. . . most who hear it think postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression is a very real mood disorder that affects up to 20% of new mothers. However, today we focus on something different, the postpartum period. This period begins when your baby is born and ends around 6 weeks after the birth.
As a doula, I find that expectant parents often spend months planning for the birth of their baby. You research the best provider, the best hospital, hire the best doulas and take childbirth education classes to help you make a birth plan. Much like planning a wedding or a big life event, a lot of work goes into making sure this big day goes off without a hitch!
Yet focus on what happens after that big day is often non-existent! And guess what? I’m guilty of it too!
Having a baby is a big deal! It’s understandable that a lot of emotion and thought is likely to surround this big event. Yet what comes after is just as enormous and arguably, longer lasting. The birth experience is important, there’s no doubt about that. You will carry the memory of your baby’s birth with you for the rest of your life. At the same time, how you weather those early weeks after baby’s arrival will also likely have a lasting impact as well.
So you’ve had a baby and after a few days of recovery, you’re headed home. For those who have experience with babies, this may not be such a big deal. For those who haven’t ever really taken care of a baby on their own, this might seem more than a bit scary.
You drive home ever so carefully from the hospital with your precious new baby. Once you arrive home, you open the door and sit down and think “Now what?”
Undoubtedly exhaustion from the birth experience has set in by now. You’ve been busy learning your baby’s cues. Perhaps learning how to breastfeed. Mentally and physically you are reaching your limits. If you are lucky you may have the support of family or friends nearby. You may have a stocked refrigerator with meals that you simply need to heat and serve ready to go. In addition, you may have visitors that can lend you a hand and allow you to grab a quick nap or shower while they care for your baby.
On the other hand, what happens if you don’t have this kind of support available?
Families who lack support experience the early days and weeks of the postpartum period in an entirely different way. Lack of sleep from the labor and birth carry over into those early days and weeks with the baby and the effects are profound. According to David Dinges, a professor of psychology and the director of the Unit for Experimental Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania sleep deprivation can lead to:
- A negative impact on positive emotions. Those who are sleep deprived may say they are happy but their facial expressions lack the ability to show their positive emotions. It also impacts their ability to see positive emotions in the faces of others. New parents may genuinely be happy about their new baby but tensions can rise between them as they don’t see the joy expressed in the faces of their partners or themselves.
- Microsleeps which sound delightful but are actually quite the opposite. Microsleeps can be triggered by as little as one night of missed sleep. During microsleeps, the brain goes into a fast and uncontrollable sleep state. During this time the brain is not processing any external information, even if your eyes are open.
- Delirium and hallucinations are also common aspects of sleep deprivation. For new parents, they may experience this as a loopy feeling that causes them to leave their keys in the refrigerator or hear their baby crying and feel an adrenaline rush of needing to help their baby who is peacefully sleeping by their side.
Over 95% of the last minute calls for postpartum care we receive at Tucson Doulas are from exhausted parents who just need a few solid nights of sleep to get back on their feet.
Planning for your immediate postpartum experience can help you get off to the best start possible and most importantly prioritize your sleep. When there is a lack of physical support from friends and family available, making this a priority is even more important. At Tucson Doulas one of our most popular packages is the 5 Day Live In package. This package includes 24 hours of postpartum doula care for the first 5 days home after your baby is born. During this time your postpartum doula is with you 24 hours a day 7 days a week to ensure that all of your physical and emotional and SLEEP needs are met.
Your postpartum doula also helps you to implement systems. Systems that can make life with your new baby or babies more streamlined and efficient.
Instead of trying to figure out what works best for your new family while trying to catch up on sleep and learn how to care for your new bundle, your postpartum doula can make suggestions and implement the time-tested and client approved systems. These systems are designed to meet your specific needs. Along the way, your doula guides you as you learn how to take care of your new baby. Provides guidance and support in learning your baby’s cues.
We are the “after baby” life coaches that help you grow in confidence as a parent as you step into your new role fully supported by the trusted baby care expert in your life!