WFMW Survival Guide for Month 1 Post Partum

This is my fifth baby. But it’s been almost 7 years since I last had one and in some ways it has felt like my first all over again. When I was preparing for the baby and in these first few weeks I dearly wished that I had taken some notes last time around about what I would really need, want and feel in those early weeks. So here’s my random list of things that have been a revelation to me, things I had forgotten, or things I would want to remember if I ever were to do this again. Since my husband assures me that I will not be doing this again I hope it is of some help to someone else out there.
Here are some things to do before baby arrives:
Line Up Help. As much help as you can for as long as you can. When you are pregnant you may think as I did, that you will be absolutely fine having no help after a couple of days. Especially if it is just you and the baby. I mean how hard could it be? I’d had 4 kids very close in age prior to this after all and so I figured that having just one would be a piece of cake.
This assumption was false. When my husband went back to work a week or so after having this baby I felt completely abandoned and out to sea. I did not realize how much he had been taking care of me while I took care of the baby. Now suddenly I had to take care of us both and guess who did not get taken care of? That would be ok but since I have to really work hard at breastfeeding it means I need to be diligent about eating and drinking not to mention all the supplements, teas and tinctures I needed. Add to that the fact that the Crazy Hormone Train pulled into town on the same day he went back to work and my older daughter came down with flu , meant I was caring for a newborn and a flu patient. Which meant nobody was taking care of me. Which was not good for anyone in the end. (Can anyone say crazy crying and soon to be sick mommy?) In retrospect I wish I had set up some live-in (at least during the day) help for the first few days after my husband had to return to work.
At the very least ask a friend to head up a meal train for you. This is a genius online service which allows people to sign up to bring you a meal when it is most convenient for them and it also means that everyone can see what everyone else is bringing. Which means you won’t get 5 lasagnes or whatever in a row. Having food taken care of is such a wonderful feeling. You don’t have to shop or cook or clean up from cooking and you are well nourished and seeing a new friendly face at least once a day which is really helpful in warding off the baby blues and helping you to feel part of the real world.
Streamline. I nested like a full on maniac before each of my babies were born and I do not regret any of the time I spent organizing, purging and decluttering. Emphasis on PURGING. We have a small house with very little storage space and prior to baby this time I did some brutal editing of our possessions. The more space you can create in your closets and surfaces the better. Bring home a baby creates a sudden and vast influx of clutter of every kind, so the more space you have unspoken for the better. Also, you are most often putting things away or grabbing things with one hand and having to dig for things behind other things will just create more frustration and stress. Streamline your possessions and create as much space as you can. If you live in a small space be completely ruthless. You will not regret it.
While you are streamlining your possessions, streamline your commitments. This is a good time to come from a place of NO. Say no to anything extra and yes to any and all offers of help with your other kids, your pets or your home.
Set up stations Changing station: You don't need a fancy changing table but everything should be easy to grab and accessible: diapers, wipes, lotions and easy change of clothes. (For the first few weeks I recommend onesies and footed sleepers so you aren’t constantly tracking down lost socks and fussing with matching clothes. Babies and socks aren’t a match made in heaven. You can keep all the other fancy clothes in another location but have all the basic clothing close to the changing supplies because you are often changing the whole outfit when you change the diaper. Now is a good time to suggest that you get as many kimono style/front opening outfits and onesies as you can. Babies really don’t enjoy having stuff dragged over their heads (My theory is that it is too reminiscent of being born).
Feeding station: Wherever you feed your baby will need a little table close by to keep your water, your phone, your TV remote or book. It’s nice to have everything easy to grab or you will spend many hours a day feeling stranded and frustrated. If you are nursing make sure you have a comfortable chair with lumbar support and a nursing cushion like a Boppy. Also a water bottle that will not leak if it falls on it’s side is crucial at all feeding stations. I use the Nathan brand sports bottle because you have to squeeze it so I can drink from it even when I am lying down. Which reminds me:
Supplies aka: Random things you probably need but nobody thinks about:
Burp cloths:You can never had too many burp rags. Our baby is not big on spitting up but when she drinks from a bottle she leaks a lot. We never seem to have enough burp rags.
Baby wash cloths: they are much softer and less abrasive then the regular wash cloths and for our poor acne-stricken baby they are a must. You must use a clean one each time baby has a shower/bath so stock up or you will be doing laundry constantly.
Swaddling blankets. I love the new idiot proof ones with flaps and velcro. Genius.
More diapers than you think you need. Say no more.
Gripe water. Trust me on this one. It is marvelous stuff. We are using a brand called Gentle Care.
Cuticle scissors. I find these are easier to control then the little baby clippers. Not everyone would agree but they are less scary for me. Babies need very frequent manicures or they will carve up their sweet little faces and your chest, so find whatever is the least scary for you.
For Nursing:
For the tortured nipples: Lansinoh (after every feeding in the first couple of weeks) and Soothies breast-pads (feel like heaven on the pulverized nips)and a soft , wire free supportive nursing bra.
For boosting milk supply: More Milk Plus tincture, Fenugreek capsules, and Mother’s Milk Herbal Tea.
To avoid thrush : Grapeseed extract (dilute in OJ), acidophulus capsules (refrigerate them) and unsweetened Greek Yogurt. Watch your sugar and white flour intake..thrush feeds off sugar.
Nurse in bed as much as you can. I am a huge fan of nursing while lying down. I find it the easiest position to achieve a good latch (which ultimately means less pain) and it means more rest for your healing body even if you don’t fall asleep. If you can figure out lying down nursing, I highly recommend it.
Folding wheels for the carseat. Since baby lives in the carseat for the first several months we have discovered the joy of small, streamlined, easy to travel with wheels for the carseat rather than a huge bulky stroller. We love, love love these wheels. I can collapse them and heft them into the car with one hand. They are nice and lightweight which is great for when you are newly postpartum and they take up less space in the car, the Dr.’s office, the movie theatre etc..
carseat wheels
A place to put the baby in every room. In the first few weeks you will feel less freaked out and less under stress as you complete chores or have a shower if you can see the baby wherever you are. It is helpful to have a portable little seat that you can put into any room you are in. We have a little baby swing in our bedroom, a bouncy seat in the living room and a little bath sling thing she can hang out in when I am in the bathroom.
Get a great baby carrier. I finally felt like I was getting my groove back when I remembered to pull out the trusty Baby Bjorn and was able to get some work done hands free. I have had the regular one and I have had the one with the extra lumbar support and the one with the extra lumbar support is worth every single extra penny. Some people swear by slings. Whatever it is, make sure it fits impeccably comfortably. You won’t get stress relief if you are hands free but have an aching back or have a sense that your baby is about to fall out onto the floor. This is one place where you get what you pay for. Here are some photos from our walk today, we walked several miles and I could barely tell she was in there. It’s all about the back support, baby.
IMG_1015 IMG_1020

