No one talks about the three month period after you have the baby. I know the first time I envisaged it would be effortless breasfeeding, a sweet smelling giggly baby and me being at the best weight of my life due to breastfeeding. Reality was that breastfeeding was a bitch in the beginning, though my baby was in fact sweet smelling he also often smelt of milk which was also nice but also due to the fact that he had bad reflux and would projectile vomit over himself, me and whatever couch I was sitting on when I breastfed. And the giggling, he did and still does do plenty of that but he also cried shrilly painful cries from the reflux. oh, and the breastfeeding, forget it. I returned to pre pregnancy weight pretty quickly, but over the year I breastfed my weight yo-yoed up and down (more up then down).
More than ever you need to not pressure yourself to be a supermama, especially if you are also having to nurture one or many older siblings. Their is also still alot of development going on for baby during this time. Let the laundry and dishes go for a day or two or three. Ok, the laundry may be a bit harder if you are dealing with explosive poos, spit up and leaky boobs – yes, I am dealing with or have dealt with all of these things in the past week since the birth of Monkey #2. You have bigger things to deal with, namely the surge of hormones playing havoc on your tired brain. No matter how good a sleeper your baby is, you will lose sleep in the first 3 months. Their wee tum tums can only take in so much milk at once, hence most doctor’s and midwives’ standard recommendation to feed every 2-3 hours while you both get the hang of the breastfeeding thing.
Breastfeeding is natural, but it doesn’t mean it’s easy. Get help from a lactation consultant your OB/midwife or even a friend. A conversation I had with a friend about holding your boob like a hamburger, was the final clincher in me sorting out Monkey #1 latching. Trust me, remember ‘hold your breast like a hamburger‘ and it will make sense once you have the baby in front of you and the boob in your hand. Thankfully for us 2nd time and beyond mamas, the body remembers, like muscle memory, and your milk will kick in alot quicker the second time around. This time around a nurse at the hospital was able to give me a few quick tips and it all came back to me – team Me and Monkey #2 had this breastfeeding thing sorted in no time. On a side note: don’t be too smug because you can breastfeed. Some women want desperately to breastfeed but can’t for all kinds of medical reasons. Also, the best advice I was given by my midwife with Monkey #1 was to give it time. It takes time for your milk to come in, on average 2-5 days. If you want to breastfeed, keep at it, get help, do all that you can til you’ve exhausted your resources. Because Monkey #1 was 3.5 weeks early and I had never breastfed before, neither of our bodies was ready. He was too sleepy, and my body was just not ready. I had to use an industrial size pump for 2 weeks to get my milk supply up while he got his energy levels up. I still shutter at the thought of the whirring engine of the pump I was hooked up to like a cow every 2 hours. The good news is that I was able to breastfeed without any problems for a year and was able to use a much smaller battery-operated hand pump when I needed some milk on reserve.
Kankles and water retention. You are likely to retain water somewhere – your ankles, hands, arms. It may be one part of your body or it may be all over. For me its the dreaded kankles. If anything it reminds me to rest more than I probably want to, and to keep my feet up. The compression socks I wore on the plane over here are coming in handy. Drink lots of water and stay off the salty foods. But then again, don’t stress too much about what you eat. My first meal at 2:00 AM once I was finally settled in a room and Big Monkey could pull himself away from Monkey #2 to go out and buy, was a chicken salad sandwich and yummy salty fries. Their is much debate on what you should and shouldn’t eat specifically around breastfeeding. I’ve been told not too much fruit or spicy foods. But then it can be argued how do Indian mothers breastfeed, don’t they eat largely spicy foods? I think introduce extreme foods (such as spicy dishes) slowly. Like all things moderation.
Keep taking your prenatal vitamins if you plan on breastfeeding. That is all.
