You did it! You gave birth to a happy, healthy baby, and you almost tore yourself in half to do it… so now how can you help piece yourself together again? What should you expect to happen in your “fourth” trimester?
First, let’s talk about what happens within a few minutes of meeting your beautiful baby. I go into more detail about this topic in another blog post, but let’s go over some basic things you should do within the first few days of bringing life into the universe.
- Make sure baby is latching well. Your hospital should have a Lactation consultant to help you, or your midwife can guide you if you went that route. It is important to ask questions and not to brush anything off, this is how your baby will receive his or her nutrients!
- Check for tongue and lip ties. Some are more obvious than others, but ask the hospital if they see anything suspicious, especially if latching hurts or you hear a clicking noise when baby is sucking. My son had two ties which we had clipped when he was four days old, and it was definitely making a difference in his eating. A dentist will do it using a laser. Long term, it can even affect speech!
- Do NOT hesitate to make more appointments with a Lactation consultant. My LC told me breastfeeding should never hurt, so make an appointment if you feel any pain. Insurance almost always covers it if you are lucky enough to be insured. My LC taught me a lot!
- Your breastmilk may take a while to come in. You will have colostrum at first which is plenty for a newborn baby. My milk came in on day 2, but everyone is different. Don’t let people tell you to supplement with formula just yet, wait and see how things turn out.
- Skin to skin contact with mom and dad is essential. Breastfeeding is a great way to have contact and build a bond with your baby. There was nothing more special than me in those first few days than feeling baby’s little breath as I fed him.
- Every momma has the right to choose how to feed her baby, and some actually don’t get a choice, but I personally just couldn’t deny that breastmilk was best for my baby.
You can read more about my breastfeeding tips later, but these are the basics.
Caring for your overall body:
Your doctor or midwife should discuss this with you as well, but my main points are
- No heavy lifting
- Have someone at home to help you. You should spend time bonding with baby, not cooking and cleaning
- Have someone who will openly talk with you about feeling something bigger than the “baby blues.” It is normal to be a little weepy, especially when your breastmilk comes in, but if you start to feel anything beyond that, please reach out. My husband checked on me constantly because I had a history of anxiety, which put me at risk for PP depression or PP anxiety. It’s lame that we don’t openly discuss these things more often. After talking about it, I did realize I was experiencing postpartum anxiety. I cried and panicked over things that could worry any mom, but shouldn’t have led me to breakdowns. For example, baby didn’t poop for a few hours on day two and I was convinced he was dehydrated and burst into tears before having a meltdown. On another day, I could not figure out how to get a damp onesie off and baby was screaming, and I felt like I was hurting him and almost hyperventilated before calming down and finally getting his clothes off. Have a support system in place for moments like this.
- Take a couple days of bed rest. My midwife recommended three at least, and I thought I felt great after two days so I went on a walk. I passed a huge clot later that day! Her exact words were “Your body will tell on you when you don’t listen!” Even if you feel great, take a few days to relax!
- See a chiropractor afterwards. Your bones and joints are all out of place not only from labor, but from the past nine months! Go get adjusted.
- Stay crazy hydrated. You should be peeing every two hours in order to aid your uterus in returning to its original size. You also need to replace all the water you lose in breastfeeding.
- Create a sleep schedule for YOU. People tend to focus on baby’s sleep schedule or feeding schedule, but one of the best things we did as a couple was have set times that we each got to sleep. My husband works very early, so I took the late night baby shift so he could rest before work. I got to sleep in evenings, so I basically became nocturnal and was up (but rested) with baby at night. If baby needed to be fed during hubby’s turn, I would feed him in bed as I slept and hubs would burp him after. It worked for us, but of course it just depends on what your schedules look like! The point is to make sure you find time for each of you to sleep.
Caring for baby:
I know what it is like to be terrified of every single change you notice in your newborn. Hopefully you have a midwife and pediatrician as understanding as ours and are able to use them to answer all those crazy questions you’ll have.
