How to Survive: Motherhood

How to Survive the First Month of New Motherhood

You made it through about nine months of pregnancy and hours of labor or surgery, not to mention that annoying stay in the hospital immediately afterwards. They have finally stopped waking you up three times a night to check your blood pressure, and now you’re home with the newborn baby. If you are feeling a bit lost, here’s some advice on how to keep both of you healthy and happy.

Steps

1. Don’t expect perfection from either yourself or the baby. The idea is to roll with the punches and just get through this tricky period of adjustment in the best way that you can. Keep in mind that ninety percent is an A. If you are managing to keep the baby fed, and in clean diapers, and you are staying alert to any medical necessities, you are doing great.

2. Make things easy for yourself by keeping materials and supplies close by the places where you will be using them.

  • If you are nursing, move your most comfortable easy chair into the baby’s room. Set up a table next to the chair for a bottle of water, your glasses, a clock, maybe some music, and anything else you will routinely need during nursing. If you are going to be up in the middle of the night, you might as well be comfortable. Make it even easier on yourself by not even getting up; have one of those new cribs that fits right next to your bed and has a side that drops. Then just reach over, get the baby, and nurse lying on your side.
  • If you are bottle feeding, keep everything you need for formula preparation conveniently grouped on the kitchen counter. You will be way too tired to be searching in the drawers and cupboards in the middle of the night for the lid of the bottle. Or, better, just before bed, prepare bottles by taking a clean, empty, DRY bottle and measuring out the dry formula. Then cap it, and place it next to your night stand or in the baby’s room along with a couple bottles of plain water – again, pre-measured if you think you might not get it right in the middle of the night. Just open the bottles and mix and feed. In the morning, take the empty bottles down to be washed. Another alternative is to buy the ready-to-feed formula in bottles for night time feedings, but this can get expensive.
  • You may have a perineal incision which will require washing with each trip to the bathroom, and this will require certain equipment. There is also a possibility of hemorrhoids. Again, make things easy on yourself by putting all those materials within easy reach of the toilet. It is important to take care of yourself and the closer the materials are to hand, the faster you can get yourself taken care of so that you can get back to that baby. Good products to have on hand are Preparation H, Tucks Pads with Witch Hazel, Tylenol or Motrin. A squirt bottle for gentle cleansing and diluting urine is helpful for this healing area.

3. Sleep when the baby sleeps. It’s essential to avoid sleep deprivation so that you can remain alert when caring for the baby. Know how much sleep you need per day and get it in bits and pieces, sleeping when your baby sleeps, and napping when your baby naps–avoid the temptation to catch up on email while the baby is sleeping. You need to rest when the baby rests.[1]

  • Place the baby on his or her back and keep the crib or bassinet near you with no pillows, quilts, or toys (a light blanket can be placed below the baby’s arms and tucked in lightly along the bottom half of the crib).[2] If you choose to co-sleep, read up on how to do so safely. Also see the Warnings section below about sleeping positions.
  • Call your doctor if the baby seems to be sleeping excessively (over the normal 16 hours a day) as this may signal an infection.[3]

4. Ease into a schedule. Some people feel that an effort should be made to get on a schedule right away, and others believe in letting a natural rhythm arise at its own pace. Either way, do what is most manageable for you without causing stress to the baby. It will take some trial and error to find a good balance.

  • Try to keep things picked up but don’t worry about the dusting and the vacuuming. Some of that kind of thing is just going to have to wait until you get back on your feet.
  • Help the baby differentiate night and day by playing and keeping the room bright during the day, and by avoiding playing and bright lights at night.[4] Change your baby’s clothing on a constant schedule, as this will help them know that onesies are for playtime and night gowns are for bedtime.