If you are breastfeeding, you can handle the lack of sleep. In fact, you can probably handle it even better than your husband or women who are bottle feeding. Prolactin is released during deep sleep as well as by mother’s who breastfeed. That is why we can hop into bed for 2 hours in between feeds and actually have a deep sleep before we get up to feed again. In the sleep cycle of most people, it would take an hour or 2 to get to the first cycle of deep sleep (the good restorative sleep). This is mother nature’s way of helping us get through the initial stage of breastfeeding. I’m not sure how long this prolactin helps out, but I can say first hand it does. I still crash at some point during the day, but overall it’s amazing how well I can function considering. While I was pregnant, the broken sleep pattern from getting up to pee 3-4 times during the night was a killer for me the next day. Now, I am probably sleeping even less at night and the next day I do not feel nearly as horrendous as I did back then.
Emotional roller coaster and irrational fears. Ah, dreaded hormones, blame them for everything. They will hit unexpectedly, make you cry for no reason (or at least no plausible reason) and even bring on nutty dreams and irrational thoughts. I remember with Monkey #1 going into his room 99 times a night (ok, slight exaggeration, but still very often) to check if he was breathing. I had him swaddled up so tightly like a little kebab that he would lay there motionless and I would wonder if he was ok. Thankfully with Monkey #2, because I know the drill I don’t seem to have these concerns.
Hair loss and bad skin. Though I haven’t experienced this personally, I have friends who have told me about washing their hair in the shower and finding clumps of hair in their hands. Be ready for it. Bad skin or really awesome glowing skin. You will have one or the other thanks to hormones settling.
You will look anywhere from 5-8 months pregnant after you give birth. Don’t be surprised when you take your first shower in the hospital and you look down to see you have not returned to your svelte former self. The only weight you are guaranteed to have lost immediately after birth is the birth weight of your child (in my case 6 lbs) and the weight of the placenta and amniotic fluid (which is on average about 4 lbs). Say hello to your new muffin top, it will be with you for the next little while. The rest of the breakdown of weight gain that you are now desperately wanting to lose looks something like this:
- The uterus is about 2 lbs and will shrink over time, sometimes causing mild to intense pain. Again, different with everyone. With Monkey #1 I hardly felt anything. With Monkey #2, the cramps were intense in those first few days every time I breastfed her. Don’t suffer, pop a few motrin, the nurses dish it out like candy at the hospital.
- The excess blood needed for pregnancy is another 4 lbs that is again flushed out with water. As in pregnancy, water is your best friend post partum.
- It may have felt like you were carrying around massive melons on your chest for the past couple of months, but they really only amount to another 3 lbs. This will fluctuate as your milk comes in and you experience engorged boobies (fun! Not). They will still hold enough milk for bubba once you are in a feeding routine, but they will feel relatively normal. Hold off on buying the new bra for a few weeks to see if you are someone whose boobs completely disappear post partum or someone who gains a bra size – either is possible.
- Apart from that, most healthy pregnancies include an extra 10-20 lbs of what most of us call fat or medical peeps might call ‘maternal stores’. This is likely to be the weight that will be the hardest to budge. Of course this can be higher or lower depending on how many cheeseburgers, ring dings and oreos you just had to have during pregnancy. Remember, you are eating for 2 when pregnant but you can still eat healthy. I think we all have cravings at some time though, and for all that we have to go through, I am hardly one to encourage you to deny them. I had a wicked craving for Whoppers with cheese for about a month during my pregnancy. It was the only food I could keep down so I let myself indulge away!
Because your abs have separated during pregnancy, and your pelvic region has undergone some serious changes both during pregnancy and childbirth, its recommended that you refrain from exercise for 6 weeks. Heed that advice unless you get the okay before then from your doc. You need the time to let your milk come in properly (sweating can affect milk supply) and the time for your body to recuperate while dealing with the lack of sleep, crazy hormones and most importantly your new baby.
Most of all remember we are all different, so give yourself a break and know that this too shall pass. You’ve created an amazing miracle so enjoy her or him! Your body will come right both emotionally and physically, just give it time.
What do you remember about the 4th trimester that you wish someone had warned you about?