Surviving the weeks following childbirth

BY PENDA HONEYGHAN

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

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WELCOME to motherhood! After 40 weeks of pregnancy you would have finally met your bundle of joy, and this is when the real hard work begins.

Since nobody knows the challenges of providing adequate care for a newborn more than a mother who is living the experience or has been there before, we asked moms to give tips on mastering the very challenging first couple of weeks or months post-childbirth.

Marsha, 24, university student:

I guess for me it is a little different, not that nobody else goes through what I went through, but most people would avoid pregnancy in school. I had my baby in the middle of the semester, which meant that I had to be preparing for midterms while taking care of my baby. A newborn depends on you for everything which means that it didn't matter what time of the day, what day of the week, or how I was feeling, that child was looking to me. I had to at the very last minute do something I pretended I didn't need — call on my family and friends who offered their help. Don't act like you are any less of a mom because you don't do everything for your child. You are a better mom when you have more energy to bathe and care and breastfeed and bond with your baby.

Carey, 32, sales representative:

From one mom to another — brace for what will be weeks of feeling tired and drained even without thinking about how exhausted caring for the baby will be. Labour is a difficult task and you will need sleep and you will need to care for your baby. If your partner is in the picture, talk to him before the baby comes about a system of support. If you don't have an active partner lean on your mom or someone else whom you are close to who can help you with the baby. One very important thing is sleep — sleep when the baby sleeps. Just drop everything and get your sleep, especially when your support is limited. And don't feel like you have to have it all together — there is no one rule book on child care; make your mistakes, get to know your baby and move on.

Celia, 37, teacher:

When I had my baby I had a checklist that I would follow. At the top of the list I had that my baby comes first. What I failed to really see is that I needed to take care of myself in order to take care of my baby. So, for example, I got so involved with the baby that I forgot to eat or ate poorly, not realising that my nutrition was crucial. So, for example, foods I ate made my baby gassy, I got sick because I wasn't eating well, so that's one mistake you don't want to make. One important rule you should also not bend is to let visitors overstay their welcome. If they're not helping you do stuff for the baby, have them meet the baby and be on their way. You and the baby need your rest, you do not need long periods of chatter, and especially if conversations are stressful, for example, when they ask you to recount your birthing experience. One more thing — don't lose your cool. Take your time to know your baby. Some babies cry (mine did, 16 of the 24 hours in the day). It was frustrating at first, but it's normal. Some babies will like something today and within two or so days treat it with disdain (he was irritated by my coo the third day). Just take your time and you will eventually get it.

Shereen, 44, nurse:

When I first became a mother I was a teenager — a month away from 16. I was clueless and I didn't do much for him. Three years ago I had my second child and I thought that because of my profession I was invincible — but I could not have been more wrong. I knew how to do almost everything physically — take care of the umbilical cord, hold and swaddle the baby, the spit-ups and I spoke poop. But emotionally, I was a wreck. I needed the support of my family and I needed my husband's reassurance. He made sure I had professional help — the baby blues are real. Get help if you need it. Make time for yourself — get yourself a cup of coffee or a glass of wine occasionally. It will not harm you, but stay away from alcohol if you are on medication. You can watch your favourite movie or catch up on a light hobby. In terms of the baby, establish a system — keep his or her things in one location so you don't get frustrated trying to find things. Keep feedings brief and do not engage the child in play at sleep time. Also, you can bring your child to your bed since he/she is likely to fall asleep easier there, but take the child back to the crib once he/she is asleep. One other important thing is to place the child on his/her back for sleep.

Andrea, 48, phlebotomist:

No two babies are the same, so I know what works for me might not necessarily work for others, but one thing that I can say works wonders is to get rest, as childbirth is hard work. Involve daddy if you can! Try white noises like the sound of rain or vacuum for a baby that constantly cries — it soothes them and it also puts kids to bed. Remember that your baby will want to eat regularly, maybe every two to three hours. If you feed them at the earliest sign of hunger they may not become fully awake and you may not need to rock them back to bed. You also want to talk to your child — explore different ways of bonding such as showering your child with hugs, cuddles and kisses and finding other fun ways to interact with them.

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