So you’re expecting. Congratulations. A baby can be an exciting time in our lives, or can scare the heck out of us. The good thing is, millions of people have done this before us, so we have a good deal to base our thoughts that it’ll probably all be just fine.
But there are lots of things we can do to make it more than “fine”, which can make our transition to parenthood smoother.
Here are 9 things you should be thinking about before baby come:
1. How will you get the sleep you need?
We all know how important sleep is, but no one quite realized just HOW much until they have a newborn. Then you realize why sleep deprivation is used as torture! Because it feels horrible. Of course newborns need round the clock support, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get the sleep you need. For your first 2-3 weeks home, go to bed EARLY. Head to your bedroom by 9pm at the latest and stay there until you get the number of hours you USED to need to feel good (6-9 for most people). So only count the hours that you are actually sleeping. These won’t be in a row and it could take you until 10am the next day to hit that number, but don’t leave until you get them!
2. How can I be sure to recover well physically?
The most common mistake people make is to do too much too soon. Especially if you’ve had a caesarean, don’t lift anything heavier than your baby, and no stairs! Stay on one floor for the entire day to give your incision time to heal. Don’t worry about the floppy belly in front of you. It will disappear in time. Focus on allowing yourself to rest and worry about exercising after the 2nd month (or when your doctor gives the ok).
3. How will I know how to breastfeed?
Breastfeeding is so normal and natural, but it can be tricky for the first few days. Just keep putting baby to the breast as often as possible. Make sure your latch is good (which will prevent a lot of other issues down the road). Have a list prepared ahead of time for breastfeeding drop-in groups and where to go for help. A postpartum doula or lactation consultant can be great help as they’ll often come right to your home.
4. Who will make me dinner?
Things are busy with a new baby in tow and it’s easy to miss a meal, but nutrition is important for your recovery, your well-being, and your breast milk production. When others call and ask what they can do, ask for a meal. If you have a bit of time off before you go into labour, try to freeze a few meals also. People love to help and this can be great when it’s time to eat and you’ve got nothing prepared. Ask a mom/mother-in-law/friend to grocery shop for you before you come home from the hospital so you’ve got lots of easy-to-prepare meals. And as a last resort have some take-out menus in a drawer for a pinch.
5. How will we care for our baby?
You know the old saying “it takes a village to raise a child”. Well it does! Everyone needs help. Don’t try to do it all on your own. Accept help and support from family. If you can, consider hiring a postpartum doula. They are newborn experts who can be there to teach you great techniques so you feel more confident when you’re on your own. You can’t spoil a newborn so don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise. You might not ever have thought of this, but babies want to be held ALL the time. They were just carried in your womb 24/7 and often don’t like being put down in the early weeks. Get a wrap of some sort to carry your baby close to you, which will give you two hands free. It’s a great way to keep both of you happy.
6. Where will baby sleep?
Experts recommend that baby be within arm’s reach during the night. This is the safest place for baby. It’s also very convenient for you in the middle of the night. Whatever you choose, keep these important tips in mind: don’t let your baby get overheated, avoid bumper pads that can restrict air flow, put baby to sleep on his/her back.
7. How will our roles change?
You may have had a great routine with your partner and clearly established roles before baby, but things typically need to change once a baby makes its appearance. It’s a lot of work to care for a newborn and so household chores often need to be adjusted. Consider sitting down with your partner and dividing out a 24-hour clock. Give 10-12 hours right off the bat to mom for feeding baby. Then divide out the rest. Don’t forget to put your sleep in there before adding other things. Other things should include:
- Who will do baby care? (bathing, etc.)
- Who will do the caring for siblings?
- Who will do the cleaning?
- Who will do the cooking?
- Who will do the laundry?
- Who will do the shopping?
- Who will run the errands?
- Who will transport the siblings to places (lessons, friends, etc.)?
8. What will our visitor schedule be?
Family, friends and neighbours love to see new babies, but it can be really disruptive to your feeding and sleep schedules. Instead of allowing a constant flow of visitors, try instead having a “baby open house”. Pick one day that people can come and see baby. It means only one day when you stress about your house being clean. Maybe a grandma can help make tea/coffee and prepare some snack food for the visitors. Then it’s all over and done in one day! After that only helpers are allowed to be around.
9. How will I still be me?
It’s important to keep time for you and your relationship with your partner. Becoming a mother or father is an amazing life-changing event, but it shouldn’t change your entire identity. Keep time for the things you love (exercise, going out with friends, etc). It might need some adjustments, but is important to still fit it in. By each parent learning how to care for baby in their own way, each of you can feel comfortable being on your own with baby so the other parent can get a much needed break.
A Postpartum plan is much like a Birth Plan. It assists you in determining and planning for a smooth transition adjusting to your new family dynamics in the first few weeks (bearing in mind that flexibility is the key when considering all the potential conditions and “personalities” that are unknown).
Remember to “honour” this time as a rite of passage. The most important element is the “Babymoon” phase. You will only experience this time once for this baby/these babies. Make it count for you and your family – everything else that was there, will always be there to consider at a later time.
Stefanie Antunes is a mother of 3 who’s been a Lamaze® Educator and doula since 2002, after the birth of her second son showed her just how valuable it is to be prepared for birth and to have good support around you. She leads the Discover Birth team that provides a variety of services to expectant parents and training for those wishing to pursue work in the childbirth field. Stefanie is a birth doula trainer, board member with the Ontario Association of Doulas, former Public Relations Director for DONA International and sits on many local boards and coalitions to improve our communities.
For more information, check out her website at www.discoverbirth.com