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Postpartum Possible Challenges

Baby is transitioning from being in a warm, weightless environment where he never felt cold, hungry, wet or alone to an environment where he needs help to get what he needs to feel good. His little body is just learning to breathe, take, digest and eliminate milk. Finally, his body is growing faster than it ever has and that might bring with it growing pains that your baby can’t communicate to you. It’s a huge adjustment and babies need a lot of support to do it.

Your baby is not giving you a hard time, he is having a hard time.

Baby crying
Babies communicate their needs in different ways and one of them is crying. Crying is not a punishment for parents, it’s the baby’s way of telling that she is upset and needs help. Responding to your baby’s cries doesn’t mean you’re spoiling her, it means that you are
showing her that you love her and helping her gain confidence in her surroundings, herself and eventually, become more independent. If you let baby’s cries become frantic, you raise her anxiety levels which make it more difficult for her to calm down.
Your baby might be crying because
• She is hungry
• She is overwhelmed (too many visitors, loud noises)
• She is bored or is lonely (babies require some sensory experiences every day)
• She needs to be comforted or needs so be soothed or touched
• She is in pain or uncomfortable (check her diapers and clothes to see if something is pinching or tight)
• She is tired and needs help falling asleep

Some ways to respond to her crying
Respond to her cues - follow your instincts and respond to your baby’s cues. This helps the baby learn to trust her surroundings, and by helping her calm down you are helping her learn how to regulate her emotions and feel safe with your help. With time she will learn how to self-regulate, be patient. Responding to her cues means picking her up, offering her the breast, checking her diaper, cuddling.

Wear your baby - babies who are carried in carriers on their loved ones’ bodies cry less and sleep better, especially in the first weeks of life. A wrap, sling or carrier that lets you hold your baby close, is comfortable to wear and keeps your hands free can be a godsend.

Recreate the environment of the womb - dimmed lights, being held warm and snug, perhaps some white noise in the background can help your baby feel relaxed.

Ask for help - people love holding babies, and if you have grandparents or other loved ones who are happy to help, ask them. Alternatively, you can hire a postpartum doula to help with some of the extra snuggles your baby needs.

Baby’s sleep cycles are different than that of adults - they are shorter, it takes some time for them to fall into a deep sleep (which may mean you need to hold him until they fall into a deep sleep). Babies should be waking (or semi-waking) to breastfeed at least every two to three hours during the first three weeks of life, and sometimes they need to be woken up for this. Newborns should not be sleeping for more than three or four hours without eating.

Your baby is in a deep sleep when his arms are limp and his fists are unclenched.

Baby wants to breastfeed all the time
Wanting to breastfeed often is normal. Breastmilk is easily digested and baby tummies are small (see the previous section on breastfeeding) so they need to be filled with a little milk, often. As the baby grows she will be able to take more milk at once and she will feed less often. Frequent feeding is especially normal around day 2-3 of life and during growth spurts.

I think baby has colic
Colic is sometimes the catch-all for explaining all of baby’s cries. However, colic does happen to some babies under three months of age but they are more than just occasional crying, and include some of these symptoms:
• Crying for an hour or more with nothing able to console them
• Cluster feeding (many feeds close together, crying when removed from the breast)
• Seems to have gas (burping or farting)
• Goes red as if he wants to poo but can’t
• Brings knees in to chest

Colic usually starts later in the day when you are already feeling tired, too. It usually lasts a few weeks and becomes less frequent as baby grows, stopping at about three months of age. We are not sure what causes colic but it is probably part of baby’s digestive system being immature and growing. During a colic episode you can comfort your baby, offer the breast, find positions that work to make her feel better (being upright, having pressure on her belly). Perhaps the best thing you can do is be prepared for a potential colic episode by making sure you get rest earlier in the day and have the energy to help the baby get through the colic episode in the evening.

In some cases, babies have colic because their mother’s milk comes down very fast and they swallow a lot of air as they work hard to keep up with the flow of milk.
Some signs of forceful milk let-down are baby gagging, coughing or choking while nursing, pulling of the breast, clamping down on your nipple, being uncomfortable at the breast, tending to spit up a lot or having frothy or explosive poo. If this is the case, you can help by
• Feeding baby more frequently (before your breasts are very full)
• Feeding baby when she is sleepy so she sucks more gently
• Feeding baby in a position so her body is as upright as possible (so gravity is helping her control the flow)
• Feeding baby in a position where her head is above the breast (again, gravity)
• When you see baby struggling with the flow, take her off the breast, let the milk flow into a towel, and put her back on the breast once the forceful letdown has slowed

In a few days or weeks baby will learn to deal with your milk flow.

• Adjusting to parenthood takes time, and prioritising your needs and your baby’s needs is perfectly acceptable and ok.
• You don’t have to have control of everything at all times - it’s ok to ask for help and be flexible.
• Babies communicate, but it’s up to us to learn their language.
• Babies adapt to the outside world after birth - this is not an easy process and you have to be patient.
• Parenthood isn’t perfect - adjust your expectations and do your best.