Postpartum Life - What to Expect
A lot of preparation goes into labour and delivery that we forget the rest of things that happen after that phase is over. Once our baby is born, there comes a mental shift. From cooing over the little kicks in your belly to having to look after an entire human being. A baby that depends on you to feed, clean and raise up. You become busy with the routine of feeding constantly, changing diapers more times that you remember and burping never ending. It begins to feel like you left the pregnancy stage expecting a landfall with rest but instead you've become more busy and on- demand than you were during pregnancy. You begin to appreciate those pregnancy times and might begin to miss your bump.
The reality of life during postpartum can easily make any new mother feel overwhelmed. A few things to expect during postpartum and how to maintain your sanity and wellness through it:
- Postpartum Constipation
- Postpartum Cramps
- Nipple pain and Latching a baby
- Postpartum Depression
Knowing each of these ahead of time and understanding what they mean and how to manage them is the best way to have an easy postpartum phase. Knowledge is power.
It is quite common to experience constipation after delivery. A lot of factors like painful sensations down there can make many of us terrified of having a bowel movement… “the fear of the first poo” Other causes include the lingering effects of pregnancy hormones, taking iron supplements, perineal degree tear during delivery, haemorrhoids sustained during pregnancy or delivery etc.
Tips to deal with this:
The first poo can happen in 1-3 days; it's important to move the bowel when the urge comes rather than holding it back as this makes the chances of constipation very likely. Even with a stitched perineal tear, you can have a good bowel movement without ripping your stitches. Avoid straining. Eat nutrient-dense high-fibre meals like whole grains, fruits (including dried fruits such as prunes) and vegetables. Increase your water intake and other fluids (have a minimum of 10 glasses per day); if these don’t work and you find that you are dealing with constipation, your doctor can recommend a laxative or a stool softener.
Pro Tip: Eating nutrient-dense high fibre meals and increasing your fluid intake closer to your pregnancy due date and through your postpartum period, will help you have a great bowel movement and avoid postpartum constipation.
This topic is not talked about enough. I bet you thousands of new mothers about to deliver their babies are unaware something like this ever exists. After a mother delivers her baby and placenta, the uterus begins its journey of returning to its pre-pregnancy size and functionality. This process normally takes about 6 weeks to complete, but breastfeeding quickens the process. Whenever your newborn suckles at your breast or when a new mom pumps breast milk from her breast, a special hormone called oxytocin is released by your brain; this oxytocin works on your uterus and causes them to contract. For many, these contractions will feel like bad menstrual cramps while for others it feels like labour contractions. It can be intense the first 1-3 days and then begin to settle. Having these intense cramps lasting 5 minutes every time your baby nurses can be hard to deal with as a first-time mum and can discourage you from breastfeeding.
Here are helpful tips:
Get a hot water bag and lay it across your lower abdomen during nursing or pumping sessions. Practise the same deep breathing techniques that you used during labour whenever the cramps start, keep doing it until the cramps stop. If these don’t work, take over-the-counter pain medication.
Nipple pain and Latching:
WHO (World Health Organisation) says that we should breastfeed our babies exclusively for 6 months. The rate of exclusive breastfeeding at 6 months in the UK is 1%. Every baby deserves breast milk and all its benefits. Many new mothers desire to breastfeed their babies but they encounter challenges with breastfeeding that defeats their goals. Two of the most common challenges are nipple pain, and latching a baby properly.
When a baby is born and they start nursing at the breast, they typically nurse every 2 to 3 hours, this is a new experience for a first-time mum and before you know it she will begin to experience some degree of tenderness at the nipple, while other mothers feel intense pain with this. Nipple tenderness within the first 1 to 2 weeks can also be a result of the latch learning curve between a mother and baby.
It’s important to know what a correct latch is before the baby is born, this will help a new mum identify an incorrect latch and work on it to become better or seek help early; if nipple pain persists after 2 weeks then it's an incorrect latch.
Tips to deal with this:
- Nipple cream for nipple tenderness
- My book “Breastfeeding with Ease” will help you understand what a correct latch is during pregnancy and during postpartum and how to fix an incorrect latch.
- Try different breastfeeding positions
- Make sure your baby has a wide gape before latching on
Low breast milk supply:
Some of the factors that lead to this include an incorrect latch, inadequate nursing or pumping sessions etc. Almost all breastfeeding challenges have a solution; Before you pick up the container of infant formula, First start by increasing the frequency of your nursing or pumping sessions; Boost your result with breastfeeding products. If these don’t work seek help from a lactation consultant.
A lot of women go through mood changes during pregnancy and postpartum. One of the most common ones is postpartum depression. It can rob a mother of the joy that comes with being a new mum. It is vital to seek help early when you notice a constant low mood, lack of appetite, lack of interest in things that previously excited you, difficulty connecting with your baby etc.
As much as we want to achieve everything we dreamed of during postpartum; it's of vital essence that we are aware of our mental capacity and know when to stop or take a break or seek professional help. Always remember that you cannot pour from an empty cup. A happy mother equals a happy baby.
Studies have shown the special love hormone oxytocin is released when you hug and kiss your baby. Doing this via skin-to-skin multiple times a day can keep your mood elevated.
Tips to help:
- Lots of kisses and cuddles with your baby
- Eat nutrient-dense meals
- Getting a good night's rest
- Go on a refreshing walk or exercise moderately
- Having a good support system and never hesitate to ask for help