What ways might you cope with sleep deprivation in the first months once the baby is born?
- nap when the baby sleeps; take turns napping on weekends and in the evening
- breastfeed in bed at night, have partner change, burp & settle baby at night
- have one night feed be done by your partner so that you can get a longer stretch of sleep
- go to bed earlier than usual
- disconnect the phone, put a note on the door when napping
- keep family & friends' visits to a minimum; wait for a week or two before having visitors over
- exercise to re-energize
- have family, friends or a postpartum doula look after the baby while you nap or have a short walk
- arrange for your partner to have some time off or work half days for a few weeks if possible
- accept help from family or friends
- rely on partner to take on some household chores
- sleep instead of cleaning or taking care of all the other things there are to do! Let them slide!
- eat a nutritious diet; have nutritious snacks on hand
- use relaxation techniques or meditation to help with lack of sleep; even if you can't nap, rest
- hire a 'postpartum doula' in the first weeks for day time or overnight shifts
- use a grocery delivery service or stock up on household supplies ahead of time
- order take out a couple of times a week, have it delivered
- use paper plates, plastic utensils to cut down on time spent washing dishes
- keep meals simple and prep early in the day if possible, use a slow cooker for 1 pot meals
- arrange for a maid service to come every couple of weeks to clean
- ask for a house cleaning service as a shower gift
- before the baby arrives cook meals that can be frozen
- have friends/family provide meals that can be heated up easily
- close off some rooms that you may not use & open them up later
- take clothes to the dry cleaners
- accept help from others and create a list of chores that need to be done
- try to accomplish one major chore daily and see if you can get it done early in the day when baby is sleeping
- keep a short 'to do' list – set small blocks of time to do chores
- lower your expectations of what is to be accomplished in a day
- lower your standards with regards to how the house looks! You & baby come first!
- pay bills ahead of time
- video tape your favorite shows to watch later on when you are feeding the baby
- arrange for a cloth diaper service
- hire a 'postpartum doula' in advance or receive one as a gift
- mom & tots group, parent/infant drop-in, La Leche League meeting, postnatal fitness/yoga class
- public health nurses (home visits) or at the health clinics
- community health units
- local community centers, neighborhood houses
- family places
- new parent programs, parenting support groups/circles
- Breastfeeding center; lactation consultants who do home visits; breastfeeding consultants
- family, friends, neighbors, your religious organization
- public library – Family Baby & Toddler rhyme, song & story programs
- health resources line #811
- your family doctor, midwife, pediatrician
- your childbirth preparation class members or teacher
- work associates
- parenting online resources such as Vancouver Family Connections, Parents Matter, Best Chance, Safe Kids Canada
- multi-program agencies: Family Services of Greater Vancouver, West Coast Family Resources Society, www.ccrr.bc.ca
- 'postpartum doula' or your birth doula
- have a friend/family member come by and watch baby while you go out for an hour or so
- arrange a coffee date with a group of other mothers
- hire a babysitter in advance before you need one
- do one thing for yourself each day, such as a relaxing bath, reading a book, go for a mani pedi, massage, get your hair done, treat yourself!
- chat with a friend on the phone, catch up on news
- ensure you take time to talk with one another
- sit down to dinner together after the baby is asleep
- check in with each other during the day
- praise each other on your parenting, appreciate each other's efforts, nurture each other
- spend time talking about other things besides the baby
- plan a date together & do it
- focus on the day's accomplishments – laundry done, a shower, dishwasher emptied
- give each other support, verbal & practical
Sometimes families hire a doula because they don't have family close by and friends are often busy, unable to commit to any regular times to help out. A postpartum doula is someone educated particularly in newborn and mother care for the immediate postpartum period. Although they provide no medical advice or care, they do know what is normal for both newborn and mother in the first weeks following birth. Some have additional training and education in breastfeeding, infant massage, postpartum depression, baby sign language or other skills applicable to newborn or new mother care.
Primarily the doula provides support to the new mother and her infant. She eases the mother's recovery by taking care of her, ensuring she is eating, getting rest and focusing on her newborn. The doula offers hands-on support & education with breastfeeding, suggesting positions, assessing the baby's latch and ensuring good drinking. She can suggest comfort measures for common concerns such as engorgement. She can provide reassurance with regards to there being enough milk and how to assess that.
She offers guidance with infant care in areas such as soothing and comforting techniques, burping, bathing and reading infant cues. She supports and encourages parent-infant bonding, providing information about the science of attachment. Any questions that are of a medical nature, she refers to the woman's caregiver or other maternal or newborn care specialist.
Household chores are done by the doula including emptying dishwasher, baby laundry, light meal prep, & tidying up the home. Sibling care is also included in her services. As well, she may assist the mother in getting to a medical appointment. Typically, daytime shifts are 4-5 hours.
The doula is NOT a babysitter, nor a nanny or baby nurse. She stays with the mother and baby in the home. Occasionally the doula may take the baby for a short walk but generally the doula remains in the home with them both. She is a companion for the mother and essentially is 'mothering the mother', much like her own mother would do.
She is non-judgmental and supports the style of parenting that the mother chooses. The doula can provide suggestions regarding parenting if the mother is looking for information. She can also direct the parents to local community resources and accompany them if they wish.
Unlike a family member or friend, the doula has completed a specialized professional training and continues to upgrade her knowledge by attending workshops and conferences. She keeps updated on what is current evidence based research in order to present correct information to her clients. This differs from receiving opinions and/or advice from well intentioned relatives or friends. Their suggestions may be outdated and in some cases proven unsafe. The benefits of postpartum doulas have been documented. Please see the DONA paper:
I hope this article has provided some useful information in order to prepare parents prior to the birth of their child. It's an exciting, incredibly precious time filled with joy and awe. Parents' preparations in advance will ease this transitional time from birth through the first early months. What we call the fourth trimester.