If your baby was just born, 6 weeks may still seem very far away. The following 6 weeks (or 40 days, which somehow sounds better) will simultaneously be extremely challenging and beautifully rewarding. Here’s are some tips to help you survive.
You need to recover from the birth, establish breastfeeding, and settle down with this little human being that is at the same time a complete stranger and the person closest to your heart. Both mom and dad need to adapt to one of the most significant life-changing events that they will ever experience, as individuals and as a couple.
The 40-day mark are also upheld to mothers as the time when some baby troubles will start easing. It is at this milestone where they will see the gynae, the pediatrician and the clinic sister. They will receive official confirmation that they indeed survived the first few weeks. The internship is now over, and you are officially on the parenting road.
You can already see that there is A LOT happening. For this reason, some cultures make this period an official confinement period, where mom doesn’t leave the house and doesn’t see other people. Let’s take a look at what to expect and one some survival techniques to help you cope.
Changes to mom’s body in the first days after giving birth
It takes six weeks for mom’s body to return to its pre-pregnancy state.
At least, that is what the textbooks say; we know that some things are never completely normal again! You can expect the following:
- Heavy bleeding (or lochia) is normal in the early days after birth. This will gradually decrease and eventually becomes a yellowish discharge towards the end. Between 5-6 weeks after the birth you can expect you first menstrual period again. Bleeding can flare up around 14 days after the birth. If this heavier bleeding continues you should contact your caregiver.
- Your Caesarean section wound should be officially healed by the end of your 40 day period. Many doctors advise mothers to wait this long before driving again, although this will depend on how your are feeling as well.
- If you have a perineal cut or tear after vaginal delivery it is usually healed by around 14 days after birth, though there may still be some discomfort. Remember to soak the area in a saltwater bath twice a day to prevent infection and encourage healing. Speak to your caregiver if it remains painful or if you experience any other problems like urinary incontinence.
- Swelling of your hands and feet are common in the early days after birth. If it is severe you should have your blood pressure checked. However, it usually goes away on it’s own. The homeopathic tissue salts Nat mur and Nat sulph can assist.
- You may notice your hair falling out; this is normal, and usually looks worse than it is. It is due to falling estrogen levels after the pregnancy. It may continue for up to a year, but will eventually stop.
- It’s normal to perspire (sweat) a lot. This is due to hormonal changes and will also stop soon.
- Stretch marks will fade; they unfortunately do not go away completely.
- Losing your pregnancy weight will of course depend on how much you gained and on your diet. It is very possible to be back on your pre-pregnancy weight after 40 days, especially if you are breastfeeding which helps many women with weight loss.
The first 40 days with your new baby
If parenting feels new to you, imaging all that your baby is experiencing. Out in the world for the first time, with sounds and smells and bright lights must be overwhelming. Baby is growing at a rapid rate and will need constant nurturing and care. This is no small feat.
READ MORE: Top tips to get your baby to sleep
Here are a few milestones for the first 40 days with your new baby:
- Day 1-2: Baby may still be very sleepy after the birth, and many parents feel grateful that their baby has such an easy nature. Keep baby skin-to-skin for as many hours a day as possible, and feed baby on demand. This may mean very frequent and quite long feeding sessions. However, baby may be refusing to latch, which is extremely stressful for a mom.
- Day 3: This is often not the easiest day. Around this day baby typically starts waking up, and may suddenly be more difficult and crampy; this is normal. Your baby should have 5-6 wet and/or dirty nappies in 24 hours and should be passing meconium (dark black/green stools). Today you will also be going home, and mom may experience some baby blues. Baby may look yellow, and your doctor may request a billirubin test. Your breast milk may come in and you will suddenly have full, leaking breasts. Upon discharge they will weigh baby; if baby has lost more than 10% of his birth weight you should speak to a lactation consultant to make sure breastfeeding is on track.
- Day 5: If you are breastfeeding baby’s stools should start changing colour, from black to brown. This is an indication that baby is feeding well.
- Day 6: If you are breastfeeding your baby’s stools should change colour now to yellow, and baby should have 3-4 stool nappies in 24 hours. If this is not the case you should consider speaking to a lactation consultant to just make sure you are on the right pathway with breastfeeding.
- Day 7: This is a good day on which to book a newborn photoshoot as you should be settled in at home, but baby is still tiny and you won’t miss out on the newborn look for your photos.
- Day 10: Baby’s umbilical cord should fall off around this time; baby may have a small bulge (unbilical hernia) coming out of the navel. This is baby’s bowels protruding through a gap in the ligaments through which the umbilical cord came out. It usually repairs on it’s own and there is no need to bind baby’s belly button with a bandage. Contact your doctor if the area seems blue or hard, and if baby seems to have pain in that area.
- Day 14: Your baby should be back on birth weight, so visit a clinic, pharmacy or postnatal group to have baby weighed. Babies often go through a growth spurt at this age, and may want to drink very frequently. Continue feeding on demand to ensure that your milk supply establishes well.
- Day 14-21: This is often the time when a baby starts to struggle with winds, cramps and reflux symptoms, although of course, some little ones may do so from the very beginning. Consider taking baby to a chiropractor as these symptoms may be caused by a malalignment of the spine after baby’s birth. You may have to experiment with winding techniques to find the one best suited to you. You can also now start experimenting with your baby carrier – once again, remember that practice makes perfect!
- Day 28: You may be more settled in now. Start doing Tummy Time with your baby. For short periods while baby is awake, let baby lie on his tummy on a firm surface. Most babies typically do not like this much. If baby is unhappy, roll up a blanket to put under baby’s chest, or even let baby lie on his tummy on your chest. Even just 2-3 minutes 2-3 times a day will already help baby to develop good head and neck control as well as depth perception.
- Day 40: You have survived, and are just in time for baby’s next growth spurt. You will also now have your clinic and doctors’ appointments.
Tips to help you cope during the first days with your newborn:
- Try to do as little as possible in the early days, and to just spend time getting to know baby. It may feel like you are getting nothing done, but this is actually the way it should be.
- If possible, have a female support person at hand to assist you with basic tasks in the house and to give emotional support. Of course, your partner is important, but he also needs to adapt and he may struggle if he is your sole support person.
- Rest when you can – it is normal to be extremely tired. Remember that this too shall pass.
- Remember that all babies cry. Whether it is abnormal or not will depend on how severe and how often it happens. Here are some tips to help you cope with colic and crying.
- Start doing Kegel exercises to boost your vaginal muscle tone as soon as possible after birth.
- Give attention to your diet. It is very easy to be so busy and occupied that you just grab something quick to eat here and there. But you can’t expect to feel good and to heal well if you are not getting the nutrients that you need. Invest in some ready-made (healthy) food, or arrange with some friends to bring a few meals. A pregnancy shake can also help, and you should continue taking your pregnancy multivitamins.
- As soon as you feel physically able, start taking walks with baby. You will always feel better after some fresh air, and being in the stroller calms baby down as well.
- Learn how to use a baby carrier; this will soon become your biggest tool!
- Remember that routine is something that will emerge. Sit back and watch your baby’s own patterns develop. You will soon have a better idea of what baby needs when.
- Learn to lie down and breastfeeding, and be open to co-sleeping. These two measures can be a lifesaver for a mom with a baby not sleeping well.
By the time you reach 40 days, you will have your baby figured out. You will have an idea why he is crying, will know which winding technique works and will how to put him to sleep. Although it may feel like forever while you are going through it, the time actually passes very quickly. So on difficult days, just hang in there, as this too shall pass. And remember to enjoy those happy moments in between, as they will become some of your most treasured memories.