One of my best friends just gave birth, and I was beside myself with excitement to visit her and my new nephew. As soon as I walked in, the first thing she moaned was, “You didn’t tell me breastfeeding would hurt!” Yes, I did. “You didn’t tell me how much and how long!” Ooops, I may have skipped the details.
The more I thought about it, the more I remembered the things that nobody told me before I gave birth! During pregnancy, you have your OB regularly telling you what is going on and countless books to guide you, but afterwards, it’s a different story!
Also, I noticed that everyone is more than happy to give you a list of things you will need for the baby, but what about a list for mommy to help navigate the first few weeks?
1 Every woman has a different experience, and I hope you are one of those who never experienced pain or discomfort while nursing, but for others, such as myself, it hurts. And it gets worse over the days as you get more bruised and baby becomes stronger and more demanding. You literally shed blood and tears over this one.
But just when you think you will never get through it, the pain starts to fade. It goes away little by little until one day, sometime around the second or third week, you realize the pain is gone and you go from being the drama queen to the dairy queen!
Try to get at least two to three tubes of lanolin (Lansinoh is fantastic if you have anyone coming from the US; there are other great brands available locally) before you give birth. Lanolin is a natural lubricant that gives great relief, and is safe for baby.
2 Next, when your milk will “come in.” Any time from your second to fifth day. Normally, it is just swelling and tenderness but this feeling of fullness can turn into engorgement if you don’t nurse frequently enough.
Don’t be surprised if you wake up in the middle of the night with chills and fever. Engorgement feels like someone poured cement into your chest. Nursing is the last thing you would want to do at this point, and baby will get very upset to find your chest in this state.
But this is the time you absolutely must release the milk, directly or by pumping. Otherwise, you may end up with clogged ducts and infection. Nurse frequently and regularly to help your body regularize its production.
Ask your doctor what medicines you are allowed, but the best advice I received was to use a warm compress 20 minutes or more before feeding and a cold compress another 20 minutes or more after feeding to avoid or reduce swelling. You can also try applying a towel dipped in bucket of ice and water.
3 It’s hard to explain this, and I have a feeling it is powered by hormones and partly by baby blues. When the baby comes, there is the incredible joy. It’s wonderful to see everyone dropping by to check on you and the baby.
But at the same time, seeing family and friends carry on with their lives as you struggle with the challenges of a “new normal” can give rise to a strange isolating feeling that you’re all alone despite the amazing support and love of everyone.
Or, there’s that new mother’s feeling of inadequacy and fear of failure. Truth is, you may be super mom, but you’re still human, and nowhere does it say that moms, especially new ones, are not allowed to feel tired, sad or overwhelmed.
I realize now that these feelings are definitely part of the baby blues. Fortunately, they don’t last very long, and once you figure out that it’s just your hormones, it becomes easier to overcome them.
In the meantime, it helps to voice out your feelings to someone. If the feelings persist longer than a few weeks and continue to get worse, you may want to check if you have post-partum depression.
4 You would think that once the bun is out of the oven, everything would go back to normal. Not so fast! Expect to see a dark line, and even patch, on your stomach, which will disappear in time. Also, don’t bring out your old clothes just yet. Expect to still look pregnant weeks or even months after you deliver. In the meantime, binder, binder, binder!
Tip of the iceberg
5 I had a Caesarean section. I remember assuming that I could move around normally as soon as the scar looked dry and clean. I didn’t realize it was basically just the tip of the iceberg. As expected, I was soon on the phone with my OB, freaking out over this and that while she reminded me that the real recovery needed is for the stuff inside. Lesson learned was to take it easy in your movements until a go-signal from the doctor.
6 Put a towel under you when you sleep at night unless you like having your sheets smell of milk. Once you start heading out, dress properly or get ready for wardrobe malfunctions. Make sure you put pads inside your top to avoid looking like you spilled a glass of water all over your shirt. Also, as the hours go by and milk starts to fill up, your outfit may go from its original GP rating to an R18! Try to avoid open scoop necklines and bring a shawl to cover up any accidents or your chest if it begins to pop out.
7 Bleeding is normal after you deliver. It can take up to a couple of weeks. My OB said it is the body’s way of releasing clots and healing. I think it’s the body’s way of saying, “No period for nine months? You’re not that lucky! Take this!”
8 If you deliver normally, and especially if you have stitches, you may experience pain when you go to the bathroom. My friend’s sister brought her a can of Dermoplast while she was in the hospital recovering, and she says it was heaven-sent, as a single spray was enough to numb everything.
Before you run away in fear, let me just point out that everyone has a different experience. Some women may not have a single challenge after delivery, so don’t worry! You might just be one of them.
This is to help you prepare, and hopefully, make recovery an easier and smoother process. Just one smile from your baby and you will realize that it is all worth it. Best of all, before you know it, the days and years will bring enough amazing experiences with your child to replace the memories of your recovery. Maybe, that is why nobody ever remembers what to warn you about after you give birth!