How To Navigate Pregnancy, Postpartum and Beyond
You've probably heard parents joke about the fact that kids don't come with instructions. While that was the case for oodles of parents, today's new parents face almost the opposite issue. Search the Internet for information on pregnancy, delivery, postpartum or newborn care, and you're likely to be served a laundry list of answers. The help many new parents today need is figuring out how to separate the good information from the not-so-good information.
We have you covered. We spoke with the experts behind Baby Mama, a service helping moms and families navigate pregnancy, postpartum, and beyond. Baby Mama's founders met as undergraduates at Boston University. Since then, they've both continued their medical education and training. Both Kiera and Kaylan completed doula training in 2020. Kiera had her first baby in December 2020 and is currently completing her Master of Science in Clinical Research degree. Kaylan has four children and is becoming a Certified Lactation Educator (CLE). We asked them for the ins and outs of pregnancy, postpartum support and newborn care.
You’re Pregnant, Now What?
Having a baby is exciting and scary all at the same time. When you find out you're pregnant, you might have a million questions, feel anxious, unsure or overwhelmed. Despite all you don't know and can't control, there are ways you can prepare for the experience. Baby Mama shared their top two suggestions to prepare for birth:
- Find a clinician that aligns with your values and take our birth class!
- Education has repeatedly been shown to increase confidence, empower your decision-making and decrease fear. Our birth class will prepare you for this time, no matter your individualized birth goals.
Is It Labor or Something Else?
Thanks to Hollywood, most of us think we have a pretty good idea of what to expect from labor and delivery. If you're like many women, these two topics may not have been top of mind for you until now. While there's no way to predict how your labor and delivery will go, you can learn the basics.
Labor, Baby Mama told us, "begins when contractions or waves increase in frequency, duration, and strength. Your contractions will become stronger, longer, and come closer together AND the cervix begins to thin and open."
Labor consists of three stages. The first stage has three parts; early, active, and transition. "Early labor is defined as the time when your cervix is 1-5 cm open and can last days to hours," Baby Mama told us. During this time, your care provider may advise you to try to relax in the comfort of your own home. You don't necessarily need to rush to the hospital or birth center.
The next stage is called active labor and is defined as 6-8 cm open and averages 1-8 or more hours. "Stage 2 is the pushing phase and is defined as the time it takes from when you are ready to push until you meet your baby earthside," Baby Mama shared. This phase can last minutes to 3-4 hours."
The final and often the most overlooked stage is transition. According to Baby Mama, "transition is 8-10 cm and averages 10-60 minutes. Stage 3 is marked from the time it takes after you birth your baby until the placenta is delivered. This averages 5- 30 minutes but can be shorter."
Decide How To Have Your Baby
Not all women want to have their babies the same way. Some prefer to go the non-medicated route, while others wouldn't dream of non-medicated labor and delivery. "There are SO many options," said Baby Mama, "and things to consider prior to and during your birth (and beyond!)."
It's essential you know your options. Baby Mama explained, "a medicated birth is when the birthing person receives analgesics and/or an epidural for pain relief. An unmedicated birth is where the birthing person does not receive either an epidural or analgesics for pain relief."
If you choose to skip the medication. Baby Mama offers alternate options including:
- Breathing techniques
- Hydrotherapy (shower/bath)
- Using a Rebozo cloth
- Birthing ball
- Partner/doula assisted techniques such as counter pressure and hip squeezes
The experts at Baby Mama also remind moms to, "Create a list of birth goals and discuss them with your clinician so everyone is informed and aligned."
Having a baby is incredible. Before your big day or night, make and share your plan with the people who will help you through your labor and delivery.
