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Postpartum Preparation

After having a baby enormous changes take place within you, the mother, and in your environment which directly affect your feelings during the weeks and months to follow. These changes in turn affect your life and your relationship with your mate, your baby, your other children, and the other people around you. If you are aware that these exist and have great power over you both physically and emotionally, you will be better able to deal with the problems and situations occurring during this period. If you are not aware that these changes are normal, they may not seen even remotely related to childbirth and might therefore be overwhelming.

Some factors influencing what your reactions will be are connected to the physiological process that occurs as your body returns to its pre-pregnant state. Other factors are related to the new role and responsibilities you now have. Because so many of these changes occur in such a relatively brief time span after the delivery, this period brings in addition to excitement and happiness, great potential for disharmony and misunderstanding. If not recognized and dealt with for what it is - a period of adjustment spiked with hormonal and sociological jolts beyond your control - the relationships between new mother and father and new mother and baby can flounder perilously. A wall built of hurts, jealousies, and resentment from all sides can grow and reach frightening heights.

Preparing for postpartum can help you and your mate face the realities of this period so that stress, frustration, guilt, worry, and resentment can be reduced.

Start now to make sure all lines of communication are wide open between you and your mate. Discussing your feelings about pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum now sets the stage for open discussions after you have the baby. Together, try to envision the changes the baby will cause. How will you handle getting up in the middle of the night? Having less time for each other? Giving up a certain percent of your social life? What problems can you foresee and what arrangements can you make now to solve these problems?

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Do not expect your labor and delivery experience to go exactly as you would like or are planning. Know that there is a wide range of emotions you may experience after the baby arrives. Know that there are hormonal changes which may cause some degree of depression during the first weeks after having the baby. Don't expect to fit into your tight jeans or other non-maternity clothes for weeks after delivery. Your sex life might not be what it used to be for a while.

Do not fool yourself into expecting your life to return to “normal” eventually. Once you take the step into parenthood your life has permanently changed and will never again be the same as it was before. Once you accept this fact you’ll be better able to cope with the changes in your life after the baby’s arrival. The birth of your baby does not mean you must give up all your previous interests and haunts, however. It just means you'll have to plan a bit differently to include meeting the baby's needs as well as your own.

Expect life with your mate to be more difficult after a child is added to your family unit. The situation demands more effort from both of you to maintain a loving relationship in spite of the inevitable added strains.

How you view each other as individuals will change somewhat. The way you evaluate your mate will no longer be in terms of how he or she stacks up against your expectations as a lover, friend, and life's companion, and the way he or she compares with the mates of your friends, but how he or she rates as a parent. How does he compare to your father? She to your mother? How close do you each come to the other's concept of the ideal mother and father? These are questions that occur to many couples. You will no longer be just lovers and friends; you'll be some body's parents. Do not be surprised if the weight of that responsibility causes you to re-evaluate your roles in the new relationship formed by the addition of a child.

Before the baby is born, and/or in the early weeks, it is wise to talk about which one of you will handle what aspects of the baby's care. While mothers of the previous generation did most of the housework and childcare themselves, most of today's mothers expect help from their mates. A new grandfather may announce with pride that he never changed a diaper, as he watches his son up to the elbows in ointment and powder. He fails to realize that a dirty diaper is as much his son's responsibility as it is his son's mate's. Problems can develop when the new father sees himself only in one role, perhaps uninvolved like his father, while his mate expects him to participate in changing, bathing, etc. On the other hand, if the new mother expects to follow in her mother's footsteps and make all the childcare decisions herself, but is faced with a mate who wants to share these tasks, a conflict situation can develop. And who will stay home from work to rear the child? A generation ago there was very little need to discuss this; childrearing was mostly left to the woman.

Today's woman may want to continue her career full time, and today's man can no longer assume that his mate will be the caretaker parent. Talking these things over early to clarify how you see your roles as parents can help avoid later misunderstandings.

In addition, knowing how to bathe, diaper, burp, and otherwise care for the baby will give both of you a greater feeling of confidence in handling your child. Consider enrolling in a basic childcare class if one is available. Contact the American Red Cross, your hospital, local department stores, your childbirth educator, your pediatrician, and your obstetrician to locate these classes.

Now is the time to think about and to discuss how you and your mate will raise your child. You may come from very different backgrounds and have widely varying views on many issues such as religion, schooling, bedtimes, how permissive to be, etc. How will you resolve any disagreements? By all means share your feelings and tell your mate about all the things you promised yourself as a child you would not do with your children. Tell each other what you believe the beautiful things were in your childhood; but remember that parenthood is a partnership and at times each of you will have to look for compromises.

