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We are expecting our first child in early May. We've just started to get our act together and start nest building, and we have started talking about what we should do when the little one arrives.

I'd like to know what people would recommend to make the transition easier, or at least less of a shock. For example would you recommend a doula? Would you prepare meals ahead of time and freeze them?

All pearls of wisdom gratefully received.

asked 17 Jan '10, 21:49

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Rich Seller
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What type of doula are you asking about? For the actual birth or for care afterward? Or both?

(18 Jan '10, 00:15) Kiesa ♦

@Kiesa, this question is specifically about the first few weeks after birth so I guess it would be for care afterwards.

(18 Jan '10, 10:28) Rich Seller

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One piece of advice I wish I had followed was to make an appointment in advance with a lactation consultant. We had some major breast feeding issues, and while I did get some help from the LCs from the hospital, I wish I had gotten some more personal care. There's a local LC who is VERY highly regarded, but she books up very quickly, so I would have been better off making an appointment in advance in anticipation of needing help. Almost everyone needs some sort of BFing guidance, so it would have been nice to have that appointment already in place, so I would have just had to show up for it.

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answered 18 Jan '10, 01:29

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Yes, I agree! In addition to more personal care, the private LCs usually come to your home (at least in our area) so you don't have to venture out of the house as early. The first night I was home I was almost hysterical trying to breastfeed so we went to the hospital LC first thing the next morning but had to wait at least an hour before she could see us.

(18 Jan '10, 02:09) Kiesa ♦

+1 Agree totally. I had a hard time too, looking back it would have made things much easier for me physically and emotionally.

(18 Jan '10, 07:03) Emi

+1 my wife and I also saw a consultant and the advice and help was invaluable.

(22 Jan '10, 22:04) Chris W. Rea
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I can't speak for Tammy, but from my perspective some people promote the idea that breastfeeding is natural and therefore easy. In retrospect I would say that's doing a disservice to those mothers who have difficulty. Now that we've talked to so many other parents, it's my experience that difficulty breastfeeding seems to be the norm. I would say it's important that new mothers not have unrealistic expectations otherwise you set yourself up for a lot of emotional stress at a time when you're not getting enough sleep, you're recovering from the physical stresses of birth, and you're stressed about all the new responsibility. Therefore, if you plan to breastfeed, I suggest making a contingency plan ahead of time: if you have problems, who can you call (lactation consultants, etc.), in what order, when, and if it comes to it, at what point are you willing to switch to formula.

To generalize this advice: plan, but be ready to change that plan when the baby comes. They all seem to eat differently, sleep differently, and act differently than each other. Be ready to adapt. And try to enjoy - they grow up so fast! :)

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answered 18 Jan '10, 02:03

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edited 18 Jan '10, 11:22

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+1 for the idea that breastfeeding is natural, but not necessarily easy. I also attribute the current problems with modern families being much more spread-out. If we still lived within walking distance of our moms, sisters, sisters-in-law, etc, then we would have a much stronger network of women who know how to nurse, and therefore could help new mothers out. As it is, many of us live nowhere near our families and have lost the sense of community in raising children.

(18 Jan '10, 02:14) Fun2Dream

@Fun2Dream: I totally agree with you.

(18 Jan '10, 02:28) cat_g
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@Fun2Dream I also agree with you. We seem to live our lives at such fast paces. Family and friends support network, helps tremendously in my opinion, particularly in the first few days.

(18 Jan '10, 08:42) Emi
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I would absolutely recommend preparing meals ahead of time. Finding time to make food was a real challenge for us the first few weeks. Some days, I would grab a handful of trail mix and drink a juice box to tide me over until I could have a real meal. As you recover from childbirth, you need make sure you regularly eat - you won't be getting much sleep so you need to at least make sure you eat! If you are planning on breastfeeding, eating healthy meals and remembering to drink lots of water will also help you to establish your milk supply.

We didn't plan ahead and make food for the freezer. However, we were lucky that my mother came to stay about a week after the baby was born and she filled our freezer with enough meals to last us almost two weeks. (My mom is great. :))

I also found that having easy access snacks was very helpful. Some of the snacks we stocked up on included: juice boxes (100% juice), grapes, apples, trail mix with nuts and dried fruit, granola bars, individual yogurts, baby carrots, pita and hummus.

For the first couple weeks, we also ordered our groceries online and had them delivered. We're based in Toronto and used grocerygateway.com. It is more expensive than going to the grocery store, but it was worth the expense for a couple weeks when we were still figuring out life with a new baby.

You have no idea, at this point, how the birth will go and what condition you will be in. I ended up having to have an emergency c-section and had a hard time getting out of bed for a couple weeks. Having food in the freezer, snacks in the cupboard and ordering groceries online made a big difference for us while I was recovering.

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answered 18 Jan '10, 00:06

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+1 for the snacks. I was STARVING all the time because I was breastfeeding, so the snacks were essential!

