Etiquette: Visiting a Newborn

No one really tells you how to visit a newborn. Almost no one gives consideration to how the mother feels about visitors either. The first 40 days after giving birth should be a time for rest and recovery for the mother AND the baby. Birth is hard work on both of them. All they should be doing is sleeping, cuddling and eating. Visits can be distracting, painful, stressful and just plain overwhelming for even the most social and put together of parents. BUT new babies are so darn cute you just can’t help yourself in wanting to meet them immediately, right? Well, if you’re invited, there are a few things to remember and consider when visiting someone who has just had a baby. A new mama is in protection overdrive and although she may not ask you to follow some simple rules, she is going to be thinking them. Be considerate and conscientious and always ASK before you do anything. 

The below considerations have been compiled based on my own opinions and experiences as well as the opinions and experiences of a few other Mamas.

When to visit:

  • Unless you’re grandparents or siblings of the parents, don’t even think about visiting within the first 2-3 weeks, unless you are expressly and encouragingly invited by the MAMA. It doesn’t matter if Daddy/partner said it’s ok, they’re not the one that just pushed them out of their body. Try to wait a month before visiting. But call, text, email to let them know that you are SO HAPPY that their baby has arrived and that you can’t wait to visit, when they think they are ready. 
  • Call and, if you can, speak to the mama to get a feel for how she would handle visitors. The baby doesn’t care, they aren’t even going to notice you, but that mama is stressed, tired, probably dirty, swollen in a number of places, and hungry. Even if you’re their best friend in the entire universe, your presence is likely going to stress them out a little. 
  • Do not, under any circumstances, show up unannounced. You’re in the neighbourhood? How convenient for you. Give the parents a call and see how they are feeling, whether anyone else is over and if it is an appropriate time to come. Take your time getting there so they have a chance to wash up, clean up or finish up whatever they were doing should they wish to. Ask if they would like a coffee/tea and go get that first. 
  • Ask them what the best time is for them. It’s probably not in the morning, it’s probably not in the evening. It’s likely going to be in the middle of the day and/or on the weekends. You can’t make that work? Guess you’re not visiting until you can. 
  • Have they had other visitors that day? If they have, save your visit to another day.
  • Be aware that mama might be feeding baby when you arrive. She may or may not be comfortable doing this in front of you. This is not your decision. Not comfortable seeing a nipple, ask about feeding schedules. Mama’s not comfortable with you there while she’s feeding and has decided to go upstairs? Wait. No one’s catering to you.  
  • If you are sick, have been sick in the last week, feel like you might be getting sick in a few days, do NOT visit. Babies are extremely susceptible to illness and the consequences can actually be fatal. Even your tiny cold or scratchy throat could be a major problem for that little one if they happen to catch it.

How to visit:

  • Arrive on time. Not early, not late. You may just throw mama’s schedule off if you do. 
  • Wash your damn hands. Like really wash them. Follow the CDC Guidelines. Wet, lots of soap, hot water, 30 seconds, all fingers, dry on a clean cloth. Then use hand sanitizer.
  • If you bring a gift, ask what is needed.  If you’re bringing anything that can be worn (clothes, hats, socks, etc.) buy it in a larger size. Somewhere between 3 and 9 months is always helpful. Second to that is diapers.
  • Better yet, bring a gift for the PARENTS. Healthy, homemade food is always the best gift. 
  • Don’t wear perfume or heavily scented anything. 
  • Don’t touch the baby unless invited. Don’t ask to hold the baby unless invited. Don’t pick up the baby from their crib unless invited. Don’t assume that mama wants a break from the baby in any way, shape or form. 
  • If you do get to hold the baby, do it securely. Don’t hold them with one arm, just your hands, up in the air to look at them or hold them out from your body. Watch their neck and head at all times. 
  • Don’t kiss their face, their hands, their tummies. Better yet, just do not kiss the baby.
  • Do not overstay you’re welcome. Unless you’re invited to stay longer, twenty to thirty minutes is long enough. 
  • Does mama have other children? Play with them! They are likely feeling a little left out as mama pays attention to the new baby. Your extra attention to them will be truly appreciated by everyone. This goes for furbabies too!
  • Ask how you can be helpful. Does mama need a load of laundry put to wash or folded? Can you do any ironing while you two talk? Can you wash the dishes or cook a meal? Does mama want to take a shower or a nap while you watch over the sleeping baby? (don’t bother with this last one unless your an immediate family member)

Visiting with your own children:

