The physiological changes baby will go through in the first 12 weeks after birth – the 4th trimester – can be astounding and often intimidating. Your baby will likely express all kinds of physical symptoms of change – from skin rashes to changes in poop. Most of these symptoms are normal.
What’s a Parent to Do?
Surround yourself with trusted experts as part of your birth plan. From breastfeeding class leaders to your doctor’s after-hours nurse hotline, have the phone numbers ready so you know whom to call in a moment of fear.
While it is important to visit emergency rooms when there is an emergency, they are best avoided if not absolutely necessary. You don’t want to take your baby smack into the face of an environment filled with sickness and fear if you don’t have to. Think through how you can best help support your baby’s natural defense system for a developmental process that is full of health and free from excess anxiety. For one, think about probiotics.
Creating a Healthy Microflora for Your Baby
Babies are born nearly sterile, completely without microflora on their skin and throughout the digestive tract. Microflora are often referred to as probiotics. Pro is ‘for’. Biotics is ‘life’. Probiotics are ‘for life’ – in support of life. They are the opposite of antibiotics. Probiotics are the healthy bacteria, or microflora, populating our body. They are entirely necessary for us to live healthfully.
The first probiotic inoculation of healthy bacteria can happen during vaginal birth. If your baby was born in the presence of antibiotics, as would be true in a cesarean birth, keep in mind that it may be extra important to help create a flourishing ecosystem of microbiota to support your baby’s immune system. A healthy coating of microflora is critical for your baby’s health. The easiest and most effective ways to support the development of microflora after birth are skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding.
Plan to Breastfeed
Breastfeeding isn’t always an option, but it is the first choice of most health professionals – from doctors to doulas. Breastfeeding can be hard. Plan for the unexpected. If you are out-and-about with your baby, you could be shunned for breastfeeding in public. Brush it off. Plan to know your comfortable places to breastfeed in public. Use apps like LatchMe to find great places to breastfeed anywhere, anytime. Load them on your phone in advance of baby’s birth as part of your birth planning process.
If possible, stock up on organic nipple balm, breastfeeding pads, nursing bras and scarves. You don’t NEED anything to breastfeed except to be close to your baby, but certain gear, as recommended by a trusted professional, could make you feel more comfortable. As you consider your gear, pay attention to the chemicals that could be in the products you choose. Over 60% of what touches your skin and baby’s skin can be absorbed into the body. Breastfeeding supplies is one of the most important areas to plan to use natural and organic products – from the material of your breast pads to the ingredients in your nipple balm.
Know that you could experience extremes when breastfeeding – from pain to what seems like erotic pleasure. This is normal. Find a community that feels right to you to ask questions, hear stories and get feedback. From The Leaky Boob to Mommy Con, there is a community of people out there on whom you can rely for support. Find them before baby is born. Plan to lean on a tribe you make your own.
If you will be going back to work or out with your partner or friends, you’ll want to pump. The pump provided by insurance may not be the best pump for your body shape. Get comfortable with your gear as soon as possible. It is best not to buy breastfeeding gear before your baby is born because your body could change dramatically. While you may not want to buy gear up front, narrow down your choices. Know where you’ll want to get it as soon as you are ready. Consider your brands and resources ahead of time so you have less to think about once baby is born.
Simplify in advance, by planning ahead, so you can focus on what is most important – spending time with your family, getting to know yourself in your new role, learning your baby’s language and connecting with your support team. Recognize that the time you and your partner spend with your baby – from cuddling to breastfeeding – is critical to her healthy physiological development.
Photo credit: Thomas