Newborn

6 Tips to Keep you Grounded as your Milk Comes in

You have reached the other side and have begun to be a parent. It is a blurry time when just about everything is blended: day into night and mama and baby are still almost one body. There is the golden edge marked with a sense of surprise and awe about what has just happened. Adrenalin and oxytocin lift you into your postpartum bubble. You are mastering tasks like diapering and breastfeeding; your baby is sleepy and recovering from her monumental passage.

 

Here are some early timeline facts for you:

 

During days 1- 3, your breasts are making colostrum to feed your baby. You may have noticed this sticky, yellow substance in your 3rd trimester as your breasts prepared for nursing. Your newborn will typically have less than 2 tbs of colostrum per feeding on their first day. It is easy to digest and has concentrated nutrition and antibodies. At this point your baby’s tummy is about the size of a marble.

 

You may feel energized and proud or dazed and woozy or both. Your body and your baby’s body might be your whole world. Your uterus is still contracting and bleeding is fairly heavy. Your bottom or your incision is sore depending on your delivery.  Your baby is a tiny curled up chicken - she is probably pink and squishy looking. You can both still remember how tightly she was nestled up inside. You are both awkwardly figuring out your new physicality. She is adjusting to gravity and air and you to your to your loose skin and tender body. There is a vigilance to diapers and the belly button and mindfulness of teeny limbs, temperature and a sensitive nervous system. Find ways to get more comfortable.

 

There is still food in your fridge, folded laundry, your body still remembers uninterrupted sleep and your partner is proudly consumed with protecting this new family unit.

 

And then something changes. It gets deeper and harder. You might wonder where you are, how you got here and why.

 

Day 3 or 4 is notoriously hard. Oftentimes, even just the foreknowledge of entering this time makes it a little easier. This is the time when the mature milk comes in. Your breasts will feel different: heavier, larger and hotter. Your baby could wake up a little more and will begin to want to feed more, too. This can be called cluster feeding, which is a way of helping the milk production expand rather than your baby being hungry from underproduction. The more she nurses, the more milk you will make. Soon, you will begin your synergistic nursing dance where you and your baby will be in sync and your breasts will tingle (and letdown) in anticipation of their desire. The milk production changes your blend of hormones and often, as a result, moods and emotions can get more intense (some people call this “the baby blues” which is short lived;  any lingering and persistent anxiety or sadness should be brought to the attention of a healthcare provider).  This can be compounded by sleep deprivation beginning to settle in, discharge from the hospital, beginning to revisit birth memories and a profound realization that the baby is dependent on you for 24 hours a day.

 

Here are a few ways to honor and possibly ease this time:

  1. Make it a “retreat day”. Have no expectations of yourself or your baby. This is your job,  nothing else. For those of you who like to feel productive or “on top of it”, please know that there is so much work just happening as result of having a baby. Your body is healing, you are bonding with your baby, you are helping her to survive by feeding her and regulating her, you are entering a new season of life. So get into bed - get mostly naked and snuggle up with baby (skin-to-skin contact will help promote oxytocin and bonding as well as making nursing as available and convenient as possible ).

  2. Send everyone else away. Hold on to your most supportive and helpful people, but take some time to tighten your circle. This is a great day to practice setting up your boundaries. This is something your partner should help you with. You do not need to take on other people's needs and energy especially in this sensitive time. Having fewer people around will make it easier to focus on the most essential tasks at hand.

  3. Warm foods, warm hearts. Eat easy to digest, warming, nutritious food and lots of tea and/or water. Your body should be using energy to heal and make milk rather than digest food. Your digestion is also still unsettled from the pregnancy and will take weeks to recover.

  4. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Really and truly.

  5. Nourish yourself. Placenta pills can be a strong asset to these days and can help take the edge off by smoothing out hormone fluctuation.

  6. Small Pleasures. Prioritize feeling good. This is a great time for a foot or neck rub, enjoyable music and aromatherapy.

 

A mantra that has served me well in my own motherhood is “I am enough”. This is a good reminder in any transition and there will be many during that first year. There is no right way to travel your postpartum - you have the right tools for you and your baby has everything she needs: YOU.


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