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Giving birth

55 Things New Moms Should Know

Bonding, post-baby body sweat, black poop—here's what a registered midwife says her patients are the most surprised by.

By Today's Parent
55 Things New Moms Should Know

Photo: iStockphoto

You just gave birth to an adorable newborn—welcome to the fourth trimester! In the next few weeks, your body and your baby will go through some crazy postpartum changes together. Here, Ruth Comfort, a registered midwife in Vancouver, shares four things she wishes all new moms knew to expect:

Expect the Unexpected 

The postnatal period can be an unpredictable time, and Comfort advises letting go of any preconceived notions about what this period will be like and expecting the unexpected. This includes physical changes in the body, such as increased sweating and urination, which are part of the postnatal period's physiological adjustments.

"During the first week after giving birth, you may pee and sweat a lot, and your sweat can have a different, stronger smell," Ruth tells Today's Parent. "Your body is getting rid of all the extra fluid it accumulated during pregnancy. Most women also have a bit of an emotional crash on the third or fourth day after the baby is born, related to shifting hormones. Rest assured, it’s normal and generally passes in about 24 hours."

However, not all bodily transformations happen suddenly after birth— Comfort suggests preparing for the fact that it may take several weeks to return to your pre-baby weight.

new mom laying in bed holding a baby iStock

"Don’t bring your skinny jeans to wear home from the hospital," explains Comfort.  "The uterus typically returns to its non-pregnant size by two or three weeks postpartum, but you may have extra abdominal skin, fat and stretched muscles. Some women are also surprised that they miss the physical sensation of being pregnant, even though having the baby in their arms is also nice."

New mothers also may encounter unexpected challenges when caring for a newborn, such as experiencing delays in bonding and noticing black stool. But don't worry, these are very common experiences and typically resolve on their own with time.

"Parents, especially mothers, may feel surprised, ashamed, or worried if an immediate bond with their baby isn't felt post-birth," Comfort explains. "This delay in bonding is normal and can take days, weeks, or even months to develop. Bonding occurs naturally at its own pace. Additionally, newborns pass meconium, a black, tarry stool. To ease cleanup, consider using diaper cream or a thin layer of olive or coconut oil on your baby's bottom. As the stool transitions, it typically becomes watery, bright yellow, frequent, and explosive."

The diapers

The average newborn will go through 310 diapers in the first month alone. (Yep, expect to use between 8 and 12 diapers a day.)

55 Things New Moms Should Know Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld

Befriend the peri bottle

Take home a peri bottle from the hospital or order one on Amazon. It will be your most prized possession for the first two weeks at least (aside from your baby).

55 Things New Moms Should Know Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld

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Granny panties

“No one told me how much I’d love the hospital-issue disposable mesh granny underpants for my post-C-section tummy. They didn’t rub or cut across my incision but made me feel covered up. I wished I’d snuck more out in my bag.” —Lauren FB.

55 Things New Moms Should Know Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld

Breastfeeding can suck

“That breastfeeding your first baby will most likely hurt like hell. That no matter what fun and excitement your nipples have seen in the past, they’re about to go through marathon training at warp speed and will feel raw, hot and horrible for ages. With my first baby, despite having a great midwife and hiring a lactation consultant, it was literally six weeks before I could breastfeed without thinking that I’d rather chew nails. While everyone says that it can be ‘tough’ or ‘challenging,’

I don’t think we’re honest enough about setting expectations around this for new moms. Those of us who have been through it are sometimes afraid to scare our friends. And like most things childbirth related, the pain kind of fades with time. But yeesh. I wish I had known to expect it. I would have been more mentally prepared and I would have cut myself some slack.” —Jessica L.

55 Things New Moms Should Know

Hairy business

“Your baby might be born with a full head of dark hair, but sometimes it falls out after a few weeks or months and grows back in, possibly in a different colour.” —Ariel B.

55 Things New Moms Should Know Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld

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Where is the love?

“I was surprised that I didn’t feel the instant, overwhelming love for my baby that I’d heard people talk about. My partner had a C-section, so I was the first to hold our son, and I felt like he could have been anybody’s. He was just a baby, and I didn’t feel a special bond with him immediately. But by the end of the first week, I really fell deeply in love with him.” —Tom T.

55 Things New Moms Should Know

Diaper derby

“Not all diapers fit the same and not all babies are shaped the same. Different brands work for different baby butts.” —Tara-Michelle Z.

