Don’t Forget to Ask Mom How They’re Doing (5 Weeks Postpartum Update)

I meant to do this last week but having two kids is busy! Plus I am trying to soak in my time with my baby while he is still little and tiny as much as I can during the day.

I said in James’ one month update post that I would provide an update on me, breastfeeding and so on as well – so this is it. The title? Well, just a small reminder to ask your mom or parent friends how they’re doing – and not just how baby is.

Disclaimer: this is not medical advice. This blog is for informational purposes only. Please seek medical advice from your trusted healthcare provider.

Physical Recovery

So far, so good. I have found my recovery this time to be a lot better than with Maggie. I remember feeling very tired and weak after Maggie’s birth, and I didn’t really experience that this time. I mean, of course I felt tired after the second night of little sleep – but I adjusted a lot faster to the decline in sleep. I also didn’t feel the weakness beyond a day or two – and it wasn’t comparable. No lightheadedness this time either – by day 3-4 that I felt pretty good overall in terms of energy and strength. I, of course, still appreciated having my husband home for 2 weeks to assist with the baby even though I felt good. I am very thankful that was an option for us.

TMI, but it should be talked about because I know a lot of women ask – My bleeding decreased around day 3 or 4 as well, and by day 10 or so it was light pad worthy. The past week or so it’s finally panty liner level – but I had a few days where it would fluctuate between almost nothing to “a bit too much for a panty liner”. I did have clots for about the first 2-2.5 weeks, but always smaller than a golf ball (different providers may give you different size comparisons – I’ve seen smaller than a plum used too). Here is some info on what to expect regarding postpartum bleeding, and when to seek additional help. Your provider may also give you their own separate list to follow, that includes “call for help” instructions for baby as well. Hot Tip: I kept this out for the first week or so postpartum so I would remember (because lets face it, you have a lot going on).

If you read my birth story or listened to it, you’ll know I did get another 2nd degree perineal tear (this is the same as what I had with Maggie). I only noticed it for about a week and then the pain went away for the most part. I didn’t really need to use ice or anything this time – last time I did use ice packs to sit on, or padsicles are another great option. I have had some discomfort in the area, but no signs of infection or any issues. My midwife said they would check when they do my 6 week visit and pap smear (because I am due for mine now) to make sure there are no remaining stitches (they normally dissolve but sometimes a piece can remain). I will be doing a separate post on the 6 week visit, so stay tuned for that – but overall, the tear seems to have healed well. They advise you not to look – and with Maggie, I didn’t look for probably months. This time I did, but not until like 4 weeks. No regrets (it was pretty normal to be honest).

Your whole pelvic floor and the associated organs can be impacted by labor – so your provider will ask you about how your washroom visits have been. I haven’t had any issues this time – I remember having some residual bladder discomfort after Maggie, but that hasn’t happened this time for which I am thankful! On the other end (literally) – no issues either. I never find the first bathroom visit (the dreaded “postpartum poop“) that bad – some people make it sound like it’s awful and maybe it is for some. My midwife gave me a great tip my first pregnancy to use counter pressure with toilet paper over your vagina while going so the pressure in that area isn’t as bad – it helps. You may need a stool softener – I never did, I feel like my body just knew how to adjust (but I also have IBS so, my GI tract is weird). Frequent use of a peri bottle is also nice in the early days. If you have hemorrhoids (I personally got them after pregnancy, not during) – then a sitz bath is great, or Tucks are relieving too. If they’re really uncomfortable – seek provider advice/guidance for further treatments.

Overall – physically, I feel quite good. Things seem to be healing up for me and I have no complaints or issues that I’ve noticed. I do definitely have a weak and soft abdomen though (and my pelvic floor is definitely still recovering) – which is to be expected after 9 months of pregnancy and diastasis recti (which everyone tends to get to some degree in pregnancy – click here to read more about diastasis recti). I’ve started to do some belly breathing/pelvic floor activation now but nothing substantial. It honestly just helps me relax at times. If you’re having issues with bowel, bladder, vaginal or perineal pain or bulging, etc after 6 weeks postpartum – seek out a pelvic physiotherapist for assistance!

