You asked, we answered. Check out our experts’ tips for the first 6 weeks after birth.
The first 6 weeks after birth are full of love and excitement, but they’re also exhausting and nothing short of overwhelming. We know there’s a huge focus on making sure your babe is perfectly healthy and happy during that time, but we’re here to remind you to focus on taking care of you, too.
We asked our social media followers what their top questions were during those first 6 weeks and got in touch with our Parenthood Medical Advisory Board to help answer them. We received some thoughtful questions and were able to get answers from three of our experts:
- Karla Pippa, certified doula and lactation counselor
- Raj Dasgupta, MD, sleep medicine
- Jake Tipane, certified personal trainer, postpartum fitness
Check out what our followers wanted to know and how our experts helped them through it.
You can find the videos from our experts on our Instagram highlights here.
How do I handle engorged breasts in the first few postpartum days/weeks?
If breastfeeding is going well, it is the best way to deal with engorgement, so make sure you’re feeding upon firmness. You can also hand express under a warm shower or you can pump, but just for a little bit of relief. If you’re really uncomfortable, try applying cold cabbage leaves to help reduce swelling.
How can I nurse with strong letdown?
If you have a strong letdown, the most effective way to assist a struggling baby is to latch your baby and then recline or lie back to get gravity out of the mix. It may be helpful to hand express just a bit to get past the first forceful letdown.
How can I breastfeed and bottle train at the same time?
If everything is going well, many lactation consultants recommend waiting 3 to 4 weeks before introducing a bottle so you can really get breastfeeding down. If you do offer a bottle, opt for wide-mouth, slow-flow nipples and try a paced approach to mimic the breastfeeding relationship.
When does the vaginal soreness go away? Lots of pressure down there!
While the healing process can take months for many, most people will feel a significant improvement in vaginal soreness within 2 weeks. Sitz baths, ice packs, and staying off of your feet should help. For more difficult cases, we encourage you to consult with a pelvic floor therapist.
How do you regulate milk supply from pumping only to breastfeeding only?
When breastfeeding is going well, it’s more efficient than the pump, so the transition from pumping to breastfeeding should help your milk supply. On-demand feeding instead of scheduled feeding generally strengthens your supply as well. If there are difficulties, make sure to reach out to a lactation consultant.
What can I do if I feel a burning sensation in my breast when my milk comes in?
Burning sensations during breastfeeding can happen for a variety of reasons. If it’s just during breastfeeding, it’s very possible that this is a sensation of your letdown in one breast. However, it may be best to see a lactation consultant if you’re concerned or there are any additional symptoms.
What does a doula do? How can a doula help me?
A doula is a support person who helps you prepare for birth, goes through the birthing process with you, and assists you postpartum. A doula provides emotional, physical, and informational support such as guiding you with labor positions, helping you navigate the medical system, and breastfeeding. We highly encourage you to get one.
Both of my babies did NOT sleep like other people’s newborns. WHY!?
Try your best not to compare yourself and your baby to others — sleep and babies are very individualized. But, there are a few things all newborns have in common:
- Total sleep time. Newborns should sleep for a total of 18 to 20 hours.
- Sleep stages. Babies spend 50 percent of the night in REM sleep (or “active sleep”), which is one of the most essential stages of sleep to help them grow. They spend the other 50 percent of the night in non-REM, or ‘quiet sleep.’
- Sleep cycle length. In newborns, sleep cycles are very short — only around 45 to 50 minutes. This means there’s a chance for multiple awakenings, and if the baby can’t self-soothe, then parents will need to feed at their cry or give them some comfort.
They tell me to sleep when the baby sleeps, but it’s impossible. What are some tips?
This is a super common issue new parents have to deal with. Instead of trying to match your sleep schedule with your baby’s, we have some other advice:
- When the baby is napping or sleeping, that’s a time to take it down a couple of notches. Not to run and do the laundry, not to do 20 extra chores, but to finally take a breath and relax for a moment. And, yes, put away that cell phone.
