Postpartum Hacks for an Easier 4th Trimester
For as cute as babies are they can also be hard work, and the 4th trimester and beyond can be a bit of a blur as you adjust to life with a newborn. I've been there, and I’ve had the privilege of spending lots of time learning from other moms who are much more experienced than I am. Although the adjustment isn't always easy (but always worth it), there are some things I've learned along the way that could make your postpartum period a bit easier. Think of these as hacks, tips, or advice that I've found helpful in the 4th trimester - covering everything from breastfeeding, to diaper changes, to must-haves for you and baby (tip: if you stop reading here, just take this away with you: buy all the receiving blankets).
Breastfeeding: don’t cry over wasted milk.
You'll find that when you're breastfeeding both boobs will let down at the same time, even though your baby is only using one boob at a time. This can lead to a lot of wasted milk, and lots of soggy breast pads. The solution? Buy a milksaver or haakkaa pump to catch the excess let down, and save the milk to add to your "stash" - you'd be surprised how quickly the let down alone can build up a decent supply of milk over time!
Breastfeeding: be prepared.
Have a small basket or bag with all your essentials in it for breastfeeding, like a portable nursing station. I can't count the number of times I sat down to nurse and realized that my phone, or my water, was in another room. Having a small little box with my cream, phone, charger, snacks, and water in it was a life saver. Also, before you sit down, make sure the remote control for the TV is within reach!
Breastfeeding at night: nurse, diaper change, nurse.
In that order will hopefully allow your little one to be lulled back to sleep by your boob after being woken up by their diaper change. Then with any luck you can ever so softly lay them down in their crib/bassinet/whatever they sleep in without waking them (godspeed on that last part, friend).
Diaper changes: the baby straitjacket.
Roll your baby's hands into their onesie when you're changing their diaper to avoid any unnecessary "poop playing" - trust me, that shit (literally) gets everywhere.
Diaper changes: ditch the talcum powder
If you haven't seen the dangers yet of talcum powder, read this article, then dump any you may have laying around. Corn starch is a great alternative to keep little bums dry, and is safe to use around little ones.
Clothing: forget the sleepers
Especially at night, there's nothing more annoying than trying to fiddle with snaps or buttons after a diaper change. You can find these baby gowns at your local baby store, secondhand store, or even Amazon, and make night-time diaper changes so much easier. Once I realized how awesome these were, I went and bought every single one I could find in my area (sorry to other Durham Region moms who may have been looking!)
Clothing: The swaddle debate: to swaddle, or not to swaddle?
There is some debate about whether swaddling is considered best practice, and there are some great articles (like this one) that can help you make a decision as to whether swaddling is right for your family. If you decide to swaddle your little one, there are some products that can make things a little easier, and safer, like the Woombie. This zippered sleep sack can take the guesswork out of swaddling, which is especially nice in the middle of the night - you don't have to worry that the swaddle is too tight and restricting your baby's hips, or that it's too loose and may come apart and become a suffocation hazard. And your newborn can get the benefits of a traditional swaddle (comfort and taming the startle reflex) while also being able to move their arms and legs the same way they would have in the womb.
Must-have: hoard all the receiving blankets
Receiving blankets were the one thing that I could not have lived without because they have so many uses. Keep a couple everywhere - in every room, in the diaper bag, in the car, at the grandparents' house, in the stroller - they were probably the single most useful item because they could be used to quickly clean up messes of all kinds, as an impromptu change pad, to protect your clothes from baby spit up, to protect your baby from the sun in a stroller or car seat, or to give them a clean place to roll around, and as a breastfeeding cover....to name only a few uses I could think of off the top of my head. They're machine washable and completely reusable, and because they're not as "nice" as other baby blankets you may receive as gifts, you don't have to feel guilty getting them dirty and throwing them in the wash.
Self-care: diaper double duty
For quick cooling pain relief for a sore perineum, open up the middle of a diaper and throw some ice into it - voila, you have a ready made ice pack that can mold to your shape for maximum relief..
Self-care: don't forget the prenatals
Yeah I know they're called "prenatals" with an emphasis on the "pre," but I'd highly suggest to keep taking them throughout the first year postpartum. Your body is going through some major adjustments, and if you're breastfeeding your body is still working to support your baby's needs. Continuing to take prenatals can help restore vitamins and minerals that may be lacking, and can help keep your body balanced. Also, getting those vitamins and minerals could help lessen the dreaded postpartum hair loss!
Self-care: get some sunshine
Get outside every day possible, even if it's just for a few minutes. Fresh air and sunshine can really help to regulate mood and make you feel human, when you may be feeling less than in the blur of the early postpartum period.
The Most Important: you've got this
My number one piece of advice for new parents: go with the flow. You'll no doubt be getting a ton of advice from everyone and their mom on how to do things, but at the end of the day you need to do what's best for you, your baby, and your family. If that means that you bedshare so everyone can get some sleep, then do it. If it means that you decide to use a pacifier to help comfort your baby, then do it. There's no shame or judgement here, I promise.
Also Most Important: ask for help
You don't have to be everything to everyone, and continue to do everything you used to do pre-baby. You're human, give yourself some grace. And if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, or sad, or anxious, please reach out for help (you can call Postpartum Support International - Toronto Chapter (also services Durham Region): 416-286-6200).