Archive for the ‘Postpartum’ Category

Five Tips to Promote Early Bonding

The initial bonding time with your newborn is very special. It is indeed a time that passes all too quickly. How can you promote and protect the early bonding time with your newborn? Here are five ideas for you.

1.) Get Naked.

Well, at least a little naked. There has been much research on the benefits of skin to skin contact with your baby. As soon as your baby is born, if possible, put your baby’s bare skin directly on your own bare skin. Let baby smell your chest, hear your heartbeat, and feel your warmth. Remember, he’s been in the womb, safe and snug, for around 40 weeks now. The exit into the wide world is probably quite shocking for your little one, and it’s important that he is still given the same secure feeling now that he’s outside. Besides emotional benefits for both of you, there are also health benefits of keeping your baby skin to skin- it helps regulate his temperature, breathing, and heart rate.

2.) Snuggle Up & Check Up.

Unless your baby needs immediate care in the NICU, most routine checks on a newborn can be done right on mom’s chest. Make it a point to ask for this from your doctor and nursing staff so as to avoid unneccesary separation. Note the order I put these in- snuggle first, check later. Once baby is deemed stable (which, again, can usually be determined in your arms!), ask the staff to delay routine procedures for an hour or two while you snuggle with your little one.

3.) Fall in Love.

Some mothers (myself included) find it difficult to know how to relate to the baby once he is born. Try to recall what it feels like to fall in love, and encourage those same behaviors. Talk to your baby. Put your face against his. Hold him close, stroke him, kiss him. Tell him how pleased you are to meet him, how you could hardly wait for this moment, how you will love him forever and always nurture him. These loving actions help both you and the baby to get accquainted to one another, as well as to foster motherly feelings.

4.) Room In.

I have heard some books and mothers say to give the baby to the nursery as much as you can so you can sleep in the hospital. I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure that I would be able to sleep if I didn’t know where my baby was. Yes, you will be tired. But these first few days are so fast and so precious- don’t throw them away by handing your baby off for long periods of time. Rooming in allows for more skin to skin time, talking to your baby, and getting to know him. It also encourages breastfeeding- you’ll be able to start picking up on your baby’s hunger cues faster if he’s in the room with you, and it prevents the staff from giving unwanted bottles.

5.) Get Dad (or Family) Involved.

This point is often overlooked. It’s very important for dads or other close family members to take part in getting to know their baby! Fathers, you too should hold, rock, kiss, and cuddle your newborn. Sing to him, walk with him, lie skin to skin with him. You too should enjoy this early bonding period with your child.

Finally, if you must be separated…

Sometimes, for medical reasons, a mother and her baby must be separated for a time. If that’s the case, adapt these points to your own situation. If baby must go to the NICU, send dad down to be with him. Make sure that mom has a picture of her newborn by her bedside so that she can at least enjoy looking at him that way until she can see him in person. If baby cannot be held, talk to him and admire him. If baby cannot room in, make frequent visits and stay as much as possible. When you are reunited with your baby, remember that it is a sacred time that should not be inturrupted if at all possible, and request that your baby be kept with you and procedures held off until your snuggle time is finished. These situations are ones where mom really needs for dad or another support person to advocate for her and help protect the bonding time.

Remember that even if you cannot have the immediate bonding you desire, you CAN play “catch up” later. Whenever you finally get to be with your baby, start back at the beginning and savor each moment of getting to know him. Bonding at birth is very special, but if for some reason that is not possible for you and your baby, all is not lost. The best kind of bonding continues on for a lifetime, no matter when it started.

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I Wasn’t Prepared for This… (Readying Moms for Baby Blues)

Before having your own child, did you feel prepared for life with baby? Let’s see… I personally did babysitting, working in church nurseries for years, teaching vacation bible school lessons, teaching music to grades K-12, and working in a day care with children from 6weeks-6 years. I thought I knew a lot about kids.

Before I had a child, I knew exactly how I was going to raise my own. I had patience, discernment, energy, and skill. After all, I changed about 20-30 diapers a day when I worked at daycare. I had seen every kind of poop there was, so no diaper change would scare me. I managed toddler temper tantrums with time outs and calmness. I lead circle time (learning activites) with enthusiasm and gusto. I was going to rock this mom thing.

Or so I thought.