- Power naps! They’re an awesome way for new parents to feel rejuvenated and refreshed, and we all need that with our newborns. Make sure to get those naps in between 12 p.m. to 2 p.m., and do your best not to sleep longer than 20 minutes.
Any tips and tricks for those sleepless nights?
Babies make a lot of noise. They gurgle, burp, and sometimes cough. So the biggest thing to focus on is not jumping at every little sound that comes from your newborn.
If you do have one of those sleepless nights, make sure to take your little one outside or near a window in the morning. Sunlight may help reset our circadian rhythms, so this can help prevent babies from having two bad nights in a row.
Can I use CBD for sleep while breastfeeding?
People are using CBD nowadays for everything, and we’ve come a long way when it comes to research. But, there are still many questions out there when it comes to CBD. So when it comes to breastfeeding and the use of CBD, be sure to follow the FDA’s guidelines to avoid it.
My anxiety is through the roof — do you have tips to calm that to get better sleep?
Focus on the things you can control, which is your bedtime ritual. Pay attention to what you eat, when you eat, and make sure to put technology away and get a little exercise. When it comes to the bedroom itself, keep it dark, and try to keep it quiet and on the cooler side.
How do I know when my core is back together?! Crunch time?!
Many women experience diastasis recti after pregnancy, which is the splitting of the linea alba (aka the midline of your ab muscles). You can test for this on your own at home by placing two fingers horizontally above your belly button and pressing down deeply. Check to see if there’s a gap between the abdominal wall on either side.
Almost everyone experiences some gap postpartum, but we’re looking to see if there’s a 2- to 2 1/2-finger gap at the navel, 3 inches above or 3 inches below it. If you have a gap in any of those places, you have diastasis recti, and it’s not time to start doing crunches just yet.
What are some exercises I can do at home to help with lower back pain?
Postpartum lower back pain is common because your hips, your abs, and your deep pelvic floor are all a little unstable after pregnancy. To help combat that instability and gain strength, the first thing you should focus on is making sure you really have command over your Kegel:
- Take a seated position in a chair and imagine the sensation you have when you’re trying to stop yourself from peeing. See if you can hold that for 5 to 7 seconds.
- Now let’s try to sync up that contraction of the Kegel with your breath. Take a deep breath in through the nose, filling the belly, and exhale through the mouth like you’re trying to blow up a balloon.
How can I exercise without doing too much?
One of the toughest things to manage postpartum is the urgency that you have around getting back to your normal fitness routine. It’s hard to slow yourself down, but this is a really important time to do the things your body needs most. You need to rest, recover, and take care of baby.
The best way to make sure that you’re not doing too much is just like any other regular fitness routine. You don’t want an increase in intensity or duration by more than 10 percent week over week. The best postnatal exercises to start with are pelvic floor exercises, hip stability exercises, and walking.
We know it doesn’t feel like a lot, but if you do these things consistently for the next 6 weeks to 3 months, you’ll be in a great place when you’re cleared for full activity.
Are Kegels the only answer?
Once you’ve developed command over the Kegel, try adding in some glute activation and some hip stability exercises to prime you for whatever your normal activity is.
The first three exercises to add in after you’ve developed command over the Kegel are glute bridges, clam shells, and side lying leg lifts. Syncing these movements up with your Kegels will add a brand new challenge and make it much more stimulating.
What are some exercises I can do to prepare for working out again?
Think about preparing to get back to your regular fitness routine gradually over the first 6 weeks after birth. Start by adding one exercise per week for the next 6 weeks. By the sixth week, you should be doing six exercises and taking a nice long walk after each one of those exercise sets. Start with these exercises:
Once you’ve reached the point where you’re adding in lunges and squats, you can use a stability ball against a wall, or steady yourself with a dowel or broomstick, to help you stay stable.
Don’t forget to take care of you after your baby is born. Pay attention to your body, get your bedtime ritual down, and make sure to exercise — but take it slowly. Be patient with yourself and avoid comparing your situation to anyone else’s because everybody’s journey is different.
Remember to always reach out to your doctor or doula if you have questions or concerns about your health. You can also follow us on Instagram for some tips and laughs along the way.