  • It’s always nice to have your kids meet new baby family members and friends, but remember that it’s stressful for the parents and the baby. You love your kids more than anything, of course, but that new mama is on protection overdrive and, to her, your kids are noisy, selfish, cesspools of bacteria. If you can leave them at home for the first month or two, do it. 
  • If your kids have been sick in the last week or may be getting sick in a few days, do NOT visit. Babies are extremely susceptible to illness and the consequences can actually be fatal. Even the tiniest of colds or coughs could be a major problem for that little one if they happen to catch it.
  • If you have made the decision not to vaccinate your kids, you need to make that clear to the new mama and ask them if it’s ok to visit with them. It might not be okay with her. 
  • Be sure to teach kids beforehand that they aren’t going to touch a new baby. If the baby is a few months old, and mama is okay with it, teach them “Tummy and Toes” are the appropriate places to touch the baby and that they are likely not going to hold the baby. You shouldn’t allow your kids to touch a baby’s head, face or hands. If your child is too young to understand how to be gentle, then it’s best to have them keep their distance.
  • Be aware of what your kids are doing. Don’t let them touch too many things that aren’t there’s, especially any baby items.
  • If your kids make a mess, it’s your job to clean it up. 

What to say, or NOT to say:

  • Don’t focus just on the baby. There is a new mama and a new papa there too. Ask them how they are doing and listen to what they have to say. 
  • Be aware that mama might not be able to talk about the birth, so if you ask and don’t get an answer or you get a vague answer, don’t push. If you’ve done it yourself, you can invite them to let you know if they ever want to talk about birth and motherhood in general. 
  • Don’t offer too much advice, tips or tricks. Let parents know that parenting is hard and if they ever want a second opinion on anything you’re happy to let them know what worked for you. 
  • Do not pass any judgment. Barring gross neglect or abuse, if you don’t agree with something that is being done or don’t think it’s the best option or that it will not work, keep quiet about it. Everyone parents differently and has different perspectives on what is best for their child. 
  • Don’t scare new parents with sad stories you’ve heard or your own personal negative or unfortunate experiences.

Visiting at the hospital?

  • Do you really think that’s a good idea? Unless your grandma, or mama has asked you to be there, the answer is no, it’s not a good idea. Even if mama has asked you to be there… she may just be being polite or catering to your feelings. I’m sure mama’s got more than enough support between the doctors and partner. And if you’re grandma, ask your daughter/DIL what she wants. Don’t be there uninvited. 
  • If you do get invited, follow all the same rules as above, but don’t stay more than 10-20 minutes. 
  • Don’t use mama’s washroom, find a public one. 
  • If you’re a mama-to-be and you haven’t considered what you want this time and space to look like, start doing that now and communicate your wishes to your husband very clearly so he can be the gatekeeper. 

Mamas, don’t be scared to communicate your wishes and your fears. Your family and friends should understand that this is a very special and sensitive time. This is your body, your baby, your family, your way or the highway. Almost everyone goes through this at some point or another, so don’t worry about how others are going to respond… they either get it or, hopefully, one day they will. 

Keep those babies warm!
Mama + Bebé

Coping with Postpartum Depletion, Anxiety and Depression

41698870_2176838609306522_3011419373807585475_nAfter giving birth to my son, I quickly found myself in the midst of post-partum depletion, anxiety, and depression. With the help of an amazing support system including family, my naturopath and my own determination to feel better, I was able to push my depletion, anxiety and depression symptoms to the side. Is it gone? Probably not… but I do feel a whole lot better than I did before. Medical practitioners aren’t able to accurately pinpoint the cause of many post-partum mood disorders but they do say that there is a multitude of factors that can contribute including stress, poor diet, birth trauma and previous history of depression and anxiety.

I believe that my post-partum journey began when I was about 35 weeks pregnant and bebé T decided that he was going to flip into the breech position. This week was particularly stressful for me as it was my second-to-last week at work in which I was trying to wrap up everything on my plate and dealing with a multitude of in-the-moment issues that needed to resolved before I left. I was under a tremendous amount of stress in my professional life. At my weekly visit, it was really hard for the midwives to determine where he was at. They termed the situation an “unstable lie” which essentially means that he wouldn’t stop moving. When I woke up in the morning his head was in my rib cage suffocating me and shortly after getting up I would feel his head down towards my side, almost in the transverse position with his feet kicking me in the hip.  My midwives recommended an ECV (External cephalic version), but when I asked them to explain what the procedure entailed, the midwife I was seeing on that one occasion told me to “google it”. I was really shocked at this response and her lack of support. This sent me into a month-long ordeal of mistrusting my midwives and feeling completely unsupported and dismissed by them. I did end up googling it and I was terrified of the procedure. I had this strong gut feeling of not wanting anyone to touch my baby in any way and I was dreading the procedure. On the day of I was so stressed out again. We went in for the procedure and when they went to do the ultrasound to see where he was, he was head down! PHEW! But talk about major stress over a 4-week period!