I will do a separate post asap on my postpartum must have items…

Breastfeeding

I breastfed Maggie for 16 months, so I planned to breastfeed again because we overall had a very positive experience until I became super touched out at the end. I don’t know why this happened, but she had started daycare by then and we were only doing two sessions a day so – we were both ready and we stopped just at the right time.

I talked more about my breastfeeding experience in this series of posts and also about the sensation of being touched out here.

Maggie and I did have some challenges in the early days of breastfeeding – she lost 11% of her birthweight and my milk didn’t “come in” until day 5. Unfortunately I didn’t have an electronic pump at the time, so I did hand expression into the haakaa and my milk did eventually come in full force. I had colostrum but because Maggie also had trouble with latching early on, we did supplement with tube feedings at the breast for 2 days. I think that Maggie’s weight loss was actually related to the fluids I had in laborwhich can inflate the birth weight, and that she probably actually lost a normal amount. I’m not sure the supplementation was necessary – but I followed the advice of my provider and I was just glad we only had to do it for 2 days – not because there is anything wrong with formula feeding, but just because I had really wanted to breastfeed! After that hiccup, it took another few weeks of support with the midwives for us to figure out her latch, but we got there.

I want to note here firstly, that if breastfeeding is a goal for you, to seek support if you’re facing challenges of any kind. IBCLCs are great, and private/employer insurance often covers their services. There are also free clinics (covered by OHIP – so not truly free, but you know what I mean) through public health in most areas that offer IBCLC support. Midwives are also excellent – if you’re receiving their care already, we got a lot of support from ours both times. Secondly – if your mental health is declining because of the way you choose to feed, please remember that this matters. If you’re unhappy, uncomfortable or facing something like D-MER please seek support from your provider and do what needs to be done to support both your own and baby’s well being. Sometimes that might mean you need to change the way you feed your baby – there is nothing wrong with that. Oh – also remember that sometimes latch issues are related to tongue ties – but not always (and – not all tongue ties need correction). Sometimes it’s just positioning of you or baby, and other factors. If you have latch issues, see an IBCLC! Other forms of breastfeeding counsellors (they go by many names) can’t actually diagnose ties, just an FYI. They may be able to provide breastfeeding support – but when it comes to telling you there are issues or suggesting treatments – it actually isn’t within their scope of practice.

Breastfeeding came a lot easier for me the second time around. It helped that James was eager to latch at birth, and has had minimal issues with his latch (my nipples still had an adjustment period to breastfeeding again after almost a year of not, but nothing crazy). My milk also came in at day 3, and I had plenty of colostrum days 1 and 2 for him to feed and be happy. He lost 9% of his weight – which was within normal loss range (though some considered it ‘high’), and he gained his birth weight back + more by 10 days postpartum.

My nipples had a few cracks the first week, and they healed up by the second week. I’d apply lanolin to soothe it, but not over apply. Showers helped too. My engorgement when my milk came in lasted a few days. James cluster fed on day 2 and I feel like it made my milk come in full force, to an oversupply almost. It took a few days to sort that out – I just kept feeding on demand and would use the Haakaa at the beginning of a session if I knew my letdown was going to be crazy (he’s not a fan of that). I also did a bit of block feeding – feeding from the same breast within a 3 hour period. Now, my milk is regulated to his current needs. I do still deal with a forceful let down if I get overfull (longer between sessions – we generally can go about 3 hours in the day and overnight we have done 5.5) – I deal with that by either letting down into the Haakaa or releasing some milk into the Haakaa at the beginning (as above) or by pulling him off and catching the letdown (in the middle of the night I usually do this with a receiving blanket). He’s adjusted more to my letdown even when it’s a bit more forceful though, so we’re having less episodes of him pulling off or coughing when this happens. If you’re struggling with this, you can speak to an IBCLC or your provider, and check this helpful page on Kellymom about forceful letdown and oversupply.

