Here is some advice that is less medical advice and more practical advice from parents who have been through the postpartum period. A great thanks to the mothers and parents who contributed helpful tips and what they wish they had known. Not all advice may help you. Feel free to contact us to contribute.
Advice from Dr. Azad:
Every woman is different, you do not have to bond with your child the way others bond, some women are all goo-goo ga-ga and others are silent. Some do baby talk and baby voices and some do only adult language and some just stare and have thoughts/feelings they just can’t say out loud. It is all okay.
Some women cannot accept they have to go back to work at 6 months (if they’re lucky and work for Google). Others, go back at 4 weeks and feel guilty for looking forward to it. There are different kinds of personalities, and wanting to go back to work, to be with adults, to have secured, reliable, safe childcare while you return to the adult world is not wrong and you should not feel guilty. Wanting to stay home longer and enjoy your babies every milestone is also not a work cop-out, it’s human. It’s important that women do what they feel most comfortable with and not measure their choices against other women’s decisions.
I strongly encourage women returning to work to speak confidently about their needs. We are fortunate in California to have legislated accommodations for pumping at work and also to have some discussion on the value working mothers bring to the table. Women should not apologize for their breaks and should not apologize for time with their children. The US birth rate is dropping, we are a service economy and in the Bay Area a gadget economy, if we’re not having babies, then who’s going to buy all these things we are making? Others at work should be grateful to their colleagues who are making the sacrifice of their minds, bodies, and time to have babies to sustain our national growth.
Advice from other moms at our practice:
“It’s been a while since I had my babies…BUT…. I still wish someone had explained the “post-birth” experience and what to expect. When discussing birth, there’s a lot of discussion about the birth itself, which happens relatively fast. However what’s left is days of bleeding, pain, constipation, emotions, dealing with leaking milk, getting used to no sleep, etc. etc. I don’t know if anyone can ever be fully prepared, but more discussion geared towards what to expect and preparing mentally for that, would have helped!!”
“Since I just had my third, this is all very fresh. I think new moms need to know about post-partum depression and anxiety, difficulties that can be encountered with breastfeeding, ways to deal with baby fussiness/gas, strategies for better sleep, and ways to help baby get on a schedule (I still need tips on a lot of these things!!).”
“The fact that you can get hit with Postpartum Depression (PPD) or Postpartum Anxiety (PPA) many months postpartum. I got hit with crippling PPA nine months after giving birth but didn’t recognize it as such because I thought it was something that happened a couple of weeks — or, at most, a couple of months — after giving birth.”
“How challenging and dare I say somewhat traumatic it felt leaving my 12 week old (I know that’s more than most working moms get) with a person I didn’t know well to go to work. And what I heard from colleagues was “you’ll get to a point where you want to be away from them.” I wasn’t there yet (maybe that’s PPD too) and anytime I heard her cry through the phone I sat and cried too. Also pumping is tough but I found a lot of helpful resources online for that.”
“That right after birth you are likely to experience floods of emotions and sudden ups and downs. After giving birth, within the first 10 days, there were many tears that would just come out of nowhere and at least one day of a complete breakdown.”
“It was always my pregnancies that were the most difficult. If there’s a thing like PPD while you’re pregnant, that was me. After delivery I was always so relieved. I wish I had more support during my pregnancies.
Specifically after delivery, I would say just two things:
1- I wish I used baby powder starting with my first kid when changing diapers. It would have avoided lots of diaper rashes (poor kid).
2- Breast feeding went well for me with all my kids. However with my first child, I didn’t realize it would take a few days for my milk to come in. I wish someone told me it was ok to supplement with formula until my milk was ready.”
“With my first child, I didn’t want to take people up on their offers to bring meals by, whether for the freezer or literally bringing that night’s dinner. I had no idea what a blessing it would be because I had no idea how exhausted and mentally spent and basically crazy I would be in those first couple weeks. A lot of communities have meal trains, a lot of people have friends or family who would be happy to come by with a meal without an expectation that they would stay for a visit if you’re not ready for that. If you don’t have a community of any sort, DO MEAL PREP! I know I’ve never wanted fresh fruit and vegetables and protein and filling meals so much as in those first few weeks! I didn’t want to ask for help, and I think this is a huge problem for moms anyway, so I’m sure a lot of women did the same thing!”
“I wish I had been more confident about my choices and not what other moms or my family members wanted me to do. Trust your own instincts, talk to your doctor for professional medical advice, and fed is best.”
“In my work as a psychologist as well as being a mom, I thinking knowing about the difference between baby blues and postpartum depression and anxiety. Many are more aware of depression postpartum, but many are learning that postpartum anxiety and OCD can happen. Also, the role of expectation. I see many women who expect pregnancy and postpartum to be a certain way and when it isn’t, there is a significant amount of distress. Personally, I was afraid of asking for help and it would be nice for people to visit but not as guests. But to truly help with baby, dishes, and food. I wish I was able to ask for help and ended up struggling with breastfeeding because I didn’t want to ask. In most cultures there are plans in place of how to help a new mother or a mother with other child and a newborn. But many of us don’t have that experience anymore. I think having someone be a designated person to check in on mom and dad for the first year postpartum can be helpful to gauge emotional well-being.”
(Advice may have been edited for length and/or clarity of responses.)
For the Moms:
- Using the bathroom can be a lot more difficult after birth, drinking lots of water to stay hydrated, your muscles will be sore making bowel movements more difficult.
- Stock up on pads or even depends. You can still bleed for weeks after birth.
- Don’t forget to brush your teeth! You are a human too.
- You will contract after birth. Can be worse while breastfeeding. It’s not over after the baby is gone.
- Your stomach will still protrude after birth, contractions will reduce size of uterus and you will slowly lose the baby weight. It won’t happen right after, give it time.
- Most, if not all, women will have some level of sadness. Lots of hormones and sleeplessness can cause the weepies. It is ok, if it doesn’t go away it could be postpartum depression which you should talk about with someone and get help since treatment will make it better.
- The amazing baby-mother bond will not happen overnight or instantaneously.
- Breastfeeding is natural but it is work (and an art form) that will get better with time. Try if you can but it is ok if you can’t.
- People will want to bring you food, visit, and help out. LET THEM! Pay them back when they have kids, and pay it forward for your (possible) next!
- Your hair, skin, sweat, smells, etc. may all change after birth.
- You may pee yourself.
- Sleep when the baby sleeps.
- Give up cleaning the house.
- As soon as you are healthy, go outside, join a playgroup, hangout with friends. Do not isolate yourself.
- Be kind and patient with yourself.
- Space out visitors so they are not all in the first week. People will try to come right away, stagger visitors so the help is spread out for longer.
For the men/other caretakers:
- Be very patient. New moms will cry a lot.
- Help feed the mom so baby gets fed. True for formula and breastfeeding.
- Take advantage of vacation time or paternity leave. The mom will appreciate it.
- Men tend to fall asleep quicker than women. Try (if you can) to be the person who gets baby in the middle of the night for nursing or bottle feeding so mom can stay somewhat sleepy.