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First month with baby requires being gentle with yourself

Cassy Webber, a Spartanburg mother of two, isn’t afraid to get real when it comes to what to expect after having a baby. Sharing the ups and downs, the highs and lows of the first month postpartum can help expectant parents be prepared and feel more confident in their new role. 

Webber’s babies were born via Cesarean section. With her second pregnancy, she found a simple way to deal with incision pain and postpartum bleeding.

“I had read on a mommy blog or Pinterest about Depends,” she said. “I went to the website and requested a sample.” 

It turned out to be her secret weapon – one that she wants other moms to know about. She said the disposable undergarment softly held her incision.

“It made everything so much more comfortable,” she said.

Carie McDonough, founder and CEO of Foothills Family Doulas, is a birth and postpartum doula and a newborn care specialist. She said those kinds of practical tips can help in preparing for baby’s first month.

“I think one of the most important things the first month is to recognize that it’s OK not to do stuff,” she said. “It’s OK to rest. Most other cultures have a waiting period – a rest and recovery time. We live in a culture where we are production driven. You just grew a baby for 9 months.”

It helps to have support in place, either from family, friends or a postpartum doula, before the baby arrives. Ask for a meal train from loved ones or spend a day in advance of birth preparing meals for the freezer.

“It’s OK to ask for help,” McDonough said. “I support having a checklist. People want to help and we feel bad asking for help.”

Write out a list of practical, immediate needs, such as taking out the trash, folding a load of laundry, walking the dog or emptying the dishwasher. Put it on the refrigerator and let visitors do a chore when they stop by. 

“People are going to be there,” McDonough said. “On the flip side of that, it’s OK to say no to visitors.”

Practically speaking, McDonough seconds Webber’s suggestion of using disposable undergarments in the early days after birth or using period panties that are machine washable and absorbent for postpartum bleeding. “Pad-sicles” can be a lifesaver, McDonough said. She said there are many ideas for them on Pinterest, but most include using aloe or witch hazel on pads and freezing them. 

And don’t forget to make the most of that baby registry in advance. McDonough said it is a good idea to register for different brands and styles of the same item – different types of pacifiers or swaddles, for instance – because until they are put in use, it is difficult to know what you and your baby will prefer. Check the return policy first to make sure you can return the items you don’t need.

No matter what the learning curve during the first month, McDonough said it is important to remember that the only rules during that time are the ones you make. 

“You have to take it hour by hour,” she said. “It’s hard, but you can do it. You do a little bit at a time, figuring out your baby and who you are as a parent.”