As Doulas we always talk about what to expect before and during labor. But something we might overlook prenatally is what to expect after your little bundle arrives. So, I asked mothers to weigh in on their postpartum experiences and what no one had told them about. Here are the top things our clients were surprised by in the postpartum!
Breastfeeding is HARD
Nursing can be painful for some women, especially initially--and it generally is just challenging. Steph says, “I remember calling all of my mom friends and saying, 'Why didn’t you tell me?!'” When establishing a nursing relationship, normal pain may last for the first 30-60 seconds of a nursing session, which could last for up to two weeks, but pain during sessions should not last the entire feeding, and soreness between sessions should improve everyday and not get worse. If pain and soreness persist, contact your local IBCLC--persistent pain can usually be resolved by assessing latch, positioning, and for the potential of tongue and/or lip ties.
Hemorrhoids are a pain in the butt
“Nobody told me what hemorrhoids could/would be like.” Ashley shared. If you have hemorrhoids while you’re pregnant, there’s a chance they’ll come back to plague you post-delivery. Hemorrhoids are a result of stress on the perineum in the months before, and during delivery. For some, hemorrhoids may simply be itchy and annoying but for others, they can be pretty painful. Here’s a few things to help ease the discomfort:
This is just crampy...
So you've birthed your baby and...YOU'RE STILL HAVING CONTRACTIONS?? What is that about? Afterbirth pains are caused by contractions of your uterus as it involutes, or returns to its pre-pregnancy size. They are usually mild for first-time moms but may get more intense with each subsequent delivery. Afterbirth pain will be most intense for the first day or two, but it should start tapering off around the third day or so. Nursing can cause afterbirth pains to intensify because your baby’s sucking triggers the release of oxytocin.
The First Poop
Pooping after having a baby can be intimidating to say the least. Linda says, "No one warned me about the first poop. For me, it was worse than recovering from a C-section infected with MRSA.” That sounds terrible, Linda! Voiding your bowels for the first time can be REALLY scary, but it should NOT be terrifying or impossible. Staying hydrated before, during, and after delivery of your baby will help make your first “poo” a little easier. Asking your doctor for a stool softener may help to assuage your fears. Don’t forget to stay hydrated after coming home… I speak from experience on that one, otherwise there’s not enough Vaseline and Jesus to help if you don’t! Utilizing a Squatty Potty may also help you assume as natural and relaxed of a position is possible which should reduce the need to bear down. Many moms don't know that it can also be very normal for bowel regularity to take several days to return to normal after birth.
Second Night Syndrome
More commonly known as cluster feeding, the second or third night after baby is born can make a lot of moms feel inadequate and overwhelmed. “Holy crap that second night in the hospital was probably the toughest in my life to date!" says Kelly. Immediately after your baby is born he/she will most likely be very sleepy, so take advantage of this by limiting visitors and get lots of rest. Charge your iPad so you can binge watch Netflix, have your husband get the snacks you like, act like you're having an awesome slumber party, and just try to enjoy those moments bonding with your baby--sans slumbering.
Empty Bed Panic
Being a Mom is hard, and most of the time exhausting. You now have this super-demanding human dictating everything you do, you're sleep deprived, your hormones are all over the place, and now you're starting to feel a little loopy--you can’t even shower without hearing phantom cries! Sometimes, this can result in hallucinations of a sort. Kelley comments, “I feel like I was pretty prepared for what could happen postpartum, but I had never heard anyone talk about getting so incredibly tired you hallucinate.” Know you’re not alone if this happens, as some point many, many moms go through it. A common experience is waking up thinking you’ve fallen asleep with your baby in your bed, ripping the sheets off, frantic because your baby is nowhere to be found, while your partner tries to reassure you the baby is in her own bed, all to no avail. This is empty bed panic--you’re exhausted! Call on your support team for some help. While they watch your baby, you go soak in the tub, then try to get at least three hours of sleep in a row. I bet you’ll wake feeling more like the woman you remember.
Planning to nurse? Well, there may be milk EVERYWHERE. "No one told me I might wake up SOAKED in breastmilk!" Fallon says. Another client adds, "Oh, and the milk fountains during intercourse!" Yes, and yes, these might happen, but it’s not as bad or gross as it might sound! Putting a large, soft towel under you while you sleep, or before, ahem, shenanigans, will help make clean up easy. And if it happens during sex, oh well--your partner watched as you carried, birthed and nurtured their baby! Their love for you is beyond anything you could ever imagine. I bet they'll just be glad to finally be able to have sex again. If you’re really worried about it, just wear a bra with your Milkies or breastpads in--easy peasy.
Not everything about postpartum is horrible, or painful, or scary. Quite the contrary,
postpartum is fun, free, and intoxicating. You literally forget yourself for the longest time
because your love for another human literally takes over. Life will forever be different and
intriguing, what will they do next? What great milestone will they reach that makes as love
them even more? Oh, the love a Mom has for her child! It surpasses all the love you could have ever known or felt and literally erases all the “big, bad, and ugly” parts of postpartum.