(18 Jan '10, 02:10) Fun2Dream
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+1 for healthy snacks. I think a full fruit bowl is a fantastic resource for a new mum - healthy and full of fibre (in case you get constipated, as many new Mums do).

(18 Jan '10, 18:33) Meg Stephenson

+1 for grocerygateway.com and similar grocery delivery services... they must really miss us now that our daughter's all grown up and we are back in the grocery store!

(22 Jan '10, 22:08) Chris W. Rea
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My husband had been at his job for less than a year so he was only able to take a week off after our son was born. To help me out while he was at work, we had my mother come for 2 weeks and then his mom come for 2 weeks. This was really helpful for us. I had trouble breastfeeding so I was pumping a lot and it is really tricky taking care of a newborn and learning how to pump at the same time. Also, they made meals for us so we didn't use the food I had frozen ahead of time until after they left. If having family around doesn't work for your situations, maybe there are some friends that can stop by and help out.

I was also on bed rest for a couple of months prior to giving birth so had hired a house cleaner. I kept them on for a couple of months after giving birth and that was also helpful (though if you do this, make sure you don't schedule them too early in the day :) ).

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answered 18 Jan '10, 00:25

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I second the idea of having family come and help out, if at all possible. My MIL came a couple of days after we came home from the hospital, and stayed for 1.5 weeks. I was a little hesitant to have her here for that long, but in the end it was great. She fixed us meals, drove me on errands (I had a C-section, and couldn't drive for 2 weeks), and helped me get some much-needed rest. We also bonded during that time more than we ever had before, and our relationship has improved because of it. I am a very independent gal, and would never have asked for help, but boy, was I glad I had it then.

(18 Jan '10, 01:19) BetsyB

Our little one is two and a half weeks old now. While it's all very fresh, I'd have to agree that breastfeeding has been the biggest challenge. Right after that is the lack of sleep. So, the most valuable skill I've gained is the ability to breastfeed while lying down. The Mayo Clinic has this set of slides on the four basic positions. It may help. Also, Parenting Science has a lot of interesting and informative articles on breastfeeding. They've encouraged me to stick with it and do it when she needs it, not just when I felt inclined. I also received a lot of direct help and coaching from a couple of La Leche League Leaders in my town. I highly recommend seeing one of them or another lactation consultant.

I second everything about preparing meals ahead. You'd be surprised how little time you have for anything besides the baby there at the beginning. And if both you and your partner can take some time off of work, that will make life much easier. I'm just now returning to my part-time job on weekends only and John took off the first week after she was born. It gave him time to bond with her and kept me from getting too overwhelmed.

I might edit thus to add more when I have two hands for typing. I'm actually feeding her right now!

EDIT:

John's holding her today, so I can add a little more. :)

Be prepared for the emotional roller coaster. Luckily, because we had Layla just after Christmas, there's still a lot of chocolate sitting around. It's helped me fight the "baby blues". But even with the chocolate, you may feel amazing one moment, thrilled at being a new parent, and the next moment mourn the loss of your freedom or fear you can't provide everything your child needs. Having someone who can comfort you when it gets bad is a huge help. When nursing was hurting so badly I could hardly stand it, I had John just sit next to me. Having him near me made it so much better.

And be sure to take advantage of the moments when your baby is both alert and content. At the very beginning, that doesn't happen very often. It's still amazing to me every time she smiles. :)

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answered 18 Jan '10, 02:51

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edited 18 Jan '10, 18:37

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+1 I second the be prepared for the emotional roller coaster. I was trying to find a way to word that appropriately and you did a wonderful job. I too struggled with baby blues and also had some difficulty adapting my perspective from Tammy the independant professional to Tammy the mom.

(18 Jan '10, 19:20) Tammy ♦♦

Absolutely agree Tammmy & Artemis. The highs and lows can be really bewildering, added to the fact that we are usually tired/exhausted in that first week. My mother insisted that we go out have a dinner alone with my husband the second week and that felt very calming.

(19 Jan '10, 11:06) Emi

+1 absolutely agree on having support and comfort -- my husband kept telling me, "you're doing great" or "you're a great mom" which sometimes made me cry, it was just what I needed to hear.

(19 Jan '10, 15:30) Anne

+1 for chocolate! And congratulations!

(22 Jan '10, 22:07) Chris W. Rea

Re: the doula: I really wish I had gotten a postpartum doula. We don't have much family around, so I didn't have good sources of advice. I felt incredibly overwhelmed and unsure of myself, it would have been nice to have a voice of calm advice. Many other answerers have echoed the sentiment that it would be nice if we all still had lots of family around for advice, but that's not possible in most cases now. Here are some more thoughts:

  • find a support network. search out other people in your area that are expecting, so you can compare notes once the baby comes.
  • remind yourself over and over that while the first few weeks are hard, they'll get easier (or hard in different ways). and shockingly, you will come to miss those first few weeks with your little blob of sweet newborn!!!
  • amazon prime was a great help -- we didn't need to leave the house to get things we realized we needed.
  • you won't really know exactly what you need until the little one comes -- there's only so much preparing you can do. try to have the house clean and organized so you can improvise. For example we had a diaper changing station upstairs, but soon realized we did most of our changes downstairs, so we had to create a whole new changing station.

good luck!!!