Check out this cool reel I shared of my milk changing in color & supply as our journey progressed in the first month:

FYI – I keep my milk from the Haakaa in the fridge for 1-3 days until I fill a bag, then I freeze the milk for future use. We have bottles and plan to start giving James one occasionally so if I ever want to or need to step out for a longer period, I can. We used them very occasionally with Maggie until she started daycare then she’d have 2-3 bottles a day (she started at 10 months and was eating solids quite a lot by then) on top of her breastfeeding at home. I also used the milk for when we started solids – it’s great for mixing with some foods! I hope if I build up enough this time to use it for a milk bath – but we’ll see.

I did use an electric pump with Maggie eventually, when she went to daycare. I pumped twice a day and I talked about it a bit in this post.

Adjusting to Two

I feel like this deserves a post on its own – perhaps I will gain some wisdom from this adjustment and be able to pass it on to others in future. But I’ll provide a brief update now.

For me, the hardest part of having two kids so far has been making sure I am still getting my “time” with both. At 5 weeks now, I’ve actually noticed that I’m starting to feel more adjusted to this finally, but I do think it takes more time. And once you adjust (if you ever truly do) – something in your life will change, like going back to work or having another baby. Figures.

Right now I get Maggie ready for daycare and take her with the baby in the mornings. Yes, she is still going to daycare. She loves going and its a socialization thing for her that she needs and appreciates. I also need time to adjust with a newborn too, so this has allowed me that. She goes 5 days a week but I am hoping that by the spring/summer I feel more prepared to have them both home – at least twice a week. I am thankful this is an option for us because I recognize it is not for everyone.

In the past 3 weeks that this has been happening, we have developed a bit of a routine. I get up around 6:30 (naturally) to feed James. He may go back to sleep for a short time after, so I get ready. If he doesn’t sleep, I lay him down in his bassinet anyways and give him his pacifier if he’s fussy. I don’t do like a “full getting ready” thing at this point, just “acceptable for daycare drop-off” level. Once I’m ready, I’ll change James and get him ready to go, then we go into Maggie’s room and get her ready. I have a play mat in Maggie’s room for James, so I’ll lay him down and help Maggie with her diaper and clothes. We have been having her pick her outfit for the next day the night before, to minimize the work of doing this in the morning (yes – some days it is work!!).

We then head downstairs and I get Maggie food – I already talked about this in my James’ update post, but we are “on the go” eaters so we have a few options Maggie likes during the week that she eats while she is in the house but not sitting down. It’s not ideal, and on my goal list for the next month to change. But it’s what works, especially with two kids. Phew.

One tip I have is to make sure you have a safe surface for baby on each floor or each main area you go into. On the main floor, I have the Baby Bjorn bouncer or the Mamaroo and I use these interchangeably when I need to put him down.

We drop Maggie off at daycare and my husband picks her up. After daycare, I try to spend as much time as I can with Maggie – whether that’s colouring, playing with one of her toys, or sometimes watching a show (yeah, I’m that parent). Usually I have James too, because my husband cooks dinner most nights, but Maggie likes spending time with her brother so it’s ok. At bedtime, my husband and I take turns putting her to bed depending on how the baby is at that moment – if he’s fussy, my husband does the end of bedtime. I always come in and read her a book or spend time with her too though.

My goal is to try and implement some “mommy and me” time on the weekends in the future. But we’re not there yet and it’s okay – I know my daughter feels loved and included, and we still get time together. There is a lot of mom guilt over this adjustment though, I’ll be honest. I feel better as the weeks go on, but at the beginning I felt like I was abandoning her even though I was there for all the normal things just not always as engaged because I now have her brother to tend to as well. My best advice would be to be kind to yourself – and make time where you can for your older kiddo, but also realize that adding their sibling into their new routine is reality. James is going to be here now! And luckily Maggie loves him so much, she isn’t too upset about it.

