Even if this isn’t your first child, becoming a new mum can come as quite a shock! An absolutely wonderful shock of course, but it can be quite daunting and there will be lots of things that may come as a surprise, like how such a tiny little bundle of joy can be so exhausting to carry around all day.
As with your complete postpartum journey, we are here to help guide you, with five top tips and good habits to ease you into motherhood with less stress, less pain and less surprises.
1. BE PREPARED FOR LEAKS
To seasoned mothers, this comes as no surprise at all, but many first-time mums are caught off-guard by their bodily fluids!
Pregnancy and birth have a huge impact upon our bodies. Your pelvic floor can be stretched and weakened, and your bladder will return to its natural position, changing the way you feel internally overnight. The results in what is known as stress incontinence, or accidental peeing to you and I! Coughing, lifting, even sneezing can result in an embarrassing wet patch. We don’t like to talk about it, but it is incredibly common, especially when you have been through labour – even with Caesarians.
Being prepared, either with heavy-flow pads or absorbent maternity underwear, can avoid any awkward situation until you become familiar with how your body has recovered. And don’t worry - our bodies are incredibly resilient. In the vast majority of cases, your pelvic floor will return to normal and you’ll regain bladder control relatively quickly.
But that’s not all that will leak! You’ll no doubt have noticed the growth and possibly aching in your boobs. Mammary glands grow increasingly active through our pregnancies and even before birth will begin to produce milk. This can be a little uncomfortable when there’s no little tummy for it to fill, and it can also begin to leak. What’s more, our mammaries are hard-wired to our brains, and the second we hear our little bub’s cries, they will begin to express milk. Stocking up on breast pads is essential for almost any new mum. Even if you produce very little milk, there is still often enough to make a little bit of a mess, and breast pads will save you having to change your bra and blouse six times a day.
2. TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY
Bub doesn’t know how hard she can suck, she only knows she’s hungry. Feeding numerous times each day and producing lots of milk is a lot for your boobs to handle and they need some TLC too. A lanolin-based nipple cream will help alleviate discomfort from chafed or cracked nipples. Make sure you use a natural one specifically for mothers so that you aren’t putting anything nasty in bub’s mouth. Speaking of her mouth, she can get a lot of suction from that thing! If you need to stop feeding before he’s ready to let go (or has fallen asleep), gently ease your pinkie finger into her mouth alongside your nipple. This will break the seal and release the suction.
Rosehip oil is an amazing remedy for any form of scarring, from Caesarian scars to stretch marks. It is incredibly nourishing for the skin and also a wonderful excuse for you to take time for a little self-massage – or even better, get hubby to apply it. Rosehip, however, is only a topical oil and should not be ingested, especially by little ones.
For your breasts, cocoa butter is a great way to revitalise your skin and also increase its elasticity, so begin applying it early in your pregnancy and continue throughout breastfeeding to minimise stretchmarks on your boobs, as well as on your tummy, thighs and anywhere else that is changing shape!
3. WHAT YOU TASTE, THEY TASTE
Surprise – YOU make your breast milk. That might not come as a shock, but what will come as a shock is when you eat a spicy Indian meal on Friday night and bub has to have curry-flavoured milk for breakfast!
Everything you eat or drink, your body uses to make milk, so any extreme flavours will come through your boobs and can even make baby refuse his milk, even though he’s starving. The same goes for drugs of any kind, including caffeine and alcohol. While these should be completely avoided through pregnancy, postpartum they can also have some adverse effects so should always be limited as much as possible. We deserve a glass of wine more than anyone else! But the recommendation for breastfeeding mothers is to ideally have no alcohol and certainly no more than one standard drink.
Two cups of coffee or three cups of tea are considered safe for new mums, but the caffeine content passed on through your milk can result in a very tired and grouchy bub. This varies from mother to mother, so start out with a small amount and see how she reacts to it before downing three double espressos a day in your first sleep-deprived week!
4. WEAR YOUR BABY
Our natural tendency - and our heart’s desire – is to cuddle our little ones all day long, but carrying your bub in your arms puts a huge amount of unbalanced stress on your body. As they grow, this only increases, and toddler mums often have misaligned hips and lumbar due to carrying 10 or 15 kilos on one dominant hip far too frequently and for too long.
Set good habits from early on. Baby Björn, Hug-a-Bub and many other companies have created wonderful wraps, harnesses and carriers to keep your little bundle safe and secure while distributing the load more evenly throughout your body, minimising the risk of lumbar or hip strain, as well as freeing up both of your arms.
This makes it far easier to carry bub for long periods, but sooner or later, you will need to put her down (and pick her up, and put her down again and so on!). Lifting correctly is so important. The temptation is just to lean over from the waist, but as baby grows this will place a huge amount of strain on your back. Use your legs as much as you possibly can, squatting rather than bending. It’s also a great way to get thighs and glutes back into shape!
5. GET THE SUPPORT YOU NEED
…in two ways. Speaking of bending and lifting, having the physical support of a Belly Band will be an incredible help for you. Your core and abdomen have been through a great deal, so giving them added support, even when just sitting and standing without the added weight of your little one, is absolutely essential. This is even more relevant if you have had any form of surgery or injury, such as tearing, a Caesarian or abdominal separation. Even for the healing we can’t see, with your organs and body returning to normal, the embracing support of Belly Bands will give you far greater comfort and assist with more rapid and beneficial healing.
The other way you can get support is by asking for it… and it is essential that you do. We weren’t meant to go through early motherhood alone and – superhuman though we are – it is very hard to do solo.
If you have other expecting mums, or even if you just have caring friends, arrange a food circle where the group takes it in turns to cook dinner for the new mum for the first week or two. Call on nearby relatives to give you some assistance, downtime or even just a little company. Ask your hubby or partner to lend a hand with house chores or even a little shoulder rub at the end of the day. The point is, don’t suffer in silence. Your loved ones will always be willing to lend some support – they just sometimes need to be asked.
Bringing a new life into the world can be a little overwhelming, but it is also so rewarding. We hope that these five tips will reduce the former and increase the latter.