As a postpartum doula, I have the privilege of seeing many families adjust to life with their new little one. I’m always so grateful to be one of the few trusted people invited into a home to meet a teeny tiny new baby. Every family I have worked with adjusts to and experiences early postpartum so differently. There are a few steadfast pieces of advice I always offer clients so that, amidst the sleep deprived, foggy days which don’t really seem to start or end, they take the best care of themselves possible. Because, as the fantastic Brandie Hadfield puts it, we need to put our own oxygen masks on before we put them on someone else.
The dreaded sleep question. How do new parents get sleep when baby is waking up every 3 hours (who’s kidding who- every 1-2 hours) during the day and the night?
My first tip is stay in bed for as long as you possibly can. Head to bed early. Stay there til noon. There is no chance that you will get 6-8 hours of consecutive sleep, and believe it or not, this is a good thing. Infants are designed to wake up frequently. But it means staying in bed until you get that many (or close to that many) hours of broken up sleep during the night.
Another great way to get some rest is a wrap like the Sleep Belt. Does your baby just love to be held and refuse to lie down in the bassinet? Totally normal. After 9 months in the womb, some babies just don’t like to be put down. So why not catch a couple z’s in the rocking chair while your baby also gets the sweet, cozy comfort of your body?
Last note on sleep. Do your best. The first weeks postpartum are challenging and getting good chunks of sleep might not be possible at all.
Remember that this too shall pass and you will get more sleep soon.
Anyone that knows me well knows that food is one of my favourite topics. When you are a new parent, your capacity to prepare food and nourish yourself changes drastically. Here are a couple ideas.
If possible, prepare postpartum meals when you are still pregnant. Fill your freezer with homecooked food. Buy lots of smoothie ingredients. Use a service like Meal Train to give your friends a chance to cook for you (or a simple chart on GoogleDocs for free).
After baby arrives, stock the fridge with easy to grab snacks. Cut up fruits and veggies. Peanut butter and crackers.
Snacks that require little preparation that can be easily eaten while your baby is eating.
And carry a water bottle around with you everywhere you go. Particularly if you are feeding your baby from your body, it is really important to keep those fluids going and consume way more calories than you did pre-pregnancy.
I was chatting with some moms yesterday that were laughing at the idea of “napping when the baby is napping.” It’s an awesome idea, but you probably have a million things around the house that you want to get done. Prioritize. What is that one thing that will make you feel a tiny bit more relaxed? Is it the dishes? Some exercise? Laundry? Perhaps it is a nap! Take a moment to find the most pressing thing and address that. There will be more to do than you can keep up with pretty much until your kid moves away for university.
Ask For Help
There are so many people in your community eager to meet your baby and check in on you. And they would all love the opportunity to help! Groceries, cooking, cleaning, holding your baby while you shower/nap… All great ways that your friends and family can get involved. Asking for help in our culture can be really challenging.
But remember, your friends and family want to be involved and appreciate clear opportunities to do so.
When you need help outside of your family and friends, there are all kinds of people out there offering various services to support you in your postpartum journey. If you’re having trouble with feeding, don’t tough it out. There are amazing lactation consultants and breastfeeding counselors that can help. Ask your midwife, doctor or hospital for their recommendations. There are postpartum doulas, nannies, “mother’s helpers” and housekeeping services to help you out at home. Consider whether the expense will make you feel even a little bit more at ease and relaxed. If the answer is yes, hiring a bit of help might be a great idea.
Early postpartum is challenging. Take it easy on yourself and do the best you can. You are already doing an amazing job.