Expect also to be tired. Caring for a new baby will take more of your energy than you might think. Expect to be frustrated at not being able to handle every little thing that you'd like to handle perfectly and by yourself. Expect to be disappointed by the realization that the long-awaited baby is not all joy and love; you might feel some resentment toward the new person who changes your life so drastically. And know that some degree of “baby blues” is common to the postpartum period.

What To Bring To The Hospital

  • 3 nightgowns
  • 3 pairs of panties (preferably cotton), and safety pins
  • 1 sanitary napkin belt (if not provided by hospital)
  • bathrobe and slippers
  • 2 or 3 bras
  • toilet articles (tooth brush, toothpaste, comb, brush, shampoo, mouthwash, make-up, etc.)
  • Miscellaneous: bed jacket, baby announcements, reading material, phone number list, diary, etc.
  • To bring the baby home: diaper, undershirt, nightgown or stretch suit, hat, outer garment and blanket

What To Have In The House For The Baby

Clothing:

  • 6 cotton undershirts (6 mo. size)
  • 3 cotton nightgowns
  • 6 terry cloth stretch suits
  • 1 dozen cloth diapers (if using disposables)
  • 4 dozen cloth diapers (if using cloth diapers)
  • 6 pairs plastic or vinyl pants (if using cloth diapers)

Other Articles Needed:

  • 2 or 3 cotton blankets
  • 3 sheets for crib
  • 2 rubber sheets for crib mattress
  • wash cloths, bibs, towels
  • safety pins (if using cloth diapers)
  • gauze squares
  • cotton-tipped flexible sticks
  • cotton balls
  • soft hair brush
  • diaper pail (if using cloth diapers)
  • rectal thermometer
  • bulb syringe for removing nasal mucus
  • petroleum jelly
  • alcohol
  • mild soap
  • antibiotic ointment
  • feeding supplies (if bottle feeding)
  • baby nail scissors

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These lists represent the minimum number of items we feel are necessary. Add to these as your situation, desires, and budget allow.

Emergency Phone Number List

Prepare a list of important phone numbers for easy access if you need help fast. Be sure your mate knows where to find it. Most probably you will not need the services of all individuals and organizations listed, but you will welcome not having to hunt for those you do.

  • Emergency room at hospital for immediate medical advice
  • Police Department
  • Fire Department
  • Poison Control Center
  • Car Service (even if you have a car, in an emergency you may not be able to drive yourself or your baby to the doctor/hospital)
  • Ambulance Service
  • Obstetrician
  • Pediatrician
  • General Practitioner
  • Childbirth educator
  • Pharmacy (one that is open twenty-four hours and delivers)
  • La Leche League (for questions, information, and advice about breastfeeding)
  • American Society for Psychoprophylaxis in Obstetrics (A.S.P.O.) or International Childbirth Education Association (I.C.E.A.) for new parent information, lectures, rap sessions, etc.
  • Cesarean Birth Association (CBA) or Cesarean/Support, Education, Concern (C/Sec) to talk about your feelings, to join a special rap group, or for any Cesarean-related help, information or advice
  • Parents Anonymous or other such self-help group (these aid parents to accept their feelings of frustration, anger, and hostility without taking it out on the baby - all conversations are confidential)

Avoiding Isolation And Exhaustion

As we see it, two of the prime non-physiological causes of postpartum blues or depression in women are exhaustion and isolation. There are things you can do while still pregnant that will help you avoid exhaustion and isolation after you give birth. The more planning you do now, the easier the situation will be later.

  • It is imperative that you arrange now for someone to take care of household tasks during the first week or two you're home from the hospital, or that you resolve to ignore them temporarily. The more rest you get in the early weeks, the faster you will regain strength and the less likely you will be to feel depressed. You might want to hire a high-school girl or boy as a helper to do your chores each day, or several days a week. Perhaps a professional homemaker or a housecleaning service once each week for the first few weeks would be best for your needs. If you receive offers of help from the baby's grandparents, make it clear that the help you want involves laundry, cleaning, cooking, marketing, and that you want to care for the baby and rest. Feeding, diapering, and bathing the baby while other responsibilities are removed from you will help you get to know your baby. If your obstetrician and pediatrician agree that the physical condition of you and your baby are satisfactory, consider leaving the hospital a day early. The money you save might cover the cost of a baby nurse for a week or pay for someone to clean the house once a week for several weeks. If you have other children, arrange for someone to care for them for a few hours each day or several times a week so you can get some rest.

