What to Expect After Becoming a Mother

 

Top 1st year concerns

Becoming a mother is an amazing and wonderful thing, filled with expectations. But, especially if it’s your first time, motherhood can also be accompanied by many concerns and uncertainties. Below we offer some tips related to these top first-year concerns for a new mom:

1. Recovering from childbirth
2. How do you know if your newborn needs to see a doctor?
3. Coping with the baby blues
4. Breastfeeding challenges
5. The dreaded four-month sleep regression
6. Taking care of yourself and your relationships

1. Recovering from childbirth

No matter what type of delivery you had—and whether it was relatively “easy” or more challenging—your body has been through a lot. And it needs to heal (we’re talking six-to-12 weeks, or possibly longer). You’re going to be sore; you’re going to experience some bleeding; you may notice some hair loss and constipation. These are all very normal. If, however, you are bleeding excessively, experience chest or other severe pains, see signs of any infections, or have a persistent fever, it’s time to check in with your doctor.

And, we know you’ll probably feel like you have no time for “self-care” once you’ve brought your new baby home, but it’s important. Get help from friends and family members to make sure you are able to nourish your body with healthy, restorative foods and plenty of water. Plus, you need your rest…

The Mayo Clinic has some useful resources for new moms including these on postpartum care after a vaginal birth and postpartum care after a C-section.

2. How do you know if your newborn needs to see a doctor?

So, your new baby is home now, and you’re concerned that something may be amiss. How do you know when your newborn is sick such that you need to seek the advice of your doctor?

A few common issues that are not typically cause for concern include: jaundice (a yellow discoloration of baby’s skin and eyes that should go away after about ten days); changes in baby’s skin (dryness or blotches); and colic (prolonged crying/fussiness for three or more hours per day). These issues tend to clear up on their own, over time.

But, if baby is having difficulty breathing, isn’t responding to sounds, sleeps or cries constantly, has no appetite or a high fever, these are the types of red flags that warrant a call to your doctor. Here is a quick reference sheet of warning signs from the University of Rochester Medical Center. And, if you’re falling into the habit of asking Google for medical advice any time you feel a pang of worry, we encourage you to step away from the search box!

3. Coping with the baby blues

The so-called “baby blues” are very common and nothing to be ashamed of. According to the American Pregnancy Association, approximately 70-80% of new mothers experience some negative feelings or mood swings after giving birth. Some typical “symptoms” for new moms include: crying more than usual, experiencing fatigue and sadness, having trouble concentrating, and being extra irritable. If you’re feeling down, overwhelmed, or especially moody, cut yourself some slack and know you are not alone.

But what’s the best way to cope, and how do you know if you should talk to a professional? You might start by talking to a friend or family member; sometimes it helps to simply talk about what you’re feeling and speak openly with a trusted loved one. Some moms also find it useful to write down their feelings. And, again: self-care! Get some fresh air, ask friends and family if they can help out, and remember that you are healing and going through many changes in your body and life. 

If your “blues” are lasting more than a few weeks, and you feel completely swamped by them, it’s possible that you are experiencing postpartum depression. Like the baby blues, this is also not something to be ashamed of—but you should talk to a professional.

You can find some common questions and answers about baby blues and postpartum depression, from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, here.

4. Breastfeeding challenges

Ah, the joys of breastfeeding for the first time... It can be a truly wonderful thing and a powerful way to bond with baby, but it can also be tricky if you’ve never done it.

How do you know when baby is hungry? A few indications include: baby raising their hands to their face or putting their fist in their mouth; lip-smacking; turning their heads repeatedly; or opening and closing their mouth.

The process of breastfeeding will go smoother for everyone if mom is comfortable and relaxed, so find a position that works well for you and your little one. It’s also important to keep yourself and your skin hydrated. For more great tips and helpful suggestions, check out this article from the Mayo Clinic.

5. The dreaded four-month sleep regression

If you don’t yet know what this is, you’ll know soon enough! Typically around three-and-a-half or four-months old, babies’ sleep patterns change. You may notice, all of a sudden, that baby starts sleeping less well. They might be extra fussy at bedtime, wake up more often than usual in the night, and nap less during the day. But—stick with us—this is ultimately a good thing.

The four-month sleep regression signals a permanent change in your child’s sleeping patterns. And it’s actually a sign that baby is growing and developing well. But, there are things you can do to make this disruptive period a little smoother for both baby and you. Your little one may need a little extra assistance falling asleep—both at bedtime and throughout the night—once they’re experiencing the regression. So, this might mean rocking or swaddling them, even if you’ve gotten out of the habit of doing so. You can also try white noise.

For more information on the four-month sleep regression, and to plan ahead for future regressions (yes, there are more!), check out this blog post from Laura Olson, Certified Child Sleep Specialist.

6. Taking care of yourself and your relationships

We keep saying it, and we’ll say it again: new moms need to make time and a priority to take care of themselves. Not only are you healing and adjusting to a huge life event and change in your family structure—but you also have to navigate changes to your relationships with your spouse or significant other, and even friends and extended family.

You and your spouse will have to find a new rhythm, and you’ll probably need to ask for a lot more help than you may have in the past. There may (will) be arguing—whether about parenting styles, money, grandparents, time alone, and more. Find time to connect, for both the tough conversations and to have fun together. And remember you’re in this together. For more tips, check out this article from the Gottman Institute. And, we also have some tips to make mornings less stressful.

Every new mom is different, just like every new baby is different. Take a deep breath and one day at a time.

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