- Jaundice happens. Baby was jaundiced and the midwife and pediatrician told me they thought it would probably get better over time, even though he did seem quite a bit yellow. Pediatrician mentioned formula would help, but didn’t push it or think it was necessary yet. Hubs and I were so worried we gave in and baby had a few ounces of formula a day for two days. I regret it! Go with your gut and ask questions.
- Cradle cap, or baby dandruff, is normal and is not hurting your baby.
- You do not need to bathe baby yet! His skin benefits from all that is leftover after birth, plus most doctors recommend waiting until the cord falls off completely. Infections are not fun, so sponge bathe for a while. We waited 2 weeks.
- Find a system for keeping track of baby’s wet and dirty diapers, feeding sessions, among other things. Not only will this give you piece of mind but it’s something the pediatrician will ask about. I used the Lasinoh app that came with my breast pump (which I love)
- Baby’s skin will peel. They may even break out and have baby acne. Don’t freak out!
- PROBIOTICS! For you and baby. I personally regret not putting baby on a probiotic early on. They are great for colic, gas, and to avoid thrush which is the worst. We added a probiotic at three weeks old after a case of thrush, and it surprised us by curing his colic too! The brand we use is Mother’s Bliss. I drink Kevita kombucha to get probiotics for myself as well.
Caring for your hoo-ha:
This is the part most people are a little more scared of. I’m going to be extremely blunt. It is NOT pretty down there right now. The first time I peed, I was terrified! As I wiped (with a baby wipe because toilet paper seemed way too hardcore) I remember thinking “Oh my lord, my vagina is swollen SHUT.” None of my parts were in the correct spot. Remember, I didn’t have any vaginal or perineal tears, (shoutout to all the Kegals I did) so I wasn’t even experiencing the worst of it. I tried a lot to speed up my healing process or at the very least ease my pain. Here is what worked!
- I ditched the peri bottle and went with a bidet. We got this bidet for cloth diapers as a baby shower gift off of amazon for about $40, and my aunt mentioned how it would be great to use instead of wiping in postpartum recovery. It is worth the investment, and remember you can use a bidet even after you’ve recovered. In my opinion, the peri bottle does not have enough pressure and I never felt clean, plus it barely stopped peeing from stinging. I used a low setting and loved it, and would always dab with a baby wipe after. Toilet paper was too rough. As a plus, the bidet makes cleaning the toilet way easier also!
- I did Sitz baths! I would fill the bath up enough just so my lower half was covered, and I would throw in chamomile tea bags and let them sit for a while in very hot water. Once they’d steeped a bit, I would also add Epsom salt. I’d sit until the water turned cold. This helped a ton with swelling and pain.
- I took stool softener. Pooping for the first two weeks or more was horrific. Take fiber and a stool softener to make it just a bit easier for you, and so you don’t have to strain your body as much. I saw stars after my first poop, it is that bad.
- Massage your uterus to help stop bleeding and help it bounce back to its original size. It will hurt a bit the first few days. If you experience clots the rule is breastfeed and massage in order to prevent them from getting any bigger or hemorrhaging.
- Wear adult diapers! I know that’s not what you thought of when thinking of matching outfits with baby, but they were WAY better than pads. They soak up more blood, are slipped on like underwear, and you don’t have to worry about them moving around or getting uncomfortable like maxi pads do over time. I wore a diaper even when I could’ve probably already switched over to maxi pads… and my bleeding was done before week 3.
- Continue your kegels. It helps your perineum tighten back up and can speed up healing by giving those muscles a workout. By the end of 3 days my kegels did not hurt at all.
- After one week my vagina was basically back to normal as far as swelling went. By 10 days almost all of my soreness was gone, except for right where the ring of fire, which is another term for when baby’s head stretches your vagina to the widest point it is going to reach, happened. “Fire” is a perfect explanation for that moment, believe me.
If you think your vagina is closed for good, I promise you’ll be back in business soon enough. I had a google search that literally said “Will my vagina ever be the same.” Don’t worry guys, you’ll be fine. I even felt confident enough to schedule my IUD insertion for only 6 weeks postpartum. Happy healing & check back in soon.