Survival Guide for New Moms: The First Three Months
The first three months of a baby’s life, often dubbed the fourth trimester, can be challenging for new mothers. Just as your baby is adapting to a new world, you’re learning to balance expectations with the reality of life spent caring for a newborn, explains Betsy Greenleaf, DO.
“I am just as guilty as any new mom of not taking care of myself. Even with all my medical knowledge, I made the same common mistakes,” says Dr. Greenleaf, an osteopathic urogynecologist based in New Jersey and mom to two daughters.
Focusing on preventive care, Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, or DOs, look beyond your symptoms to consider how environmental and lifestyle factors impact your health. They are trained to listen and partner with you to help you not only get healthy, but stay well.
Below, Dr. Greenleaf shares five lessons she learned from her own experience as a new mom.
Bonding Takes Time
Many moms worry about not bonding with their child right away. Although it might be hard right now to understand what your baby needs, bonding and interaction should become easier once the baby begins to develop a personality around 3 months of age, Dr. Greenleaf says.
Take Care of Yourself
As a mother, you want to protect and care for your new little one. But it’s important to take time for yourself and let others help you. Otherwise you might crash and not be able to care for yourself or your baby, Dr. Greenleaf cautions. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help with chores around the house, or have someone watch the baby so you can shower and recharge,” she adds.
Don’t Fret Over Breastfeeding
Be sure to communicate with your physician about any difficulties you or the baby have with breastfeeding. Although breastfeeding went smoothly with her second daughter, Dr. Greenleaf’s first child had trouble latching.
“I remember feeling like a failure, but I didn’t want to give up until my obstetrician told me it was okay to discontinue breastfeeding,” Dr. Greenleaf says. “Even though I’m a gynecologist, I felt like I had to choose breast milk or formula only. At the time, I didn’t know I could have combined both options.”
It’s OK to Feel Guilty
It’s normal to have doubts about your abilities as a mother or to feel bad for not spending as much time with your partner as you did before the baby was born. If those thoughts become intrusive or begin to affect your ability to care for yourself or the baby, Dr. Greenleaf advises talking to your physician about being screened for postpartum depression.
Family and friends might be excited to meet your little bundle of joy, but you need time to rest and heal after childbirth. To avoid the mad rush of well-wishers, Dr. Greenleaf suggests spreading visits out over the first few months.
“By staggering visitors, you can get social interaction and support that may help prevent feelings of isolation after interest from visitors comes to a halt,” Dr. Greenleaf says.