Published July 31, 2013
Giving birth comes with a unique period of change for both mother and baby. While your body is adjusting to the physical and emotional changes, you are also adjusting to learning how to care for a newborn infant. Many women romanticize what the first few weeks of motherhood will be like and are not prepared for what to do when the long awaited baby arrives. It is a time for healing and bonding to take precedence over trying to jump back into your pre-baby routine.
Get to know your new baby
Take time to get to know your baby – and yourself – as a mother. Many mothers don’t have the immediate bond with their baby that they thought they would; that is completely normal. You’re exhausted from giving birth and staying up all night, and you haven’t had time to get to know the screaming baby in your arms. You’re probably also on edge from all the crying. Take every opportunity to snuggle with your baby through skin-to-skin contact, and make plenty of eye contact to assist the bonding process.
Give breastfeeding a chance
Breastfeeding is a learned skill, and it will take some time before it becomes second nature. It can be frustrating and uncomfortable at first, but with practice it will get easier. If you continue to struggle, reach out to a lactation consultant or attend a breastfeeding support group.
Breastfeeding helps speed up postpartum recovery by decreasing bleeding and helping the uterus contract to its pre-pregnancy size. It also triggers the release of oxytocin which can help you feel relaxed and nurtured, helping to speed the bonding process and also decreasing the chance of post-partum depression.
Don’t stress about baby weight
While some mothers quickly drop the pounds while breastfeeding, others hang on to all the extra weight until breastfeeding is over. Focus on eating healthy foods, and eliminate processed food as much as possible. Make vegetables, proteins and healthy fats, such as coconut and olive oil, a priority instead of counting calories. Keep high protein snacks on hand to give you energy during middle of the night feedings.
Dropping calories excessively can affect not only milk supply but also the quality of breast milk. Try daily walks and exercise, which has been found to boost mood and decrease ‘baby blues.’
Accept any help you can
You have the rest of your life to be a superhero. Now is the time to take advantage of the help while it’s being offered. Instead of having friends and family watch the baby while you wash dishes or clean the house, ask them to help you with those chores or to make you a meal so you can have a moment to bond, take a shower or sleep. Getting as much sleep as possible will help you feel more at ease and will also help speed recovery so you can feel like yourself again.
Find a good baby carrier
Using a baby carrier to provide skin-to-skin contact has benefits for both mother and baby. The close physical contact releases oxytocin, which promotes bonding; a study in the journal Pediatrics found that even three hours of skin-to-skin contact per day can help decrease crying by up to 43 percent.
Baby wearing can also get you into a routine faster since it frees up both hands to do other things and is a great way to go for a walk if your baby cries every time you try using a stroller.
One more thing…
Infants cry because they’re infants and chances are it’s not because you’re doing anything wrong. Eventually you will be able to tell the difference between a hungry cry and a tired cry, but until then follow your instincts and never do anything that doesn’t feel right.