I’m a part of a few Facebook mom groups, and sometimes I come across posts that I find rather humorous. Not because I think the mom posing the question lacks common sense or a knowledge base. Rather, I smile because I had the same thoughts as these things happened to me for the first time.
I’ll start by saying that you can (most often) blame your hormones for the random things that happen to you after you have your baby. Just as everything gets wacky while you’re pregnant, things go a little crazy again as your body returns to it’s pre-pregnancy self. As levels of estrogen and progesterone readjust to a (perhaps, new) baseline, you start pondering what the heck is happening to your body. Here are some postpartum (PP) phenomena, my own thoughts when I went through them, and how to handle any/all hurtles.
Breastfeeding: for mamas who are going to breastfeed, the first 2-4 weeks (sometimes longer) are a real roller coaster ride. Your breasts swell. You hurt in ways you’ve never hurt before. You’re tired from round-the-clock feedings. You’re wondering if baby ever gets enough. You’re wondering if you can really tolerate baby latching one more time.
The good news is that it gets easier. The not-so-good news is that it takes some time. You and baby have got to work as a team to figure out how best to breastfeed. You may really need some outside help too. Never hesitate to contact your family doctor/pediatrician and/or lactation consultant (LC), and consider joining your local La Leche League, International, chapter. Most often, you’ll find a ton of support through these channels, which will give you a morale boost and the courage you need to continue.
On one side note, there still are a lot of doctors out there who recommend, or even push, supplementation when you come in with questions and/or for checkups. Virtually all women make enough milk to sustain their children (I think it’s less than 2% don’t and/or cannot produce enough breast milk). This, however, doesn’t mean that your supply can’t dwindle or dry up sooner than later–another reason to get into contact with good LC’s, who can recommend safe foods for boosting milk supply. If your doctor recommends supplementation right off the bat, consider seeking a second opinion before making a final decision. I know I didn’t have any issues with milk supply; I also know that one of my girlfriend’s did about four months PP, and needed to supplement her baby’s diet so he’d gain weight. In the end, you’re mom. You know what’s best for your baby. Go with your gut.
The jiggle: one of the most common posts I see come from women ready to reclaim their pre-pregnancy body. They’ve got baby pudge and, six weeks PP, they want it gone! Now!
Let me start off by stating that it took almost 10 months for you to grow a baby. It’s going to take you at least that much time to have your body go back to it’s pre-pregnancy self. (It may never go back totally, but more on that in a second.) That doesn’t mean don’t start back up with your exercise and/or diet routines after your six-week PP checkup. It does mean take it easy, gradually ease into your routines again, seeking advice on diet if you’re breastfeeding so your supply doesn’t diminish, and on exercise if you’re still feeling aches and pangs in certain areas of your body. Note what makes you feel discomfort, and pay particular attention to anatomical alignment and how to perform the exercise properly. I know that when I moved into side plank a certain way, I’d feel a terrible pain in my pelvis, so I made sure that I didn’t transition into that particular exercise in that particular way again for at least six months.
Let me reiterate: take your time. You’ll thank yourself later.
Diastasis recti: some women experience a separation in their abdominal muscles (the rectus) after having a baby. If you do experience this,, seek guidance from your healthcare provider before returning to your exercise regimen. As nice as it’d be to crunch your way to a flat belly, that may actually make the separation worse rather than better.
Symphysis pubic dysfunction (SPD): the same advice applies to SPD. Because the hormone relaxin works so nicely to make your ligaments stretch so you can push baby through the birth canal, sometimes it takes a long while for things to line up properly again. Sometimes, you need to go through physical therapy. Seek medical advice if you find yourself having discomfort or pain in your pelvic/pubic region, even if you’ve had your six-week PP checkup.
The pants dance: yep. It happens. As much as we jump, dance, squirm, kick our legs, lie back on the bed, our pants might not fit. Ever again. You might have to go shopping (gasp!) for new ones. It might also just take more time for your hips to realign to their PP positions (or close to them). A lot of women’s hips change shape after they have babies. It’s natural, and will making having subsequent children much easier. Don’t fret about it. Embrace your new curves and celebrate the life you’re now holding in your arms!
Holy hairballs: around 3 months, all that luscious hair you grew while pregnant will start falling out by the handful, particularly around your temples. It will eventually stop (in time for your little one to start pulling it out by the fistful), but I still remember feeling aghast at how much I lost.
I’m sure there are more things I’ve overlooked. Each woman experiences pregnancy and postpartum life differently. When in doubt, talk with your doctor, pediatrician, LC, or another professional. Mom blogs can be great and make us feel good (or bad), but it’s always wise to get advice from all sides of the spectrum in order to make the best-informed decisions for ourselves and our children.