How to make it through your first week postpartum
I feel like this post should start with a disclaimer. This post is specifically written for ladies who are interested in knowing how I’ve survived my first weeks post-partum with my third baby. If this topic doesn’t interest you, or if you’re my dad or father-in-law… please stop reading. Everyone else… press on…
Because I tend to forget what this season is like, I wanted to write down a few tips (for my future self or anyone who is interested) on knowing what to expect during their first week postpartum. Because everyone is different and every birth is unique, I ask that you take this with a grain of salt. My hope is to help you prepare, tell you that there’s a light at the end of the first-week postpartum tunnel, and that however tough it may be right now, IT GETS BETTER. Maybe not right away, but eventually, as you develop a routine and become more confident in what you’re doing, things start to get easier.
There’s no getting around this. Babies have to eat every 2-3 hours and you’re the one who has to feed them. For me, that means waking up 3 times a night ensuring that this little lady is fed, burped and changed. Grace (baby #1) had terrible spit up issues and during our first week with her, our nighttime routine consisted of waking up 5-6 times a night. These days, we’re happy with waking up 3 times for a feeding sesh. There are other things that we have going on that others may not. This is our third, so we have two other kiddos who demand our attention at all hours of the night. If Haddon (baby #2) and Grace wake up as well, we’ll have to tend to them and pray that they’ll go back to sleep fast. By now, Alex and I are used to not sleeping through the night and if you’ve read my what they don’t tell you about pregnancy post, you’ll know that there’s not much sleeping during the last weeks of pregnancy. Sleep depravation is inevitable, however there are a few things that make our nights a bit easier
- Changing station- Emory is a pooper. She’ll poop before I feed her, during her feeding, while I’m burping her and when I’m ready to put her down, she’ll cry to be fed again and the cycle goes on. I know that if I pre-plan and prep what I know I’ll need, the night will flow a bit smoother. My changing station consists of a little cubby with diapers, wipes, diaper cream, extra blankets and extra outfits (you can also have an extra pacifier in here if your baby takes one)
- Wipe warmer– We use this warmer because we’ve noticed that whenever Emory’s little tush gets hit with a cold wipe, the feeding, burping, changing cycle gets interrupted with a squirmy squeal that can sometimes wake up the other
- Double team it- Alex jumps in to help me at nights. He can’t do any of the feeding, but he sometimes does the burping and changing. The key, is that he has to be completely committed. Meaning as soon as I’m done feeding, I’ll hand him the baby and he’ll take it from there without asking questions or making a sound! High expectations… maybe. But having a team-mate allows me to get as much sleep as I possibly can making me a better mom, wife and overall human being.
- Night light- We use Grace’s tinker bell nightlight to have enough light in the room for all of the baby activities that go on. I sometimes use my phone to shine a little light when she unlatches off the boob or I need to check if there’s a poopy diaper or if I just want to make sure she’s breathing…
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Breastfeeding during your first week postpartum
Breastfeeding never came easy to me. It’s been an incredibly difficult experience and something I still have NOT been able to master. With Grace, I had a very stressful time trying to figure out how we were going to “parent,” work and go to school full time. The stress level was so high that I don’t think my milk ever truly flowed. Grace had a hard time latching and it took me about 45 minutes to pump 3 oz. So, I was only able to keep up with it for three months before I completely gave up on the issue. With Haddon, I had better luck. He too had a hard time latching and it took us about 4 months to get a rhythm going. I stopped breastfeeding him when he was 9 months old but only because we were going to NY and I didn’t see myself pumping while we were up there. This time around we’re playing it by ear and praying that my ladies will hold on though the ride.
If you’re anything like me, there are a few things to consider when it comes to breastfeeding. First off, it will hurt! Your nipples will crack, you may bleed and the thought of having to feed your child will sometimes make you burst into tears. There were nights where I was in so much pain, I just had to put the baby down, walk away, cry and try again. It didn’t make me a bad mom, it made me a better one!
