Updated: Jan 23, 2020
As I sit here two months into my maternity leave I wanted to write a different kind of blog post today. Not one on a photo session, or photo craft, not one about photography at all. But one about motherhood.
I have a few friends and family members expecting their first babies in the next few months, and as I chat with them, I realized there was a lot I wished I had known about birth and postpartum, that no one talked about. Everyone talked about the adorable squishy little babe and how amazing newborns smelled, but no one told me about the realities of labor and Postpartum.
In this post:
What I wished I someone had told me about postpartum and childbirth
Some products I like
What to put in your hospital bag (and what to leave at home)
Here we go......
What I wished someone had told me about postpartum and childbirth:
1. You will be hot postpartum! Like temperature, sweaty hot. All of the post-birth hormones and the hormones your body uses to as it preps to make milk make you hot! This starts very soon postpartum, like the first few days, and continues for a few weeks. Plan on bringing cool PJs to the hospital with layers. And expect to wake up sweating for a few days/weeks.
2. Breastfeeding isn't as easy or intuitive as you think it should be - and sometimes it doesn't work out. In the beginning, it hurts when they latch. I found pulling the baby's lower lip down after they latch to help ease the pain of the initial latch. Also getting some lanolin cream helps. After a few days baby will get better at nursing and your nipples will get used to it and it won't hurt. If it hurts longer than a week after the baby is born to get some help from a lactation consultant.
Also, be gentle with yourself if breastfeeding doesn't work out. I was lucky to produce enough milk for my baby, but I know others who have had trouble or other reasons they can't or don't want to breastfeed. As mentioned above, breastfeeding isn't easy. My personal opinion is fed is best and moms need to support each other, so don't judge!
3. Lactation consultants are wonderful! Speaking of lactation consultants, check to see if your pediatrician's office has one. Your milk will likely come in AFTER you leave the hospital and it is helpful to see a lactation consultant a few days after your milk is in. Our pediatrician's office had a lactation consultant and it was really nice to see her when we were already there for our baby's one week follow up, rather than making a separate appointment or going back to the hospital.
4. Your milk comes in a few days after birth: As mentioned above, your milk will come in a few days after baby is born, likely once you are already home from the hospital. Your milk coming in might make you emotional. It's super hormonal, your overwhelmed, exhausted and sleep-deprived and the engorgement might hurt. One lactation consultant said to me "As the milk flows, so does the tears" and I found that to be so true, be gentle with yourself.
5. Hair loss: Starting at about 6 weeks to 2 months postpartum you will start to lose all the extra hair that made your locks so luscious and thick during pregnancy. You will feel like you are losing globs of hair. Then as it grows back in starting at about 5 months postpartum you will have terrible whispy regrowth. It's annoying, especially if you have curly hair the frizz is ridiculous! Find a good hairdresser who can help you with a cut that manages it
6. Get partners involved early. Since I was breastfeeding and Mark couldn't do that :) he did all night time diapers so I could rest between nursing. We would change a diaper between sides, it gave me a break and woke the baby up enough to finish eating.
Once you get the ok to start bottles, we had baby take a bottle right before we went to bed. I would pump and get some alone time and Mark would get bonding time with the baby.
7. Be prepared that things might not go as planned: It's great to have a birth plan and a general idea of how you would ideally like your birth to go, but know it might change. At the midpoint of my pregnancy I had placenta previa, so there was a possibility I was going to need a C section. I ended up having a vaginal birth, but because I had thought I was having a C-section earlier on, I came to the hospital prepared for both. Bring at least one pair of high waisted pants in case you have a c-section (to avoid bothering the scar). I also had a massive postpartum hemorrhage with my most recent baby (not to scare you) but have a plan for if you need to be rushed to surgery if you need to. Luckily Mark and I had talked about it, so in the chaos, we knew our wishes were for Mark to stay with the baby and that baby could have formula if needed while I was in surgery. It made a scary time just every so slightly less scary.
8. More general nursing tips.
If baby falls asleep while nursing tickle their feet or slowly wiggle your boob back and to forth to encourage them to keep eating
Change diapers between sides, in hopes that it will wake baby up enough to keep eating
Think about building a frozen stash of milk a few weeks after baby is born. It is helpful to get stash early so you don't have to stress about it when you go back to work, or if you want to just have a trip to Target by yourself
If you want to build a supply by adding an extra pumping session, the morning, after the first feed is often best because your supply will be the best then
After you've started a bit of a freezer stash, thaw one for a bottle and test it. Sometimes milk can produce Lipase after it is frozen which makes the milk taste soapy. You want to make yours doesnt do that before you put to much effort into bulding a stash! (more on that: here)
Get a haaka, it collects milk from the opposite side while you nurse on the other. It's an easy way to gather extra milk and get a stash going. Like this one here
9. It's OK to be overwhelmed. Suddenly being responsible for a tiny human, while you are hormonal and sleep deprived is HARD. After our struggle with infertility and loss, when our first son was born I sometimes felt like I "couldn't" be upset or overwhelmed because I had waited so long for this. But that's not true. It's hard, lean on others if you can, try to make time for yourself, make time for self-care. And know that postpartum depression and anxiety are more common than you think and reach out for help if you need it <3
Some products I like:
Nursing PJs from Kindred Bravely
Nursing nightgown form Kindred Bravely
Nursing night time bra from Kindred Bravely
Everyday Nursing Bra - To start out I liked this one from sugar cake on Amazon or at Nordstrom. Early on your size will fluctuate as your supply regulates. Also, your rib cage will have grown at the end of pregnancy so you won't want a super structured bra
Cute Nursing Bras: As your supply regulates, and you start feeling more human, less zombie a few months after the baby is born, Natori makes a really cute nursing bra, or go to Nordstrom's, they can alter any bra to be a nursing bra!
Hands-Free Pumping Bra: I like this one from Medela, but really anyone works. You can multitask, great for going back to work, type while you pump! 15.
What to put in your hospital bag (and what to leave at home)
Your phone and an extra long charger
A pillow for yourself and partner, they have them at the hospital but they are very flat. Put them in a bright or patterned pillowcase so you don't get them mixed up with the hospitals (or forget them, like I did)
Hair clips or hair ties to keep your hair out of your faceS
Computer and power cord, to watch movies
Toothbrush, toothpaste, and mouthwash
Toiletry items: face wash, soap or shower gel, makeup
Underwear you can wear with pads
nursing nightgown or PJs
at least one pair of loos high-waisted pants, in case you end up having a c-section
going home outfit for baby
going home or nicer outfit (but comfy) for you if you do pictures
slippers or flipflops
a nursing cover, in case you have visitors you don't feel comfortable nursing in front of
a night mask if you are sensitive to light
A few things to leave at home:
Leave the diapers and wipes. They have these at the hospital. Make sure to take the extra ones home with you!
Leave baby's outfits. You don't need too many options, you will likely just keep baby in a diaper and swaddled since they will be doing vitals on the baby and you will be changing diapers a lot. Having them just in a diaper and blanket makes things easier!
If you've been through labor before, what would you add to this list?
Are you expecting a baby soon? Contact me if you would like to schedule a maternity, newborn or family lifestyle session!