Things to do after baby arrives:
Relinquish control and your fantasies of getting baby onto a schedule and just sleep whenever you can: For the first few weeks don’t try to get the baby on a schedule-they are totally discombobulated from being in the womb and figuring out the whole being alive thing and are generally impervious to schedules. So just fall in with the baby’s program. If this means staying in bed til 11am and going to bed at 2am then go with it if you possibly can. It really helps just to go into survival mode. Don’t try to control anything. It will only make you mental. The whackadoo sleep schedule will not last forever, by the end of the month things will probably start making more sense, but it is really counter productive to try to control things too much in the first few weeks.
Keep it warm. If your baby is not born in the high heat of summer have space heaters and wipes warmers available for bath time and changing time. Any time you can avoiding startling your baby with an icy blast will mean less crying time for all of you. We also love blanket sleepers for carrying baby around in during the day. It is frustrating to keep a baby covered up on a chilly day as you walk around the house. Blanket sleepers are so cozy and convenient.
Try to get up a few minutes before the baby. I am so not a morning person. Particularly after I have had a very broken night but because I have older kids who I want to see off to school every morning I get up before my baby does most mornings. I use the time to force myself to have a good breakfast (even though I never feel like eating at that time of day), load the dishwasher and washing machine and straighten up the kitchen. As much as I believe in sleep, the sense of control that I have over the day and getting a headstart on nutrition and hydration is well worth the extra half hour of sleep I would get.
Stock the kitchen. Stuff we stocked our kitchen with: protein bars, fruit, Vitamin water (the B vitamins help with energy and avoiding PPD), plain Greek yoghurt (I love the Fage brand) and cereal. All these things helped keep me alive and kicking on days when there was no time to prepare any kind of meal or even heat up some leftovers and I could just grab something with one hand.
Something else we loved even though I swore I would never own one: the iPhone. It takes awesome photos and videos wherever you are (the photos above are taken with the trusty iPhone. You can use it to call your husband from downstairs when you are nursing ;) And it has all sorts of awesome apps like one which times how long you nursed on each side and which side you last nursed on. This is really useful when you are first starting out. There is even a flashlight app that you can use to peek at your baby with in the middle of the night :D It is also so much easier to get online with it since you can hold it with one hand while you are nursing. I have loved loved LOVED it.
Finally, don’t forget to take tons of photos and record special milestones/weights etc on a calendar. You may think you won’t forget any of it. But you will. You will never regret having too many photos. :)

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Samantha said...

Great timing for me, Kirsty! Thank you. Good to know I've done one thing right so far--I set up a changing station that also has clothes. Maybe I can do this thing :-)

'Becca said...

Congratulations on your new baby girl! This is great advice.

you are often changing the whole outfit when you change the diaper.

You need some better diapers!! Even if you're not willing to use cloth diapers, spending about $6 for 2 pairs of Dappi pull-on covers to put over the leaky disposables will save you lots of outfit changes. Those covers are excellent at containing breastfed-baby moosh! I raved about them in my cloth diaper article.

Sandra said...

I loved this post! We just found out that we are expecting our fifth baby, too. :)

Callista said...

Great post. My third child is turning one month old this friday!

Anonymous said...

Good job on recording it while it is fresh! Even if Aaron is right and there won't be another one to plan for, it is useful to others. The last time I did an international trip and packed SO badly, I made a list on the plane of what I SHOULD have packed, and what I should have left behind, and of course I lost it, and boy, if ever I get to be on a plane again, I could have used it. I think I should make a list of "What to pack when visiting a very up-market game lodge" as I did a bad job of that too, but I am pretty confident it won't ever happen again. However, maybe someone else would like to know? Start with a balaclava for the early morning drives in the landie, unless it is mid summer in which case read sunblock and something to cover your hair and face.

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