55 Things New Moms Should Know Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld

Ouch!

“Nobody told me about labour after-pains! I almost went to the emergency room. The second time around, I was more prepared, so I got some good drugs in advance.” —Tammy S.

55 Things New Moms Should Know

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Well, hello there

When your milk comes in, your boobs will feel like giant, painful, angry basketballs.” —Mandy M.

55 Things New Moms Should Know Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld

Dr. Google

How much time you’ll lose to googling the weirdest, grossest, most specific things.

55 Things New Moms Should Know Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld

What’s that sound?

“Babies grunt a lot and make tons of noise when they’re sleeping!” —Adam S.

55 Things New Moms Should Know

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Marathon Mom

Just how willing you will be to keep walking (or driving) to extend a nap.

55 Things New Moms Should Know Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld

Here, hold this

“You might need someone to hold the baby during your postpartum exams. Bring your partner or a friend—or ask a nurse.” —Sasha E.

55 Things New Moms Should Know

Breast friends

“I was surprised by how much I didn’t care who saw my breasts, even if I wasn’t actively nursing right that second. I got to the point where I would totally forget they were out and about.” —Miki G.

55 Things New Moms Should Know Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld

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Zippers, not snaps

Go for sleepers that zip up, not the ones with a snaps that never line up. Faster is better when your baby is wiggling around and it’s the seventh outfit change of the day.

55 Things New Moms Should Know

Baby steps

“Try to do only one thing a day—make that your goal. Sometimes it will just be showering and sometimes it will be an errand or bigger task.” —Tara-Michelle Z.

55 Things New Moms Should Know

Buy the damn swing

“I wish someone had told us to invest in a swing ahead of time. I’ll never forget coming downstairs at 2 a.m. to see my baby on the couch, screaming, and my husband frantically putting together the newly purchased swing, like some demented version of Christmas Eve.

That swing was the only place our baby would nap that wasn’t on me. It was where the grandparents would put him when they didn’t know what to do, and it was where I would put him when I didn’t know what to do, either. Total lifesaver. Our next kid is living in the swing for the first three months.” —Vanessa M.

55 Things New Moms Should Know Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld

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Formula is not the enemy

“I wish someone had told me, sooner, how awesome and convenient formula can be. For the first six months I struggled and stressed about pumping enough extra milk for feedings when I had to be away from the baby, but as it turns out, he was totally fine with the occasional bottle of formula. I was so relieved, and I felt pretty dumb for worrying so much, needlessly.” —Ariel B.

55 Things New Moms Should Know

Everything but the kitchen sink

It takes a complex work-back schedule, two hours and at least one diaper blowout to MacGyver everything you could possibly need into the diaper bag and leave the house.

55 Things New Moms Should Know Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld

Colic countdown

“A friend told me the fussiness peaks at six weeks and subsides by day 100. I marked both in my calendar and crossed off the days. It was true.” —Mandy M.

55 Things New Moms Should Know Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld

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There will be puke

“I was amazed by bazooka barfing, and I was stunned by how much poo comes out of a little person.” —Alex F.

55 Things New Moms Should Know Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld

Tough titties

“I had no idea how hard breastfeeding can be. I know it’s easy for some, but for us, there were a lot of difficulties: engorgement, the baby didn’t latch very well, he had a smaller than average mouth, and he may have been tongue-tied. We spent the first two weeks at hospital breastfeeding clinics and having lactation consultants come.

There was a lot of desperate microwave cleaning of pump stuff at all hours. That was really the worst. I knew there could be ‘difficulties’ but didn’t know how intense consequences would be. Everything turned out OK in the end, once he grew a bit more and became better at nursing. It was touch and go at first, though.” —Tom T.

55 Things New Moms Should Know

Super Mom

“I was surprised by the arrival of my maternal super powers: hearing your own baby’s cries in a room full of screaming little ones, waking up from a dead sleep when the baby merely wiggles, and the ability to suddenly just handle getting puked or pooped on like it’s no big deal.” —Vanessa G.

55 Things New Moms Should Know Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld

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Awww

“I’m not a touchy-feely guy, and I hadn’t been around many kids before we had a baby, so I was surprised by the comfort my son finds with me. A tiny being wanting to lie on top of me and sleep, because it is such a safe refuge to him? That’s something I never knew could exist.—Mohammed H.

