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Your Postpartum Journey, How to Take Care of Your Baby and Yourself


A postpartum mom looks at her baby while she pushes a stroller.

You did it! After months of waiting, you had your baby and are officially entering a new phase – the postpartum journey.


This is a challenging time with many fluctuations in your schedule and physical demands.


In short, you’re adjusting to your new normal. Leaving room for your baby to tell you their needs, all while trying to navigate learning how to be a parent to a newborn. You’ve learned the important lesson of managing flexibility and expectations in your postpartum journey.


This is a great mental state to have as no single birth or postpartum experience is the same. Which is both comforting and bewildering if this isn’t your first time.


Please remember to give yourself plenty of grace and compassion during this postpartum journey. Feel confident in reaching out and asking questions that may be burning in your mind – even if it feels awkward asking more intimate questions. Rest assured, you’re not the first parent to ask.


Some of your questions might be -

How do you make sure your baby is feeding enough?


How to take care of your own body as it recovers?


Are my nipples supposed to look like this?


The good news is that many birthing parents have the same concerns and challenges. This is why throughout time parents have been surrounded by a “village” to help them raise their children. Having a supportive community provides a safe space to discuss changes and your postpartum journey.


Finding the right “village” can be a process, yet one that’s absolutely worth your time. Your community supports you during your introduction to parenthood and offers solutions to issues that arise.


The right village not only offers help but reminds you that you’re not alone.


More on finding a village later…


What to Expect at Your Postpartum Check-Up

After giving birth your OB/GYN will schedule a follow-up appointment. This will happen anywhere in the 4-6 week period. The importance of this check-up is to see any irregularities in your healing and to give you the opportunity to ask questions that have arisen during this intimate time.


The standard practice used to be only one postpartum visit following birth. Yet, more and more studies and healthcare providers are seeing the importance of having ongoing visitation during the 4th trimester.


This is a great advancement for all birthing parents as it provides much more care and support during your postpartum journey.


In fact, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recently released new guidelines to adhere to during the postpartum recovery period.


The new postpartum protocol includes


  • Connecting and contacting your provider within the first 3 weeks after birth


  • Have a complete checkup within 12 weeks of giving birth


  • Receive ongoing medical care and attention from your provider during your postpartum journey


These new protocols are to ensure the mother and baby have a smooth postpartum journey and to get ahead of any issues that may arise during this time.


What happens at these postpartum appointments?


At your appointment, your doctor will conduct a pelvic exam and ask you specific questions.


An example of questions that may be asked are-


  • How heavy is your bleeding?


  • What type of birth control would you like to use going forward?


  • Have you been crying or feeling overwhelmed?


  • Do you feel any discomfort in your incision site or vagina?



For women that had a Caesarian section, your doctor will also check your incision site to ensure proper healing.


Pregnant women who had gestational diabetes or high blood pressure may need additional medication or see a specialist for follow-up in your ongoing care.


In addition to your postpartum check-up, many providers encourage creating a postpartum plan ahead of the birth. This plan can entail physical needs, follow-up exams, and mental health checkups. The purpose of this plan is to cover any concerns you have while on your postpartum journey. For some parents, this plan is a welcome addition to feeling more prepared for the parental process and transition.



Nourishing Your Baby

Your lactation decision during your postpartum journey will be unique to you and your baby. As long as your baby is growing and gaining weight your choice to breastfeed or use formula is yours alone. If your breastfed baby is losing or not gaining weight your doctor may suggest using supplement formula or working with a lactation consultant.


The most important thing to remember when feeding your baby is that they’re growing and thriving.


If you decide to breastfeed, having the baby either attach to your breast or drink self-expressed breast milk within the first 24- 48 hours has shown that the baby will have an easier time continuing breastfeeding up to six months.


Mothers who are not able or choose not to breastfeed have the option to feed their children by formula. If this is something you’re exploring please be kind to yourself and ignore any societal stigmas on the use of formula. Formulas provide a lot of the same essential nutrients found in breast milk and are a necessary option for many parents.


How do I know if my baby is getting adequate nutrition and calories?


If you’re using formula or bottle feeding you will know the exact amount of ounces your baby is taking.


Yet, for mothers who are breastfeeding, it can be a little more difficult to figure out the exact ounces the baby is taking. One way to check your breastfed baby’s intake is by weighing them before and after feeding. This will give you a barometer to measure their average ounces at feedings.



Is my baby getting the right nutrients?


If you’re breastfeeding one thing you do not have to worry about is the nutrients in your breastmilk. The miraculous thing about breastfeeding is the way in which your baby’s body communicates with your own. While feeding your baby’s saliva will transfer chemicals to your own body so that your body can adjust the nutrient demands requested.


