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Being a Good Partner to a new Mom

I was at a Mom Group last week and the topic being presented to us for discussion by the public health nurse was “Sex After Birth”. It’s a great topic as it generates A LOT of discussion, venting of frustrations, and dispels myths. But what became most evident to me was that I’d heard most of it before, and what is really missing from these talks are the partners. I know how difficult it is to wrap your head around being intimate after pushing a baby out of your vagina. Sorry to be graphic, but that’s the reality for a birth mother. And it’s no less difficult if you’ve had your baby via major abdominal surgery (C-section). I find mothers, for obvious reasons, are always being instructed about every aspect of their experience with a new child while their partners are being left out of this discussion.
So this is for all you partners out there. Here is how you can be good to the woman who has just given birth to your child.
Firstly, let me make clear just how much this event has affected her life. You just became a parent and that is huge and life changing. She, on the other hand has spent 9 months growing this being inside her, giving up most of her nutrient stores to it, and generally having her body completely reorganized to make room for this giant parasite. She has given up her body entirely – it will never be the same again and that is extremely difficult to wrap your head around. ‎
Post birth you now have a woman whose hormones are shifting, whose nutrients stores are ravaged, who is sleep deprived, who is overwhelmed by the stress of caring for a new life: how can you support her?
Firstly – feed her, give her water (a constant parade of snacks and water are the greatest gift to a new mother), let her sleep when she is able, do the chores so she can focus on being a caregiver, and YES do take the baby away sometimes.
The baby definitely needs her and it is important that they have lots of bonding time, but she doesn’t need a baby on her 24 hours a day. So take the baby away. My suggestion is to take the child for a walk in a carrier or stroller. This gives you time with your child with nobody hovering over your every move (yes, new mum’s are often guilty of being overly critical of other people’s methods of taking care of their child!). It also means that if they are crying mum won’t hear and get stressed and feel the need to intervene.
A new mother often expresses that she is hungry, thirsty, tired, or stressed. DO NOT under any circumstances say you are too. Again get her food, water, sleep, a break from the child. Be proactive and sympathetic. If she doesn’t realize how amazingly wonderful you are for doing all this, she will eventually talk to other moms and understand that you are the single greatest partner in the world. ‎Act as the gatekeeper for visitors. Some visitors are helpful and bring a calm to the room (they show up with food, offer to do chores, hold the baby as long as the parents feel comfortable). Then there are others who seem to just create chaos (these are the ones that come in questioning and doubting your parenting choices, commandeer the baby, and assume that everyone will then wait on them). All visitors need to understand that visits should be short unless the parents request that person stay longer. Now is the birth partner’s chance to step up and be firm about expectations from guests- when do you want your first visit? It doesn’t have to be immediately. You’re allowed to have time with your child alone to bond. How long is too long? I suggest a half hour limit. How many people can come at once? Families often like to come en mass which also leads to very long visits because everyone wants a turn with baby. This can even cause baby to be over stimulated and cranky for many hours after. Don’t let anyone dictate to you their expectations. You as new parents are the bosses.
Next role is that of being the voice of reason. I hate when people assume that pregnant and post partum women are crazy and so every decision they try and make is “just hormones”. You are her partner and in her current raw emotional and physical state she may make choices that seem out of character. Be that voice of reason and discuss what has led her to that choice. Evaluate if she is making an unsound or out of character decision and if necessary be insistent about changing her mind, in particular if it’s something that she will regret later. Overall respect her views and make choices together.
To be a great partner is to take care of a new mother’s mental, physical, and emotional health. Each time you feel drained in one of these areas remind yourself that she is just as threadbare plus she has been through pregnancy and birth. Enjoy each moment as new parents, as a team. ‎

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How to feed a baby solids

When my baby was 3 months old I began to think about solid foods. When should I introduce them? How do I get started? I found little information other than recipes, outdated rules, and non-specific directions. It’s a huge step to take and I was nervous because I felt like I had no guidance on how to go about the first few feedings.
Here is the info that have learned since starting food with my child. Hope it helps others begin without suffering the stress I did 😉
This is for people who are taking the traditional route, not for those doing baby led weaning or other methods of food training.

When to begin:
– babies can be ready for solids any time after 4 months.
– starting at 4 months does not affect the potential for allergies as was previously believed.
– “ready” means that the baby can sit up on their own (if they gag they need to be able to properly spit food out), they no longer or are losing their tongue reflex that pushes food out, are interested in others eating, and may simply seem to require more than breast milk or formula to be satiated.
– food should be started by 6 months as babies run out of their iron stores and need food to provide more.

What do you need (including making your own food):
– a small container, and a soft spoon. A shot glass actually works well for mixing the small amounts. Metal spoons are hard on gums.
– a food processor or hand blender. Boil or roast fruit or vegetables then puree~ simple! You can also cook meats and blend them up too. Add water or breast milk as needed.
– you can freeze food in ice cube trays. Don’t add water when preparing if you are going to freeze the food. Also remember that not all foods have a very desirable consistency once thawed. Your baby may like some foods fresh but not after they’ve been frozen and thawed (mine does not like thawed sweet potato).

How to begin:
– do not put cereal in their bottle to fill them up before bed. It is a choking hazard.
– start with something easy to digest and unlikely to cause allergic reaction, such as rice cereal.
– the first meal should be mainly breast milk or formula with just a bit of cereal added to slightly thicken it. I made it to a consistency of a cream soup.
– as you progress with each meal, with be made thicker till it is made according to the cereal directions.
– early meals are small. Maybe only a teaspoon even! Up until 9 months babies do not need solid foods for sustenance so you have plenty of time to work up to larger meals and diverse foods. These early months are for your baby to experiment with new tastes and textures.

What can baby eat:
– milk is not recommended before 1 year. Honey can contain botulism and is not recommended before age 2. Other than that you can give a baby anything! Yes, even nuts and eggs (unless there is a history of allergy in your family or your doctor has instructed you otherwise)

– the latest recommendations advise the introduction of meat or meat alternatives as a first food.
– introduce one new food at a time and give every day for a few days. Allergic reactions do not always occur on the first try, so you want to repeat foods. Giving one new food at a time allows you to pinpoint allergies.
– I give new foods only early in the day. In case there is a reaction, I want it to happen when my doctor’s office is open, not late at night where I would have to go to the ER. Though keep in mind, not all reactions are immediate. They can happen hours later.
– focus on foods you commonly eat. The sooner you’ve tried the foods in your pantry the sooner your baby can eat the same meal as the rest of the family~ saving you the time of making special meals!
– try not to introduce all sweet foods first. It makes it hard to get baby to try some of the less palatable foods later.

Other:
– babies may take breaks from solids, so do not worry if this happens. They do this often when sick. Just offer the breast or bottle more frequently.
– a big worry for parents is allergies and how a child may react. Severe allergic reactions almost never occur the first time. Most first symptoms are rashes, itching, etc.
– go organic if you can. Babies eat so little that it’s not a huge cost to buy organic for them even if you don’t do it for yourself. At the very least I’d make sure to go organic for the dirty dozen.

Good luck with feeding those kiddies! Once you get started, exploring solids with your child is a lot of fun!