Wednesday, March 07, 2007

What to Expect...

…the first week.

In response to Kyla’s call for the truth about motherhood, we present this interview with noted baby expert Florence Liesalot and two-time mother BubandPie, who share their advice for moms of newborns.

What should moms expect during the first week?
FL:
You can expect your baby to be very drowsy, sleeping for 16-20 hours per day. Don’t worry! It’s normal to sleep a lot, though you may have to get creative to keep baby awake long enough to nurse.

BP: [matching Florence’s chirpy tone] Right. That could happen. Or, on the other hand, your baby might be born a week past his due date. At this stage of gestation, you can expect the drowsiness to last approximately twelve hours, wearing off in sync with your post-partum adrenaline surge. Just as you’re sinking under a tidal wave of exhaustion, the baby may wake up and start crying. Don’t worry! The crying should ease up when your milk supply increases (four or five days later).

Can you explain the role of colostrum?
FL:
Colostrum is liquid gold: it will sustain the baby admirably until your milk comes in. Don’t worry – during this time baby will not be hungry, because nature has designed this "liquid gold" to meet all his nutritional needs.

BP: Despite the famous nutritional properties of colostrum, you may find that your baby nurses for an hour, then screams in frustration, rooting around and looking for more. After four days, you may be concerned that your milk is not coming in. Don’t worry! Your milk will come in eventually (perhaps even causing massive and painful engorgement), and in the meantime you can either listen to your starving baby scream in desperation, or you can supplement with formula.

If supplementation is necessary, how should it be carried out?
FL:
Supplementation should be avoided wherever possible, since it may compromise the supply-and-demand of breastfeeding, putting the child at risk for the possible loss of several valuable I.Q. points. If you must supplement, avoid bottles at all costs – instead, feed the baby from a cup held gently to the lips.

BP: While supplementation has the benefit of easing your starving baby’s hunger, each method of delivery has its drawbacks. Try alternating between cups of formula (which the thrashing baby will scatter everywhere) and bottles (the sight of which may initiate a panic attack as you prepare to kiss your breastfeeding relationship goodbye).

What emotions can a new mother expect to experience?
FL:
As a mother, you will experience a love unlike anything you’ve ever felt before. Just gazing into the face of your newborn child will be an incredibly meaningful, euphoric experience.

BP: Right. That may happen. Or, on the other hand, you may find that gazing into the face of your hungry, crying child floods you with feelings of inadequacy deeper than any you’ve experienced before.

What about the mother’s physical recovery from childbirth?
FL:
You can expect some discharge of blood during the first few days, fading gradually to pink with no large clots.

BP: Be sure to stock up on the giant, inch-thick pads from the hospital: for the first week, you’ll be dealing with a torrential flow that no commercially marketed maxi-pad can possibly absorb. If the clots are any larger than a tangerine, you may want to call a public health nurse for reassurance (grape- or clementine-sized clots are no problem).

How should mothers deal with the challenges of nursing?
FL:
You may experience some discomfort while nursing for the first few days. Be sure to allow your nipples to dry out in the air until they’ve adjusted to the demands of nursing. Although some women use lanolin-based products to ease discomfort, no long-term studies have been done to prove that these are safe for the baby to ingest. Why take the risk?

BP: [becoming agitated] Why take the risk? Why take the risk? I had a shrieking baby who sucked me dry in two days, with no drop of milk in sight, I had a freaking Vesuvius running down my legs every time I stood up, my nipples were dry and cracking and don’t even get me started on the subject of stool softeners! Hand over the Lansinoh and the dark beer, lady, and take your advice to someone who cares.

(Although BubandPie’s youngest child is more than a year old, the effort of recalling the early days of motherhood appears to have precipitated some kind of emotional crisis. Psychologists are standing by, ready to intervene if necessary.)

48 comments:

theflyingmum said...

Hah! You and me, babe, you and me! I want to give "Flo" a virtual kick in the shins!

nomotherearth said...

And that's why I stopped reading all those damned baby books. Lovely in theory, not very helpful in practice. NOT use lanolin-based products? Is she psychotic?? Say it with me: PLEASE.

Gabriella said...

You had me in stiches over here....funny how the reality of motherhood really is!!! Although I know a few mothers out there who experienced the "Flo" way of life with a newborn. I really hated them lol!

bren j. said...

This is brilliant! I may have to print it to save for later. Thanks!

Karen said...

You've given me a brilliant gift idea for my doula clients - various fruits to line up on the back of the toilet so they can properly estimate the sizes of clots for the nurses on the warm-line at the hospital...or do you think that might be scary?

Mouse said...

I remember the disappointment I felt when the lactation consultant at my son's pediatrician's office gave me two minor suggestions--not to correct my method, but to improve the outcome. How, I thought, could it hurt this much if I'm not doing something completely wrong? Because the books and the breastfeeding class all said there would be no pain unless I messed it up.

Team that up with some granulation around my stitches and something like 2 weeks of significant flow, and I believed that the facts had been woefully misrepresented.

Lisa b said...

