The first six weeks of you and your baby’s new life.
Maternity leave is a time of change and growth for both you and your baby. It’s also a period when you can make sure to take care of yourself as much as possible if you put in a little planning. In this article, we’re going to talk about what to expect during your maternity leave, how to get the most from this time, and what changes to expect in your new addition.
What to Expect from Your Body, Emotions, and Brain
Once your baby is born, you’ll have a lot going on in the recovering department. During this time, it’s wise to focus on yourself and how you’re feeling both physically and emotionally. And of course, you’re learning to care for another human, so your brain is also working hard, processing and retaining new information about everything from the best way to make a diaper stay shut to the perfect breastfeeding hold.
But during that first weeks, you might feel like your body is working against you. It’s very common for new moms to experience extreme fatigue and heavy bleeding. If you’ve had a C-section or episiotomy, you’ll also be dealing with pain and wound care.
Not everyone suffers every post-partum discomfort, but the list of possibilities is long. If you had fantasies about how much cleaning and organization you’d get done with all that “free time,” do yourself a favor and abandon those ambitions early. Give yourself permission to stop being “productive” and put these goals on your “project plan” instead:
Sleep whenever baby will let you. Your bodies both need the rest equally.
Give breastfeeding your best shot, knowing it will take some time and it might be ugly before it becomes beautiful. Plan to enlist a lactation consultant early so you can avoid weeks of frustration.
Focus on letting your body heal and fueling those gratifying changes with nutritious food. Shop for easy but nutrient-dense snacks like cheese sticks, cut veggies, fresh fruits, and hard-boiled eggs.
Remember to stay well hydrated. Drinking ample water will help you heal, reduce swelling, and make breastfeeding go more smoothly.
Find your balance of social visits. You aren’t obligated to let anyone (except perhaps your partner) hold the baby.
Set clear boundaries and put visitors to work. A boundary can be as simple as, “I’d love for you to see the baby. We’ll both be awake between 3 and 4 today,” or, “I’d love you to visit. Could you come tomorrow at 5pm? That’s when baby is happiest, and it would be such a help to have you hold her while I make dinner.”
Don’t let your health—mental or physical—take a back seat. If you’re concerned about anything, call your OB or talk to your baby’s Pediatrician. Pregnancy and childbirth are physiological roller coaster rides. If the feelings of anxiety or sadness you’ve been warned about feel heavier or last longer than you expected, talk to your doctor right away.
Remind yourself that your loved ones want to help. They’re just waiting for you to tell them what to do. Practice asking for small favors that could ease your transition, whether that’s having your in-laws pick up some diapers, asking your partner to let you grab a nap, or letting your neighbor bring you dinner.