I remember being pregnant with my son, all the excitement and eagerness for his arrival. I knew it was going to be a lot of work, but was actually kind of excited about the sleepless nights and changing diapers. I know it sounds weird, but I really was. But what really shocked me as a new mom, were the amount of things that nobody told me about. So for all of you new or expecting moms out there, here is my list of the Top Things Nobody Tells New Moms.
Breastfeeding Is Hard
Don’t completely believe the published numbers for successful breastfeeding mothers. If you look at 2014 CDC Breastfeeding Report Card, it is reported that approximately 80% of all new mother’s breastfeed. When I looked at that number, I said to myself, of course I’m going to breastfeed. It can’t be that hard if 80% of women do it, and for the state I live in it’s closer to 92%. But that is usually where most articles stop. So, when I couldn’t produce enough milk and stopped breastfeeding after a short time, I felt like a complete failure. (I did have some extenuating circumstances, but that will be for another post.) When you look deeper into the numbers, it really is a different story.
After failing at breastfeeding (my words, not anybody else’s) I decided to look into the actual numbers. I had met many women having trouble with breastfeeding as well, and some that had no problems at all. When I looked at the three month numbers, my eyes started to widen. The national average for exclusively breastfeeding at 3 months is actually at about 20%. And the national average for those who breastfeed and supplement with formula are estimated at 40%.
So, does that mean that women give up without a fight? Maybe some decide not to breastfeed, but most try everything. I tried lactation specialists, herbs and teas. I did find that a medical grade breast-pump helped me produce the most milk, but still not close to what my son needed.
I shed many tears in my first month trying to breastfeed. I had a wonderful Pediatrician at Kaiser who supported me and never made me feel bad when it was not successful. And the one encouraging thing I learned from him, previous success or failure in breastfeeding is not indicative of future success. So in other words, if once you don’t succeed, try, try again.
I truly believe that Breast is Best, but in so many cases it just doesn’t work. And when it doesn’t work, I hope more women will be understanding and the shaming will stop, in both directions.
Breastfeeding is God’s gift to weight loss
Don’t get me wrong, I was not one of the lucky few. I breastfed my child for such a short time, I was not fortunate enough to see this on my own body. I had heard that breastfeeding burns calories but didn’t realize how many calories.
When a woman is pregnant the body is programmed to store extra weight to benefit both you and the baby as it grows inside you. But after birth, the first thing on most women’s minds are “how am I going to lose this weight?”
On average, during the first month of breastfeeding, women burn approximately 300 – 500 calories a day merely feeding their new baby. To explain the calorie loss, I started looking at the breast milk itself. Breast milk is constantly changing with your baby’s needs. To support the change in the transition from colostrum to transitional milk and ultimately mature milk, the body must burn more calories to keep up with the bodies demand and production.
And by the sixth month, you may be burning up to 1000 calories a day feeding your baby. In order to calculate this, you need to know that there are around 20 calories in each ounce of breast milk. If you feed your baby 32 ounces in a day, that is 640 calories your baby is consuming. And don’t forget, it takes calories to produce the milk as well, so burning 1000 calories a day is a fair estimate at this point in nursing.
So again Breast is Best, but it’s not just the child who gets the benefits, mom does to. Woohooo!
Mommy Thumb (aka De Quervain Syndrome)
This was probably my biggest shock, but according to my physical therapist about 50% of new moms suffer from some degree of Mommy Thumb. It’s a funny term and many doctors don’t even know what you are talking about, and commonly misdiagnosed. The symptoms of De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis (the medical term for Mommy Thumb) are chronic pain, spasms, tenderness, occasional burning sensation in the hand, and swelling over the thumb side of the wrist, and difficulty gripping. In severe conditions it can also cause shooting pain into the elbow.
De Quervain Syndrome can occur to both men and women, but some studies show it 4x more likely to occur in women, compared to men. No one knows for sure, but some medical professionals think that improper lifting of an infant, previous hand injuries, prolactin levels and/or age can all be contributing factors. If you think you have this condition, go to your doctor ASAP. The sooner they diagnose it the quicker it will get better.
To put all of this in simpler terms, I was in so much pain (which still occurs) that I couldn’t hold a plate with my hand or a coffee cup. Turning door handles, washing or brushing my hair were all horribly painful. It was so bad that I almost dropped my son a few times, luckily I didn’t.
When I realized what I actually had, I compensated and used my other hand, which ultimately caused me to have de Quervain Syndrome in both hands. The treatment for this condition is very straightforward.
- Wrist brace (And when the doctor tells you to wear it for 6-8 weeks, DO IT!!! If you don’t, your hands get worse. I’m not kidding. I speak from personal experience.)