If you’re using a formula to feed your baby the nutrients will be displayed on the packaging. While all formulas have the same critical nutrients for newborns, depending on your baby's chemistry you might opt for specific types such as lactose-free formula.


Now that we spoke about your baby’s needs let’s talk about yours.


Postpartum Recovery and Body Changes

It’s easy to get swept up in caring for your baby’s needs, yet I urge you to prioritize your recovery. After all, your body has gone through a miraculous transformation.


While recovering from birth it’s important to replenish your body. The process of birth is a strain on your body, so taking the time to choose nutritious foods will help you recover and gain strength.


If you’re looking for ideas on specific foods to eat or avoid check out my previous article all about maternal and infant nutrition here.


Another essential part of your postpartum recovery is rest. Your body needs to rest as much as possible to regain its strength and reset after the whirlwind of birth.


If you’re finding it hard to make time to rest due to the demands of an infant, ask a trusted individual to help. This person can assist with certain tasks such as watching the baby and changing diapers. With extra help, you’ll have the ability for an extended period of relaxation.


The more you make recovery a priority the smoother your postpartum journey will be overall.


Postpartum Body Changes

Your body will take time to heal. It took 9 months for your body to transform and carry your child, so expecting it to “bounce back” right away is not a helpful thought.


Usually, with women who lactate and breastfeed, the average time for their uterus to contract to its original size takes about six weeks. While breastfeeding, you might even feel the contractions happening. This is because every time your body lactates your uterus slowly contracts and becomes smaller.


In addition to your uterus contracting while lactating, you might also notice changes in your nipples and breasts.


This may include –


  • Nipples becoming more pronounced to help aid with the baby’s latching


  • Cracked, sore, or bleeding nipples from difficult latching


  • Leaking breastmilk from oversupply


While some women’s breasts may return to their pre-pregnancy look and feel after lactating, other women may experience more long-term changes in their breasts.


For example, breasts that greatly expand for an ample milk supply might lose some elasticity over time. This is nothing to be ashamed of, yet rather consider it an achievement of what your body was able to accomplish.


Blood Loss

Blood loss is a common concern I hear from new mothers. Some women may experience light bleeding at the beginning of their postpartum journey and then have it turn into heavy bleeding. This is common, yet not often discussed.


If you’re having the following symptoms please consult a doctor or call 911.


Some signs of hemorrhage are –


  • Heavy bleeding from the vagina that does not stop


  • Nausea


  • Signs of shock (dizziness, confusion, feeling weak)


  • Drop in blood pressure


A postpartum Black mom and dad smile and hold their infant in their baby’s nursery.

Finding Your Postpartum Routine

With every new child, your routine will experience a certain amount of disruptiveness. This is common and expected in your postpartum journey.


Preparing yourself ahead of time by creating a postpartum recovery plan is an excellent way to set yourself up for success. This may include meal preparation, organization of your home, and even a “helper” schedule. Having trusted family members and friends to support you during this time is key to maintaining stability and calm.


Yet, even the best-made plans need to be flexible.


You may have thought of every detail of your postpartum journey with a contingency plan. Yet, your baby seems to wiggle past all of your solutions.


This is when having a community to lean on is crucial.


Parenting is overwhelming at first – you’re taking care of another life that means everything to you. Knowing other parents and professionals who are or have been in similar situations is imperative.


When you connect with like-minded people the relief of finding real working solutions appear. By being connected to the right community for support during your postpartum journey, you’ll find the parental balance you seek.


This is the idea and reasoning behind the village I created – The Collaborative Community.


The Collaborative Community is a free-to-join community full of support, advice, and kind individuals who lean on one another to raise the next generation. If this sounds comforting and hopeful to you, please join us. I would love to have you add your unique voice to our village.


If you’re looking for more ways to connect and alleviate stress join The Collaborative Community.


The answers you’ve been searching for are just a click away… Join now.





Resources

1. Your Postpartum Checkups. March of Dimes. July, 2018

2. Forster DA, Johns HM, McLachlan HL, et alFeeding infants directly at the breast during the postpartum hospital stay is associated with increased breastfeeding at 6 months postpartum: a prospective cohort study BMJ Open 2015;5:e007512. Doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2014-007512

4. What Will Happen to Your Breasts After Birth. The National Charity for Pregnancy, Birth, and Early Parenthood. https://www.nct.org.uk/labour-birth/you-after-birth/what-will-happen-your-breasts-after-birth

5. Postpartum Hemmorhage. March of Dimes. March 2020. https://www.marchofdimes.org/find-support/topics/postpartum/postpartum-hemorrhage




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