Sarah Bay: Post-baby advice
Sarah Bay's daughter, Dylan Marie, as an infant. She was born at home in Peterborough in October 2010.
peterborough, sarah bay, mid-wife, health
Families wait with great anticipation for the arrival of their new babies. Most attend many health checkups, eat good food, prepare for the birth, and buy all the cute hats, blankets and newborn essentials. But how many actually prepare for the first post-partum weeks at home with a newborn baby?
As a labor and delivery nurse, I spent the last flurrying moments of a family’s hospital stay trying to prepare them for the days and weeks ahead by packing in tips, advice and important warning signs into a distracted, often interrupted, 20 minute discharge talk. As a midwife, I try to share this same set of information in shorter five minute segments during the last few pre-natal visits so I can just review them in the immediate postpartum hours, but I still see eyes glaze over.
After seeing that glazed over look a few times, I decided it was time to write things down. So I put together a nifty print-out to share with each family before the baby arrives. Here are some of the highlights:
1. Prepare your home as if a huge hungry crowd is about to arrive. Have easy to prepare meals at your fingertips, including a few dishes stashed away in the freezer.
∎ I suggest you make doubles of a few dishes in the last months of pregnancy – that’s an easy way to stock your freezer for the first few weeks post-partum.
∎ A stash of healthy finger foods – like nuts, dried or frozen fruit and granola bars – is also good to keep for snacks; many women have raging appetites in the weeks after delivery, especially if nursing.
2. Stock up your medicine cabinet. Even an uncomplicated vaginal delivery is physically demanding to the body and deserves healing attention.
∎ Daily vitamin C supplementation will help speed healing and decrease your susceptibility to seasonal bugs.
∎ Homeopathic oral Arnica and ibuprofen (same as Motrin or Advil) will treat the swelling and discomfort that accompanies birth (both vaginal and cesarean) and early breastfeeding engorgement. I suggest to my clients to take both every six hours for the first three days regardless of their pain level. This prevents the pain from getting out of hand, improving your ability to care for your baby.
∎ Epsom salt baths (1-2 cups in a bath tub of warm water) once or twice a day will also speed tissue healing and help all that extra fluid from pregnancy and labor leave your body. I’ve seen women hobble into the bathroom for this treatment and dance out twenty minutes later. It can work that well.
∎ Marshmallow root can minimize and treat early symptoms of clogged ducts to prevent breast infections (mastitis) and ease urinary discomfort for many. It can be used daily or as needed based on symptoms.
3. Ask for personal and professional help sooner rather than later. Almost all postpartum complications can be managed with minimal medical attention or stress if addressed early. Like after going on a long run, it takes a day or two for the muscle pain of birth to set in, so expect some worsening of discomfort initially. However, once you start feeling better, in general you should continue to improve; any new pain or healing setbacks deserve attention from your delivering provider. The same goes for nursing advice – ask often, try new techniques liberally, and don’t hesitate to go in and visit one of the local lactation consultants or postpartum nurses as many times as it takes. One ignored setback in nursing can take weeks to correct, while immediate help can reset things on a healthy path and avoid all that stress.
4. Say yes to help from family and friends and stop trying to act like a hostess (this advice is for both the family with the new baby and the friends and extended family who want to visit). Accept (or even expect) food from visiting friends and family. Meals that can be stored or frozen well are best in case you have ten visitors in one day (think pot pies, casseroles or even fixings for sandwiches or bagels). These meals don’t need to be eaten with the visitors necessarily; the point of bringing food is to relieve household tasks for the new parents so they can bond, rest and heal. Websites like www.mealtrain.com can be used to help spread out the meals.
And while sitting in a throne being served for a week is in fact counterproductive for healing, lots of up and down, standing and entertaining is harmful, too, and takes away from caring for yourself and the baby so listen to your body and only do what feels right.
Lastly… everyone will say this, and almost no mom follows the advice, but it’s worth a repeat – rest during the day when the baby is sleeping! If you can collect eight hours of sleep during the 24 hour stretch you will heal better, deal better with challenges and enjoy those early weeks with your new baby. No new mother will sleep for eight hours straight, but if you get a bunch of two to four hour stretches at night and a few one hour naps during the day, this is a reasonable suggestion and will help on all fronts.
The postpartum weeks are so precious, whether it’s your first baby or fifth, and they fly by too fast. Though there are many physical and emotional tasks to attend to, it is truly a time where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure: hours of cuddles, faster healing and maybe, if you take my advice, a few lazy naps.
Sarah Bay, who writes a women’s health issues column every other month, is a nurse practitioner and certified nurse midwife caring for women of all ages. Her office is located in downtown Peterborough, with care also available at offices in Keene and Milford. For more infor-mation, call 801-9485 or visit www. sarahbaymidwife.com.