After nine months of pregnancy, it is a joy to finally meet your baby. However, you may suddenly feel lost as within days and weeks of delivery, it is becoming clear that there are so many changes that you have not prepared for. For instance, your baby may not be breastfeeding well and you are worried about her health. Your spouse may not be behaving like you assume he would, or is it your imagination because you are too stressed out? As the weeks passed, it may seem impossible that you are able to go back to work when everything (when you’re at home full-time) already feels out of control. Here are ten priorities to focus after birth to cope with the changes in your life after a baby.
Your Body and Health
#1 Rest and Sleep
Your body has just exerted a lot of effort to deliver the baby, and is now making rapid changes such as contracting your uterus and increasing hormones for lactation. Sleep is a necessary part of recovery yet your baby’s sleep cycle is different from yours and requires feeding every few hours. Grab as much rest and sleep as possible, including resting when your baby is asleep and resisting the temptation to get things done when she is sleeping!
#2 Eat Well and Enough
Your body has depleted much nutrients during pregnancy and in some way, will continue to deplete as you breastfeed (the quality of your breastmilk also depends on your nutrition). It may seem like the right thing to do – to skip a meal or eat fast foods so that you have more time to care for your baby. However, other than affecting your breastmilk, doing so may harm your body in the long term and deprive your family of a healthy you. Be sure to include enough essential fats, calcium, magnesium and vitamins in your diet. You should also check with your doctor about continuing your prenatal vitamins. Drink plenty of fluids, especially if you are breastfeeding.
#3 Seek Medical Help
Do not brush off the common postpartum health issues as common and ignore them. For instance, your vagina may be swollen and feel painful. See your doctor and ask for safe pain or anti-inflammatory prescription. Your breasts may also be engorged; again, do not take it as normal and seek help from a lactation consultant and ensure that it is not a more serious condition such as mastitis. You may also experience constipation or incontinence, and you have to continue to drink plenty of fluids, do pelvic floor exercises and remember to empty your bladder often. Ask your doctor for constipation relief medication and be sure not to skip your postpartum consultations.
#4 Get Breastfeeding Off to a Good Start
Getting the right nutrition for your baby is a top priority, particularly as many body functions are still developing within the first few months of birth. Breastmilk is the recommended nutrition for your baby, and it is therefore important to take care of yourself. There is also the issue of getting the technique right – attend lactation classes before birth, and seek a lactation consultation within the first few days of birth, preferably when you are still in the hospital. Request for your baby to be with you during the hospital stay and get breastfeeding off to a good start. Invest in a double-breast automatic breast pump as it will save time and can be helpful when you wish to pump breastmilk when your baby is sleeping.
#5 Keep Baby Safe
The other priority for your baby is safety. Be sure that the area where your baby is sleeping is clear of pillows and other suffocation risks. There should be no sharp or hot objects that your baby can come into contact with. Do not take your eyes off your baby during shower, and as the baby’s skin is delicate, use soap-free and fragrance-free products. Getting the recommended vaccinations also play a big part in keeping your baby safe.
#6 Follow-Up with Pediatrician
Having a trained doctor check on your baby to see if your baby is growing well is important. If your baby is born into a family of allergic history, do get that family medical history and look out for common signs of allergic conditions, such as eczema and allergy. Once you suspect that your baby requires specialist help, make appointment in that area so that intervention measures can be taken as early as possible.
#7 Make Couple Time
It is not uncommon to hear of couples drifting apart after having children, and this can be due to many reasons such as being focused on the baby rather than the spouse, or feeling angry or resentful of your spouse over not meeting your expectations. Much of this remain unresolved due to not making the time to communicate with each other. Although couple time may hardly seem to be a pressing matter (as compared to ensuring that your baby has fed, bathed or slept), the lack of effort in a marriage can hurt over the long term.
#8 Ask for Help
Sometimes we think that asking for help is letting go of control but it can be empowering to ask for help. When you ask your spouse for help, you acknowledge that you trust him. When you ask your parents for help, you invite them into your baby’s world and give you time to nurture your marriage. You may also have to ask for counseling help, and the advice and the participation gives you the chance to see your marriage differently.
#9 Plan Your Career
Do not let your career define you, but instead plan for your career. If for any reason you think that it is not possible to go back to work after your maternity leave, plan beyond whether asking for extended leave. Start to consider both short-term goals like flexible hours to longer-term goals like whether this is the career that will continue to fulfill you. There is no need to change career but plan your career actively, especially now that you have a baby who is not only dependent on you but look to you as a role model.
#10 Work Out Your Finances
Sometimes your finances can seem like the elephant in the room – you know that you have to do something about it, be it working out how much money for you and your spouse have, or working out the monthly budget to be sure that you’re living under your means and planning for your child’s education and your retirement. The strange thing is that some women are paralyzed by their fear of getting their finances work out and delegate that responsibility to someone else, for instance their spouse. Not communicating and clarifying about financial goals can overtime strain your marriage, as doubt and resentment set in.
There are so many changes to life after a baby and the most important aspect to these changes are to view them positively. Change represents an opportunity for you to do things differently and discover that you, your spouse, your career and your life can be better after having a baby, which is the best change to your life.