If you are considering hiring a baby nurse for the first week or two, you might be confused by conflicting advice varying from how horrible they are because they take over your baby, your home, and your life, to how marvelous they are because they get new parents over the rough spots and into a routine.

A good nurse will see to it that you get your rest. She will recommend that she defer and space phone calls and visits according to how rested you feel. She will teach both parents infant care techniques and even urge you to try them out under her guidance, thereby easing you into the care of your baby so that when she leaves, you will not feel abandoned and unable to fend for yourselves. Some nurses will also do light housekeeping (dusting, sweeping, washing dishes, etc.) and prepare and serve meals in addition to seeing to the infant's laundry, bathing, and feeding needs (if you are not breastfeeding). Most baby nurses, however, will not do your laundry, family shopping, or the majority of household tasks. Don't hire a nurse if you can foresee yourself doing the cleaning and other chores while she takes care of the baby. You must rest. If you are planning to breastfeed, you can benefit from a nurse provided that she is supportive of your desire to breastfeed and will give you practical suggestions and encouragement. Some nurses will not even take the job if you plan to breastfeed because they think there is nothing left for them to do if you remove the feeding responsibility from them. (Many breastfeeding mothers disagree.) It's important to clarify this in advance.

If you decide you want a nurse, and they are by no means a necessity, it is best to begin your search with personal recommendations from other new mothers. You can also ask your childbirth instructor, obstetrician, or the office nurse for recommendations. If none of these yields a name, you can contact a specialized agency and state exactly what your needs are. If at all possible, interview several individuals before hiring. Also, be sure to specify what you expect from a nurse and hear what the nurse expects to give before you hire her. If you are not pleased with the services provided, or your personalities clash, do not suffer through the week. Discuss your dissatisfactions and if they cannot be resolved, terminate the agreement. You are better off without a nurse than with one whose presence brings disharmony.

  • Consider setting aside money each week during pregnancy toward a postpartum entertainment fund.

How much you save will depend on your current financial situation, but anything you save will be invaluable. Expenses seem to multiply after the baby is born and this may be felt more keenly if the expectant mother worked and the family now has to adjust to living on one income. Make a pact that no matter how tight finances become, this fund will not be touched, except to hire an occasional babysitter to allow you to go to a movie restaurant or be otherwise entertained during your postpartum period.

  • Before the baby arrives, locate a babysitter in whom you feel confident. Then, after the baby comes, you will not have to worry about finding someone competent on short notice if you decide you want to go out. Although relatives may volunteer and grandparents are an especially wonderful source of babysitting help, it's good to have someone you can hire. Some couples feel more in control with a paid sitter than with a grandparent.
  • Begin to notice other big tummies in the supermarket and at your doctor's office. Try to find friends who are having babies near the time yours is due. Having a buddy to call and talk things over with is a great help. Consider organizing a rap group that can meet during late pregnancy to discuss current feelings, joys, and fears, and plan to continue meeting soon after delivery to talk about the changes everyone is going through. Experience-sharing with other new mothers will help you realize you are not alone. Also, you will be able to exchange babysitting services if you so desire.
  • Fill whatever freezer space you have available with precooked meals. Now, during pregnancy, whenever you prepare a family favorite, double the recipe and freeze half in a ready-for-the-oven dish. Later, on hectic days when you have absolutely no time for cooking, you can heat something quickly. Also, stock up on canned goods for quick casseroles and locate fast food places that deliver. Prepare at least a two-week's supply of paper plates, cups, and plastic utensils so you will not be concerned with washing dishes while you recuperate and adjust to your new responsibilities.
  • Evaluate your home. Are things placed as conveniently as possible? If you live in a multi-level house or apartment, set aside an area on each level for changing the baby. Try to arrange things so you'll avoid running up and down steps. Have duplicates of frequently used Items on each level. Consider buying the type of port-a-crib that converts to a playpen, such as one that adjusts so the mattress is at about chest level or mid-thigh level. The legs are also adjustable and can be raised or lowered. In the raised position (mattress and legs), this provides a convenient changing/sleeping area on one level of your home, and when the baby is ready for a playpen you will have one available. It also solves the problem of where your baby will sleep when you take him or her for an overnight visit to friends or relatives. No matter what your living arrangements, try to arrange things so you will avoid bending, which in itself is tiring. Rearrange your kitchen now, if necessary, so that things are more conveniently placed and within easy reach.

