Postpartum knowledge: Our Vhi Midwife answers common questions from new mums
6 minute read
Do you have a list of questions as you navigate early motherhood? If so, you’re not alone. Luckily, Vhi Midwife Hannah Willis has been answering those exact kind of queries for decades. Here are the ones she sees cropping up time and again…
Before we dive into some of the most common questions I hear from new mums, congratulations! You have just given birth, which is an amazing feat. Now is the time to concentrate on looking after yourself and your baby.
So, try to accept any assistance that is offered while setting boundaries that make you comfortable.
Hopefully, some of these answers will cushion the post-natal impact if you’re having a tough time and make the process that bit more manageable.
Question: Is my baby getting enough to eat? They seem “fussy” in the evening?
Almost all babies display fussiness, whether they are awake, alert, craving attention or “cluster” feeding. It typically happens in the evening, and a pattern will emerge, so much so that you can predict it! Typical baby fussiness can start at 2-3 weeks and peak at six weeks. It should begin to resolve around 3-4 months old. This is normal new baby behaviour, as long as your baby can be comforted and is otherwise content and thriving throughout the day.
You will know that feeding is going well when your baby:
- Appears satisfied and contented after most feeds
- Is bright, alert and active when awake
- Is settling and sleeping after some feeds during the day or night
- Is having plenty of wet and dirty nappies
- Is gaining weight
Most parents worry about their baby’s nutrition and them gaining weight in the early days.
Question: My baby won’t settle in their cot, what can I do?
Humans are “carry” mammals, so your newborn does not have the biological capacity to settle on their own yet. Their brain is growing faster than it ever will again. Being cuddled actually helps them develop. Every time you settle your baby in a cot, they may look to be lifted and held again.
A partner can help by holding the baby on their chest after feeds, meaning baby’s needs are met while you have a break. They can also assist with breastfeeding by taking care of the other tasks: post-feed cuddles, settling and soothing.
Of course, crying babies are upsetting for any parent, and some babies cry more than others. If you need support for a child crying, check out our guides on crying babies and their more extreme cousin, baby colic. If this behaviour persists, you should contact your GP.
Question: I can’t get enough of my newborn at the moment! But is it possible that I’m spoiling them?
You are both recovering, so your baby will want to be held a lot for reassurance. Do not worry about spoiling them! This is a popular myth; you cannot spoil a newborn. When they demand your attention, it means they are lonely and need your presence.
Research has shown that the more we respond to our baby’s needs, the more independent they become as adults, and the better they cope with stress. They have spent nine intimate months with you already, listening to your heartbeat, hearing your voice while being gently rocked as you move, shielded from bright lights and loud noises, in the perfect temperature and feeding on demand.
Think about this when they want to be fed and held frequently in the early days. This is an extension of their time in the womb, and they will soon settle down.
Question: Should I be concerned about hiccups?
Hiccups are a common occurrence with new babies, and some babies even have hiccups while sleeping. They do not often cause any problems, and a bout of hiccups should generally resolve itself without intervention.
Interestingly, hiccups are only found in mammals – and most often found in infant mammals. Research suggests that hiccups evolved to allow air trapped in suckling infants’ stomachs to escape, allowing more milk to be ingested. So, rest assured: hiccups are normal behaviour that stem from evolutionary necessity and are of no concern.
Question: I’m still getting to grips with “baby admin”. What should I know about the hygienic side of things?
Keep an eye on their skin folds, especially under their neck, arms and in their nappy area. These are the places most likely to become excoriated. Wash and dry them each day to prevent skin damage. You can then apply a barrier cream if you notice any problems. If you are concerned, don’t hesitate to seek advice from a healthcare professional.
Most babies require nappy changing at least once during each feed. This can be 10-12 times per day in the early weeks when they are breastfed. There is no need to change a mildly wet nappy before a breastfeed as they will more than likely fill their nappy during a feed. If a baby has a soiled nappy for very long, however, they will develop nappy rash. Change nappies immediately if they become soiled. Always change wet and soiled clothing in a timely fashion.
Plenty of outfit changes will likely be required until you get used to protecting them while changing nappies or feeding.
Question: How do you identify postpartum depression, and what can be done about it?
Postpartum depression can have a wide variety of symptoms with varying severity. They can include some or all of the following:
Feeling sad, anxious, alone, worried (especially about your baby), feeling rejected by your baby, guilty, irritable, angry, flat, inadequate, panicked, lacking energy, lacking concentration, feeling overwhelmed.
You may have a loss of appetite, be unable to sleep despite being tired and not want to be around other people, even your own baby. Obsessive behaviour may be another sign.
Do not let these worrying thoughts stop you from seeking help. Effective treatment is available. The vast majority of women with postnatal depression are treated at home with their baby. It can affect anyone, even if you have never been affected by depression before. Do speak to your GP about it or call the Samaritans.
Question: Aside from depression, are there other wellbeing issues that I could face?
The “baby blues” are so common that they are considered normal for new mothers. Most new mothers experience them a few days after birth. It is normal to have at least one period in the day, and one bad day in the week. However, if the feelings persist, seek medical help as soon as you can.
Sleep deprivation may look like an inability to cope, but once you get some uninterrupted sleep, you should feel much better again. Make sleep your friend in the early days of your baby’s life. When they are feeding frequently, day and night will merge into one, so you should try to sleep when your baby is sleeping.
Pregnancy and giving birth are emotional experiences. Having a newborn baby is exhilarating, exhausting and physically challenging. It can be daunting to be responsible for another new little human being, so it is little wonder that the emotional stress and lack of sleep can precipitate feelings of an inability to cope. This is a normal part of adjusting to the changes of becoming a mother. Just remember, you are never alone on the journey.
This content is for information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek advice from your GP or an appropriate medical professional if you have concerns about your health, or before commencing a new healthcare regime. If you believe that you are experiencing a medical emergency call 999 / 112 or seek emergency assistance immediately.
Meet our Vhi Verified Expert
Midwife Manager at Vhi Midwife Support at Home
Registered Nurse, Midwife, Public Health Nurse and Lactation Consultant