5. Brace yourself for the postpartum blues. Especially if you have had a medicated, surgical or “assisted” delivery. Over 50% of women experience tearfulness, tiredness, sadness, and difficulty in thinking clearly on the third or fourth day after delivery, probably caused by a sudden decrease of maternal hormones.[5] Don’t ignore these symptoms and any feelings of sadness or guilt that result; talk about it with someone who’s close to you, and don’t try to feign glee if you’re really feeling down. Feel your emotions all the way through! Some of it will be painful and that is okay. Not only are you adjusting to an awesome event in life, your body is releasing every hormone known to woman around the clock. It should pass within one to three weeks as the hormones stabilize and you acclimate to the new situation.[6]

6. Accept help. If you can afford it, hire a housecleaner, even just once every two weeks. That can help a lot. Get a babysitter if you need a break. If your partner is in the picture, support everything he or she does to help out. Be willing to let your partner dress or bathe the baby, and to take the child out for a walk or a drive; a parent who feels supported in his or her efforts to attend to the baby is more likely to want to spend more time with the baby, and that is likely to be a win-win situation for all involved. Relax and let your partner run with it. Chances are they can change a diaper just as well as you can! Sharing the responsibilities is a good thing. Discuss how you can do more of it.

7. Carry the baby close to you in a baby carrier when you move around the house or when you go out. Strollers are nice, but you may find that keeping the baby right on your chest will be the most convenient for you even while you cook meals. Taking a walk outside can be very refreshing for both you and the baby, and a baby carrier can make getting around very easy and comfortable for both of you.

8. Ease into a different diet. If you ate your way through nine months of pregnancy with the mindset of providing for two, don’t expect to immediately go back to 1400 calories a day and the will power of a professional bodybuilder. It may take a week or two for your habits to adjust. Plan to eat 3 healthy meals a day, and give yourself a little flexibility with your snacks until your body catches up with your eating habits. After your doctor gives you permission, start exercising again in small increments. If possible, join a gym. Not only will going to the gym get you out of the house, you will be inspired to stay on track by all of the twenty-somethings in sports bras and spandex. Don’t forget to drink enough water and take a daily multivitamin.

9. Keep your social life balanced. Some moms will find time away from the baby to be relieving, while others will prefer to keep the newborn with them at all times. It’s an individual choice. Either way, stay in touch with your support system, whether that consists of the father, your close relatives, or friends. Consider finding other new mothers and connecting with them. Many places have groups of moms who meet regularly, and they can often be found with a little research on the Internet. As far as guests are concerned, limit people from visiting during this time when your child is vulnerable to contagious illnesses; most people are at their most contagious before they show symptoms of being sick.

10. Know what to expect from the baby. Don’t be surprised if the baby loses a few ounces of weight during the first few days after being born–they’ll usually bounce back to that weight after seven to ten days.[7] Look for the baby to demand to nurse every 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours, appear satisfied after feedings, takes both breasts at each nursing, wet 6 or more diapers each day, and pass 3 or more soft stools per day.[8] Have the baby checked up on by a doctor on the third or fourth day after birth (if the newborn was discharged within 24 hours of delivery) and two weeks after birth; this is a good time to ask the doctor any questions you may have.[9] Always remember and keep up to date with shots. Immunization, flu, and others are important to get during this and the next few months. You may choose to decline or postpone immunizations. Smaller babies, especially premature, are more delicate and they don’t have the immune system of a toddler or preschooler.

  • Spitting up is not uncommon and is nothing to be alarmed about, as long as the baby’s weight gain is on schedule.[10]
  • The umbilical cord stump will usually fall off during the second week; until then, give the newborn sponge baths instead of tub baths, dab the stump with alcohol, and fold the front of the diaper down below the navel to keep the area aired and clean.[11]
  • If the baby is circumcised, place a dab of petroleum jelly on the circumcised area to keep the diaper from sticking to it.[12]

11. Remember to enjoy that baby. The first few days and weeks will be rough, and you might be tempted to forget that you are in the midst of a miraculous and wonderful time. So even though you will be tired and sometimes stressed, do remember to soak in the joyful parts of the day. Cherish every minute, even when you are up at 2 am giving the baby a feeding and you look out the window and all is dark except your house. These few months will pass quickly and believe it or not, you will miss it!

