The first two weeks
Following birth, there is a huge shift in a new mother’s hormone levels. Some levels increase with the production of milk, but many levels drop after the birth of the placenta, which was a factory for hormones during pregnancy. This can cause extreme emotions for an already tired and overwhelmed new mother. It is completely normal, and between 70-80% of mothers experience a drop in mood around three to six days after the birth of their baby. It is known as the “baby blues” and should pass after a few days with adequate rest and support from loved ones. If you still feel you are irritable, depressed, anxious, and tired but unable to sleep at around three to four weeks following the birth, you could have postnatal depression, and should seek help from your midwife or health care provider.
Swaddling your baby in a wrap or muslin for sleep times can be extremely useful to help settle and ensure long, deep sleeps. The moro reflex is strong in most newborns and doesn’t disappear for three to four months. Swaddling nice and snug means any startling caused by a noise, sensation, or change in sleep cycle will hopefully not wake your baby, as their arms can’t instinctively fling outward. A newborn baby’s ability to regulate their temperature is not developed at this stage, meaning you need to be aware and careful about appropriate clothing and their environment. A general rule is that your baby should be dressed in one more layer of clothing than you are.
Don’t overdo it /
Over this first week at home with your baby, you will find that friends and family start requesting visits and making offers to help. Be aware of your own feelings and needs and only accept help as you need it. Having close family or a friend over to mind the baby while you get some rest, or to clean, cook, or care for older siblings are all practical ways of welcoming help. Be clear with family and friends about timing and the nature of visits, as it is important to ensure you don’t overdo it and miss out on vital rest time.
Getting the hang of it /
By week two with your baby, your hormones are hopefully now regulating and you are getting the hang of newborn care.
Your healing body /
Lochia is the vaginal discharge you will experience following the birth. Containing blood, mucous, and uterine tissue, it will be bloody for the first few days, and then will gradually change to brownish or pink, then to yellowish. It should gradually ease and be gone in four to seven weeks.
Engorgement is when you are producing greater quantities of milk to keep up with your baby’s growth, meaning that your breasts can feel full, hard, hot, swollen, and painful. Feeding frequently and applying a warm compress or having a warm shower before feeding can help ease discomfort.
Incontinence when sneezing or coughing, leaking breast milk (particularly when you hear your baby cry), and having pain when passing urine are all common (running warm water over your vagina or sitting backwards on the toilet seat can help).
Your baby’s cries /
All babies cry. It can be hugely upsetting to new parents when the cries are indecipherable and seem inconsolable.
Crying is your baby’s main method of communicating with you when they are in need. Whether your baby is hungry, has wind, is tired or overtired, is hot, cold, scared, or uncomfortable, they will most probably cry to let you know. Some people seem to easily tune in to these cries, while others use a process of elimination to figure out what their baby is attempting to communicate.
As your baby gets older and you get more and more in sync with each other, you will find it easier to decipher these cries. If you are finding there is a period in the day of uncontrollable crying, and you believe colic or reflux may be an issue, talk to your midwife or health care provider.