The body, mind and state after pregnancy
There is no role, task, job, service, project, nothing that compares to the role of being a mum. A mother’s job description is vast. She is the first feeder, teacher, mentor, chef, nurse, scientist, artist, musician, actor, you name it a mum does it! In the planning for your baby you may think about: clothes, room, what to name your baby, will it be a boy or a girl, and so on. But what may not be factoring into the planning is what happens after delivery. Your life will change. Being prepared and knowing what to expect makes it easier to manage the changes.
So, are you a new mum? Are you planning for a baby? If it is not as you expected, do you sometimes feel as if something is wrong with you? Take heart. This just means life is being lived, but if you know what to expect it makes it easier. I strongly believe there should be a follow up to the book “What to expect when you are expecting” with the title “What to expect after the expected.”
A woman’s body goes through many changes with pregnancy and childbirth. These changes are generally normal. Some bodies return to pre-pregnancy form, while others are a badge of motherhood that stays with you.
Changes in the post-pregnancy body and emotions
After being pregnant on average 36 to 40 weeks one may forget that a monthly cycle ever occurred. After delivering it may not return until months even years for some mums. This may be a benefit of solely breastfeeding. In most cases the menstrual cycle does not return until breastfeeding is supplemented. It is like a natural contraceptive method. Women do however have what is known as lochia. This is heavy bright red vaginal flow and may contain blood clots. It may occur for weeks or even months after giving birth. Tampons should not be used during the lochia period. It increases the risk of infection and can also be painful.
Soreness is to be expected. This is a fact for any delivery: vaginal or cesarean section. Both deliveries take a toll on the body and require different care for good recovery. The blog will not go in depth into this, we will just touch a little on it.
A vaginal delivery is oftentimes feared because of the pain factor, but what many first-time mums don’t realise is that the recovery time is shorter. The side effects of this method tend to be greatly reduced. The important thing to know is how to take care of the vagina after delivery and any tears if there are any. Sitz bath (Magnesium Sulfate) is generally recommended because it is well known for its healing properties. Sitting may also be a little painful for a short while as well. It may be more comfortable to lie in the bath.
Cesarean delivery: the recovery time after cesarean is longer and require more hospital visits to treat and care for the cut. The area can be tender months even years after the delivery. Exercise is also not recommended for a period and is best to hold off until a doctor gives the all clear. The area may also itch at times. The plus is that medical advancement has made it so that the scar is hardly visible.
The breasts size oftentimes change significantly. You may hear mums say their breasts sagged after baby, which can and does happen to many mums. This aspect of gravity can be minimised with good support bras. The bras worn before pregnancy is not ideal for good support of the lactating breasts. The cup size will more than likely be too small and sometimes the straps are too narrow for the fullness of your after baby breasts. The quirk with a lactating mum’s breasts is that a bra may be more comfortable than braless. A full breast pulls at the chest and at the skin, wearing a comfortable support bra helps to bear the weight.
Features like swelling: pregnancy causes an increase in more than the waistline. Other body parts also increase. The breasts, face, lips, hands and feet may see an increase in size. These generally return to pre-pregnancy size a few months after delivery. The feet, however, do not always return to normal size. I guess that is a gift from our little bundle of joy. On the bright side, there is more of us to love.
You may also notice an increase in hair growth on the head, the pubic, and the armpits. The growth change usually returns to normal after delivery. This can be easily taken care of with a good razor. The nails oftentimes benefit from pregnancy, they tend to grow fast and strong. This may be attributed to the dietary supplement of vitamins mums take while pregnant. A mum still needs to take particular care of maintaining a good diet when breastfeeding.
You may experience some amount of fear and uncertainty. The life of your newborn is completely in your hands. You will have the care for this little person: feeding, diapering, bathing, dressing and the dreaded nail cutting. These seemingly easy activities can be very daunting for a new mum. The emotions are not stable and so too are your anxious moments. Your love for your baby makes it possible to take on these new tasks without the risk of harming your baby. Be patient with yourself. Appreciate, respect and love yourself. That is a guide.
Depression, this is the toughest to deal with. It is normal for mums to experience some depression after delivery, but for some, it is more than normal. This may be postpartum depression. It is a clinical condition that should be handled by a doctor. Mums with postpartum depression need support during this period for better recovery time and success.
Breastfeeding is known to be a very rewarding experience for both mum and baby. The benefits are tremendous. A mum who knows what to expect and how to prepare for breastfeeding is a more relaxed mum. Learn what you can from reliable online sources and from family and friends, but if you are having problems speak with a lactation consultant.
The basics of breastfeeding:
If a newborn is not latched correctly it will hurt and also cause damage to the nipples. Your baby may also get frustrated and subsequently lose interest in the breast. Thus, your baby should latch with most of the areola in the baby’s mouth with the lips flared out.
The nipples will be tender in the beginning but get better after a short while. It helps to allow the nipples to air dry after a feed. Rubbing the breastmilk over the nipples also helps.
When unlatching your baby insert a finger between your nipple and baby’s tongue. This prevents the baby from biting down on the nipple which can cause damage to the nipple.
Tip: to prevent one breast from being noticeably larger than the other avoid feeding on the same breast all the time. Develop a good rotation system for knowing which breast to feed on. One method that worked for me was putting a small cotton cloth in the bra on the side that baby was last fed on.
Holding baby for feeding at the beginning of breastfeeding journey
A mums breast size may dictate how a newborn is held for feeding at the outset. This does not matter the older the baby gets and the more experience the mum gets, but it may in the initial stage.
This is where you lie on your side facing your baby. Your baby's mouth should be in line with your nipple. In this position you can use your arm to hold your baby in place or you can use cushions at your back and your baby’s back to balance the both of you. This is a comfortable position and it also allows for a more restful feeding session. It is ideal for night feeds especially when tired. If you should happen to nod off your baby would be protected and secured from the danger of falling or choking as the feed generally runs out the side of the mouth.
Clutch position or football hold
The baby should be on a pillow for this position as it is easier on the hands. This position is also good after a cesarean delivery because the baby is not held across the body. Mums with inverted nipples and mums who have large breasts do better with breastfeeding in this position when just starting out. The baby is positioned at the mother’s side, with their body and feet tucked under the mum's arm. The baby’s head is held in the mother’s hand. The mum’s arm may also rest on a pillow with this hold
The cross-cradle position is very similar to the cradle position. The difference is that the opposite arm is used to support the baby. The back of the baby's head and neck are held in the mother's hand.
The cradle hold is one of the most common breastfeeding position mums use. This is where the baby is held across the body with the hand supporting the head and body of the baby. This is position is good for eye contact and bonding.
The decision to introduce a bottle in the feeding journey may be necessary for various reasons. You first need to decide if you will be bottle feeding at some point and when. If this is your first child you may not know that one of the things that can and does happen at times is a baby refusing the bottle. There are things to do for a better transition that makes the experience better for both you and your baby. Another thing to consider is the risk of nipple confusion or bottle preference. Our blog series has more on introducing a bottle and nipple confusion
Your life changed the day you conceived or more aptly the day you knew you conceived. I hope the info shared here will help you in understanding these changes. If you have any questions on anything discussed here don’t feel timid to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com