I think the breakthrough point with Emory came around day 8. Emory figured out how to semi-latch and although it was still very painful, between pumping and rearranging her latch, the task didn’t seem like I was going to be left breast-less. Breastfeeding was my everest (sort of) and if it isn’t yours then by all means pull out the good ol’ formula. If you choose to tackle breastfeeding, here are a few tips that have helped me the past couple of weeks…
There were nights where I was in so much pain, I just had to put the baby down, walk away, cry, take a break and try again. It didn’t make me a bad mom, it made me a better one!
- Drink a lot of water- chug water throughout the day but especially right before placing the baby on your breast. I found that drinking a tall glass of cold water helped me to feel hydrated and allowed my milk to flow easier
- Use lanolin– my nipples were cracked, sore and so tender from inproper latching (they’re still really sore and blistered and we’re 6 weeks in). I use cold lanolin to help soothe the pain and wet towels that I place in the freezer to ease the pain.
- Tylenol- Medicine helped take the edge off. The pain doesn’t go away but it helped me continue to push through. Also, it helps with the back pain that comes from the epidural and all of the weird positions that you get into while feeding.
- Create a calm atmosphere- I have a chair in my room with a pillow for my bum (because that area is still sore and bruised from the massacre) and a pillow to prop the baby. When I’m ready to feed (or pump) I close the door, pray and take deep breaths. Sometimes I play music or go on instagram for distraction. This is important because stress affects the way your milk flows. If the baby unlatches or is having a hard time feeding, I pull her off, and try again.
- Pump to avoid engorgement- I thought that pumping was going to hurt my milk supply or overproduce milk, but my breasts were so engorged during the first week, that our sweet baby couldn’t even fit her mouth around my nipple to latch properly. I was in so much pain that I resorted to pump. I ended up pumping 5oz from each breast and still had enough for a full feeding. Here are some awesome tips on pumping by Julie from the Happy Home Fairy.
Your lovely lady parts
If you’ve had a c-section, one amazing thing you have going for you is that your lovely lady parts are as beautiful as you remember them. For the rest of us, the dog days are here! The truth is that your lady parts go through hell during delivery, and recovering from that is not easy/pleasant and it takes time. Also, if you were lucky enough to have an episiotomy like I was (sense the sarcasm?) you’ll have stitches to deal with. The good news is that one day they will heal and with plenty of kegles, you’ll be back in shape. During this first week, your parts will require a lot of attention. Here are a few tips that have helped me with the discomfort.
- Hospital peri-bottle– This little spray bottle is perfect for keeping the area fresh and clean. It also keeps you from having to take 15 showers a day
- Which hazel pads or preparation H – I place these in the refrigerator so they’re nice and cold when I need them. I fold them and place them on my area for a few minutes at a time. These are especially good to soothe hemorrhoids.
- Overnight maxi-pads– because… you know… Also, postpartum bleeding lasts for a while. I’ve asked my lady friends and some have bled for as long as 8 weeks! I was lucky enough to stop at 4 weeks. So, if the sore boobs aren’t painful and annoying enough… there’s this. I also know someone who didn’t bleed at all and that’s super dangerous and a doctor should be contacted asap!
- Dermoplast– This spray helps soothe the pain and if kept cold it works even better
- Comfortable granny panties– Alex isn’t too fond of these, but they’re comfy and if you don’t want to ruin your pretty lacy ones… I suggest you buy a pack.
- Baby powder– Another layer of freshness
- Stool softener– OMG pooping after an episiotomy is a scary ordeal. Every time nature calls there’s the fear of tearing or having a stitch pop… ouch! A stool softener helps ease the situation and helps you celebrate the small (or large) victories.
There are a few other things to consider during your first week with your new baby.
- This time is precious and babies really DON’T KEEP. This tiny newborn stage is so hard, but you’ll blink and they’ll be two. Enjoy it. Breathe them in and try to remember this moment.
- Take some time for yourself. Ask a friend to watch your baby for 30 minutes while you nap, take a shower or go out for a cup of coffee. Having some time to clear your head helps keep you sane.
- Ask God for strength and remember Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Sweet mama, these first weeks are HARD but you are not alone. You are strong, you are beautiful and you will get through this!