I’ll continue to share our journey as the months go on! I’m sure it will be full of highs and lows – though I intend to maintain a positive attitude and hopefully that will help!

Postpartum Body & Mental Health

I talked about my physical recovery, but the change in your body during & after pregnancy is both a physical change and a mental challenge. Especially as someone with a history of disordered eating and body dysmorphia.

This pregnancy was a lot harder mentally for me, when it came to my self image, than my first. I can honestly say each day of growth with my first was so appreciated. This time, it took more convincing in the early days. I had moments where I had a hard time seeing myself in the mirror. I found that I felt better in terms of self image as the pregnancy went on (and also after our anatomy scan ordeal, I really wanted to appreciate it all) and with mental work, these feelings thankfully dissipated.

Postpartum can also be a beast in this regard. I have actually found it to be – thankfully – pretty much as easy as the first time when it comes to loving my body. I appreciate what my body has done – carried and birthed two babies, so I am not hard on it like I used to be. Not to say, at times, that it doesn’t take a lot of techniques and mental willpower. But I am truly thankful and appreciative. Do I have a few more stretch marks? Yup. More loose skin on my abdomen? Definitely. At some moments, this makes me upset or it makes me miss the times when I used to think my body needed improvement when it didn’t. But for whatever reason it doesn’t bother me much, I’m just happy I was able to do this (there is nothing wrong if you don’t feel this way – but if it is persistent, seek support).

I think the hardest thing for me, mentally, in the postpartum period is clothes. I am now at an in-between point – where some maternity clothes are too loose or look funny without my bump but some of my regular clothes don’t fit exactly how I like around my abdomen. I will share my journey when I am a bit further along in photos – but it’s crazy how fast your body initially changes after birth, while some things take more time.

Someone told me this once: pregnancy is 9 months long, so why do we expect our bodies to change so much more quickly? And it’s true.

I shared my journey in postpartum last time in this post, and it was really cool to see the changes over time. I plan to do the same again and have begun documenting each week or so, how my body has changed. But I also think it’s important to recognize that some things pregnancy leaves you with and that’s not a bad thing – just a reminder of what your body did. So I appreciate my stretch marks and my loose abdominal skin that never fully “went away” last time, because they remind me of how my belly grew to home my babes. Again – it’s also ok to not appreciate this (just like some people don’t love pregnancy, many will not love their postpartum body), but there are certain self views and behaviours that need support so if you’re feeling particular disdain for your body that is all consuming or leading you to restrict eating or overexercise (the list goes on) you may need to speak to someone. I just like to leave that reminder as I’ve been there and it’s really easy to not recognize these behaviours in yourself.

So for now I’ll say I am happy – I had some baby blues for about 2 weeks but they’ve gone. I mean, I’m a bit of an emotional person by nature. Things make me cry, but I recognize the difference between happy tears and not so happy tears. I maintain a positive relationship with my body – though I expect challenging days on and off on the road ahead, as I discover what my “new” body looks like after having two babies.

I’ve never had it but remember that postpartum depression is a thing – and it doesn’t have to be diagnosed immediately postpartum. It can occur anytime postpartum and it can present differently in different people. A resource I like is Happy As A Mother’s instagram page, which talks a lot about postpartum rage (and other relevant mental health topics for parents), a lesser recognized symptom of PPD/PPA (anxiety). So while it can be normal in those first 2 weeks postpartum to go through a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, there are still extremes to look out for and going beyond the early weeks could be a sign that you need more support. Similarly it can be normal to worry bout our babies – but there are extremes, and that is often anxiety (check this post for signs your worry is actually anxiety). Don’t forget to check in on yourself mamas – or have someone else learn the symptoms and check in on you. We simply cannot pour from an empty cup – so don’t let yourself be forgotten in the midst of motherhood. I know that can be difficult or impossible – that’s why having good support going into postpartum and making sure someone else can recognize those symptoms can be very helpful and important.

Thanks for reading – I’ll update again at the 6 week appointment to share how our discharge went!

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