Some, all or none of this will be true for you but this is what I’ve experienced and I hope it will help you, even just a little bit.
First off, I’m no expert, simply a new mum who has learned a thing or two from experience (albeit a very short amount of time, but a lot happens in 4 months!) and from a lot of reading!
WHAT TO TAKE TO THE HOSPITAL
Among the main things that you’ll need like your toiletries, stuff for the baby, camera etc, you will need maternity pads, and lots of them. For a natural delivery anyway. Go to Kmart and buy the cheapest undies you can find, 2 for every day you’ll be at hospital at least and a whole bunch more for when you’re home; one’s you can just throw in the bin because you will most likely leak a bit. Bring a good amount of changes of clothes too incase there’s leakages, vomits, breast milk spillages etc.
Too much information alert…there will be a fair amount of bleeding. You’ll be swollen ‘down there’ for a couple weeks and expect to still have your pregnancy waddle as walking is a little uncomfortable. Downstairs area didn’t feel ‘back to normal’ for me for 8 weeks and I had a fairly text book delivery and only one small tear. But this is individual and depends on your delivery..tearing, intervention etc.
THE FIRST 3 DAYS (or so)
Ok, so you’ve given birth and you’re on this massive high and the midwives leave you to it. What!? What do I do? When do I feed him/her, when do I change the nappy, when do I put them down? It’s scary. Trust yourself is all I can say. Hold your baby, take all of them in, the rest will come to you. It’ll be change nappy, feed, put down to sleep, nappy, feed, sleep…and repeat, you get the idea.
You will cry. Don’t be alarmed, it’s perfectly normal. You’ve got a rush of hormones running through your body, you’ve just given birth don’t forget! One minute you have this baby in your tummy that’s not quite real and then he/she arrives and it’s all very surreal. You’ll be wondering what’s taking so long for your milk to come, worrying that your baby will starve, are they latching on correctly, and then you’re feeling sore and wondering what’s normal. I’d say all that you’re experiencing is normal, but it’s worth talking to your midwives and doctors while you’re still in hospital, they’ve seen and heard it all before I’m sure.
Expect to feel a little lost. You’ll have moments where your instincts just kick in and feel like you were meant to be a mum and it comes easy, and you’ll have other moments where you have no idea what’s going on and that’s ok too. It’s scary, you have a little human being in your care, you want to get it right!
Your baby will be on you A LOT until your milk comes in. The more they suck, the quicker it’ll happen. Usually it’s between 2-4 days. Make sure you have some lansinoh or equivalent nipple cream.
Babies tend to jut their tongue out like they’re lapping the roof of their mouth or making smacking sounds with their lips when they’re hungry. Crying is the next thing if you miss the cues. They will feed every 2-4 hours usually. They say a newborn shouldn’t go more than 5 hours between feeds so wake your baby if that’s the case. Normally I would say never wake a sleeping baby, but in this case, definitely.
Breastfeeding should NOT hurt, in fact you shouldn’t really notice or feel sore at all. But if your baby hasn’t attached properly and is pinching or sucking incorrectly you may get some damage so that nipple cream will come in handy for the short term. My STRONGEST suggestion would be to see a lactation consultant before you leave the hospital and make sure you feel confident that you have the baby on correctly. It’s a pain to try and get out of the house when you get home if you need to see them and it’s just easier to get it right while you’re at the hospital and before you get any damage to your nipples.
I would suggest having a bland diet (as if being on a restricted diet somewhat for the last 9 months is enough, you need to do it breastfeeding too!) for the first 6 weeks and gradually introduce things one at a time to see if it’s an irritant for the baby. Things like onions, tomatoes, chocolate, cheese, etc and any food that would make you gassy will make the baby gassy. Breastfeeding is not always easy and doesn’t come naturally to everyone. I loved it personally, but it’s not for everyone. I, reluctantly, gave it up after 3 months with tummy issues with my little guy and his fussing about on the boob, just got so difficult and stressful I decided to stop. And things have been much easier. But each to their own. As long your baby is fed it doesn’t really matter where it comes from so do what’s best for you both.
Breastfeeding can take so long in the beginning. It’s a combination of things really. First off you’re waiting for your milk to come, then they are so sleepy (normal) that they fall asleep on the boob and you need to wake them up so they get a proper belly full and don’t then want you again an hour later when it should be 2-3 hours later. Tricks for keeping baby awake, which I found inconvenient at first, is stripping them down a bit or exposing their arms and feet so they’re not so warm and cozy and then get sleepy. Stroke their hair, cheeks, tickle their arms and their back. Anything to stimulate them so they don’t fall asleep. If need be, take them off the breast and put them down, they may wake up realising they’re not on the boob anymore. If you’re interested in expressing and they only take one boob you can express the other side and build up a stockpile for the freezer for a rainy day for when you want hubby to feed and you rest, or when they go through growth spurt and you need a break from 2 hourly feeds! But that’s up to you if you want to express, some women have a good supply and a good feeding schedule and don’t need or want to. It’s time consuming and tiring but it can be helpful to have some stored if you need it.
Be careful of mastitis. I thought I had it when I first came home from hospital. I had the shakes, shivers, hot and cold flushes, it felt like I had the flu. Make sure your boob has been emptied (as best you can anyway) and in the beginning they may feel lumpy, but I would just massage downward towards the nipple when baby was feeding to clear the milk ducts so they wouldn’t get blocked. Also, a hot shower and massaging them downwards helps too. Just something to keep an eye on.
