What to Expect in the Early Weeks
The first few weeks of your baby’s life are a very special time of learning for both you, and your baby. It is a time of discovery of the unique personality and needs of this new little person you’ve carried for the past 9 or 10 months. Your body goes through a lot of changes, and your baby changes a great deal, as well.
Sleep, as you used to know it, is very different now. Rather than sleeping whenever you pleased, and getting up late on the weekends, you’re very likely sleeping for short stretches of time, and in a rather unpredictable pattern.
It seems that just when you think you’ve got things figured out, the baby goes through a growth spurt, or just needs you more for one reason or another, and your idea of what is “normal” for your baby undergoes a new definition.
Just keep telling yourself, “this too shall pass.” These early weeks and months of your baby’s life are a precious gift that you can never get back. Never again will your baby be this small. Enjoy these days, for the gift that they are, and know that one day, you will get to sleep when you want. For now, the greatest gift you can give your child, and yourself, is a willingness to be open to whatever life has to offer, moment by moment. Rather than torment yourself with ideas about what your baby “should be doing” at this point, or what you “should be doing” as parents, just go with your instincts, and be open to meeting your baby’s needs. Despite what others might say, your child does not have the capacity to be “spoiled” right now. Meeting your baby’s needs in a timely manner builds your baby’s trust and confidence in you as her parents, and establishes a bond that carries through the rest of your lives.
Expect to feel like all you do is breastfeed. Babies need to nurse every 2-3 hours around the clock. Considering that a feeding can take 20-40 minutes, on average, you will likely get an hour or two break between feedings. Sometimes, your baby will want to “cluster feed,” which means she will nurse practically non-stop for an hour or more at a time, and then will take a nice long nap when she’s done. Follow your baby’s cues, rather than watching the clock, and you will establish a plentiful milk supply. In time, your baby’s feedings will likely be farther apart. Timing feedings and getting wrapped up in schedules, in the early weeks, will just create extra worry and feelings of inadequacy. Follow your heart and follow your baby, and you’ll know what to do.
In the midst of all of this adjustment to parenthood, your own body is going through a lot of changes. Your uterus, which used to be as high as 40 cm or more above your pubic bone, will shrink to its pre-pregnancy size during the first few weeks after the birth. You will likely be adjusting to the change in blood volume, hormones, and center of gravity over the first few weeks. You may have periods of emotional outbursts, mixed with moments of happiness. You may feel like you don’t know who you are anymore. These feelings are all very normal.
Your Midwives Are There to Support You!
The midwives of NOVA Natural Birth Center will talk with you by phone within the first 24 hours after the birth. We plan to see you at home at 2-3 days postpartum. If all is well, we see you again at 1-2 weeks after the birth, and again at 6 weeks postpartum. If anything isn’t quite right, we’ll see you more often than that.
At each postpartum visit, we check on both you, and your baby. At the 2 day postpartum visit, we do the birth certificate, the newborn metabolic screen (PKU Test), and a keepsake birth certificate with footprints. We check to be sure that your bleeding is OK, and check your blood pressure, temperature, and pulse, to be sure your recovery is going as it should. We make sure breastfeeding is going well, asking you about your baby’s latch, any soreness you may be experiencing, and checking for signs of plugged ducts or mastitis. We check to be sure you’re eating well and getting plenty of rest, as well.
We also check on the baby, doing a full newborn exam at every postpartum visit. We monitor the baby’s weight gain, and look for signs of jaundice. We make sure your baby is nursing well, and is developing according to the usual milestones.
At the 6-week postpartum visit, we do all of the checks we’ve done at the other postpartum visits. In addition to that, we also discuss family planning, breast self exam, and other matters relating to well-woman care. We can also do a PAP smear during that visit, if you desire.