Edit -- I forgot one thing -- I wish I had gotten a side-sleeper and learned to nurse lying down. We had a bassinet in the room but I still had to get up to feed him when he was hungry. It wasn't too bad as he was a big baby and didn't need to eat so frequently, but it would have been horrible if he had nursed every hour or two like some babies can.

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answered 19 Jan '10, 03:23

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edited 19 Jan '10, 15:25

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Agree; if you do not have the possibility of having the mother, or mother in law over to help, get a doula. You may be as independent and strong as anyone, but in the first few weeks you WILL be grateful for any little help. Bonding time with the newborn is very important.

(19 Jan '10, 15:28) brandstaetter

+1 For nursing laying down. My 8.5 month old still frequently nurses over night. Nursing laying down in bed has allowed me to get more sleep - and every minute of sleep counts these days.

(20 Jan '10, 00:49) cat_g
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+1 For finding a support network early. Our friends all moved away right around the time I was pregnant which has been really hard.

(22 Jan '10, 23:31) Kiesa ♦

All these comments about how hard breastfeeding can be really hit home. I felt like my first 2 weeks with my baby were overshadowed by fighting a losing battle to breastfeed. I had serious complications after birth of a healthy boy. I was in the hospital for a week, won't go over the gory details here, but in reterospect I don't know what made me think I would be capable of producing milk after all the medical problems. So then I came home and spent all my time pumping and feeling terrible because it wasn't working. When I finally gave up and accepted my "failure" everything got so much easier and brighter.

Later, I read this wonderful article by a breastfeeding mom who dares to question some of the info that I had accepted as fact. I think moms-to-be should read this. Obviously we all want to breastfeed, but know that if you can't you might not be the worst mom ever. My formula-fed 9 month old is 90+ percentile for everything, ridiculously happy and healthy, and so is his mom.

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200904/case-against-breastfeeding

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answered 18 Jan '10, 23:01

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Try and read up as much as possible on people's "first weeks" experience (blogs, ask here, etc.). This may help you get 'psychologically' prepared for some of the unexpected stuff (like how much TIME a baby can fill).

It'a true that breastfeeding is not necessarily easy just because it's natural (like giving birth, I guess...), so you have to be 'psychologically' prepared for it not to work - and fight the doubt that you're a failure as a Mum if it doesn't. But just as for a natural birth, you'll want to do all you can to try and make it work - for which, see all the excellent suggestions in the other answers.

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answered 18 Jan '10, 07:09

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(18 Jan '10, 07:09) Benjol

Sleep whenever the baby goes down. Even if you don't go fully to sleep, at least lay down, close your eyes and rest. Getting up during the night, breastfeeding, figuring out what all the cries mean, it all takes it out of you and you need as much rest as you can. I laugh when I read where people say to get lots of rest before birth because I was so uncomfortable that I was only getting a couple hours of sleep a night. I was sleep deprived before my second arrived, so after he was born, when he slept I would lay down on the couch or the spare bed in the playroom so that I could hear both of my children if they needed me. When my daughter was born, we spent much of the day cuddling on the couch so that when she slept, I could easily rest (and I didn't have to give up snuggle time).

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answered 19 Jan '10, 21:31

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mkcoehoorn
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+1 So true about being sleep deprived due to a really big belly! LOL! I couldn't get comfortable the last few weeks of my pregnancy. I also agree with sleeping or laying down when the baby sleeps.

(20 Jan '10, 00:52) cat_g

Ha. My advice to about-to-be-dads is to taper off to about 5 hours of sleep a night right before the baby arrives. That way, it won't be as much of a shock to your system when you have to cut it down even further. :)

(21 Jan '10, 15:51) Scott ♦♦

+1 for "sleep when the baby sleeps."

(22 Jan '10, 22:05) Chris W. Rea

Seems like you have lots of good advice. I too would set up a lactation consultant, stock the freezer and cupboards and sleep when you have the chance. If you have a lot of visitors don't feel as though you have to "visit" every second. Take the time to have a shower, lie down, or go for a short walk. People won't think you are rude, they'll probably feel good that they are helping out and a few minutes or an hour to yourself will leave you refreshed. My baby is 8 and half months now and I held him a lot when he was born just because I wanted to. I'm glad I did because that phase passes so quickly. Remember to enjoy your baby when he or she arrives. In three months you won't remember if the house was clean or not. Good luck. Erin PS Even though I held him a lot, I didn't "spoil" him, as people tried to tell me I would. He goes to sleep in his crib, enjoys cuddles and is becoming very independent. So much fun!

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answered 21 Jan '10, 15:30

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Asked: 17 Jan '10, 21:49

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Last updated: 21 Jan '10, 15:30