People tend to think babies are gift from god, a bundle of joy, or a little miracle. Yes, they are all of these things and more. However, from a maternity nurse perspective, I feel I have a deeper insight into the reality of what comes after delivery.
These little people can be fussy, sensitive, and challenging! They come with their own individual preferences and unexpected circumstances from being difficult to latch, to having trouble sleeping alone. It makes you think: How can something so small and precious, be so complex?
Parents can be hard on themselves and each other during this transition. Many parents are desperate to have this “picture perfect” scenario and make all the “right” decisions. Unfortunately, things don’t always go as planned and when parents or infants fall short, they are left to feel a sense of guilt and disappointment.
While learning to adjust to this challenging stage of transition, I always remind parents to be kind and patient with their situation and loved ones.
Here are my top 5 tips to remember as you move forward:
- Be Patient With Your Little One
When a baby first enters the world, it takes time for them to adapt. They were in a dark, cozy, secure womb for 9 months and enter into the fear of the unknown. With this in mind, I encourage parents to have empathy with what their baby is experiencing.
Be patient while learning to understand and respond to your infant’s cues. This is important in the initial stages when trying to build a trusting relationship. When infants cry, they are trying to communicate with you. It’s up to you as parents to figure out what they are asking for through trial and error.
Did you know babies…
- Want to be swaddled or close to you to feel a sense of security
- Get irritable from the over stimulation of noise, touch, and bright lights
- Have tummy pain from amniotic fluid or formula feeding and want to be soothed
- Are in a state of transition and need guidance and education too. The more practice they receive, the easier tasks become
I encourage you to try to accept that there may be some rough patches. Your baby may not be able to latch, may need to formula feed, and will most likely cry when you bathe or change them. Sometimes you’ll want to scream or cry from the stress, but I promise that you’ll grow to know them best and what they need in each situation.
- Communicate With Your Partner
Having a baby can be stressful for the whole family, and couples can become quick to judge or complain to one another when they are in a vulnerable state. Remember, it’s not a competition of who is suffering more. You’re in this together and should be operating as a team.
- Take turns providing infant care (bottle feeding, diapering, bathing, etc.)
- Work together to maximize your time – while mom is pumping, dad can be changing the baby
- Take shifts sleeping – Ensure both of you are well rested
- Make decisions as a collective team – try not to involve other people in the equation
- Be respectful and understanding of your partners needs; try to empathize.
- Support and encourage each other. Use positive words, constructive feedback, and avoid blaming
- Set aside some “we” time as a couple at least once a week.
This will probably be one of the more challenging times you and your partner will experience. If you can make it through this as a team with kindness and patience, you can make it through anything.
- Take Care Of Yourself
You need to take care of yourself, before you can care for someone else. Moms are especially guilty of burning themselves out, and not taking adequate rest or care during this time. Your body has just undergone many changes and with sleep deprivation, prolonged healing, pain, and mood swings; learning and adapting to a baby can be highly stressful. Your physical and mental wellbeing should be placed at a high priority. For example:
- Take periods of rest by sleeping when your baby sleeps – they wake roughly every 2-3 hours to feed
- Eat nutritious foods to aid in recovery – See our Breastfeeding Food Guide
- Go outside for short periods each day. Take relaxing walks if recommended by your doctor
- Shower and groom yourself – You will feel refreshed and re-energized
- Journal your feelings or talk it out with your partner, friends, or family
- Read motivational books, mommy blogs,or join a parenting group to know you’re not alone – Our LactaMama Community on Facebook (will give link)
- Listen to relaxation music, meditate, or tap into your spiritual side.
- Don’t be a hero. Ask for help from people who are supportive and non- judgmental.
- Try not to put too much effort into entertaining visitors; ask for time to rest.
- Baby blues are normal after delivery and consist of mood swings, feelings of sadness or depression that should pass in 5-10 days. If these feelings persist and you have difficulty coping with your mental state, you should seek help from a medical professional immediately, as it could be postpartum depression.
It’s common to feel insecure with your body image after delivery. Try to be loving and accepting of your body at every stage. Appreciate the miracle of how it changes and adapts to meet yours and your infants needs. Refrain from saying negative comments to yourself. It takes time and practice to process new information and become efficient at tasks. Remember that everyone’s body and experience is different, don’t beat yourself up if it takes longer for you to produce milk, latch your baby, or shed your baby weight.
- Don’t Compare – This is a BIG one!
Every situation is different. Some baby’s formula feed, others breast feed. Some moms have trouble latching, or don’t produce enough. Some infant’s co-sleep, others are sleep trained. Some women take an epidural, others go all natural. Some women breastfeed for 6 months, while others breastfeed for years.
We should be supporting each others’ choices, rather than judging, shaming, or imposing our beliefs onto another. Try not to focus on what other people are doing or their expectations of you. It’s about you and your partners journey and what best works for your family. Listen and learn from others, but be mindful that everyone’s opinions may conflict – Your nurses, doctors, lactation consultants, family, and friends.
Remember that you are the primary decision maker of your infant. Realize there is no right or wrong way of doing anything. It’s not black and white. What comes after delivery is all grey, and very much unique to you and your family’s individual needs and circumstances.
- Take Baby Steps
There is a process involved with mastering anything in life. It can be overwhelming when we look to the future and wonder how we will get there. If we know the direction of where we hope to get to, then taking things one step at a time always seems more manageable.
Parents tend to worry about circumstances that haven’t come to pass. Everyday there will be changes, so I always suggest that you take each day and situation as it comes. This process can be challenging at times, especially with the abundance of information. However, I hope parents can find comfort knowing that at any given moment, all you can do is try your best to make informed decisions, that are going to support your family and infants needs.
At the end of the day…
Any new situation is bound to bring us some level of stress and anxiety. Remember that you are already such amazing parents, just in the fact that you care. In my opinion, the greatest gift you can give your child is affection, quality time, and understanding. This is what I wish for any baby out there … to have loving parents.