Brilliant. I would have loved to have seen the live debate.
I keep trying to get my friend who is expecting her first to stop reading books and start reading blogs for this reason.

metro mama said...

I don't even want to think about those early days again! Yep, totally not like the books say.

NotSoSage said...

Brilliant.

(WARNING: the following will include TOO MUCH INFORMATION)

My midwife told me not to bother with menstrual pads because they kept the area too warm and moist, creating the perfect environment for bacteria. Her suggestion was to, at night, sleep on one of those blue absorbent hospital pads. Uh, sure...I woke up every morning looking like a chainsaw massacre victim from the navel down.

Beck said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Beck said...

Ah, those first post-partum days, the days when you are most likely to find me sobbing "Why did I DO THIS to myself*?" in the shower.

*Thereby illustrating the lack of understanding of the basics of reproduction which has resulted in me being the mother of three.

slouching mom said...

Hah! Hah! One for each first-week nursing nightmare.

Hah! One for the grapefruit clot I 'passed' (nurse's terminology, not mine).

Hah! Hah! For the second-degree prolapse I have, even though I had C-sections both times. Apparently pushing for 3 hours can cause prolapse, regardless of how the baby comes out! Who knew?

Thank you. That was really cathartic.

edj said...

If you give birth to twins, a clot the size of a small grapefruit is no problem.
Go BP! Sock it to Flo!
I like the idea of the fruit lined up on the back of the toilet though.

Nicole said...

I swear, they keep updated the books to reflect more reality, but not one will ever say breastfeeding hurts like a bitch for quite a while. "Some discomfort" my patootie. My lactation consultant kept insisting I must be latching on wrong, until she finally saw me and said, and I quote "oh, some red-heads with light skin might feel some pain" (note, the red was not natural).

jen said...

Amen. There is what to expect, and then there is what the hell we should have expected.

well done.

Kyla said...

I second Sage's "Brilliant!!"

This was perfect, B&P!! Must go link to it now. :)

cinnamon gurl said...

Lansinoh... the best tip I got was to buy some before the birth and bring it to the hospital so I didn't have to send the huz out for it in the middle of the first night.

NotSoSage said...

Another (less gruesome) tip that my midwife gave me, which may or may not be on the books, but I certainly haven't found it. Is that the reason why the baby cries so much on third or fourth night is because prolactin is a stress hormone and the mother's reaction to the rough night actually helps her milk come in.

I found that it helped me not freak out when it happened (not that it lowered my stress level).

Pecos Blue said...

So true it is all a blur. Thank you for the refresher.

Veronica Mitchell said...

I hope you kicked her in the groin before they dragged you away. But that's just me. I get a little violent from pregnancy hormones.

Gwen said...

Oh, how I craved that sleeping newborn the books told me about. Mine came out awake and stayed that way lo these many years.

Good stuff, but, ummm, is Kyla totally freaking out now?

bubandpie said...

Gwen - Heh. Kyla is just the archivist here - she's already had two. But I'm definitely that mom people complain about: the one who fills your ear with horror stories and robs you of the third-trimester glow of anticipation with all sorts of unnecessary cautions. The way I figure it, better to be forewarned and delightfully surprised rather than underprepared and blindsided.

Mimi said...

Great post! It's all coming back to me ... shudder.

No one told me that some babies who are perfectly healthy can produce thrice-daily vomit streams that impress with both distance and volume and have you wondering if you should call an exorcist. 'Spit up'. Ha. Scared us half to death. Who knew? And why did no one tell us?

flutter said...

LOL! Boy, I just can't wait for babies. This sounds like all kinds of fun, wrapped up in a bow.

Em said...

Oh I love this... all so true, so very, very true!

marian said...

Yep, another birth doula here. As I'm talking with a client I always have politically correct Flo sitting on one shoulder and Personal Experience on the other, arguing loudly back and forth. My job is simply to synthesize it all into perfectly phrased statements that are both accurate, reflecting the broad spectrum of possible experiences, and reassuring, so as not to increase the anxiety or decrease the confidence of the new mother-to-be. No sweat.

Ah, and personal experience. First baby turns out to be "tongue tied" with a tight frenulum and have problems learning to coordinate his tongue(related to, we finally reallize 3 years later, autism). After a full week of engorgement, screaming baby, screaming nipples, raging mastitis with chills, fever, body aches, etc, and after being made to feel utterly incompetent by Flo (a lactation consultant in this incarnation) via phone, it turns out that it's not all me! So we proceeded to spend 18 hours a day for several weeks on the project of teaching my son to nurse...

I have four precious little ones. Perfect gifts from God. That part of the Mommy propaganda is absolute truth. They just omitted a whole lot of fine print!

Mad Hatter said...

B&P, You are far too diplomatic. I would have bludgeoned FL with a hammer by the end of the first question. As for that last question: "some discomfort"? That's when I would've drawn and quatered our dear FL.

Lawyer Mama said...

Baaaaahaaaaaa! Thanks! I needed that laugh!

