Surviving Your Newborn


Life with a newborn is overwhelming and exhausting, even for healthy parents. So what’s a new mom with fibromyalgia or a chronic pain illness to do? These simple steps can help you survive and enjoy the first few months of your baby’s life.


Be Prepared
Going shopping on your own can be tiring enough, even without having to tote along a massive diaper bag and carrier car seat. Before your baby is born, stock your house with everything you think you might need over the coming months. Make sure you have a very large supply of diapers, and if you plan on bottle-feeding, buy a good amount of formula as well.


If the responsibility of meal preparation usually falls on you, this is one area that you may want to plan ahead for as much as possible. During the last month of my pregnancy, I made several meals to store in the freezer. This can be done easily by doubling recipes. Have some of your favorite take-out menus available too.


Be Realistic
When planning for your postpartum period, don’t overestimate your abilities. Caring for yourself and your newborn will take up all of your time and energy. You should recognize that having FM may make your recovery period longer than normal. I was told in childbirth class that a healthy woman who underwent a normal delivery should not do any housework at all for the first two weeks postpartum. Since it normally takes me longer to heal than most people, I tried to do as little as possible for the first four weeks after delivery. You may need six weeks, or even longer. Listen to your body and give yourself plenty of time to heal before you start attempting any additional activities.


Take All the Help You Can Get
New babies tend to attract a lot of visitors. If your friends and family are considerate of your situation, hopefully they will offer to bring meals when they come to admire your baby, or give their help in other ways. If not, there is nothing wrong with telling them that you could use some help while they are visiting. Ask your mom to pick up some groceries before she stops by, or ask a friend to get the laundry out of the dryer for you. These offers of help won’t last, so take advantage of them when you can!


If you are financially able, you might also consider hiring a doula for your immediate postpartum period, or having a cleaning agency do the major housework for the first few months of your baby’s life.


Naps are a New Mom’s Best Friend
We’ve all heard that saying, “sleep when your baby sleeps,” but unfortunately, this practice doesn’t always work out in real life. Sometimes the baby only sleeps 10 or 15 minutes—just long enough for you to get comfortable and settled in to nap. Other times, you may be feeling physically exhausted, but still too alert to sleep. Don’t force yourself to nap every time your baby does if you aren’t ready for sleep. You can always relax in other ways. Spend some time reading, watching TV, or surfing the net. Rejuvenating your spirit is important too.


During the first few weeks of my daughter’s life, I made it a point to try and get a good nap every afternoon, continuing a habit I’d developed during my pregnancy. After a rough night, I often napped in the morning too. Find out what works with your own inner clock, whether that’s going to bed earlier, sleeping in later, or taking several naps throughout the day.


Make Yourself Comfortable
New moms tend to spend a lot of time hunched over their babies, particularly during feedings. This can cause a great deal of pain and tension in the neck, shoulder and back area. Fortunately, this pain is somewhat avoidable. Make sure you are sitting in a comfortable position before feeding your baby. Watch your posture and try not to sag into yourself. A nursing pillow will be very helpful with this, whether or not you are breastfeeding. The pillow will allow the baby’s weight to be supported by your lap, taking the strain off your back and arms. I used my nursing pillow so much while my daughter was a newborn that I started to feel like it was attached to my midsection.


As your baby grows larger and heavier, you may want to consider doing some gentle stretches or a postnatal yoga practice to ease some of the strain on your body.


Convenience is Key
Take a look at your arrangements for baby care and make sure they are in the easiest configuration possible. You should have diaper changing supplies on each floor and close to the areas where you and the baby will be spending most of your time. You don’t want to be wasting energy running back and forth across the house a dozen times a day if the changing station is inconveniently located. Also, watch out for your back when you change those diapers. It may not seem like you spend a lot of time changing a diaper, but when you are doing a dozen changes a day, it really adds up.


Making Nighttimes Easier
One easy way to help minimize the amount of time you’re awake at night is by having your baby sleep in your bedroom. Set up a bassinet or cradle, or consider a co-sleeper. This arrangement is particularly good for nursing moms. If you are bottle-feeding, involve your partner in the overnight feedings, getting up to feed and change the baby at least some of the time. Breastfeeding moms can consider supplementing with formula or pumping milk to allow themselves some longer stretches of sleep.


The Feeding Dilemma
The choice between breast- and bottle-feeding is one of the earliest and most important decisions you will make for your newborn. Although many women assume that they will have to bottle-feed in order to continue taking their medications, this is not always the case. There are a surprising number of medications that can be taken safely while breastfeeding. If you really want to breastfeed, talk to your obstetrician ahead of time about which medications you will be able to take.


Breastfeeding with FM is absolutely possible. My daughter is four months old and has been entirely breastfed since day one. While breastfeeding your baby can make it harder for you to get several hours of consecutive sleep, particularly in the early months, you may find that the rewards outweigh the sacrifices. I have come to cherish the times I spend nursing my baby, and I feel that the benefits to my daughter’s health are worth the interrupted sleep.


Forget Perfection
No parent can be perfect—not even a healthy, energetic one. Don’t create impossible standards. Your baby doesn’t care if you can take her to Mommy and Me classes. Your baby doesn’t care if his laundry never gets put away. All your baby needs is your loving attention, a full tummy, and a dry diaper. Focus on the love and care that you can provide for your baby, and forget about the rest. Just try to do the best you can each day with the strength you have. Some days will be better than others, and some days will be downright awful, but the loving bond you share with your baby will make it all worthwhile.


Be Aware of Time
Though the cycle of nighttime feedings and diaper changes may seem endless, keep reminding yourself that the newborn stage does end. While I know that’s hard to imagine, especially when you are rocking a wide-awake baby at 3 a.m., the newborn days are very brief in comparison with the rest of your child’s life. Savor these special moments with your new baby.


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