to having a baby even more. The sleeplessness is such a relatively short season (or has been for us) that I can actually just enjoy it for what it is.
Thanks for this post! My husband and I are expecting baby number 2 in August and the tips on how to take care of yourself when you have other little one’s to care for is perfect for me. I especially love that you emphasized that it’s okay for my time with the Lord to be a prayer while taking a walk or feeding in the middle of the night.
One thing I’l definately do differently this time is accept help! With my first son, I thought I could manage on my own and told those who volunteered to help before the baby came that we would be fine on our own. I ended up having a really complicated delivery that took a long time to heal from, and found that I really needed the help I had earlier declined. I learned from that to graciously accept help when offered, and just keep a list of those who want to help cook, clean, babysit, or whatever else is volunteered. When our baby comes in August I will know who I can call for what, and not feel guilty having someone else make dinner so I can focus on the transition going on for my family.
This will be coming in handy in just a matter of days… I’m due Thursday. Thank you!
I’ve found myself struggling with processing the birth story now. I have three week old baby and ended up having an emergency C-section very early in labor, and I was totally unprepared for that. I’ve been surprised by how much that bothers me, and its so nice to know that I’m not the only one who feels this way. My other two were both very easy and uneventful labors, and I guess I just assumed this one would be the same.
So glad to know it isn’t just me who doesn’t always get to shower!! My baby is 4 months and he just started to be happy with daddy for short periods! Thanks for the encouraging post:)
What about cabbage leaves for mastitis?! Knocks mine out every time without antibiotics!
For me the biggest help through those first weeks is showering 🙂
There is nothing like a hot shower to make you feel a little human again after a tiring night. Those quiet, alone moments in the shower are soothing, relaxing, and restoring… And a great time to pray.
Whether getting up a little earlier or taking advantage of nap time, it is time well spent!
I remember being starving constantly after my first two deliveries. (Another to come in September. Praise God!) After the second, my older daughter had a bit of a hard time adjusting for a few weeks, my husband was working shift work, and then my basement flooded when we were out of town when the baby was only 3 weeks old. I found the stress led me to eat way more junk food than I should have. Think Cadbury mini eggs and peanut M&Ms. 🙂 So, my suggestion would be to have nutritious snacks available that you can just grab and eat when you have a moment. Homemade Larabars/powerballs, mini muffins, cut veggies and fruit, etc. That will be one of my tactics, for sure.
Thank you for this post! Wonderful words of wisdom for both new & veteran moms!
The best advice I’ve received after having a baby is…figure out what works for you despite what everyone else is trying to tell you. Babies come with lots of advice (books, friends, moms, etc.) and filtering that advice can be difficult. Despite everyone telling me that it would be so much easier to keep the baby in our room during the night to nurse, I found that I woke up at every tiny noise he made. Only when we moved him to his own room did I finally start to get a few hours of quality sleep at a time.
Parenting is difficult and despite all our planning things might not work out the way we thought. Be willing to change and don’t feel guilty!
My biggest challenge after my first was born was definitely processing the birth experience. I was SO disappointed in myself and it affected every area of my life until I finally sorted it all out-and talked about it a lot.
After my second was born, my biggest challenge was (honestly!) resting. I felt so great and wanted to go back to my normal routine. I knew rest was so important so I had to force myself to just sit and read books, try to nap, stare at the wall . . . 🙂
great advice! i am about to go through this again. 🙂 i echo everything you said about mastitis – i have successfully got over it quite a few time naturally, but it takes resolve to take care of yourself! the acv is amazing too.
i would add that being willing to receive help from family and/or friends is essential. it can be very humbling, but help the transition so much when someone offers to come over and run a couple loads of laundry or bring a dinner. take whatever help you can get and then just give it to another mama whose baby has arrived later on.
Really nice tips! I wish I heard some of these before having my first baby-and I wish I could pass this on to everyone when I have babies!