For a convenient diaper changing area, consider buying a waist-high chest of drawers (or using an old one) instead of an actual changing table. Place a carriage mattress on top and hang a shelf above for diaper changing supplies. A changing table would have no further use when the baby is grown, while a chest can become a permanent fixture in the baby's room and therefore well worth the additional expense. You might get one that is part of a set that can be purchased in matching pieces as your budget allows. If the baby will share your room, a carriage mattress placed on your dresser can serve as a changing table - or, place a plastic or rubber sheet on the bed and sit while you change the baby - do not stand and bend. Avoid port-a-cribs and bassinets that aren't adjustable and that force you to bend to lift the baby. These are not good for your back.

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  • Plan in advance to spend a small part of each day - even if only ten minutes - with your other children, who will need your undivided attention at some time. If you do not make this resolution in advance, you will find it difficult to decide to do it at the time.
  • Seriously consider breastfeeding your baby. Besides the many other advantages nursing has for mother and child it is less work than bottle feeding - no formula to prepare, no bottles to wash and/or sterilize and take along with you when you go out. At 2 A.M. you will not have to stagger to the kitchen half asleep to warm a bottle. Also, nursing forces you to sit down, put your feet up, and relax. If you bottle feed, you might be tempted to prop a bottle - which is dangerous because the baby may gag and choke - and go about your chores. This defeats your efforts to relax. You can't prop a breast. As you nurse, a hormone is released that will give you a warm, relaxed feeling conducive to sleeping. Take advantage of this feeling and go to sleep when the baby dozes off at the end of the meal, night or day.
  • Resolve now to rest or sleep whenever the baby does - especially during the early weeks. It is unwise to use the baby's sleeping time for chores. If a baby is awake at night, chances are he or she will sleep during the day.

Eventually the baby's schedule will conform to most of humanity's, but until it does, get your sleep while the baby sleeps. If you have other children, it is not always feasible to nap when the baby does. Perhaps in such cases you can resolve to at least rest in bed while playing quiet games, putting puzzles together, or reading aloud to your other child or children. This serves two purposes at the same time: you get your rest while your children have your undivided attention.

  • Do not tell anyone what you are planning to name the baby until after the baby is born. This way you are presenting people with the name as an accomplished fact that is not subject to discussion.
  • Politely inform everyone that you do not want visitors for the first few weeks after the baby's birth. If you wish to spare any hurt feelings, say your doctor gave you those instructions and remember to reiterate them when people call to ask if they may see the new baby. Whatever you do, don't entertain. Without guests you'll feel more relaxed about letting the housework go for a while. You can always invite company as you feel up to it; adhering to the general “no company” rule speeds your recovery.
  • Have everything ready in advance for the baby's arrival: furniture, layette, drugstore supplies, etc. It is traditional among some religious groups not to have any baby furniture, clothing, toys, or whatever in the house before the baby is born. If this custom applies to you, perhaps your furniture dealer or baby clothing store will hold your purchases for you until after the birth. While you're in the hospital, furniture can be delivered and a friend or relative can pick up all the other supplies.
  • Resolve now to get involved with other-than-baby activities. You will need to keep up old friendships and interests as well as develop new ones. It is important to be your own person in addition to someone's mate and mother. Locate book discussion groups, library programs, lecture or film series that you might be interested in. Investigate courses offered in the adult education center of your local school. Consider purchasing a subscription to the ballet, local theater group, or whatever cultural activities are available in your community, and go!
  • Get as much rest as possible while you are pregnant. Going into labor in a state of exhaustion is not wise. You will need your energy for the experience of childbirth. After delivery you'll need additional rest. You might not be able to sleep very well in the hospital, and you will most likely lose a night's sleep the day the baby is born. Building up an energy reserve now is helpful.
  • In deciding on a hospital, consider not only the quality of its medical facilities, but also whether or not it has family-centered maternity care policies such as special visiting-feeding hours for fathers, sibling visiting hours, and rooming-in. Check too to see whether fathers are welcome in labor and delivery rooms and whether the nursing and medical staff are geared to encourage family bonds at this time. A supportive environment during the first hours and days after delivery can help set the stage for a pleasant postpartum.
  • Address and put postage stamps on your birth announcements in advance. If you are ordering specially printed ones, ask the supplier to give you the envelopes before you give birth. If you select the preprinted, fill-in type, you can have the envelopes now. Prepare them so that all you'll have to do is complete the cards, preferably while you're in the hospital, and have them mailed.
  • If a car is available to you but you do not yet have your driver's license, take lessons now and try to get your license before the baby comes. It will be more difficult to arrange for lessons and for practice time after the baby is born. Being able to drive will give you a much-needed mobility that will help you avoid feelings of isolation and depression.

Health | Reproduction | Pregnancy


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