I found that getting a pajama top that buttons down from the top to be best especially in winter when you don’t want to be hiking your top up in the middle of the night and getting cold, you can easily get your boob out. Invest in good maternity bras, and good few of them because if your baby is a dribbler like mine was, my bras were forever soaked. Also, use a basic face wash cloth you can tuck into your bra to soak up as much of the overflow as possible. I also got a maternity sleeping bra that is even softer than regular maternity bras and they just give you bit more room, especially when your boobs fill up quite a bit in the night. You’d only have a tight bra on if you were trying to stop breastfeeding.
THE FIRST 3 MONTHS
It will all be a bit of a blur looking back, it goes so fast but seems never ending at the same time. This first 3 months for me were the hardest. First of all your body (and emotions) is still recovering from the birth, whether it be natural or by caesarian, and you just don’t feel yourself. Your life as your knew it doesn’t exist anymore (not a bad thing) and now revolves around feeding, sleeping and nappy changing. Your baby only knows to cry to communicate with you and it can be very stressful if you can’t figure out what’s going on. Keep cool, it’ll all be ok. Try changing their nappy, feed them, burp them, wrap them up, give them a cuddle and rub their back. Sometimes all they need is being wrapped up to feel secure and being held to know they’re safe. You’re also very emotional and because you’re so sleep deprived that it only further compounds things. You will be exhausted but just know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and stick with it. When you get more than 2 hours sleep in row it makes a difference, I remember the first time I got 4 hours straight, I felt like a new woman!! And just wait for that first smile, makes things soooo worth it. And then you get giggles and squeals and genuine joy when you look at them.
Change their nappy before a feed (providing it needs it), that way you can just put them down to sleep and know they’re dry.
Don’t put them down too soon as they have consumed a lot of liquid and may sound like they are bringing it back up again, like a gurgling/swallowing sort of sound in the back of their throat. We found elevating the bassinet slightly helped keep it down. But again, that was our situation.
Burp. Burp. Burp. As much as you can. The more you can get up the better because if it makes it’s way down, by the end of the day it becomes a REAL problem and I reckon that’s when people think they have a baby with colic when they don’t, it’s just wind pain. Colic is crying more than 3 hours per day, 3 days per week, for more than 3 weeks. It’s constant and usually inconsolable. This crying in the afternoon is most probably a combination of a few things, in my opinion anyway, like wind, not enough sleep, and possibly overstimulation if you’ve had a lot of visitors or you’re entertaining them a lot. They really can only take a small amount before they get tired and have had enough, especially the first 3 months. You may think you’re not doing much but it takes very little to entertain a newborn.
For the first 8 weeks, roughly, your baby will sleep. A lot. Enjoy it while it lasts. That was the case for me anyway. After that he started to become more and more alert. Babies this young don’t have all that much awake time. Now that he’s 4 months he has maximum hour and a half but that’s really only if he’s had a massive nap beforehand otherwise 1 hour is good. But this is my baby, it’s best you read your baby’s tired signs and act quickly because when they’re overtired you KNOW about it let me tell you. Early tired signs are not making eye contact, needing stimulation to stay happy. Late tired signs are rubbing their eyes, pulling their ears and yawning. Ngala have this information on their website about what to look out for and tips.
Take a look at the website ‘Dunstan baby language’. There are descriptions to sounds that your baby will make and it makes things so much easier when you don’t know why they’re crying. For example, ‘ow’ means they’re tired, and ‘neh’ means their hungry etc.
I think self settling is an awesome thing a baby can learn providing it’s a gentle way of teaching them. It’s ok to rock, bounce, pat, shush your baby to sleep if they need help, I don’t think its going to create bad habits like people say. And if your baby is distressed that’s not really a nice way to try and sleep, they need to be calm. Do what’s best for you and your baby, whatever works I say. You’ll be so knackered that you just want to get the baby to sleep as soon as possible so you can sleep yourself. But self settling is great because they actually stay asleep for longer than one sleep cycle (40 minutes roughly) and can put themselves back to sleep when they have a period of being awake. Sucking on their fingers is a good way to settle. My boy will only use his fingers to settle at bed time and needs a dummy for his day naps but we’re working on it!
If your baby won’t stop crying don’t be afraid to use a dummy to shut them up, sometimes they just need that sucking action to soothe them. It’s good for getting rid of hiccups too.
Stress and anxiety are a killer. Not literally! It can be quite debilitating when you have a crying baby and you feel like you’ve tried everything and you don’t know why you can’t settle them. You feel like you can’t breathe sometimes and you have moments of dread. Don’t worry, this feeling will pass. And when you finally do something right (which in fact you are doing every day anyway, it just doesn’t feel that way) then you totally need a hi-five as it’s such a good feeling. That gives you the strength to carry on and take on the next challenge.
I hope this has helped at least one person as I would have liked to have read something like this early on.
So, my son Owen is four and a half months old now. Along the way I’ve made so many mistakes, I’ve cried, I’ve laughed, I’ve wanted to run away and squeeze him tight all in the same day. I decided I needed to write things down, my experiences and things I’ve learned, even as a form of therapy if nothing else. I also wanted to pass on what I’ve learnt to other mums without it seeming like I was putting my two cents in or giving an opinion where it wasn’t wanted. I wanted to share what I’d been through and maybe what I had to say would be exactly what another mum needed to hear and help somehow. So I sent it to the great gals at Baby Hints and Tips to see if they could post it for me and now they’ve asked to me write something for you lovely mummies (and daddies) to read every month.