Edie is the best thing that has ever happened to me. That aside…“Wowzers” having a baby is tough. Despite as much gas and air that I could get down my lungs, my favourite music playing, 9 months of yoga squats, and wallowing like a whale in a birthing pool, it was a bloody and primal experience. My partner Tom said to me during labour ‘what’s more painful this or running the Marathon de sables?’ 1. What a knob and, 2. My best retort was to throw up all over him. I think that is a pretty clear reply in itself. And it seems to get worse…You don’t heal straight away. I was in tena ladies for five weeks. Standing up, sitting down, going to the toilet and just generally moving was uncomfortable at best.
And worse…you then have to deal with breastfeeding. Turns out breastfeeding isn’t one of those things you or your baby just know how to do. You both have to learn. For some reason mother nature has decided to not give us nipples made out of lead. The pain is like someone putting a rusty clamp on your nipple and then pulling on it repeatedly. Everything I had read and heard from midwives, blogs and those mums who can just whip their boob out and feed their baby while eating a meal in a restaurant, all stick to the same party line ‘It isn’t painful if they latch on properly.’ Shut your pie hole. The reality for me was it was bloody painful at the start! You just have to suck it up and know that after a few weeks it does get better. Probably important to note here, I know others who have been just fine from the get go.
And worse…babies don’t like sleeping at night. As babies have such small stomachs they need to feed all the time. On top of this your prolactin hormones are higher at night and therefore so is your milk supply (thanks mother nature). So being up most of the night is inevitable and quite important as night nursing helps to establish a strong milk supply for the duration of breastfeeding. Somehow babies know this and will instinctively cluster feed throughout the night. Riddle me this – how did Edie know how to cluster feed but didn’t instinctively know how to latch on without making my toes curl up with pain?
So let’s recap. You’re in constant pain and exhausted yet you have the responsibility of a tiny human life in your hands. Talk of pressure! We asked new mums what advice they would give to future mums on how to survive those tough first two weeks and here’s what we’ve come up with:
How to survive the first 2 weeks after having a baby?
- Don’t be scared of formula. As the buggers don’t need to work for it they drink a lot, quickly. I found giving Edie one bottle of formula (or my expressed milk when I could express more than a dribble) before bed was an absolute result as it knocked her out for a longer period than if she was on the boob. It also allows you to measure exactly the amount she’s drunk which provided me with the reassurance that I knew she had at least one good feed that day! Tom usually does her bottle and this gives them some bonding time which is an added bonus.Turns out a lot of people do this – I wish someone had told me about this little trick sooner.
- Big thanks to my Mum who turned up with a mild laxative, which I thought was an interesting present! Seems a new precedent instead of the protocol to send flowers and baby grows. However, it turns out it can be pretty painful going to the bathroom post birth so this can help prevent that pain, you don’t want to feel like your giving birth again.
- It’s difficult to have a routine with a newborn, be at peace with that. I spent ages looking for one in the hope that a bit of structure would help Edie get everything she needed to develop and hopefully get me a bit more sleep. The best one I found was eat, play, sleep. You can find details here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-training/eat-play-sleep-routine-baby/
- When I asked other girls for advice – EVERYONE has said to focus on nailing breastfeeding. Make sure you get all the support you can in these early days. Midwives, health visitors, and local trained volunteer mothers (peer supporters) are there to help you get breastfeeding off to a good start, so don’t be afraid to use them. They will come to your home to help you and you can book in visits through your midwife. If nothing else they can come, check you’re OK and tell you you’re doing OK and give you a confidence boost! If you can face leaving the house, there are also local support groups that you can drop in and are free. All contact details will be in your baby’s red book.
- *Eye roll* – sleep when your baby sleeps. Easier said than done right. After I’d been up all night while Edie was cluster feeding, I used to give Edie to Mum, Tom’s mum or Tom for a few hrs first thing in the morning after she’d been fed to get some sleep. If she was in the same room as me I just wouldn’t sleep properly. They would then come and get me when she was making the signs that she wanted a feed.
- Have a bath with epsom salts to help heal you. By bath – think less candles and book and more quick dip.
- Look after yourself, drink lots of water and eat healthily. You’re bound to be tired with a newborn, eating takeaways full of salt and sugar and can make you feel worse.
It is probably important to realise that that every baby is different. I know babies that have slept through the night from day 1 (their mum had to set an alarm every two hrs to wake them up to feed them) and I know Mums who’ve had no problem breastfeeding from the get go. Fingers crossed and hope the above will be true for you.