The first six weeks after having a baby are the toughest for a mother as she takes care of her new born infant while recovering from the physical exercise her body has undergone. And it is also a special time where a strong bond is being formed between mother and child while the feeding, sleeping, and waking rhythms are established.
After delivery, the mother’s body reverses the changes that it underwent during pregnancy. The uterus and the stomach contract, and the extra blood supply that was used to nourish the baby is now discharged slowly. Post delivery pains usually subside in the first two weeks after delivery, and the discharge of milk during breastfeeding also leads to the release of hormones that cause the uterus to contract.
While research has shown that breast feeding is the healthiest option for both the child and mother and even aids the latter in the recovery process, there will also be certain times when the mother is not around to feed the child. It is, therefore, advisable for the baby to get used to being fed from a bottle by another member of the family — either the father or the grandparents, thus giving the mother some time to rest.
Also for the first few days after delivery, the mother’s breasts generally secrete a thick yellowish liquid that is very high in proteins and provides the infant with nutrients that are critical to building up the immune system. It is only after a few days of discharging this liquid that the milk ducts begin to fill up. This is often accompanied by a rapid change in emotions and temperaments in the mother, which research has attributed to the hormonal and physical changes taking place. This along with the fact that the mother has little time to recuperate, and has to immediately take up the responsibility of feeding and caring for the infant, puts tremendous pressure on her. It is, therefore, advisable for the father to invest an equal amount of time in looking after the child, as well as to take the help and support of other caregivers or nurses. But the bottom line is that the longer a parent can spend with the infant the better it is, as the initial few weeks are very important to establishing long-lasting bonds between parent and child.
While the mother’s body almost fully recovers by the end of six weeks and menstruation starts in most cases, doctors do advise to wait till she is completely ready to start having sex again. This might take six weeks or longer and it is advisable to begin having sex only after a thorough medical examination, especially if it is the first child. Often new mothers, especially first-timers also find it difficult to manage the idea of being a mother and a lover concurrently and need some time to get used to this. Also, breastfeeding might lead to vaginal dryness in some cases, thus using a good lubricant will help both partners feel more comfortable and make it easier for them to reignite their active sex life.
Finally, it is important for the mother to realize the crucial and long-term role she will be playing in the life of her infant, and that therefore she should take care of herself during the first six weeks and make sure that her new life has calm, happy, and healthy start. Keeping visitors to a minimum, making sure that she gets at least six hours of sleep and regularly rehydrates herself, and nourishing her body with vitamins and wholesome healthy food will go far to set her along the right path. After all she is the most important person in the child’s life, even if for the time being she feels only like a feeding, cleaning machine.