Great post!

kgirl said...

please don't hate me, but except for the day 3 vacating hormones super-psycho freakout at anyone who came near me, my post-partum experience was pretty gosh darn good.

but, like my mellow baby, i know it is all a trick to have another who will knock me and my high-falutin' gosh darn goodness on my ass.

(and things would have been very different without the lansinoh. flo can suck my unchapped left one for that warning.)

Jill said...

Way to keep it real BP.

Anonymous said...

um, yeah, so without everyone flipping out and extolling the virtues of the almighty breastfeeding experience, do unbreastfed babies really lose IQ points?

Catherine said...

YES!! this is AWESOME! I'm throwing my arms in the air victorious and am ready to join in marching on for...sanity. Or...something.

I love this post.

bubandpie said...

Anonymous - There are studies that show breastfed babies performing slightly better on IQ tests compared to formula-fed babies - but personally I feel that the difference of a few points is not as significant as some of the panic-inducing pro-BF rhetoric makes it out to be. (There are plenty of formula-fed babies who grow up to having plenty of IQ points to spare.)

bubandpie said...

To clarify: it's the grown-ups who were breastfed as infants who take the IQ tests - not the babies themselves.

Jenifer G. said...

So funny and true...
Brings backs lots hazy memories.


My worst was the standing up pooping because I just could not sit and the RED milk every time I tried to pump from my sore, bleeding, nipples. That pink milk makes my stomach turn just thinking about it, although everyone assured us it was fine for the baby.

So many things they do not tell you...

Kelly said...

Brilliant! Loved the use of fruits to describe the various-sized clots that seem to be expelled in the post-partum period.

Anonymous said...

thanks B&P, I have heard of some other effects, but this was the first IQ related one I had seen...

Christina said...

LOL, I do remember all that. Some discomfort...yeah, right. More like the feeling of someone sucking on your nipples with a mouth filled with razor blades.

And soon I will get to test out the theory that siblings can be totally different as newborns. Oh I hope.

Angela said...

I wish I had known some things before I had my first child, like the fact that breastfeeding was like having my nipples rubbed with sandpaper and put through a paper shredder and, yes, I was doing it properly, but it still hurt like hell....but, I'm not bitter or anything. ;-) Just glad it did get much better. I always warn first time moms that it will hurt but I don't go into gory details.

bren j. said...

Okay, so I kept thinking about this all day yesterday...haunted by all this talk about clots. I was trying to convince myself it had to be some sort of exaggeration, but after reading through all the comments - good lord! Is it really that bad?!?! Darn those lousy hippy-parent-perfect-baby books!
I guess at least now when it happens I'll know I'm not dying.

bubandpie said...

Bren - The thing is, all the books say that you'll have heavy flow for a day or two, then it eases up considerably and fades in colour, and then goes away after a couple of weeks. Apparently, this is actually what some (many?) women experience, but judging by some of the comments here, I'm not the only one who was amazed that it was even possible for one person to bleed that much.

As for the clots, they don't hurt - but they are scary. There is that outside chance that some of the placenta was left in, so you do have to keep an eye on it, but I had public health nurses tell me that grape-sized clots were totally normal, and larger ones were fine so long as it didn't continue past the first few days. (I think mine were on day three or four - I was home from the hospital, and very freaked out.)

Jaelithe said...

Yes, Bren, it is really that bad.

Luckily, you will most likely be far too exhausted to care all that much.

Jaelithe said...

Also, you might want to add, Ms. Bub and Pie, that there are some newborn babies who are born two weeks early and STILL DON'T SLEEP for 16 hours a day. Or 14 hours. Or 12 hours. No, try 10. In two-hour spurts. Gack.

Lawyer Mama said...

Had to comment again since I didn't have time for much last night. I sent this post to several expectant moms & dads that I know. No one is doing moms to be any favors by not REALLY telling them what to expect. When I think back to how much less scary and difficult everything would have been if I'd known.... Sigh.

I also had the red sea emerging from my body (along with scary looking planet sized clumps) for at least a week. Only then did it slow down. I guess some people must do what the books say, but I don't actually *know* any of them! Oh right & no one tells you that your first period after the breastfeeding ends will be almost as bad.

And I just had to add that my first was born three weeks early & still didn't sleep for shit. I do know people who had stepford infants that slept all the time, but I have never been blessed with one.

Jenifer G. said...

Back again to confirm the clots. I had several and some were "fruit sized" as in grapes and limes. They did not hurt to pass, but in general it hurt in that ahem area anyway.

I also bled at least two weeks with the second week being lighter with no clots, but still bleeding.

Reality for ya.

The Mad Momma said...

ohmigod.. i laughed my ass off reading this... hope you dont mind if i link up to it...

Lady M said...

Once, twice, a hundred times, I agree with your . . . disagreement! I too preferred not to starve my baby and supplemented with formula until my milk came in. We were lucky. Q was happy to eat anything.

bren j. said...

Well I will consider myself forewarned then. Keep writing these posts though because I only have so many weeks left to glean from all the Mom-Wisdom flying around in here!