Relax Mom, you’ve got this! Much Love, Christina
All over the world, moms are celebrating World Breastfeeding Week, some even honoring the event with traditions like the Global Big Latch On in some communities (come see us at the Global Big Latch on of Escambia & Santa Rosa Counties). In honor of this week, we are keeping it real.
It seems like the minute you announce your pregnancy, the advice starts to pour in from all directions--not just for pregnancy and birth, but for breastfeeding too. From "Don't eat broccoli or asparagus, it will give the baby gas," to "Never wake a sleeping baby to eat!" we are sure you've heard all the strange (and not-so-great) suggestions there are out there. And while there are some strange pieces of advice that are also mythical, there are also some strange pieces of advice that can be very, VERY helpful and real.
#1: Give the ladies air time.
Yes, we are suggesting you go topless once in a while. Letting your twins free while you're breastfeeding can be a very important part of the process--not only because your nipples are not accustomed to friction for 8 hours a day at first, and fabric against them can feel like rubbing shards of glass on them as they heal from any initial damage, but also because wearing a bra or shirt 24/7 can promote bacterial and fungal growth. Yeast and other bacteria thrives in dark, moist, warm places (aka, your nursing bra), and your breastmilk contains carbohydrates/glucose, which also feeds bacteria and fungi. So by going topless, you are not only giving your nipples time to heal and be more comfortable, but you are also allowing them to stay dry so that you can help avoid a thrush outbreak or other bacterial infection in your milk ducts. Wearing a button up shirt or a robe can facilitate this--hey, you could even just cut some holes in an old t-shirt and be set! Just make sure that you don't forget about your state of dress (or lack thereof) and accidentally answer the door for the UPS man.
#2: Strange breastfeeding positions are sometimes the best.
One of the most common issues in the early days of breastfeeding, and then later on during changes that can impact supply, are plugged ducts. This is when fat globules in your milk collect in one part of a duct and form a clog in the flow of milk. Many moms feel this as a hard knot that could be anywhere from the size of a marble to a golf ball. When this happens, one of the best ways to work the knot out is to lay your baby flat, and "dangle" your breast over your baby to feed, with the baby's chin against the knot. This allows gravity and the baby's oral movement to work the knot out. (See this position here).
Another fantastic breastfeeding position to help clear plugged ducts (or prevent them if you have them happen more than once) is the "over the shoulder" position. Imagine throwing your baby over your shoulder, upside-down, and you've about got the image! In this position, you are laying down on your side or back, and baby is lying with legs literally over your shoulder. (See this position here). These positions aren't just for plugged ducts, though. Switching the position baby feeds in frequently stimulates different parts of the breast, which can increase supply AND help prevent baby from developing a preferred nursing position or side. So, if you've struggled with plugged ducts more than once, or are uncomfortably engorged in the early days, this can be an especially helpful position if you have a very little one.
#3: Other Ways to Remove Plugged Ducts.
Plugged ducts can be nasty little boogers that are both painful and a precursor to mastitis (an even nastier booger). Thus, our desire to help you remove them as easily as possible, and avoid them in the future. And there is more than one way to fix this problem. The key with removing the clogged ducts is to dissolve the plug of milk fat--and this can require massage, heat or vibration. So, our favorite tools to suggest for plugged duct removal are:
#4: Put that stuff on everything.
This hearkens memories of My Big Fat Greek Wedding where the father of the bride believed that any ailment could be cured by Windex. Well, just switch out Windex for breastmilk and we've got a similar situation going on here. From pink eye, to scratches and cuts, to ear infections, lots of moms are now treating common ailments with a drop or two of anti-body filled breastmilk. In fact, many moms are stashing extra breastmilk in tiny syringes in the freezer just for situations like this. It might sound crazy, but there's lots of evidence that it works!!
So, in celebration of World Breastfeeding Week, maybe stash away these "crazy" suggestions for later use--you might need them. And we'd love to hear about any weird or strange breastfeeding suggestions you've been given that have worked for you!
Let's say you recently had a baby and started breastfeeding because it's something you have always wanted to accomplish, or maybe it's something you just wanted to try out and fell in love with the bonding experience it creates with you and baby. But maybe you've started to face challenges, or are just unsure whether everything is on the right track--well, that's where we come in!
But why does a 1.5-2 hour visit cost so much? Right now, an initial home visit with Belly to Cradle costs $125 (for around 90 minutes) and a repeat home visit (around 60 minutes) costs $75. In the office, you’ll pay $100 for that 1.5-2 hour initial visit, or $50 for a follow-up. Or, if you have an older baby, have already seen an IBCLC, or just need a weight check, we have some appointment times specifically designed for these scenarios, too. For a full list, check out our website here.