What To Pack for the Hospital
Heading off to the hospital can be exciting or a little overwhelming. Bringing a little bit of home with you can help. The experts at Baby Mama suggest "packing things from home that will help make your birthing space your own." They remind us, "this will be your temporary home so make it welcoming and comfortable. This may mean bringing your own music or sound machine, essential oil diffuser, pictures of family or things that you have a special bond to, and bite-sized snacks, to name a few." A little piece of home can make a big difference when you're in the midst of labor. Baby Mama also recommends, "bringing slip-on shoes, comfy clothes, self-care items, a few nursing bras and shirts, a robe and special items for baby like a "going home" outfit. And don't forget the car seat!"
As you prepare to become a parent, you may have a lot going on. Packing for the hospital can get pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. Keep in mind that babies don't always follow a schedule. Having some of these items packed and ready to go as you enter your final trimester may give you peace of mind.
Time To Bring Baby Home
You've spent months waiting to meet your baby. Before you head home and enter the first days and months of parenting a newborn, Baby Mama has a few tips to make this stage go a little smoother.
- Find your tribe early—research pediatricians, lactation consultants, postpartum doulas, chiropractors, and other resources during your pregnancy. You may not need to utilize all of these resources, but if you need assistance or additional care, you will already have a list prepared. And ask for help! We all need it.
- Learn what is normal for you and your baby to keep surprises to a minimum. Understand that your emotions will be all over the place (thank you hormones), and your body is also going through many changes. The newborn weeks are so rewarding but can also be challenging. A clear understanding of what to expect with newborn sleep, to eat, poop, and peeing will build your confidence.
- Have a plan for where the baby sleeps, for when the breast/chestfeeding person or the primary caregiver sleeps, and for when visitors come over (these visits should be short and sweet, and visitors should be doing something for you, not just holding a baby). Have a plan for meals and for self-care (and self-care does not mean taking a shower. You need to be taking care of yourself both mentally and physically).
A Word About Postpartum
Once you've delivered your baby, you're officially in the postpartum phase. According to Baby Mama, "the postpartum phase is the time immediately after birth until about 12 weeks and is also known as the 4th trimester. You can also find the definition of the postpartum phase lasting even into the 6 to 12-month range."
The length of the postpartum phase can surprise some new parents. Remember that as you learn to care for your newborn, it's essential to take care of yourself. Baby Mama reminds us, "the immediate postpartum phase can be a very vulnerable time as your body is healing, you are bleeding for several weeks, you may be learning to breastfeed, and you and your family are learning a new routine. Not to mention, you are now caring for a whole new human!" While the baby is the primary focus during this time, Baby Mama points out, "the American culture often focuses more attention on the new baby and not enough on the birthing person and support from family, friends or a postpartum doula is a welcome and needed addition."
Don't underestimate your own needs during the months following your delivery. You and your body have been through quite an experience. New babies are adorable and amazing. They're also a considerable amount of work. If friends and family can't help, consider a night nurse or mother's helper. There are options available, and you don't have to go through this time alone.
How To Prepare for Postpartum Now
Before you even head off to deliver your baby, there are steps you can take to make navigating your postpartum a little easier. Baby Mama advises parents to get educated on postpartum. "Take our Preparing for Postpartum Class which highlights the body's stages of healing, hormonal fluctuations, and emotional changes." Beyond what's happening to your body, Baby Mama's class addresses how a baby impacts daily life at home. Baby Mama told us, "we also cover partner and family dynamics and ways to improve communication. Our class covers the details of what postpartum looks like, sounds like and feels like. Our aim is to normalize the postpartum period and best prepare you for what to expect, limiting future questions and surprise, and allowing you to reflect on this time with positivity."
There is no shortage of gear you can purchase for your new baby. To help shorten your shopping list, Baby Mama shared some of their recommendations:
- A double electric breast pump
- A hands-free pumping bra
- Nursing wear (bras and tanks)
- Comfy postpartum underwear
- A peri bottle
- Nipple care items (gel pads and coconut oil)
- High waisted leggings or pants
Baby Mama reminds us, "this time is amazingly beautiful, wonderful, and special," and there are customizable and trusted resources to help support and empower your decisions in pregnancy, postpartum, and beyond.