When you’re pregnant it can seem like you have a list as long as your arm with things to prepare for the arrival of your baby.
Have you bought the pushchair? Do I need a moses basket? Who’s going to decorate the nursery? Have I signed up for NCT & is it worth it?
While all of these things are wonderful & part of the whole process of preparing for a new baby, you may not have actually thought about what it might be like when the baby is here?
You’ve got all the stuff you need but what is it like actually living with a new little person in real life?
As a postnatal doula I’ve worked with many families from different backgrounds, all with slightly different approaches to the postnatal period but generally they all have one thing in common.
Nesting. When I say nesting I mean cuddling up with your baby, getting to know them & generally taking it easy.
It’s easy to imagine that you’ll give birth & then it’s back to business as usual, but becoming a mother can feel like a huge shift, mentally, physically & emotionally. Add to that breastfeeding (if you choose to), sleep disruption, getting to know a whole new person & you’ve more than got your hands full.
So what can help?
Planning & getting informed about what to expect. You can plan for your birth & you can plan what you put in your nursery etc.. but what about postnatally? Well the good news is that you can plan for that too. There are even lovely postnatal planning workshops you can take which will talk you through what to expect & how to prepare for the time when the baby is here. Things like, who will take care of the household chores while you rest? Where is the food coming from & planning your favourite meals to eat? How will you get support with breastfeeding if you breastfeed or who is going to wash & sterilise the endless dirty bottles?
Putting plans in place for things like these can really help you when you’re on the other side of your birth & give you much more confidence when you are dealing with a new baby.
It’s impossible to know exactly what it will be like but in my experience here are a few things to expect so you can prepare.
Your will sleep a lot, just not all in one go and they may hate sleeping in a crib.
Be prepared for very broken sleep. Babies have really small tummies when they are new so they generally feed in small bursts & frequently. This improves of course as they get older & tummies grow, but in those early days it may feel as though you are a hostage in your own home as you become a milk machine. Not only this but your body & breasts become a huge comfort as your little one adjusts to life in the big wide world. With this in mind the old adage ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ comes into its own. Now this phrase has a bad reputation, mainly because you might think to yourself, ‘I’ve got to tidy up & do the washing up or it won’t get done’ but in those early weeks remember that looking after your baby is work enough. Planning well for this can really help & getting a bit of help from friends, family or a postnatal doula can lighten the load so that you can sleep (if you want to) during the day if you’ve had broken sleep in the night. Getting a co-sleeping crib or just co-sleeping can be a game changer with this too, just make sure you do it safely (see the links in the comments).
Your baby might not want to be put down
Yes, it’s the opposite of everything you’ve seen on tv. Human babies generally don’t really like to be put down. It’s biological, they don’t know if they are going to be eaten by a wolf if they aren’t near a human & you particularly. The good news is however, they don’t really mind too much who they are close to as long as they are warm & calm. So if you can get a bit of help again or rely on your partner a bit this can really take the load off you. That said, getting cosy in bed all day with your baby can feel wonderful & some other countries actually promote this.Traditional Chinese confinement recommends that the mother stays indoors & mainly in bed with her newborn for 6 weeks while her body heals.
Babies poo a lot
Babies can poo up to 12 times a day but don’t freak out because if your baby is producing lots of wet & dirty nappies that’s a brilliant sign that you’re producing plenty of breastmilk. A lot of new mums really struggle with the ‘am I producing enough milk’ situation but what goes in must come out & if they are pooing frequently, then you can give yourself a pat on the back that you’re doing an amazing job at keeping your baby well fed.
Breastfeeding can be really hard
It’s one of those things that some people will tell you is instinctive but for a lot of new mums it can be really hard. The main issue with breastfeeding in this country is frequently not that women can’t do it but that they aren’t getting the support they need or deserve. Midwives, while wonderful & there to help you with the initial stages of breastfeeding, are overworked & can’t spend the quality time you often need when getting started with breastfeeding. My hot tip is to reach out to a breastfeeding consultant before you have your baby. You are far more likely to reach out to someone you know when you are struggling than if you’re starting from scratch with a complete stranger. Imagine feeling sleep deprived, not knowing why your baby isn’t latching well & you’re stressed out. Just the thought of contacting someone you don’t know might feel like too big a mountain to climb. If you can get an IBCLC board certified lactation consultant to help, then you know you’ll be getting really top notch service. A postnatal doula with breastfeeding experience will also be a great help & they will cheer you on with reassuring words.
So those are a few things to expect with a new baby so you can set up your nest & prepare for your new baby to arrive in the best way possible. I teach postnatal planning sessions over zoom if you would like to have someone guide you through the process or you can hire a postnatal doula like me to help you in person. If you need more information or support, feel free to give me a call. I’m always happy to talk through breastfeeding support, doulas & more.
What are you planning for the arrival of your baby? Drop me your thoughts in the comments.