While the arrival of your baby is – needless to say – going to be the most joyful moment of your life, the next few months are set to keep you on your toes. You’ll often catch yourself wondering where is all the time going when you’re barely managing to check tasks off your list and keep up with your baby’s needs. The first few postpartum weeks are a complete emotional roller coaster – full of excitement, joy, peace, fatigue, confusion and often panic too. And all of it is understandable – parenting doesn’t come with an instructions manual and we all have to figure it out along the way, learning some tricky lessons the hard way. To get through this journey as smoothly as possible, it is necessary that new mommies take as much care of themselves as they will do of their babies. To help you out, we’ve put together a nifty little survival guide.
Before the baby’s arrival
There are some excellent and really helpful books on parenting a newborn out there. These books offer tried and tested tricks and tips that’ll come in really handy, especially when it comes to feeding the baby, putting the baby to sleep, understanding the baby’s cues and cries, signs to keep an eye for and what they mean. Reading up will not only keep you occupied during the last weeks of pregnancy but will also prove useful when the baby finally arrives.
A few minutes of meditation every day, even in the days leading up to the baby’s arrival can go a long way in helping you stay calm under tenuous circumstances. Moreover, meditation involves correcting your breathing techniques – and you will be surprised at how something so simple can prove to be so beneficial. Make a habit of stealing a few moments of quiet and stillness for yourself every day, and you’ll find yourself being much calmer, objective, and better prepared to handle whatever comes your way. In fact, this is a habit you should carry on with even after the baby has arrived.
Stock up snacks
Not only for the newborn but for yourself too. A clever trick is to make double the batch of whatever you’re cooking, and save off half of it for later. Go for freeze-friendly foods, so you can pre-plan your meals, freeze them and reheat them at a later time, without compromising on the nutritive value. Also stock up on quick but healthy snacks such as oats, granola bars, cereal, crackers, soup, pasta, nuts, fruits, etc. This is useful after the baby is home too, and your days and nights are kind of the same thing now. You don’t have to spend time cooking a new batch of food or go out to get a snack when your pantry is well-equipped enough even for the apocalypse.
Prepare an essentials shopping list and execute it beforehand
Similarly, while you’re stocking up the food, stock up the other essentials too. In addition to the bottles, pacifiers, napkins, diapers, baby care products etc., for yourself you’re going to need the following – maxi-pads (enough to last several weeks), Acetaminophen (to soothe the recovery aches), stain remover, nursing pads, stool softener (you’ll find this extremely useful, when certain medications complicate this task for you! You don’t need haemorrhoids or the strain of pushing. Consult with your doctor on the safest stool softeners to take while nursing!), antibiotic cream (Neosporin works well too!), mouthwash, cotton swabs and hand sanitizer!
Spend time with loved ones
This waiting period is an excellent time for family and friends to come together and revel in the blessing of new life. You don’t have to go out of your way and plan a block party. Something as simple and low key as an evening coffee paired with fun board games or just good old conversations can work miracles in helping you stay positive, reminding yourself of the strong support system that you can rely on, and just soaking up some good positive vibes. Your friends and family are always here to remind you that you are not alone in anything.
After the baby arrives
Congratulations! Cheers! Happy dances, celebrations and joyful tears all around! The wait is over and the little angel is finally here. It’s natural to be nervous about what’s in store. Here’s what will ease the process:
Don’t let fatigue overwhelm you
Postpartum fatigue can be brutal – there’s no sugar-coating that. Your body will feel discomfort, your sleep will constantly be disturbed and you’re pretty much always going to be worried if you’re baby is doing okay. Stop. Remember the mindfulness you were asked to practice while you were pregnant? Yes, let that kick in and calm you down. Breathe. And talk to your husband or a family member. Be honest about just how exhausted you feel. They will be more than happy to take over duties, while you get extra hours of snooze time. Eventually, both you and your baby will find a routine, and you will get into the rhythm of things.
Take care of your body
Many women think that their bodies will go back to its original shape once the baby is delivered, only to be shocked and anxious over their new post-baby body. There is so much insecurity and anxiety surrounding this for new mothers everywhere. It is important to note that pregnancy and delivering a baby can lead to permanent skeletal and muscular changes in the body. Even after you do manage to shed the weight, you’ll find that your favourite dress no longer fits you the way it did before. In such moments, don’t feel guilty or panicked, instead acknowledge what your body has been through and accept the changes it has had to undergo. Most importantly, don’t let it bring you down; instead make time for exercising daily. It doesn’t have to be the intense stuff – squats, daily walks, swimming classes, yoga for even fifteen to twenty minutes every day will help you stay in great shape physically as well as mentally.
Catch precious moments with your partner
It’s so easy and natural to get lost in caring for the baby, that your partner and you will hardly find time to even have a decent conversation, let alone share an intimate moment. But, the moment is not going to create itself. You’ll have to consciously go out of your way to make time for each other, and remind each other that the love is all still there. It is important to keep the strength and light of partnership alive through and through.
Talk to other mums
While the first few weeks are blissful but trying times, you’ll often find yourself being overwhelmed and lost. You’ll think ever so often that you’re doing something wrong, that your baby is missing out on something vital – the list of doubts is endless. In such moments, nothing brings better comfort than sharing your anxieties and concerns with other moms – new moms like yourself, as well as moms who’ve been there and done that more than once. Just knowing that you’re not alone in this, and that this is something mothers everywhere experience is sometimes enough to get you through those glum moments.
If you feel it, tell it
You feel a strange discomfort while sleeping? You feel breastfeeding isn’t going too well? You’re feeling particularly low lately for no apparent reason? Don’t let it fester in your mind and drive you crazy. Just talk it out. Don’t worry about being judged for being vulnerable or an emotional mess. Your partner, your family, your friends, your doctor, they’ll all understand and give you all the care and support you need. And ever so often, just getting something out of your system is remedy enough!
Ask for help!
Like we’ve mentioned more than once before, you cannot do this all by yourself. If there’s ever a moment to push down pride and stubbornness and ask for help, this is pretty much it. Accept the assistance of friends who’re eager to help, parents who are willing to stay over, and the partner who’s ready to do the night shift. Loved ones will often bring cooked meals and baked goodies over, accept all of it! If budget permits, it doesn’t hurt to hire temporary help who can run errands and do the chores for you.
Go with your gut
All said and done, it is your body and your baby, and there’s no one in the world who knows either of these better than you. Work on strengthening that connection – with yourself and your baby. While all the reading, research and advice from others can give you great insight, it’s important to remember that you and your baby are unique and there will often be moments where many “tried and tested” formulas will fail to apply to you. Do what makes you comfortable, follow what works for your baby. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – it’s all a part of the experience. Day after day after day, establish your own rhythm, and you’ll see how beautifully it all works out eventually.
At the end of it all, remember to enjoy this time. Yes, it’s sure to be an overwhelming experience, but keep your eyes, heart and mind open, and you will learn so many wonderful things about yourself, your baby and even your partner. Be patient, keep yourself well-nourished, learn to go with the flow and remember to take a step back and just breathe! You’re going to be wonderful!