Postpartum Survival Guide
Your first weeks home with a newborn can be awkward and scary. Here's what to expect and how you can stay sane.
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is on the rise, especially among newborns and can be dangerous because it causes inflammation of the small breathing tubes of the lungs, possibly leading to pneumonia and future respiratory problems. Symptoms begin as a runny nose, a low-grade fever and a cough that worsens, and can be accompanied by wheezing. In some cases, hospitalization may be necessary. Most prevalent from late fall to early spring months, it can still appear at any time. Monica Saad, M.D., F.A.A.P., suggests the following preventive measures:
- Do not allow an excessive number of visitors to see your newborn until one month after you’ve brought her home.
- Family members and visitors should wash hands upon arriving at your home.
- Consider keeping siblings at home for a few days if a lot of children in the day-care center or school they attend have colds.
- Keep babies away from anyone who has the flu or flulike symptoms. best feeding tips
Just after delivery, you will probably receive hands-on intensive training on feeding from hospital nurses. Once home, though, you’re pretty much on your own. If you choose to breastfeed, you strengthen your baby’s immunity to disease, and for every ounce you feed your baby, you burn 20 calories. You many want to attend a breastfeeding class offered at a local hospital or an obstetrics-gynecology office. Kittie Frantz, R.N., C.P.N.P., pediatric nurse practitioner and author of the video series Breastfeeding Techniques That Work! (Geddes Productions), offers these secrets to successful breastfeeding:
- Be prepared: During the first few weeks, many babies nurse more at night. Bring him to bed with you to take the edge off sleep deprivation.
- Nurse often—the more you nurse, the sooner your milk comes in. If you nurse at least eight times a day, you reduce the likelihood of painfully engorged breasts.
- Sometimes engorgement feels like your breasts have the flu: They’re hot, achy, swollen. This pain may be due to mastitis, an inflammation within the breast, which is usually caused by a plugged milk duct or two. If this happens to you, apply a washcloth run under hot water to the breasts; gently massage the area; nurse frequently. If you continue to experience discomfort or have a fever, call your doctor.
- If it hurts to nurse because your nipples are sore, this could be, says Frantz, because “the baby is latching on wrong. Get help from a lactation consultant.” You can also contact your local La Leche League chapter. Call (800) LA LECHE, or check out its website (lalecheleague.org/).
- Above all, don’t give up. Nursing may be natural, but it’s a learned art.
Nursing Positions Penelope Leach offers this advice for getting your baby in the best position to nurse:
- Cradle the baby in the crook of your arm so that her well-supported head is above the level of her stomach.
- Leave her outside hand free—she’ll soon enjoy stroking the breast as part of active feeding rather than passively being fed. Make eye contact.
- Don’t hold her head forcibly toward you. She must be able to turn away for a rest.
Stay hydrated It’s important to drink plenty of fluids during the period you nurse. The following tips are from the book What to Expect the First Year (Workman Publishing) by Arlene Eisenberg, Heidi E. Murkoff and Sandee E. Hathaway, B.S.N.
- Drink at least 8 cups of fluid a day. Good choices are water, fruit and vegetable juices, milk and soups.
- Excessive fluids—more than 12 cups a day if you’re nursing one child—can actually inhibit breast-milk production.