Bebé T came three days early. You can read about my birth story earlier in my blog, but I’ll be quick and say that it was a difficult experience and it was triggering for me to think about it afterward. I would hyperventilate and start to have panic attacks when I thought about everything leading up to the moment he came into this world. After delivery, I was so swollen all over my body that I could barely move for an entire week. I wasn’t eating properly – I had no appetite and we were eating frozen lasagnas that I had made prior to his arrival and take out. I was blasting the A/C because I was hot and it was the middle of summer. Breastfeeding wasn’t working for me, I began dreading every session and my baby started losing weight. He wouldn’t sleep unless he was on top of us and so I was sleeping on the couch on an inclined position for the first five weeks of his life. I began pumping every 1.5 – 2 hours round the clock which led to multiple nights, sometimes in a row, of ZERO sleep between feedings, rocking and pumping. I hated being alone and felt so ashamed of having my mother, husband, and mother-in-law always at the house to help me with the baby and give me the opportunity to nap, eat or shower. I dreaded leaving the house and barely did for the first three months. I began telling myself and others that I would never, ever have another child. I was in a complete downward spiral with constant crying, a deep feeling of sadness and desperation, multiple panic attacks and a tremendous amount of regret, resentment, anger, and guilt.

After a particularly stressful September, I said enough was enough. I made an appointment with my naturopath (which I should have done earlier but stupidly put off because I didn’t have the energy) and shared with her everything that was happening. She agreed that I was experiencing postpartum depression and recommended a number of different supplements including two different types of omega fish oils to protect my brain and help it heal; a calcium supplement; a few mood stabilizers; vitamin D and a general women’s multivitamin. I added on an iron supplement since my postpartum blood work indicated that my iron stores were completely depleted. I began forcing myself to do less around the house and to let the small things go. I began ensuring I was napping with my bebé at least every other day.

I began exploring the idea of a “newborn mother” taught by the postpartum doula and educator Julia Jones through her website Newborn Mother and education series. She focuses on helping childbirth practitioners and mothers understand that when a baby is born a new mother is too, and that mother needs just as much, if not more care, attention, and love. A concept that is fundamentally lost in the western society that I live in.

Most importantly, I concentrated on the foods that I was eating. I began choosing healthier options more of the time, opting for home-cooked meals instead of take-out or frozen dinners. I started concentrating on increasing my protein intake and reducing sugar as much as I could. For myself, and for my bebe who was experiencing reflux at the time, I cut out dairy and caffeine. I found a book on postpartum depletion by Australian doctor Oscar Serrellach called The Postnatal Depletion Cure and it became my bible. It taught me that I wasn’t alone in how I was feeling, that there was something wrong and that there was something I could do about it. I started scouring through my cookbooks to find the easiest and healthies options. I ordered food delivery boxes so I could quickly make healthy meals. I downloaded a cooking app so I didn’t have to spend energy on thinking about good recipes.

Hindsight is 20/20. I know now what I MUST do if I ever have another child:

I will ensure that my midwives understand my expectations of them as well as how I felt I was treated in my first pregnancy. I will not let them dismiss my questions, concerns and my feelings.

I will protect myself and follow a “lying in” plan, based on the ones followed in traditional cultures around the world. This will include:

  • A proper and balanced pre and, most importantly, postpartum balanced nutrition plan in place for myself.
  • Connecting with my naturopath sooner and ensure that I am getting the proper nutritional supplements including iron, calcium, magnesium and vitamin d.
  • Surrounding myself with constant warmth. Think hot soups, baths, teas, blankets, and sweaters.
  • Pulling on my support system without shame or guilt.
  • Not worrying about small things like laundry, cleaning, cooking. I will have this done for me for the first 40 days or just let it wait.
  • I will spend as much time as I can cuddling, kissing and loving my baby so that I can absorb as much oxytocin as possible.