Tips

  • Ask for and get help. Being a mother is a job in itself, never mind laundry, cleaning, cooking, changing the oil in your car, and all those other things that have to get done. You don’t get awards for doing it all.
  • Depending on your individual situation and when and if you will be returning to work, it is never too early to start making plans. If you are returning to work, solidify your childcare arrangements. If you will be spending your days momming, start connecting with Moms in your area and locating Mommy and Me classes.
  • Keep the camera right out in the open and use it every day for one or two shots. Your baby will change fast, and before you know it, you will be making a slide show for graduation from high school. For that you are going to want to have plenty of nice pictures!
  • Remember that this is the “first time” for your baby, too, so they assume that whatever you’re doing, that’s the way things are supposed to be. Your baby will not be criticizing or judging you.
  • An important reminder-when your baby cries, do not take it personally. Crying is the only way babies have to communicate. They can’t talk or enunciate anything, all they can do is utter an uncontrolled burst from their vocal chords. Know your baby, and you will usually know what he/she wants when crying. Also, don’t forget that babies aren’t always crying because there is something wrong. In the first few months some babies just seem to cry a lot. There’s no such thing as a “good” baby–or the converse–a baby who is crying in order to be bad or irritate you.
  • Whenever possible, lean on your partner for support; they will also feel more involved and invested!
  • The most important advice you can get is to ignore all the well-meaning people giving you advice. At the end of the day, what works the best for you and your baby is what you should do.
  • If you want your partner to help with chores or with the baby, do not criticize how they do things. There is more than one way to get something done, and there often is not a single “right” way. Just make sure they are safe with the baby.

Warnings

  • Know the latest information on sleep positions and educate anyone who is helping you so that they will do the right thing in this regard. If anyone else looks after the baby, clarify that the baby is always to sleep on its back–a baby that is accustomed to sleeping on its back and is then placed to sleep on the stomach or tummy is at greater risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).[13]
  • Call the doctor if you spot extreme floppiness, jitters, fever (rectal temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius), and very loose and watery stools.[14]
  • Also call the doctor if the baby’s skin turns yellow, which may be a symptom of jaundice, a potentially serious condition in which the baby’s liver is having trouble processing bilirubin (a byproduct of red blood cell turnover). [15]
  • Pay attention to any hard spots in your breast tissue if you are breastfeeding, as there is a slight chance of a plugged milk duct becoming infected. Call your doctor if you develop this problem.
  • Take Post-Parteum Depression seriously. It’s a medical problem, not a sign of you being a bad mother. It can be treated and you will enjoy being a woman and mother much more.

Sources and Citations

1. http://www.med.umich.edu/1libr/pa/pa_firstwks_hhg.htm
2. http://www.healthychildcare.org/pdf/SIDSparentsafesleep.pdf
3. http://www.kidshealth.org/parent/growth/medical/mednewborn.html
4. http://www.pennhealth.com/newsletters/preg_parenting/mth0.html
5. http://www.med.umich.edu/1libr/pa/pa_firstwks_hhg.htm
6. http://www.med.umich.edu/1libr/pa/pa_firstwks_hhg.htm
7. http://www.med.umich.edu/1libr/pa/pa_firstwks_hhg.htm
8. http://www.med.umich.edu/1libr/pa/pa_firstwks_hhg.htm
9. http://www.med.umich.edu/1libr/pa/pa_firstwks_hhg.htm
10. http://www.pennhealth.com/newsletters/preg_parenting/mth0.html
11. http://www.pennhealth.com/newsletters/preg_parenting/mth0.html
12. http://www.pennhealth.com/newsletters/preg_parenting/mth0.html
13. http://www.healthychildcare.org/pdf/SIDSparentsafesleep.pdf
14. http://www.kidshealth.org/parent/growth/medical/mednewborn.html
15. http://www.kidshealth.org/parent/pregnancy_newborn/common/jaundice.html

The article, How to Survive the First Month of New Motherhood was provided by wikiHow.
Content available under Creative Commons License.

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    First aid kit
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    Baby clothes
    There are a lot of cute baby clothing available in shops almost everyone-including the Internet. When buying baby clothes, just be sure to choose something that would not be too difficult to put on and to take off. Too many buttons or too many snaps, for one, may prove to be quite a hassle for the parent and for the baby.

    Baby books
    Just imagine all the precious moments spent reading to the child!

    Baby toys
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    Baby’s washtub and a yellow rubber ducky. You can also include bath items and towels with these very thoughtful gifts.

    Baby scrapbook or album
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    Baby bottles
    Feel free to include baby formula, a tipper cup, and maybe even a brush set for cleaning up.

