Photography credit: Abbie Smith Photography
So we’ve just entered our fourth week postpartum at my house. Harvey is waking up more and more and we’re loving getting to know him better! That being said, his needs have increased with his increased awake time. He needs more attention, but isn’t on any schedule. He also doesn’t quite know how to self soothe yet, so getting him to sleep is now a little more of an involved affair. Did you know: the brain doesn’t even produce melatonin until it’s 6 weeks old–and that’s 6 weeks from the due date, for anyone who delivers prematurely (Source).
All of this is making us adjust what our day-to-day looks like and requiring a hefty dose of flexibility.
Luckily for me, the timing of the birth couldn’t have been better. Harvey was born at the end of July and school doesn’t begin here until the first week of September. I have a whole month to get adjusted before we launch into another new situation (kindergarten for my oldest). Here’s how I’m surviving my first month postpartum.
Surviving the First Month Postpartum
- Remember, everyone’s labors are different. Don’t beat yourself up for taking on less than someone else who recently gave birth. If you need more time between activity increase, take it! Listen to your body and your mental state. You’ll know if you can up the ante or need to dial things back. At some point we all have to get back to reality, or rather–our new reality, but that doesn’t mean we will all do it at the same pace.
- Know the 5 Universal Newborn Cries. This fascinating video has been on the money for all of my kids and helped me know what they needed based on their cries.
- Set increasing goals. No matter the pace at which you’re moving, increasing goals each week can be a realistic way to get back into the swing of things. If it was important to you to get ready every single day before you had your new baby, shoot for once a week the first week postpartum and twice the second and third weeks. If you find it calms you to have a picked up house (raise your hand, type-A friends) aim for once in the first two weeks, and maybe twice in weeks three and four. Build upon small success and you’ll eventually be back to full operating capacity. If you don’t meet your goals for any particular time period, try reducing them for the following week.
- Leave the house at least once. Introvert or extrovert, I’m willing to bet money that leaving the house at least once in the first month (or once in the first week, if you love to be out and about on a regular basis) will do wonders for your mental state. If possible, try to leave the baby with someone else. If you’re breastfeeding exclusively at this point, just try a short walk around your block and experience a little solitude before the baby awakes.
- If you cook during this first month, double it for freezer meals.
- Do laundry d-a-i-l-y. Some people will tell you “the dishes can wait”, and they can (because that’s what paper plates are for during this survival phase!!!), but the laundry cannot wait. If you let your laundry pile up while you have a newborn (just think about how much spit and newborn pee/poo get on everything in the beginning…) it’s guaranteed to end with either a MOUNTAIN of laundry on a Sunday night (kids need clean underwear for a Monday at school) or a mountain of laundry when you’d rather be in bed. You don’t have to fold it, but you do have to wash and dry it. Trust. Me. Doing one load of laundry every day is so much more doable than once a week at this particular stage. If you’re married, enlist his or her help. If you’ve got older kids, an 8 year old can sort laundry and a 6 year old can handle adding detergent. Utilize them! And make sure to have lots of small rewards for older kids helping out during this transition that is also tricky for them to navigate.
- Take walks. Get those kids in bed, feed the baby and leave him or her with your partner or a trusted neighbor. Find a good podcast, or listen to nature, and take a solo stroll for even 10 minutes. This is guaranteed to make you feel like a human again!
- Wear shape wear for some part of each day. High waisted, compression leggings are a must for at least half the day. I like to sleep in them, wear them around the house, etc.. If you want to wrap as well, I love the Belly Bandit BFF. I have worn it after all three babes from weeks 2-6. If I was to do it again, I’d like to try the Belly Bandit Mother Tucker. The concept behind wearing any of these items is that you want things to heal in their original shape while the swelling and fluids reduce.
- Read a book about sleep training or sleep science. In the throws of sleep deprivation, it’s hard to remember or know what babies naturally do or need to do when it comes to sleep. I LOVE Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Weissbluth.
- Watch this uplifting message by Simply Sadie Jane.
- Love yourself. This is a marathon, not a sprint. It will all come in time. Enjoy your sweet baby. Remember this phase will not last forever. You will sleep more soon. Your body is amazing and your baby loves you!