Pregnancy and childbirth are hard, but I have found the postpartum period to be the hardest. I am truly disappointed that our society barely focuses on the difficulties experienced post childbirth and that many new mothers are left on their own to take care of their babies and their own bodies. I would strongly encourage all mothers to view and invest in their postpartum period as much as they did their pregnancy and birth. Plan for your postpartum period ahead of time and determine who your support people are going to be, you will be grateful for them.

In postpartum health,

Mama + Bebé

Mama + Bebé

I am a wife, daughter, sister, and mama to one little boy. I believe in the greatness of the female body, the healing powers of mother nature, the sanctity of the family and the unconditional love of a mother for her babies.

I am learning how to be a mother, a role model, a gentle and accepting person. I am still learning to always be grateful for myself and all that I have achieved in my short life.  I am learning how to be unselfish and how to give everything of myself without asking for anything in return. I am starting to learn how to heal, how to accept and how to let things go.

After giving birth to my son, I quickly found myself in the midst of postpartum depletion, anxiety, and depression. Despite months of preparation, self-study and countless hours of research and reading, I still felt unprepared for my son’s birth and the subsequent self-care and baby care that was required. I realized that others in my circle must feel this way too and so I decided to begin sharing my experiences with my community. Having a handful of friends who have also given birth recently or were about to, I thought it was important to share what I was going through and how I was handling motherhood. My journey began on Instagram and evolved into this blog.

My intention for this blog is to continue sharing about my motherhood journey including all the highs and especially the lows. Our society doesn’t talk about the lows nearly enough and I believe that it is a great detriment to new mamas. I think it’s also important to hear a number of different perspectives and I, therefore, encourage anyone reading or following this blog to comment and add their thoughts, perspectives, and experiences so that other mamas may learn from you too. It takes a village to raise a baby and a new mama, but many of us don’t have a village of support people around us. If you need it, you can add me to your village and I will do all that I can to support you. 

I hope that you enjoy what you find here and that you stick around for more. 

With love,
Mama + Bebé

Exclusive Pumping Tips

If you’re breastfeeding, you also likely have a breast pump. Just as there is a method to breastfeeding, there is also a method of pumping. I am by no means an expert, but I’ve had a lot of issues while breastfeeding and pumping and I’m finally feeling super confident with what I’m doing. I’ve learned a lot of tips and tricks along the way that has made my #pumpinglife a lot better.

If you’re having issues with breastfeeding or pumping you should always consult with a trained lactation consultant or doctor. A quick google search of “lactation consultants near me” will help you determine your closest and most affordable options in your area. You can also check out the following helpful websites:
La Leche League Canada
Kellymom.com

Milk Supply

You’re not going to get a full bottle the first time, (or possibly ever)! Your body needs to adjust to the feeling of a machine. If you’re coming off of direct breastfeeding, it’s going to take some time for your body to get accustomed to the machine before you see good results. If you’re only a few weeks in, and you’re still building your supply, you also need to be patient. This is why you need to be strict with your pumping schedule. For the first ten weeks, you need to be pumping every two hours for 25-ish minutes. Day AND night. Don’t go more than 3 hours max without pumping. Once those ten weeks are done, you can start going a little longer, but still never more than 4 hours.
If you’re looking to increase your supply while still breastfeeding, pumping for ten minutes after your baby finishes feeding will also help. If you want to increase your supply while EBPing you should power pump (pump 20 min, rest 10, pump 10, rest 10, pump 10). You can also increase your supply with food, herbs, and supplements like blessed thistle, Fenugreek, oatmeal, papaya, flaxseed, and brewers yeast.

Follow a Method 

In order to get a good pump, and get your max output, there are a few things you’ll want to do.

  1. The first is you need to be relaxed. Stress causes our body to tense up. Set the mood with some relaxing music, light a candle, setup Netflix or a book. I know this is easier said than done, but try to pump when you are more relaxed than not.
  2. Second, you want to feel warm. Warmth allows your ducts to expand, allowing the milk to travel easier. Use a warm compress (I use earth mama angel baby boobie tubes), drink a hot drink, wrap yourself in a blanket.
  3. Third, Lube it up! Make sure your flange is slippery before you put your beautiful nipple inside that machine! There’s nothing worse than your body rubbing up against plastic 50 times a minute. Remember to use something natural that your baby can ingest. I use coconut oil.
  4. Massage your breasts. If you can, do this before pumping and hand express a little bit. Continue massaging your breast while pumping. Don’t forget to massage starting from under your armpits, the tops of your breast down and underneath as well.
  5. If your machine has a letdown button, use it every ten minutes or so. This triggers your breasts to release the next batch that it has been making while you’ve been pumping. This can take you from 50ml to 100ml, etc.