    Diapers
    You may think that diapers are extremely cheap or tacky shower gifts, but any parent would surely appreciate these. Diapers are in fact a huge help for first-time parents. As a nice twist, you can also try giving diaper cakes. Basically, these are just beautifully arranged diapers that are mixed with other baby products, like powder, soap, wipes, etc.

    Purchasing these baby supplies can be quite a feat so it is best to visit Services Ireland Directory or SID to find the best babyshop online. Today, more and more parents go to Mamas and Papas for their baby’s needs including buggies, nursery furniture, travel seats, baby walkers, baby strollers and high chairs. They have several stores in Ireland, including in Donegal, Cork, Galway, Dublin, Kerry and more.

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  • What To Do When Your Baby is Crying
    by Heather Owens

    A baby only has one way of communicating – crying. Everything is incredibly new to them, every feeling, every experience. Sometimes, for a new parent, it can be very difficult to work out exactly what your baby is crying about. However there are some basics that you can check if your baby cries. It may be one or a number of them are making the baby cry.

    The best place to start is the diaper. If it’s wet or soiled, then the baby will be uncomfortable and start crying. If the diaper needs changing, then change it. More often than not, that will solve the problem. Some babies don’t like having their diaper changed, and will often cry even more. Mostly it’s because they don’t like the sensation of being uncovered. So change the diaper as quickly and smoothly as you can, to minimize distress. Then cover the baby with a blanket or clothing, so that the baby feels comfortable again.

    Babies also like being warm. However it’s also possible to overdress a baby, so be sensible about it. When checking the baby, look for very red skin, and see if the baby is sweating. Either of these signs suggest the baby is almost certainly too hot. A good rule of thumb with dressing your baby is one layer more than you’re wearing. If the baby is too hot or cold, then adjust clothing or covers to suit the temperature.

    Next, is your baby hungry? Is it a while since the last feed? Did the baby maybe feed a little less than normal at the last feed, and so perhaps is hungry quicker this time around? Try nursing or offering a bottle. Babies do need to eat frequently, because they are growing so quickly. Often the action of sucking helps to soothe the baby, even if they’re not very hungry. Babies are very good at knowing when they’ve had enough, and will stop. So don’t worry too much about overfeeding. The baby will stop crying once he’s not hungry any more.

    After feeding, many babies develop gas. The baby’s digestive system is only just developing, and eating is a very new experience. Sometimes crying means the baby has some gas rumbling around in the tummy, and needs to be burped. Put a cloth on your shoulder, and hold the baby against your shoulder so that his stomach is against the front of your shoulder. Make sure the head is well forward, or support the head if you can. Rub his back firmly, in a circular motion. This helps to put pressure on the digestive system both front and back, and often produces the required burping. Some gentle patting may also help, but be very careful if you decide to do this – babies are very delicate.

    You may even find that just going for a walk with the baby on your shoulder helps. Babies seem to like movement, probably because they’re used to being bounced around in the womb. But also, being held close to a parent is very soothing for a baby. Babies love to be held and cuddled – despite some suggestions to the contrary, you can’t hold your baby too much.

    Some babies also find it very soothing to be swaddled in a small blanket. Swaddling involves wrapping the blanket around the baby’s body fairly tightly. The arms are held close to the baby. In some ways this feels a lot like the womb to a baby, because they were tightly enclosed in there too. Sometimes the sudden experience of being able to move around can distress a baby. Your health professional should be able to teach you how to swaddle the baby effectively. It’s important to make sure, though, that the head and neck remain uncovered.

    Once you’ve gone through the list above – check the diaper, check the baby’s temperature, try a feed or a burp, and swaddle the baby – and the baby’s still crying, then trying holding the baby close and making a rhythmic “shhhh” sound near the baby’s ear. If it sounds a little bit like a wave on the beach, great. That’s the sort of sound the baby heard in the womb, and is often very reassuring and soothing. Some babies are very sensitive to noise, and an average home produces a lot of noise! You can even try a radio tuned off station, so all you can hear is “white noise”.

    Over time, you’ll find that you begin to recognize the difference between your baby’s cries, and so probably won’t need to go right through the checklist every time baby cries. However if at any time you suspect your baby may be sick or in pain, or if he’s still crying even after checking all of the above things, it’s always best to visit your health care professional, just to make sure everything is okay.

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