As a mother of three, a midwife and a lactation consultant, I have experienced firsthand the many challenges that come with planning and preparing for the day of birth... I sometimes think of giving birth a bit like your driving test. We plan and prepare intensely for the day of the test, but give very little thought or consideration of what happens afterwards...
When you sit in the car on your own for the first time and think, ‘bloody hell what now’?! Well, it can sometimes feel a bit like that when you take your baby home or the midwives leave you after a homebirth. Why don't they come with an instruction manual. Here are a few things I think are really important to plan and consider around the postnatal period and life after giving birth as a new mother/parent...
Building your support team after giving birth
Who's going to be part of your team? Even the most confident and self-sufficient person needs cheerleaders when becoming a new parent. It's emotional, challenging, and exhausting at times, and having a close-knit circle of people who can help you out is invaluable. This is a time when you will need to rely on those who you truly feel comfortable around - who you’re happy to hang out in your comfies in front of, boob hanging out - the people who you can messy cry in front of with no judgement.
Surround yourself with people who you don't have to host, but rather people who will help you by bringing food, holding the baby (if you're comfortable with that), emptying the washing machine, changing your bed, walking the dog, or taking the other kids to the park. Hosting large groups, or lots of family and friends can add extra unnecessary pressure, delay breastfeeds or a baby passed from person to person to bottle feed, which can result in a long night ahead.
Recovery time after birth is crucial
Remember, you're recovering, so take it easy. Hanging out at home, perhaps with short walks (literally to the end of the road), for the first three, if not four weeks will benefit you emotionally, physically, and in terms of your milk supply.
Discussing changes with your partner or closest friends/family
Your priorities are going to change, perhaps quite drastically, and getting quality time together with your partner, or close friends may be challenging. It's essential to prepare for this, by discussing your love languages and how you can incorporate them into your life with a small baby or a young family.
Remind your partner of all the ways they can bond with the baby that's not just feeding: wearing them in a sling, bathing them, changing their nappy, nurturing you, etc. so that, together, you can parent to your best.
Think about the little things, like how you react when you're tired... Me, I'm a snappy grump, so I have to remind myself to say, “I'm sorry, you're not terrible - I'm tired”. Or, if sex isn't on the cards for a while, consider ways in which you can incorporate physical touch or intimacy which you're both comfortable with. Small things such as a kiss before you go to sleep every night, or holding hands when on a walk, or even just cuddling on the sofa can make such a difference and strengthen your bond.
Household chores can also really get shaken up with a new baby, so try to work out which bits you can share between you. For example, can your partner put a wash on and empty the dishwasher before they leave for work? Can you batch cook on weekends to get ahead? Have the conversation and put plans in place to make life after giving birth as easy as possible, for you both.
Consider paid help
Can you afford to pay for a doula during the postnatal period? She can support you both emotionally and physically as a family. What about food delivery services, a cleaner, or extra days at nursery for other children? These can be invaluable resources that can make a huge difference to your life in the early days of parenthood.
Feeding your baby
Feeding your baby can come as an emotional shock to many of us, so I always encourage new parents to seek out feeding help before the baby arrives. I famously said, “I'll try breastfeeding, if it works it works, if not I'm fine formula feeding”. I had no idea what an emotional and intense need I'd have to breastfeed my baby. So I'd always encourage people to seek out where you can get feeding help before your baby actually arrives.
Consider private help from a lactation consultant or seek out recommendations from midwives or health visitors in your area. Find out if any run feeding cafes locally, and are these accessed by referral only or can you just turn up? Is there an infant feeding team or perhaps a charity service like the breastfeeding network or the association of breastfeeding mothers?
If you're concerned about tongue-tie, remember that midwives, health visitors, GPs, and paediatricians are not routinely trained to assess for them. Seek out a lactation consultant, infant feeding specialist, or tongue-tie practitioner for help. Everyone deserves feeding support, whether you're breastfeeding or formula feeding.
Life after giving birth can be a daunting time, but with the right preparation and support system around you, the postpartum period can be a wonderful and rewarding experience. By building a support team, taking time to recover, having open communication with your partner or closest friends/family, considering paid help, and seeking out feeding support, you'll be well on your way to thriving in your new role as a parent.
Visit Olivia's instagram @olivia_lactation_consultant for more tips and advice on breastfeeding and motherhood.
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. For The Creators has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions.