Beyond Birth

Beyond Birth

Beyond Birth

Common Obstacles and Challenges Mamas Face After Delivery

While you’re pregnant, so much time and effort is spent preparing for birth. And believe me, I know this is important, I’m a labor and delivery nurse! But I always like to remind mamas about preparing for beyond birth, too. 

Learning about newborn care, breastfeeding, and what to expect in terms of postpartum healing are equally as important as preparing for labor. So today, we’re going to focus on beyond birth. I’m going to take a little time to talk to y’all about the common obstacles mamas face after giving birth.

For those of you that don’t know me, I’m Liesel. A labor and delivery nurse, mama, and the face behind Mommy Labor Nurse. My goal today isn’t to fill you with panic and dread about everything that might go wrong, but instead to empower and prepare you to handle them when you’re in the trenches.

Postpartum Recovery Challenges

Somewhere in between learning to breastfeed, calming a crying baby, and trying to get some shut eye yourself, it will be super important to focus on your own recovery, too.

Birth is no joke. Your body goes through A LOT, and whether your deliver vaginally, or by C-section, it’s so important to take care of yourself in the postpartum period. Seriously. Please, please, PLEASE don’t overdo it in the early weeks. Say no to non-essential visitors, rest and sleep whenever you can manage, eat good food, soak up your newborn and HEAL.

Let’s look at some of the more common obstacles mamas face when it comes to healing (ahem, aside from getting enough sleep).

Constipation

No matter how your baby comes into this world, constipation (and hemorrhoids) are a reality for almost every new mama. It’s one of those things that just feels so unfair to have to deal with after the pain of childbirth, and is just all around awful. But, it kinda comes with the territory. So it’s best to be prepared to handle the constipation and hemorrhoids as best as possible.

  • Stay well-hydrated and focus on drinking lots of warm water or herbal teas
  • Take stool softeners as prescribed after birth! Don’t skip these! I also recommend stocking up on Colace and Glycerin Suppositories so that you have them on hand if you do find you’re having issues
  • Use witch hazel pads and perineal hot/cold packs to reduce inflammation and help painful hemorrhoids heal

Weakened or separated core muscles

Right after giving birth, it’s crazy how weakened your abdominal muscles may be. I was shocked about this after my first pregnancy. I didn’t even feel like I had the core strength to cough effectively at first! Seriously, it was like jelly.

My best advice for this is to start a postpartum specific exercise program as soon as you’re cleared for exercise. But this doesn’t usually happen until your 6 weeks postpartum. What can you do right away, utilize postpartum compression garments! They are SO effective and helpful for healing on so many levels.

Postpartum compression garments can really help with healing too! The main purpose of a postpartum compression garment is to support and align your abdomen until your abdominal organs and muscles can do their normal jobs again! Many women think they are purely for weight loss, but they play much more into healing than most realize!

These wraps may also help reduce pain, increase your mobility quicker, stabilize your pelvic floor, and even help heal diastasis recti. If you’ve had a C-section, a compression garment can also take the pressure off your incision while it heals

C-section related care

After a C-section, your recovery will be a bit more involved, and letting yourself heal is extra important. Trust me, you want that incision to heal up well from the start. Here are some general tips to keep your more comfortable and aid in your healing:

  • Applying a heating pad to your C-section can help ease discomfort
  • Use an ice pack in the shape of your incision, a perineal ice pack is actually the perfect size and shape!
  • Do yourself a favor and go for the C-section recovery undies, mamas tell me they are SO much more comfortable, help reduce swelling and protect your incision area
  • Have a step stool ready to help yourself get in and out of bed

Breastfeeding Related Obstacles

Breastfeeding is one of these things we all THINK is going to be easy and ‘natural’ but is surprisingly challenging for many. It comes with an unexpected learning curve and takes a heck of a lot of determination in the beginning.

But with the proper education and support, breastfeeding is a wonderful experience that I want all mamas to have. If you’ve spent any time over in the Mommy Labor Nurse community, you already know I’m super passionate about educating expecting mamas about the realities of breastfeeding to help them succeed. Let’s look at a few common challenges.

Low supply/weight gain issues with baby

The true signs of low supply are weight gain issues in baby and/or inadequate diaper output. Dealing with low supply can be super stressful, and stress in turn can make supply worse. It’s a vicious cycle. Your best bet is to see a lactation consultant ASAP if you find yourself in this position. Hopefully it’s one who can support you in a successful breastfeeding journey, even if that includes supplementing (like me!)

Tongue and lip ties

If you find yourself having feeding issues, baby is failing to gain weight, you have supply issues, or you are experiencing a very painful latch, it could be a tongue or lip tie! This is something to discuss with your pediatrician. Many mamas haven’t even heard of this, so I wanted to put it on your radar

Plugged ducts/mastitis

If your baby suddenly goes a longer stretch without eating (hello, sleep!) or you accidentally forget to switch sides, you might wind up with a clogged milk duct. This is a tender to painful lump on the breast. If the lump is very painful, red or warm to the touch, and you have a fever or flu-like symptoms, it may be mastitis which is an infected milk duct. Again, so many mamas don’t know what these are to even look up what to do!

Newborn Care Hurdles

Alright, and lastly let’s take a look at two common areas of newborn troubles (outside of breastfeeding) with some tips for how to approach these issues.

Colic and excessive crying

Colic is frequent, extensive and intense crying. It’s often associated with back arching and sounds like baby is experiencing pain. Often, colic episodes happen at the same time each day (usually in the evenings and night) If you find your baby is experiencing colic, definitely bring it up to your provider. Together you may be able to figure out what’s going on, or learn ways to cope

Colic is usually associated with gas and digestive issues. This may be from an immature digestive system, food allergies, overfeeding, or trapped gas. In some cases, you’ll never know why baby is crying but there are still newborn gas pain strategies that can help!

Baby sleep issues

Sleep related obstacles are SUPER common in the newborn, baby and even toddler years. For many mamas, sleep is something you’re constantly facing because it’s ever changing for your baby. Let’s look at some tips to help you with a few of the most common sleep-related challenges in the first three months.

Getting baby down for the night

  • Start a simple bedtime routine as soon as you feel ready. Simply dimming the lights, changing to PJs, swaddling, feeding and rocking can be the routine. If you’re intentional about doing things in the same order every time, it will start to cue sleep for your little one
  • If you’re breastfeeding, don’t feel guilty or worried about nursing your baby to sleep. Research shows that breastmilk helps little ones sort out their days and nights and get on a circadian rhythm faster. This is because newborns do not produce their own melatonin, but breastmilk in the evening has higher detectable levels of melatonin—so cool! (source)
  • If your baby doesn’t nurse to sleep or fall asleep with a bottle, swaying your baby can help them fall asleep faster. I also LOVE to use a yoga ball to bounce my babies to sleep because it works so well

Napping tips

  • Newborns typically cat nap. I feel like no one told me that, and I just thought babies were born taking 2 hour naps. Those babies are the exception. Most 0-6 month old babies only nap for 30-40 minutes at a time (unless they are cozy on mama ) because that’s how long the baby sleep cycle is. I think having this as a realistic expectation is really helpful
  • Pay attention to wake times and sleep cues! Getting baby down for regular snoozes every 1-2 hours is KEY to getting longer chunks of nighttime sleep
  • Don’t get caught up on the idea of a nap schedule or daily schedule until much further down the road. Instead think of it as a daily rhythm. A rhythm that follows wake times and sleep cues. This is because your newborn will likely get up at different times for the day and nap for different lengths of time which then effects the next sleep period

Trust your gut, mama!

Whew. I know that’s a lot, but I really wanted to create a resource for you all to learn now and reference back to later as challenges arise.

Above all, I want you to remember that you are the absolute perfect mama for YOUR baby. You will persevere! Lean on your village, lean on professional support, and lean on your instincts. You’re gonna rock this thing, mama.

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Liesel Teen is a labor and delivery nurse (L&D RN), mama, the face behind the popular pregnancy Instagram page @mommy.labornurse and creator of the online childbirth class, Birth It Up. Birth is something she’s been passionate about for as long as she can remember, and she loves sharing her nursing knowledge to help mamas-to-be learn more about pregnancy and birth. She lives in North Carolina and is expecting her second baby in August 2020.