A few weeks ago, just before 10pm on a Tuesday evening, we welcomed our son Aurelio (Leo) into the world:
We had hired a birth doula to assist with the delivery, which was a great decision, but I was unprepared for how hectic the days and week(s) immediately following the birth would be. I had this idea that while the baby is young, we could just strap him in a carrier and go about our daily routines. Baby is hungry? Give him a boob. Baby is upset? Give him a boob. Dirty diaper? Change it. Crying baby? Sooth him. (Or, stick him in the Rock and Play.) Everyone said it would be hard, and we’d need help, but I still thought that labor was the tough part and recovery afterwards would be exactly that… recovery.
I was so wrong. What followed was a period of what my husband described as “the worst fun ever.”
We spent two nights in the hospital and were released on Thursday afternoon. During that time, a parade of nurses and doctors came through at all hours for various tests, to impart crucial information, and to help us with things like breastfeeding, staying hydrated, and using the bathroom (me). And then somehow, inconceivably, we were home with our 3 day old and little man would NOT eat and what was that nurse hotline number again?!?
We really struggled to get breastfeeding going, and he lost more weight than normal — it’s a huge stressor to be recovering from a major body trauma, operating on little to no sleep, and feel unable to feed your child. We’ve since gotten some help and made major strides with feeding and weight gain, and I’m feeling positively human again (like, 60%).
For all you moms about to give birth, here’s some things I wish I had known about the first week:
- Call a relative who doesn’t annoy you, preferably one who has given birth, and bring them in to help as soon as possible. My husband and I wanted to “establish our routine with baby” before accepting help from family. No ma’am. If you can afford it, hire a postpartum doula. I needed help with baby stuff like breastfeeding, as well as things like staying fed, hydrated, and medicated. Laundry and dishes. There are lots of articles out there about how to best support new parents, but unless you’ve been there yourself or been around new parents, you may not know this stuff (I did not).
- Order a double electric breast pump. Health insurance should cover this. I ordered through yummymummystore.com and it was easy — click “insurance orders” from the top menu. You can do this as early as a month prior to your due date. Various breastfeeding advocates may tell you that you should be exclusively feeding from the boob and there’s no need to pump for the first few months — fuck that. You may very well need to pump to feed your kid, and manual pumping sucks. You’ll want to have an electric pump ready to go (you can also rent from a hospital). I went with the tried and true Medela Pump in Style.
- Same for a pacifier. We got some of these. Buy or register for a pacifier and if anyone tries that “nothing but breast” guilt crap on you, punch them right in the boob.
- Get a bra designed for hands-free pumping, like this Simple Wishes bra. After pumping for a week, I also bought some fancy accessories, like flanges that point down (so you don’t have to sit hunched over while pumping) and bags that let you sterilize the equipment in a microwave.
- Schedule an appointment, or multiple appointments, with a lactation consultant. Maybe for some women and their babies, breastfeeding is easy? That was not my experience. We used the Lytle Center at Swedish Hospital — they are great — or even better, look for someone who will come to your home.
INTERJECTION: NOT LEAVING YOUR HOME IS ACES. I’ve seen / heard of these new moms who are up and on the go and having coffee and social engagements on day 4. Bananas, I say. I plan to avoid all unnecessary social interactions outside my house for at least a month. Which is a good segway into…
- Get a big plush cushy robe and just wear that plus a nursing bra and leggings/PJ pants (and some cozy socks). Don’t worry about spending a shitload of money on this, because you’re going to wear it for a month. Forgot those fancy nursing tops with the lift-up secret panels and etc. — maybe in month 2. Or 3.
- Schedule an in-home massage with someone who specializes in postpartum. I’d venture that day 4/5 or after would be best for this. I got one this week and could easily do it every week. Your body is recovering from a MAJOR trauma. Don’t think of this as a luxury so much as a medical necessity. Also it helps prevent postpartum depression.
- Schedule a meal train. We signed up for www.mealtrain.com because several friends offered, and it’s been a great way to organize meals and allow friends and family to help and meet the baby while keeping the family fed. Out of town family and friends can also participate by having food delivered.
- Buy a car seat cover. For some reason, it really bothered me to have strangers ogling my child when we had to take him out for any reason (doctor, lactation consultant, grocery store on the way home). If this is you, you can get a muslin car seat cover for under $20.
- More about boobs:
- This saline plus coconut oil trick helped with sore nipples
- Get some Lansinoh Lanolin Cream — this stuff is great and not having to wash it off before baby nurses is key. I did not care for the reusable gel pads as much, but some people swear by them.
- I had a good deal of nipple pain following the first few nights of feeding a very tongue-tied baby, and this prescription nipple ointment was a godsend. So, find someone who can write you a prescription for it.
- Mother’s milk tea — the stuff with cardamom tastes great. It might help, it might not. I drank it anyway.
- Fenugreek — the bottle says take 3 pills daily, my lactation specialist says take twice that amount. So, I take 6 pills daily and smell like maple syrup.
- I got a Boppy pillow and a “My Brest Friend” — the latter helped a lot in the first few days, but now I just use a regular pillow.
A good friend told me that I won’t even remember the first week — a new mom is too exhausted to form long-term memories. I believe her because apparently some people go on to have additional children after all this.
It is the best worst fun a person can have.