Dealing With Blocked Ducts 

In the first few weeks that I started pumping, I was dealing with blocked ducts 2-3 times per week. If you’ve already experienced this, you know how frustrating and painful this can be. I’ve literally spent 5-10 hours on some days trying to work out a blockage, so if you can avoid them, to begin with, all the better.

  1. Warm compress. If you’ve just discovered the block, put a warm compress on it and start pumping. This can sometimes get it clear super quick and prevent a larger issue.
  2. Cold compress. If you’ve had the blockage for a while, your ducts are likely inflamed and you’re feeling the pain. A cold compress will help to relax your ducts and allow the milk to pass.
  3. Massage your breast and the blockage. This HURTS, but you need to move the milk out. You can try using some vibration to stimulate the blocked milk to move.
  4. Take a hot Shower. This can help your body relax and the milk flow again. While in the shower, massage your breast.
  5. Pump the day away. You need to get the milk flowing, so pump as often as you can.
  6. Sometimes the blockage is at the entrance! You may actually have a blocked nipple pore (a blebp). If you look at your nipple and there is a white dot that you cannot wipe off, this is likely what it is. Try massaging the nipple tip and wiping at it to get it out. For my worst blepbs I’ve used a sterilized needle to gently coax the blebp out of the pore. When you get it out your bound to have a shooting stream of milk, so be ready.
  7. Use a Vinegar dilution wash to remove any surface buildup.

Preventing Blocked Ducts 

Because I deal with these so frequently, I’m passionate about avoiding them. Below are some things I’ve found useful in preventing blocked ducts.

  1. Don’t wear tight bras. If you can let the girls hang out on their own, do it. Otherwise, a loose, but a supportive bra is crucial. Avoid the bras that have a wrap around your boob, especially at night when you may be going longer without pumping.
  2. Empty your breasts as much as possible. You want to ensure you’ve pulled out as much milk as possible. When you start to see a very slow trickle, you know you’re pretty much empty. You will likely never see a complete cessation as your constantly making milk.
  3. Massage while pumping. This will help to loosen any milk that may be getting stuck.
  4. Vinegar wash. Every once in a while you can dip your nips in a vinegar dilution. This helps to break down any calcium (and fungal) buildup on your nipple. This helps with nipple pore blockage as well.
  5. If you have recurring blocked ducts, you can take lecithin supplements. This is a compound found in many food products that help milk and other substances from bunching up. This won’t affect your supply or your baby but consult with a medical professional before starting to make sure there are no other considerations you need to think about.

Why I Exclusively Pump

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I’ve been told on multiple occasions by family and friends that I didn’t try hard enough to keep my baby latching on to my breast. While I’m pretty good at ignoring other people’s opinions and standing by my own, I’ve found myself upset at being told I didn’t try hard enough.

Many women choose to pump instead of breastfeeding and each has their own, excellent, reason. For me, it was both a medical and a sanity issue. I had breast surgery a few years ago which left one of my nipples damaged, causing my breastmilk to leak out non-stop. Because of this freeflow, I quickly developed an oversupply and forceful letdown. This meant that each time Bebé would latch on my milk would come pouring out of the damaged side. If he was on this breast he would choke and sputter and we would both be soaked through within a minute. If he was on the other I would lose all this milk and be soaked through within a minute. If you’ve breastfed, you know that being covered in milk is sticky and gross. Breastfeeding became a negative experience for both of us. I started to dread feeding times and Bebé started to lose weight. This was why I decided to exclusively breast pump.

Breastfeeding is HARD. No matter how you do it. But being attached to a machine for 30 minutes, 10 times a day, every two hours on top of everything else you need to do for a newborn is grueling work. I considered switching to formula many times, but I had a great supply and didn’t want to give that up.

I’m proud of what I’ve been able to do, even with all the additional work of bottle cleaning and annoyance of blocked ducts. Because I wasn’t able to feed him directly I dedicated myself to building up my supply and starting a freezer stash. As of right now, I have about two months worth of frozen milk. If I keep going to the end of the year, I should be able to give my baby breastmilk well past his first birthday.

It may not be the ideal situation for some people but I’m working hard day and night and pumping has now become a method of relaxation for me. While I’m still dealing with the constant free flow, I’ve learned a lot. I may even be able to breastfeed future children.
I love my #pumpinglife & I’m proud.

 

Check out the Exclusively Pumping section of this site for my top tips on exclusively pumping.