Initially this may seem like a lot to spend, especially with all the other baby-related costs you have to be concerned about, and we understand that! It’s tough to ask a family who may be struggling with breastfeeding to pay to get help -- we wish we could do this work for free! And who REALLY wants to discuss money?? It's safe to say that most, if not all, lactation consultants are in this business, not for the money, but simply to help moms and families have the best postpartum they possibly can, while helping babies eat! But, the time we spend with you at your consult is actually the tip of the iceberg.
But why is the initial visit the most expensive? Typically, we will spend on average 4 to 5 hours on each of those initial visits. We start by talking with you to figure out scheduling and what's going on with mom and baby, or by reviewing your submitted intake form and researching your concerns so we’re exceptionally prepared when you walk through our door (or we walk through yours!). Our goal is to make the most of our time together, so we try to get the formalities out of the way before we even meet you.
A home visit is a wonderful asset to your postpartum--not having to pack up the baby gear and the baby while wondering how you'll survive yet another appointment, being able to have a lactation professional help you breastfeed in your favorite chair--hey, you don't even have to get dressed or look "presentable"! We LOVE providing this service because of how many needs it meet in the days immediately following birth. The cost is higher in this setting though, because of the time spent driving to and from your home.
After the initial appointment, we generally spend about an hour charting (we are required to keep charts since IBCLCs are classified as medical professionals) because we like to spend the full appointment focused on the family and that beautiful baby, not staring at a screen. And, after any appointment with us, you now have 2 weeks of unlimited text, email or phone calls to ask any questions, get support or address any concerns you may have. That means you sometimes receive an additional hour or more of our time and attention -- and we wouldn’t have it any other way. We know you may not be able to remember everything we talked about in person, and you may have more questions or an ongoing difficulty we can continue to help with. This is yet another part of our care that we love to provide!
We are not of the opinion that breastfeeding is "best" for every family--some families benefit so much from reassessing their infant feeding goals and choosing alternative feeding methods (such as pumped breastmilk in bottles or formula). BUT breastfeeding is very important to many families, and since it is the biological norm, many more families are choosing breastfeeding after learning more about it and gaining support as they start out. And, some families are choosing feeding with breastmilk after assessing not only the health benefits but also the cost comparison with formula.
Breastfeeding is free! Yes, you can buy nursing bras, nursing clothes, boppys, breast pumps, etc. But none of that is NEEDED to breastfeed. However, to formula feed it's on average $1,733.75 for the first year to buy just the formula; that's enough money to take your family to Disney! When broken down, formula can be as cheap as 9 cents per ounce up to 31 cents an ounce (depending on what brand and type you choose). That cost does not include bottles or the potential increased costs of healthcare for those babies who don’t receive breastmilk. (And all of this doesn't even include the time spent preparing & cleaning bottles, or the money/time spent on obtaining sterile water for safe formula prep.)
We want your breastfeeding care to be affordable, of course. So here are some ways to keep it that way:
We are here for you no matter what you choose--from how you feed to your baby, to who you see for your lactation care. Let us know how we can support YOU!
Ever since I became a lactation consultant in 2015, I have encountered misconceptions about what the role of a lactation consultant really is--the main one being that we only approve of breastfeeding, and judge families who choose any feeding method other than breastfeeding. Friends would find out that I was a lactation consultant and say immediately, as though I might automatically judge, "Well, I couldn't breastfeed because..." Patients have told me, with shame, "Last night I gave the baby formula during cluster feeding, but I only gave it one time. I know I wasn't supposed to."
My answer, always and immediately, is that there is no right or wrong way to feed your baby. You have to do what works for you, not what pleases everyone else. As a lactation consultant, I will reassure you that no matter how you feed your baby, it is never "wrong" or "harmful."
So let's clear up some of these misconceptions about what lactation consultants do and don't do.
Lactation Consultants DO:
My answer, always and immediately, is that there is no right or wrong way to feed your baby.
Although that sums up our job description, the role of a lactation consultant is so much more than that. Just because breastfeeding is healthy and natural, doesn't mean it comes naturally. This is more than just a job to us--breastfeeding is something we are truly passionate about. We are passionate about helping moms and families achieve their desired feeding goals. We want to be your support system during this exciting, stressful, scary and emotional time in your life.
Here at BTC, we:
Ultimately, we will help you find out what is best for your family and then we will support you on your journey. We want to give you the confidence and support you need in order to reach your goal of a positive mother/baby bonding experience. Our goal is to help you feel proud of the goals you accomplished and guide in how YOU choose to feed your baby. After all, mom knows best:)
To schedule an appointment with either Kendal or Jen, visit our Lactation Appointment Booking page today!
This is us.
We are Women. We are Moms. We are here to help your family blossom.