Saturday, April 16, 2011

6 Recommendations For A New Mom

Me and Koan a year ago!
Last week my good friend Carey gave birth to a baby boy. It was very emotional for me and my husband hearing updates of her labour and the joy of her baby's birth, almost exactly a year after we went through it ourselves.
Our hearts are bursting as we remember all the emotions and feel them again on our friends' behalf. Carey has always been like a sister to me, though we have not lived in the same city for over ten years, and it almost breaks my heart that I can't be there taking care of her. I remember how hard a time I had, coming home after a challenging labour. We had a lot of support from our families, but we needed so much more. 

Knowing what I would have liked someone to do for me, I have made plans to visit Carey and her new family next week. I'm bringing another friend to help look after my son, so that I can help look after Carey and her baby. Hold the baby while she naps or showers, make her dinner, do her dishes and laundry, and whatever else she needs. And, we're staying in a hotel so we can leave the new parents in peace whenever they want. 

Until I can be there for her in person, I have compiled a list of suggestions, recommendations and resources to help her navigate through those first weeks as a mom. I hope it will be of use to other new moms too.

1. Ask for help
Yes, but HOW? The first few months of my son's life I was so frantic all the time I didn't have a chance to think about what it was I needed. And I needed so much I couldn't narrow it down to a specific request. Gloria Lemay has composed a list of suggestions you can customize or pass on as-is to well-wishers with vague offers of "If there's anything I can do to help. . ."

2. Take it slow. 
Photo by Symlinked
Do as little as possible for the first six weeks. Many cultures around the world have a traditional 40 day "lying-in" period, where new moms stay at home with their babies, and have female family members care for them and their homes (here's one example). Sounds pretty glorious to me. Not very realistic in our culture though. Still, mention this to your mom and sisters and cousins and friends, and take them up on any offers to help out. Don't be in a hurry to start running errands and socializing. Of course, get out if it makes you feel good. And go for walks! But take it easy all you can. Your body has some massive healing to do, even if your birth went smoothly.

If you had a c-section you have even more healing to do. Here's a great list of tips for easing your recovery

3. Skin to skin contact with baby.
Photo by Tostadophoto.com
This is not just for immediately after the birth, but throughout babyhood. Most especially in the early days though. Skin to skin contact helps regulate a baby's temperature, heart rate, blood sugar, immune function, breathing, and breastfeeding, as well as promoting milk flow and oxytocin (happy hormones) in mom. It enhances bonding for moms and dads, and makes babies happy. I read a great article (that seems to have disappeared, so I can't link to it) that recommended that new moms spend as much time as possible in bed with their baby wearing only underwear/diaper. I have tried doing this with my baby when he is fussy, and he gets so calm and cuddly, during and afterwards. 

Studies on the benefits of touch on newborns illustrate the fact that touch is a basic human need. Everybody needs it! (Speaking of which, finding some time to cuddle with your partner is also essential!)

Besides cuddling in bed, a stretchy wrap is a great way to get skin to skin contact and close cuddles when you're up and around. Here is a great article explaining the benefits of "kangaroo care."

4. Your baby will cry. 
Photo by Tostadophoto.com
Probably a lot. It's okay. I guess this is obvious, but it was very hard for me. I guess I thought my natural instincts would make me instantly able to calm my baby. When I couldn't, I felt so helpless. We got a copy of the dvd The Period of Purple Crying* from the hospital. It was comforting to hear that what we were experiencing was normal, and we weren't doing anything wrong. In addition to that video, I recommend The Happiest Baby On The Block* (dvd and/or book). I haven't seen or read the whole thing, but I listened to an interview with the author, and we recently watched The Happiest Toddler On The Block.* It was amazing and I think the baby version would have helped us out. It gives specific techniques for calming and soothing a crying baby and getting him/her to sleep. 

5. Find a mom and baby group.
Photo by Glow Mama
They are everywhere. Ask your local health unit or public health nurse if you can't find any info on the internet. The benefits of meeting with other new moms are enormous. You get so much information about the huge range of what's normal, get answers to your questions, and get to socialize with people who are going through the same things as you. I started going to a group when I was pregnant and feeling isolated, then went back when my baby was a month old (and still go now). 

6. Take baby to a chiropractor.
Find one that specializes in babies. Their approach is very gentle--no bone cracking! Several people recommended this to me after my baby was born. I heard it could be a cure for colic, but even if your baby is mild-tempered it is a good idea to get his/her alignment checked out. Squeezing through the birth canal is a strain on babies' spines, and starting life out of alignment can lead to a vast array of health issues in the short and long term. Forceps or Cesarean births are especially likely to cause spinal disturbances. 

We took Koan to a chiropractor when he was six weeks old, and continue to take him to help him work through any health challenges. I feel it has greatly enhanced his health and temperament. 

What tips or resources would you recommend for a new mom?

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1 comment:

  1. "dunstan baby language". (youtube). learn the language of your babies cries. this was very helpfull for me.
    http://www.dunstanbaby.com/

    ReplyDelete