- Icing several times during the day
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Cortisone Injections (Which helps in 90% of the cases)
- Physical Therapy
- If nothing else works, surgery may be needed. It is minimally invasive and an outpatient procedure, but who wants surgery if they can prevent it early on.
My son is growing fast and I still have a very weak grip and use my brace often. I have been told that I may continue to get flare ups for years and if I were to have another child, it may flair up during my pregnancy as well. For more information, please check out WebMD.
Sex can hurt even after Cesarean
As I was being released from the hospital after my son’s birth, I was given a long list of do’s and don’ts. One of the don’ts was, don’t have sex for 8 weeks or without approval from your doctor. That seemed like a long time, but with all the action down there from a complicated delivery including a cesarean, it seemed fair. My husband was not a big fan of this, but I won.
When we were finally able to, oh my goodness, it hurt. I had healed and my doctor said it was okay. I asked my doctor and she advised over the counter products to help. But it did not help. So, I did what I had been doing for months, I googled it.
After I googled it, I saw one common thing, no one warned moms about this. The other commonality was the fact that few doctor’s seemed to know this happened. I don’t know if new mom’s are embarrassed or think it’s normal, but it isn’t. Every woman is different, but if you don’t mention it to your doctor, they can’t do anything to help. And let’s be honest, it’s horrible to suffer alone.
After a few months the pain went away, but it was more like 3 or 4 months, not 6 to 8 weeks of healing. Thank goodness for a patient husband.
Everyone will give unrequested advice
If you ever want to know how you are doing everything wrong, just have a baby. Everyone seems to want to give advice, whether helpful or not. There are some people out there who sincerely want to give loving advice and those that just seem to want to tell you everything you are doing wrong. It is absolutely exhausting. Now, I hope and pray I am not that person to new moms now or in the future. But everyone seems to want to comfort and relate to the new mommy.
No matter how many pregnancy hormones are going through your body, resist exploding. Most of these people really don’t realize that they are being mean or even rude. Many of these women are just wanting to share their past experiences so that you don’t have to go through the same torture that they did. So when one too many people tell you that “you are just a new mom” or “you need to hold the baby like this” or something similar, stop and breath. They don’t mean disrespect, they are just trying to show you they care.
Your weight will unexpectedly fluctuate
Right after having my son, I knew I would not be in my old clothes again right away. I had put on a lot of weight and I needed to work hard to take it off. I was overweight to start, so knew it was an uphill battle. But what happened was very different than expected.
When my son was three weeks old, we went over to a friend’s house and spoke a lot to someone who had a baby three months older than mine. I wished she wasn’t totally and completely right, but she nailed it on the head. She told me that she lost all the baby weight within 6 weeks, but then put 5 to 10 lbs back on after she stopped nursing.
In my head, I was thinking that’s not gonna happen to me. Oh my did it ever and a little extra on top of that. I realize that there are many many women who have a child and get back into pre-baby shape right away. I say more power to them. They look beautiful and are healthy. They usually work hard at it and have earned the body they have. But, I am not that person.
I am trying to eat better and workout, but comfort foods are my biggest obstacle. So, ultimately don’t blame my son for my weight gain, all of that disappeared at 8 weeks, all this extra love I’ve got hanging around my waist is self-imposed. Let’s hope and pray I can live healthier and be a better example for my son to lead a healthy life.
Google will save your sanity
If in doubt, Google It!!! I know that sounds like a cliché but it totally saved me. When my son slept for 10 hours in a row, and I was freaking out “what is wrong with him?”. I checked Google and it told me the time frame when babies may start sleeping through the night. (I am one of the very lucky moms who has a son that sleeps a lot and usually straight through the night)
Then when my son starting projectile vomiting, the nurse’s hotline was absolutely useless for me, making me feel like I didn’t know anything because I was a new mom. But when I looked it up on Google, it explained milk allergies, gastro-intestinal issues and a few other things. Either way, I knew that I needed to take my son to the doctor.
Later when my thumb was having piercing pain, it gave me many explanations of what I could be suffering. When I went to the doctor, I was the one who brought up Mommy Thumb and I was right (I love being right!!).
I used Google so much during my first few months of motherhood I can’t even begin to think of all the things I looked up. But the main thing is it made me feel like I wasn’t alone. It made me find people who had similar issues and realize that things were probably going to work out just fine.
Ultimately, I wouldn’t change the first year of my son’s life for anything. I learned a lot and have been blessed with the most wonderful family anyone could wish for. God has blessed my life and I am thankful for that everyday.