Nothing can prepare you for bringing home a baby. Your nursery may be decorated, your freezer stocked with meals, and a stack of newborn diapers and onesies neatly folded. While those things are great, the emotional, mental, and physical task of caring for a new baby is exhausting. I would not classify it as fun or magical. At least I didn't find it to be.
However, now that we are 8 weeks postpartum, I'm starting to really enjoy my time with Fredrik. At 2.5 weeks old Fredrik and I joined a new moms group put on by Amma Parenting. It was the best decision ever. During our last class we created a list of things we would tell ourselves or any new mom who was 3 days postpartum. The funny thing is, even if I had this list at that time, I'm not sure would have heeded the advice, or believed it. Here's our list any way:
As a dietitian I want to add a few more things to this list.
1. Eat meals not just snacks. So many websites and healthcare professionals talk about keeping snacks on hand for when you get hungry; snacks are nice but you need to eat a MEAL! Have a spouse bring you food on the couch while you nurse, have family bring you food, make dinner in the morning during nap time so you can re-heat at night. Snacks will not fill you up, and most snacks end up being crackers, dried fruit, pretzels, nuts, bananas, cookies... nothing that will actually satisfy you. Try to eat 2-3 actual meals every day. I find that a good solid breakfast is really important for me. Yogurt and smoothies just don't keep me full, but leftovers or eggs/meat + PB on toast keep me going.
2. Snack on Protein, but not just nuts. I've seen it with clients and started to fall into the habit myself. Even though bananas+peanut butter = delicious, it's not that filling. Neither is a hand full of almonds when you are running on 3 hours of sleep. Even though I just told you to eat meals, you're probably going to want/need some snacks. To keep your blood sugar stable, minimize cravings, and support whatever energy level you might have while sleep deprived, choose snacks that are high in protein and fat: hard boiled eggs, cheese, deli meat, salami, epic bars, pork rinds, protein powder + coconut milk, homemade protein balls, yogurt, cottage cheese, a packet of tuna, smoked salmon.
3. Join/create a meal train for the first couple weeks home or when your spouse/partner goes back to work. We had meals brought to us by members of the MOMs club I joined back in June. On Tuesdays and Fridays for 3 weeks moms brought us a complete meal (sometimes enough for leftovers). It was so nice to know that at least for that night we didn't need to come up with/thaw out something to eat.
4. Drink bone broth. I have no idea if this makes a difference....but it makes me feel like I'm doing something good for myself and supporting tissue healing. It's also something to drink that isn't water. I made and froze several quarts before Fredrik was due, but even Trader Joes now has bone broth if you don't want to make your own. Other brands that you can find at other grocery stores include: Pacific, Epic, Kettle & Fire.
5. Don't restrict, especially if breast feeding. If you are hungry eat; even at 2am. You have more important things to worry about right now than losing baby weight. If you had a long labor, c-section, or other complications your body has even greater calorie and nutrient needs when it comes to healing. This is not the time for Whole30 challenges, Sugar Detoxes, calorie counting or even my friend Katie's Best You Plan. Respect the carb/sugar cravings if you have them, and maybe make real food choices like fruit and sweet potatoes, or don't...and just dive into the tub of ice cream. I've decided to give myself a 3-4 month grace period before I really focus on making my usual 'healthy' choices and begin to say 'no' to so much sugar and processed carbs. Around 6 weeks I found this getting a little easier to do. For me these choices are not about weight loss, but about feeling my best. That means good digestion, good energy, and stable moods.
6. Stay hydrated. Water, Fizzy Water, Bone Broth, Kombucha, Diluted Juice, Tea (avoid peppermint if struggling with low milk production), 1-2 cups coffee, Zevia Soda. It's no joke that breast feeding makes you thirsty, you need a good 2 liters of fluids each day to support milk production. I've started filling up water bottles in the morning, and always pack a LaCroix when going out. The LaCroix cans fit better in the diaper bag pocket than my glass water bottle, and it's a nice treat.
Hope these ideas help, anything you would add to either list?
Breast Feeding...It's supposed to be easy and natural. It's this beautiful thing that babies can do the minute their born. It's supposed to provide them with all the food they need. BREAST IS BEST!
However, I know only a handful of people (my mom is one of them) for whom these statements were true. For everyone else, myself included, these statements do a disservice for how difficult breast feeding can actually be. From poor latch, excessively sleepy babies, newborns in a NICU, slow to come in milk supply, low milk supply, reflux, food sensitivities, inverted nipples, engorgement, mastitis, blisters....the list goes on and on. After attending several breast feeding support groups, it seems like almost every new mom struggles with breast feeding to one degree or another.
While in the hospital nurses and lactation consultants (LC) kept telling me Fredrik was just greedy and didn't like having to work at actually latching and sucking. (I don't think newborns can be greedy) They kept padding pillows and blankets around me to help with positioning, and then trying to shove his head onto my boob. By the end of our stay I think we were both a little traumatized. His weight dropped over a pound after 3 days; and during our last night I had to use donor milk to feed him through a Supplemental Nursing System. Even though they had already started me pumping and trying to syringe feed colostrum, my milk didn't come in until 5 days after he was born. This is fairly common for moms who have a C-section, but can make for very hungry babies. The following day we went home with the SNS and were told to continue pumping and using the SNS while nursing or attach it to a finger and have Fredrik suck on the finger. Since my milk still hadn't come in this didn't go over very well. During our first evening home he cried and screamed for over an hour. Finally my momma-bear instincts took over and I told Ryan to make a bottle with the formula we had received from my OBGYN. Needless to say my starving baby sucked it down in no time. As a crunchy granola dietitian, I had almost thrown out the formula and bottle thinking "I'll be breast feeding; why would I ever need this?" Thank goodness I didn't.
The following morning a home health nurse provided by the hospital came by. We were so fortunate that she was also a licensed LC and took one look at his mouth and latch and told us that he had a fairly significant tongue tie. I was so mad this went un-diagnosed in the hospital. There were plenty of qualified people who could have identified it. To get us through the weekend she showed us how to use a syringe not the SNS and finger feed him. This was a tedious process, but meant we didn't have to use all formula, or resort to a bottle 100% of the time. We were concerned using the bottle might lead to nipple preference and make future breast feeding even more difficult. For 3 days, Ryan sat on the couch for 40 minutes every 2-3 hours letting Fredrick suck on his finger while slowly feeding him through a syringe. I would sit next to them and pump milk for the next feeding. The following week our pediatrician also diagnosed him with a tongue tie, but also with a lip tie. No wonder he couldn't latch. She also encouraged us to start feeding him with an Avant bottle to help stretch his mouth and make feedings easier on us, and to find a dentist who would fix his tongue and upper lip; which is what we did.
Our dentist was amazing and the procedure took about 5 minutes. We were encouraged to work with a chiropractor to help correct some muscle imbalances in his neck from being squished sidewise in my womb. We've done that too and continue to work on helping Fredrik's neck relax so he can nurse properly on both sides
Have all these steps helped?
At just over 5 weeks Fredrik finally started to get the hang of nursing. This is so exciting for me since it means instead of pumping up to 12x day I'm down to 3+. WOOO!!! It's been quite the wild ride and even though we still need to work on his latch and getting him to open his mouth wider, it's a relief and blessing to know I can feed my baby by nursing, even if it's not 100% of the time. I know this isn't always the case, and have a taste for how disappointing it can be to think you won't be able to breast feed. It hasn't been easy, there have been many tears shed during the process, and we still have work to do. Once again I have a new found appreciation and empathy for new moms everywhere.
I'm a dietitian with a passion for good nutrition, bold flavors, playing in the dirt, and being with my family.