55 Things New Moms Should Know

Just eat it

“Why the hell did I spend so much time puréeing everything? I wish I had heard of baby-led weaning and tried finger foods earlier, because it’s so much easier.” —Kate D.

55 Things New Moms Should Know Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld

Formula rules

“No one told me that formula is actually recommended for some babies. My son was a preemie, and the doctors in the NICU recommended one bottle a day of phosphate-rich formula to replace what he didn’t get in utero and what breast milk could not provide. I was still actively breastfeeding, but needed a bit of formula as well. Formula and nursing can, and did, work just fine together.” —Sasha E.

55 Things New Moms Should Know

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Comedy central

“I’ve been surprised by just how outrageously funny I think my baby is. We laugh so much more deeply and regularly than I’d anticipated. This is not generally hailed as a reason to pro-create, but it should be.” —Jacob K.

55 Things New Moms Should Know Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld

Get some rest

“Babies are pretty good sleepers the first 24 hours they’re alive. So you should sleep, too, even though you’re excited and want visitors.” —Mandy M.

55 Things New Moms Should Know

Adjusted expectations

“Nobody tells you that you don’t actually get to decide what type of parent you’re going to be—your baby decides for you. Sure, you can decide ahead of time that you’re going to co-sleep, but if your kid keeps you up all night kicking, you’re probably going to get a crib (or vice versa, if your kid screams in the crib).

Or you can decide to be the kind of cool, easygoing parents you’ve seen with their kids at hip restaurants, staying up to 11 p.m.—the ‘I’m not going to adapt to my baby, my baby will adapt to me’ crowd—but if you have a kid who melts down at 8 p.m. on the dot no matter what, those late dinners get old fast.” —Kalli A.

55 Things New Moms Should Know

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Boob leakage

Your breasts will leak at the most inopportune times—if you’re wearing something nice, it’s basically guaranteed.

55 Things New Moms Should Know Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld

So close, yet so far

When you sit down to feed the baby,  your phone, the remote and your water glass (if you’re nursing, you will be dying of thirst) are always JUST out of reach.

55 Things New Moms Should Know Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld

Only time will tell

“That your baby’s sleep the first few days or weeks may not be indicative of what kind of sleeper they’ll be for the rest of the first six months.”  —Patrick F.

55 Things New Moms Should Know Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld

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Sleep gurus to the rescue

Ah, the irony: When you need those sleep books most, you’re too tired to read them. And why are they all longer than War and Peace?

55 Things New Moms Should Know Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld

Facing challenges

“I thought the very beginning with a newborn was easier than the four- to six-week mark. I hit a bump in the road when the visits tapered off and the excitement started to fade a little. Then the real tough part begins. But it’s OK to feel that way.” —Jacqueline L.

55 Things New Moms Should Know

Follow the light

“Glow-in-the-dark pacifiers (if your baby uses a soother) are a game-changer at night. No more fumbling all over the corners of the crib, frantically trying to pop the paci back in.” —Ariel B.

55 Things New Moms Should Know Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld

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Free food

“No one told me that breastfeeding might actually be easy, or at least not that hard. I was really, really worried that I wouldn’t be able to do it. Maybe I’m in the minority, but it worked just fine for us. I think buying and preparing formula and washing and sterilizing all those bottles would have been much harder. Boobs are convenient. Boobs are free. Yay for boobs!” —Emily S.

55 Things New Moms Should Know

You do you

“That babywearing might not work for you. I felt guilty or somehow like less of a mom because my baby hated the carrier. Yet all the hipster Instagram moms were all about taking babywearing selfies with their newborns snoozing peacefully. I lost patience with the complicated wraps and after about month 4 or 5, my son would totally freak out in the Ergo. Now I know he’s just a super active kid who wanted to crawl and walk and not be strapped to a larger human.” —Ariel B.

55 Things New Moms Should Know Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld

This is why we can’t have nice things

“How much mess my kid would make! She spit up or pooped on everything we own, so there is no point in investing in any nice clothing or furniture until she’s a teenager.” —Kate D.

55 Things New Moms Should Know

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I like coffee a latte

Your diet becomes 90 percent coffee, 10 percent Mum-Mum crackers and Cheerios you stole from your baby.