After my 3rd thru6th child was born it seems I have been going non stop. We would have babies daddy would deploy. I was all by my self and barely knew anyone. Now 2 years after our last child has been born I have been extremely sick of rthe past 2 years. I had been taking it easy but it may take a while to catch up as hubby is still hardly around not due to any fault of his own. He does as much as he can but listen to Brandy and take it easy. It will eventually catch up with you. Thanks for the tips they are great advice.
I’ve been struggling this past year. We had our third child in late October. In this past September, we started homeschooling our oldest, who turned 5 in October. I knew after the baby was born, things would need some time to adjust, but I’ve been having trouble getting a good routine with the 5 yr old and our 3 yr old, when everything hinges on when the baby is hungry, sleepy, cranky, or happy. For the most part he is pretty content, but I still just can’t seem to get a consistent routine in place. And I know it’s effecting the older two (and me), because there’s a lot of whining going on when it’s time to do lessons, or when I ask them to do things around the house. Everyone says two things…1)Its just pre-k, 2)don’t be so hard on yourself, you have a baby. I know these things, but I still could use some tips on routine/scheduling/homeschooling with a nursing baby.
I have a son that will be a year old on Easter! Recovering from my homebirth went pretty smoothly. My mom stayed with me for the first week and did the cooking, cleaning, etc. I am very thankful since I was so sore – I had a minor tear and it hurt terribly every time I went to the bathroom. With this being my first child, I could sit on the couch, nurse cuddle, watch TV, with no worries. My husband is a super big help – he is a great cleaner and cooks as well.
After my mom went back home, I was pretty much on my own. At that point I had healed enough to be able to do the things that needed to be done – take into account that it was just me and my hubby so things didn’t get dirty and there were no crazy amounts of laundry building up or toys around the house from other children.
We are TTC#2 now and I am wondering how those first few weeks will be with having an almost 2 year old. Obviously I won’t be able to sit on the couch all day – he will have to be fed, played with, cuddled, put down for naps. Thankfully he is an independent baby. He loves playing in his play room watching his movies. He is still nursing him quite a lot – which is fine with me – but I am curious as to how that will change through the pregnancy and him getting older.
I think the trick is to not have many expectations as to how things should be. Yes things need to get done, but keeping perspective as to what is really important and not comparing yourself/situations will keep me from getting frustrated or angry. I(With my son, I had plenty of expectations and ideas of how things should be and when my situation didn’t meet those requirements, I was angry, frustrated, and defeated.)
My biggest challenge is that I have a hard time accepting or asking for help! I’m determined to be more humble this next time and let go of the reins so I can just enjoy the newborn stage so much more.
For the first few days after our son was born, I felt woefully unprepared. I had been in on and off labor for a week so we were making constant extra runs to the grocery store and doing loads of laundry “in case the baby was born.” By the time he finally arrived we were out of most things and laundry was piling up. Fortunately within a few days friends, family and church members began bringing meals. I don’t know how we would have survived without their generous help. I find it hard to take time for myself without feeling guilty. And I’m struggling between trying to help out my husband who is basically taking care of me, a baby and a toddler and avoiding pushing myself too hard.
Also I agree with Mom of 4, I’m so hungry all the time. Plus, since I was on a gestational diabetes diet for the last three months of my pregnancy, I’m craving all kinds of carb heavy things like muffins, donuts, brownies, cookies, pancakes, french toast… well you get the idea.
My first baby is 10 weeks (tomorrow). I think the hardest part for me is feeling alone. My family lives 8 hours away; my husbands family is 3.5, but are busy with our 2 nephews. Everyone that I know from church is taking care of their small children, which leaves me alone on most days..until my husband comes home and then I still feel alone..sigh
I feel for you, Alicia! I won’t say it goes away (mine is 22 months and I still feel it) but it gets better, and as you process the loneliness, you will adjust. Just relax and enjoy that precious bundle. And remember it’s worth it 🙂