I did not know that having a baby was going to hit me like a truck. It was and still is the most amazing thing of my entire life, but also the absolute hardest. I knew that I would be tired, but I didn’t know that I could possibly feel as exhausted as I did. I knew he would cry, but I didn’t know the full measure of frustration and despair I would reach while trying to calm him. I knew I would be nursing often, but I didn’t know that it would be near impossible to accomplish anything else for several weeks. I knew I wouldn’t get out much, but I didn’t know how stale the house would grow. I knew having a baby would affect our marriage, but I didn’t know how snappy and wretched I would become (praise God for a kind and patient husband who truly was my earthly “saving grace” for this time period). I knew there would be horomone swings, but I didn’t know that I would struggle immensely with feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and great darkness for quite some time. I knew there would be a lot to learn, but I had no idea how much.

Often, when a woman has a baby, we can become SO excited about the new life (and rightly so!) that we forget to provide support for the mother. As a new mom, I felt guilty for feeling frustrated, upset that I couldn’t get on top of things, and lost in the mass of adjustments I had to make. Wasn’t I supposed to be happy? Did this make me a bad mom? I knew I loved my baby, but why was I deparately hoping someone else would take him for a while?

Moreover, I couldn’t always identify why I was having these feelings or give myself permission to voice them. I couldn’t come to view this time in my life rationally. All I could see was the bundle of emotions- joy, helplessness, intense love, shame for feeling like I wanted a break, elation over meeting my baby, hope for the future, feelings of incompetence, the baby honeymoon, and the baby blues all at once…  I absolutely could not make sense of it all. 

I read in books that it was normal to feel this way. But nobody else was saying it. Why didn’t anyone take time to confirm what I was going through? Maybe I was just crazy, maybe I was a nutcase and a bad mother after all, and I wasn’t fit to take care of a baby. Thank goodness I had a few close family members who held me to my sanity, who let me talk without any judgement, who made me realize that it would get better with time, that this was just a brief season in my life…

New mothers need support. They need help identifying what they are feeling. They need permission to voice their feelings, their struggles, and their fears. And they need to know it’s okay to wade through the postparum period slowly. NO ONE has it all together. If a mom is struggling with true postpartum depression, she especially needs to know it’s okay to get help, and we should encourage her to do so.

No woman can ever be truly prepared for the changes a baby brings, but I think it would help a lot if we were willing to say to pregnant moms, “When you have this baby, things might start to get hard. Absolutely wonderful and amazing, but really hard. When that time comes, I’m here to talk.” We need to be there for moms emotionally both before and after the birth.

I would never trade the “fourth trimester” stretch with my son for anything. Nothing could compare to how beautiful it was getting to know him in those first few days and weeks. But I will tell you this- toiling through the immediate postpartum period has compelled me to want to help other moms facing it too. I encourage you to do the same.

Taking a moment to focus on mom, asking her how she’s feeling, allowing her to take a break, letting her cry and talk, giving her a chance to nap, validating her inner battles, not telling her how she should feel… All the while being quietly accepting, patient, and loving towards her… all of these little gestures can bring a little light to mom’s day and make a world of difference.

Postpartum Survival

I think that no matter how much you prepare for the birth of your baby, no one can really prepare you for that leap into parenthood. It is wonderful and amazing and a huge blessing and I would never trade if for anything, but man- it hits you like a truck. Here’s a list of things that helped me through the postpartum period. Please add your own suggestions in the comment box.

  • Talking to my husband and nurturing my relationship with him.
  • Talking with other women & finding out this is normal.
  • Getting in the tub.
  • Letting my husband watch my son for a few minutes and trying not to worry about him.
  • Exercising, once I got the okay to do so.
  • Walking outside and getting fresh air.
  • Going someplace with people.
  • Leaving the bedroom.
  • Napping when I was tired. Oh, how I regretted it when I didn’t!
  • Crying as much as I needed to get it out of my system.
  • Trying to relax while nursing. When I was tense, so was my son.
  • Doing something productive- even just a load of dishes.
  • Not worrying about the way the house looked.
  • Giving myself a break for not feeling 100% yet.
  • Realizing it was okay if it took me a little while to get back into the swing of things- hey, I’m still working on it.
  • Not comparing myself to other mothers.
  • Not stressing out too much when I wasn’t sure if I was doing the right thing with my baby.
  • Not judging myself for eating too much chocolate.
  • Realizing that the nighttime nursings are only for a time, and I will miss them.
  • Being content with the fact that all I talk about right now is the baby.
  • Not expecting my belly to go away in a month.
  • Realizing that everyone starts at square one when they have a baby.
  • Taking time to be grateful for what I had- some childless women would give everything to go through this time with a baby, no matter how hard it was.
  • Being content to do the best that I could do.
  • Loving my baby.