you are each learning "how to"
With the early days being all about rest and feedings, it provides you a perfect, built-in opportunity for you and your baby to get to know each other well and learn how to do all that your new roles require of you. It’s lucky that you can’t spoil a very new baby, so you're free to hold your baby close whenever you or your baby wants — and you'll get plenty of second chances, too, for those little mishaps or first tries along the way. You’ll soon learn how to take care of your own needs at the same time, too; resting when baby rests, having quick & healthy snacks close at hand, making sure you are in a comfortable and relaxing spot when feeding your little one. It’s a time of being patient with each other; building a healthy, trusting relationship and a solid foundation on which to build and go forward with.
How To by Liana Finck "How to Parent / How to Baby" (The New Yorker magazine)
So what does that mean?
It’s understanding that your baby’s wants are your baby’s needs. It’s relaxing into those needs and trusting there is no spoiling your baby during this time and that no “bad habits” are being formed. It’s “babying the baby” so they can grow and thrive with a solid foundation for going forward. As long as your baby is full-term and has no health concerns, you can let them be your guide.
Does that mean forgetting about your needs? Definitely not! That needs equal attention. You must both be thriving for all to be well. By feeling less anxious about the thought of spoiling your baby, though, worrying that you’re picking them up or holding them too much or are responding to their feeding cues to quickly, you can more confidently relax into these weeks and get the rest and recovery you need for yourself, too.
It’s all about the well-being of you both — both of you thriving, both of you building on your successes, both of you developing trust in the other. You and your baby can melt into each other as you gently make your way through the tender early postpartum time.
By the time your baby is about six weeks old, life will begin to feel much more settled. There is more predictability and you all have some growth and experience under their belts! These first 40 days, often called the ‘fourth trimester,’ are a time of transition into the daily rhythms of the months to come. Days and nights have become more discernible and feedings methods are usually well established. You and your baby have gotten to know each other.
The days and nights that seemed so long and exhausting at first, may soon feel a short time-span in the overall scheme of things. By focusing on one day at a time, prioritizing the needs of you and your baby, and reaching out for help and support as you go along, you can get there more smoothly. Then you can enjoy the equilibrium of this first sweet spot.
nap often in the tiring early days
Waking and feeding at night is the biological norm for your baby during their early months and beyond. That’s a huge adjustment for all new parents and can make the postpartum period very challenging. This especially rings true as time goes on and the weariness accumulates. When considering ways to manage this exhaustion, it's helpful to start planning for your nighttime by being creative beforehand.
The first three to six weeks are a time of gentle transition into the outside world for a newborn, away from their perfect environment in utero where every need was being met instantly & around the clock. During this time after birth your baby’s wants and needs are one-and-the-same and you can trust that meeting those needs day and night will benefit you both. You and your baby can hit your stride with “early and often” feedings and holding your baby whenever you or they want. You're both learning and getting to know the other.
By introducing small, easy changes at first and gradually shifting over to life outside the womb over these weeks, this transition can be fulfilling and pleasant for you, too. There is no spoiling a baby during this time -- and no bad habits are being formed. By taking it gradually and with love, you are establishing a healthy, trusting relationship and a solid foundation for the months and years to come.
safeguard the very early days
You can protect the early moments with your newborn by restricting company in the first few days after birth. This precious time can be reserved especially for you to get to know your new arrival, catch up on rest, and to get those important early feedings under your belt. You can stay in your pajamas and post a note on your door to explain why you might not be answering, or to please keep their visit short while you get to know your new little one.
At the same time, try not to feel shy asking for or accepting offers of help that you could really use. You can think of it as something you're doing especially for your baby! Food drop-offs are always the most welcome. A family member or friend may ask if you need anything from the store or if they could walk your dog for you. Be creative and ready with an idea or two if someone inquires.
An expanded network of support for your postpartum period may include community groups, others who have babies too, or supportive postpartum care providers. Meeting up or introducing yourself prior to your baby's birth is ideal so that you're not a stranger when it comes time to reach out. If something feels wrong or you have a question or concern, you'll have expertise, companionship and wisdom at your fingertips. Expect you'll have times when you'll need targeted support in the early weeks. This expanded network can help you achieve greater peace of mind and help you to get back on track if a tricky situation arises.
Nighttime visits can include some of what a postpartum doula might accomplish during a daytime visit (see previous post), fitting in time for chatting, questions & support. A doula brings a calm, quiet nighttime energy into your home and fine-tunes the visit toward maximizing your family's sleep.
Here are some ideas specifically suited to nighttime support!
Here are a bunch of ideas and possibilities!
It is helpful to note your postpartum doula does not include diagnosis or personal help with medical concerns. Doulas will not act like or attempt to replace your primary care provider. When circumstances are beyond a postpartum doula’s scope of practice, though, you can be comforted to know that your doula is a great resource for helping you find professional care for you or your baby. A doula is familiar with skilled mental and/or physical health care professionals, community organizations, and/or other support professionals near you. It’s important that you and/or your baby get any additional support you need to ensure you're in good hands and good health overall.
reflections of a postpartum doula