Coming home with a new baby can feel overwhelming and scary. This is completely normal and no amount of advice can completely erase these feelings, but as a postpartum doula I always offer my clients these tips.
- Don’t get overwhelmed listening to everyone else, reading every book, and becoming so caught up in doing things perfectly. There is no perfect in parenting, trust your instincts and do what’s right for your family.
- Try to have the basic things washed and ready before heading to the hospital. Coming home and still needing to sterilize bottles and run the swaddled through the wash on day one is only going to cause unnecessary stress.
- Whether you have a vaginal or a belly birth remember your body did a lot of work and now it needs to rest and heal. Pick a spot and stay there. Whether it’s in your bed or on the sofa make yourself a cozy little home there and stay put. Water, snacks, pump parts, small cooler with ice packs to put the pumped milk in, extra swaddles, burp cloths and even diapers nearby can eliminate all the up and down all day long and will dramatically speed the healing process.
- Be a no person, not a yes person. If people want to come by and you’re not up for it say no. If they are texting or calling and you’re tired, ignore them. The only person you need to please during this time is yourself and your baby. As a side note it’s also ok to say, “I’m really not up for a visitor but we greatly appreciate meals and you’re welcome to just leave it on the porch.” People want something to do, it makes them feel good. So don’t hesitate to ask.
- Sleep is important for everyone, divide and conquer at night if you have a partner or overnight support. If both of you are up for every feeding you are going to burn out fast. Try to take shifts so you both can at least get one 4hr uninterrupted chunk of sleep at night. Pumping and letting your partner take a feed at night is a great way to make this happen. If possible have the off duty person sleep in a guest room so they can truly get uninterrupted sleep. It’s also important to keep in mind that good sleep boosts your milk supply.
- Try not to get too obsessed with breastfeeding. It’s hard and it’s ok to admit you’re struggling with it and ask for help. Lactation consultants are a wonderful resource. But if you need to skip a feed at night to get sleep, it will be ok. If you need to supplement, it is ok. If you decide breastfeeding isn’t for you, it’s ok. Breastfeeding does not equal love, it is not the only way to bond. It is simply one way to feed your child, but it is not the only way. Do what is best for you, not what everyone else says is best.
Jamie Bergren, PCD (DONA)