Why this podcast?
Anyone who has read this blog before knows how much I value families having access to evidenced-based information so that they can make informed choices for their pregnancy, birth and postpartum.
This podcast is still one of my absolute favourites for providing that info in short, clear and easy to digest episodes of thirty minutes or less.
Why this episode?
The recent arrival of a new royal baby in the UK got me thinking about what it’s like to suddenly have an actual tiny human to care for.
Ok, Harry and Meghan have a little more help than most of us but still, the ultimate responsibility for their baby lies with them and it’s a big one.
I figured that any tips or advice for new parents couldn’t hurt!
Rule #1 – Get educated
I know, I know, there’s already so much to learn about pregnancy and birth that the idea of getting informed about being a parent too can seem overwhelming.
Once your baby is here, you really won’t have much time or thinking ability for research.
So, before your baby arrives, explore the pros and cons of things like giving them a pacifier, various procedures that might come up immediately after your baby is born and, super importantly, where to turn in case of breastfeeding issues.
I love that Vanessa underlines that you cannot possibly research every single baby-related topic but she links to some podcast episodes in the show notes so that you can explore some of them.
Rule #2 – Take care of your physical health
No, not hitting the gym, simply allowing your body to heal.
Eat well. Nothing complicated, just nutritious foods and enough of them. Prep as much as you can before birth or ask a friend to organise a meal train. Think about things you can just grab and preferably eat one-handed! Here is a blog post all about great, easy foods for your postpartum.
Try to figure out ways to make other stuff easier too. Get your groceries delivered, ask friends and family to help out with household tasks or maybe even splash out on a cleaner for the first couple of months.
Drink lots of water. Keep a few bottles around the house and make sure you have one where you usually breastfeed.
Sleep…….or at least rest. It’s not always realistic to sleep when your baby sleeps and sometimes that’s your only chance to grab a shower or have just a little time to yourself but try to join in with at least some of your baby’s naps.
Letting go of the idea of night and day in the beginning (because your baby has no clue!) can also be helpful. Focus on slotting in a good amount of sleep in a 24 hour period and don’t worry if that means grabbing a 2-hour nap at 7 pm or 10 am.
If your baby is sleeping and you aren’t, at least try to rest.
Yes, it’s tempting to use that time to hoover, do laundry, tidy up and answer emails but letting go of as much of that as possible can be really beneficial.
Western culture doesn’t really allow for a true Fourth Trimester, an extended period of rest and recovery aided by your village, but aim to bring in as many of those elements to your own postpartum as possible.
Keep taking your prenatal vitamins! It isn’t always easy to eat wholesome, nutritious foods so continuing to take these will at least fill in a few gaps.
Protect your immune system. You do not want to get sick while you are still healing from birth or when you have this tiny person to take care of. Consider taking a probiotic as well as eating foods rich in probiotics.
Rule #3 – Protect your mental health
So many new emotions and fears can come up after you have a baby and these, combined with all the huge hormonal shifts, the lack of sleep and the huge task of being responsible for another person, can really take a toll on your mental health.
Doing things, even very small things, to protect your mental health, is incredibly important.
Take a little time for yourself each day. This could be something as simple as a bath, fifteen minutes to yourself with a book or your favourite music or a walk around the block.
Life with a new baby can also put a strain on your relationship so have a date night once a week with your partner. Order take out or rent a movie. It doesn’t have to be big.
Around 80% of birthing people will experience the ‘baby blues’.
Mood swings, anxiety, periods of crying, reduced appetite and general sadness can all be signs of the baby blues which should disappear around two weeks postpartum.
Other postpartum mood disorders, such as postpartum depression, will not just go away and can appear months after your baby is born.
Some of the symptoms of postpartum depression are:
– A depressed mood or severe mood swings
– Difficulty bonding with your baby
– Periods of crying
– Appetite problems
– Withdrawing from family and friends
– Insomnia or sleeping too much
– Feelings of worthlessness, shame or guilt
– Problems thinking clearly, concentrating or making decisions &
– Severe anxiety and panic attacks
It is so very important to reach out if you, or someone you know, seems to be experiencing a postpartum mood disorder.
I thought it was wonderful that Vanessa shares that many of her friends experienced a postpartum mood disorder but only told her about it months or years afterwards.
New parenthood can be overwhelming and isolating so check in regularly with friends after they have a baby.
This post explores the signs, symptoms and risk factors for various postpartum mood disorders in detail as well as providing links to some fantastic resources.
Rule #4 – Evolve as your baby grows
The first few weeks and months with a new baby are a steep learning curve and just when you think you’ve finally got it figured out everything changes.
One day they are sleeping for long stretches at night, the next day they are up every hour or two. One day they love the bath, the next they scream bloody murder.
Accepting these changes and knowing that nothing lasts forever can really help.
”This too shall pass”
This a great mantra to hold on to. It can help to get you through the more challenging times as well as appreciate the lovely moments.
Vanessa also throws out another saying about parenting small children:
”The days are long but the years are short”
This one gets me every time I hear it. It’s hard to imagine when you are trying to get your brand new baby to feed or sleep in the middle of the night but it is so true.
I remember so clearly being given some clothes for a nine-month-old when my son was just a few weeks old and not being able to comprehend that they would one day fit him.
Now that he is nine years old and his sisters are seven and four, I can say without a shadow of a doubt and with a tear in my eye, that the years are so, incredibly short. Let go and enjoy as much as you can but don’t beat yourself up when you find things tough either.
Rule #5 – Don’t try to do it alone
It really does take a village. Unfortunately, we no longer live in that village culture but you can definitely bring in as many elements of it as possible.
Get to know other families having babies around the same time as you. You can support each other during pregnancy, postpartum and as your children continue to grow. Attending birth and breastfeeding classes and prenatal exercise groups can be a great way to do this.
”You can’t pour from an empty jug”
I love that Vanessa underlines that being a good parent is not just about taking good care of your child but taking good care of yourself – mentally, emotionally and physically.
To wrap up
Vanessa goes into a lot more detail about postpartum depression and it is such an important topic that I hope you will listen to this episode in full as well as checking out the nearly two hundred other episodes that Vanessa has made.
If you can’t find an episode about a subject you are interested in, drop her an email and she just might make a Q&A episode all about it!
Finally, my post, Top Tips For A Smother Postpartum, might give you some good ideas too.
What was the biggest thing you learned during your postpartum? What would be your number one tip for new parents?
Drop me a comment, I’d love to hear from you.
Until next time!
Emily Wills is a doula based in Stockholm. She believes that birth can be a beautiful and empowering experience and started this blog as a way of sharing some really great podcasts. She is also a mother of three and an enthusiastic runner.