You may not experience all of these milestones in your postpartum journey but they can be helpful to know about so you and your partner can anticipate potential changes and challenges.
Week 1: Congratulations! You are probably feeling achy and physically drained as well as sore in any places with stitches. Your vulva will probably feel swollen and bowel movements will seem stressful (it is very important to not hold back and try to eat as much fiber and drink plenty of water to help). You will also have quite a bit of lochia (bleeding) still. Your baby will probably be learning to breastfeed and your milk will start to replace the colostrum you’re producing any day now. Hormonal changes are huge in this time and you may find yourself crying quite often and over nothing in particular.
Week 2: Hopefully you have settled in at home now as a new family and your milk is coming in. Your breasts are going to be in need of some hot showers and hand expression (only enough to relieve the pressure) if you are feeling engorged. Baby is most likely nursing around the clock and not showing a defined pattern as this is the first of several growth spurts. This may present as constant fussiness and hunger but rest assured your body can produce enough for your little one. Remember that when your baby is having a growth spurt your body is increasing the milk production and this brings along an increase in hormonal changes and mood-fluctuations for yourself.
Week 3: It is normal and ok to still have some discomfort and tenderness around your vulva but it should be going down and healing. Light walks and housework can be done but if you notice any changes in your lochia take it easy again. You are going to be more in tune with your baby at this point and begin to know the difference of their cries. Baby might still be in their growth spurt and need to nurse nearly constantly.
Week 4: Baby’s growth spurt is probably winding down and they are more alert and have periods of calm between sleeping and eating. You’re probably starting to feel the sleep deprivation and it you (or your partner) might catch you doing something ridiculous thanks to “Mom-brain”. Make sure you are eating and drinking enough as these are common things that you can overlook and that will take a huge toll on your body. Feeling overwhelmed at everything is completely understandable and being open with your partner and support team is a huge help. Having someone else take care of your needs during your postpartum year when you need help can ease these feelings dramatically.
Week 5: Happy 1st month! By now you have probably gotten to know your baby’s personality and how to soothe them (bouncing, rocking, white noise, etc.) most of the time. Periods of fussiness are natural and are part of your little one learning how to interact with their world. Hormones are still balancing and as such you are going to have ups and downs that will be totally out of your control. If you are feeling up to it find a support group or meet friends out of your house so that you get a chance for adult conversation and interaction several times a week. Being a new parent, especially when you aren’t sleeping as much as you’d like, can be very isolating and getting out will help you figure out how to cope with any lonely feelings at home. Your baby is heading into another growth spurt soon. Week 6: If all is going well you will probably be signed off by your care provider and given the “go-ahead”. While many partners are probably ready to resume the intimate aspect to your relationship soon, you may not feel the same. Breastfeeding can cause a decrease in libido and vaginal dryness. If and when you feel comfortable trying to be intimate be forgiving with yourself. Make sure there are no expectations for it to work and only go as far as you are comfortable with. Using lots of lubrication will also help. Don’t forget birth control (while it is unlikely you would be ovulating so soon, it is definitely not impossible!). You may also start gradually resuming any exercising you were doing before birth (only do as much as your body is comfortable with and pay attention to changes in your lochia). Baby may be sleeping for more regular or longer stretches now or may be back to nursing 24/7 as they go through another growth spurt (watch out for the hormones!!).
Week 7: When will this growth spurt end?!! You may find yourself especially exhausted and disheartened soon and that is ok! Be patient and kind to yourself and find a moment to treat yourself to something easy (fill up a mop bucket with hot water and Epsom salts to dip your feet in while you nurse your baby or catch-up on emails). Make sure you call for help if you are feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes it’s as easy as someone else bringing you dinner or your visiting friend to pop in a load of laundry and/or watch baby while you have a shower. Baby will probably start smiling soon too!
Week 8: The end of this big growth spurt may be in sight!
Week 9-10: Happy 2nd month! You may be experiencing a great deal of grief over the changes your baby has had recently and the “loss” of your newborn as they grow into the smiling and reactive baby in front of you. Hormones are still trying to find their new “normal” and it is normal to feel resentful of your partner, friends, family, and even your baby as your changes in lifestyle and sleep catch up to you. Be open with your support team and partner about any challenges you are having and don’t be hesitant to ask for help.
BE KIND TO YOURSELF.
All three Cowichan Doulas are members of the Mid-Island Doula collective.