55 Things New Moms Should Know Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld

My brain hurts

“No one told me that 60 percent of parenting a baby is about logistics and how to get somewhere, in what type of clothing, and using which baby-transporting device. Is it close enough to walk or should you drive? What’s the weather like? Is the baby more likely to sleep in the carrier or in the stroller?

Will he be warm enough? Actually, might he overheat in that cute bear suit once you’re inside the grocery store? What if you DON’T want him to fall asleep yet? Is that subway station stroller accessible? It was exhausting.” —Ariel B.

55 Things New Moms Should Know

Baby blues

“That you might not love mat leave. I hated my first mat leave; I loved my second.” —Kim S.

55 Things New Moms Should Know

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Sleep regressions

“I wasn’t prepared for the unpredictability of the sleep patterns. I assumed that the sleep would get better and follow some sort of progression, but was surprised at how back and forth it all was. Case in point: Our eldest daughter slept through the night when she was a few weeks old. You can guess how many more times that happened before she turned 18 months old.” —Blaine B.

55 Things New Moms Should Know

I love you, Mom

What surprised me: How much I needed my mom, and how isolated I would begin to feel from friends. And how my entire day would revolve around naps (his and mine).”—Kristin W.

55 Things New Moms Should Know

Hit the books

“Read books about children—not about childbirth. Birth is only one day, but raising a child is forever.” —Kate D.

55 Things New Moms Should Know

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Not tonight, dear

“No one told me about breastfeeding and diminished sex drive. I thought I would never want to have sex again. Then I stopped breastfeeding and my sex drive returned somewhat, and I was relieved. There must be something in those hormones.” —Emily S.

55 Things New Moms Should Know Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld

Daddy time

“New dads: make sure you get time alone with the baby, when Mama isn’t looking over your shoulder, judging weather you’re doing it right. It forces you to find your own soothing techniques.” —Mitch B.

55 Things New Moms Should Know

Add this to your resumé

“You will click through ‘rash-porn’ images on the Internet obsessively. Roseola or heat rash? Baby acne or hives?” —Mandy M.

55 Things New Moms Should Know

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Baby brain

“The realization that I’d never again be alone in my own head. I knew I’d love my baby, but I didn’t realize that there’d be a chunk of my brain dedicated to thinking about her all the time. Four years on, it hasn’t changed. Does it ever?” —Aileen N.

55 Things New Moms Should Know Illustration: Anthony Swaneveld

Going with the flow

“No amount of organizing can prepare you for not being able to plan. I learned that the only thing I could plan for was the likelihood that all plans would change.” —Tara-Michelle Z.

55 Things New Moms Should Know

Don’t push it

“No one told me that pushing a stroller engages your abdominal muscles, which is a too-strenuous no-no right after a C-section.” —Lauren FB.

55 Things New Moms Should Know

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This too shall pass

“Just when you think you have got things figured out (or that you can’t take whatever stage you’re at for another moment), things change. Nothing is constant, good or bad, except your love, of course. And you miss it all when it’s gone.” —Jacqueline L.

55 Things New Moms Should Know

Cheap and easy

“Babies don’t give a sh*t about lovely designer wooden toys. They want the loud, ugly plastic ones.” —Mandy M.

55 Things New Moms Should Know

Now you are three

“As a new dad, I wasn’t prepared for the extent of the sadness you feel when you have to go back to work so soon post-birth. I was lucky enough to take a couple weeks off with each kid, but going back to work was a significantly worse downer than I expected.” —Blaine B.

55 Things New Moms Should Know

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Back to the grind

“How much I obsessed about going back to work and how many tears I cried about the idea of leaving my daughter. It’s definitely been a transition, but it wasn’t as bad as I built it up in my head.” —Kate D.

55 Things New Moms Should Know

Give yourself a pat on the back

 “I’d like to scream this from the rooftops for new parents: you’re doing a good job. I don’t know why we don’t tell parents this more often, but seriously, you are. Babies are brutal to take care of, sleep deprivation is no joke, having problems breastfeeding is no joke: This stuff is HARD! Parenting a small child was hands down the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Everyone gives you advice about what to do, what not to do, how to do things perfectly, risks and studies, how cavemen did it and how mothers in France do it, and on and on. But if you are alive and your baby is alive and you make it to the point where your head hits the pillow at the end of the day, you get a gold star. You are doing a GREAT job.” —Vanessa M.

55 Things New Moms Should Know
This article was originally published on Jan 26, 2017

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