Before I had my third baby I thought it would be easy because I’d done it all before, but she surprised me. She was so unsettled and so different to the others… you could say she needed more connection, more holding and more quiet based on her temperament but then again you could also say being born into a loud house with two rambunctious siblings meant that she was no different to any other newborn. From two weeks of age she became incredibly unsettled, would cry for hours in the afternoon and evening and I needed help… big time. I had to prioritise her needs and make more time for her and let go of trying to do so many other things. By implementing these strategies we were able to minimise her unsettled periods greatly and by 6 weeks she was well on her way to being the content and happy baby that she is now.
If this is you too, or if you are pregnant and planning for your postpartum here are my tips:
Womb to world
Think about the warm, dark, aquatic, hugging space that your baby has come from in the womb compared to the environment they are now adjusting to. This world is bright, light, airy, often loud with new noises, new people and lots of stimulation. Added to this, your baby, for the first time ever, experiences feelings of hunger, tummy pain, discomfort (hot/cold or wet nappy) and separation from mother.
What you can do to ease this transition for you, your partner and your little one?
Be aware of over-stimulation
Little babies really only need feeding, a nappy change and a little hello cuddle before they’ll likely be ready for sleep again. As they grow, this awake time will grow longer and they’ll have more ‘play’ time but in the beginning, allow them to feed and sleep as much as they need and avoid over-stimulating environments particularly if this unsettles him/her. Supermarkets, shopping centres and loud home environments can all be super unsettling and very over-stimulating for little ones so staying in and keeping a calm, low-key environment at home will help your baby adjust.
A quick google will bring up a huge list on the benefits of skin-to-skin with babies. Not only do they find it calming and soothing but it also releases hormones that relieve stress, stabilise body temp, blood sugar, heart and breathing rates. Skin-to-skin can be done immediately after the birth but also any time in the following weeks at home. Any parent or close care-giver can have skin-to-skin time with bub but it is a great way to bond and build your connection also.
Invest in a wrap, baby-carrier or ring sling so that you (or any care-giver) can carry your baby close. If your baby is very unsettled, baby-wearing can help them feel more comfortable, more content and they can sleep more frequently or on the go. This is particularly helpful if you need to get things done or have older siblings to care for as well as your newborn. A carrier can be a life-saver so that you can do some things while your baby is being cuddled and carried.
The immediate postpartum period can be so damn hard with such a mixed bag of emotions and hormones. One thing you can do for yourself, your partner and your new baby is to accept support or ask for help… preferably both! If you have an unsettled baby who needs more of your attention and/or you also have other children in the home to care for, this is a must… you can’t do it all alone.
Some ideas to ask your friends or family for:
Meals – have someone organise a meal train or do some batch cooking for freezer meals. Make a monthly meal plan, do internet grocery shopping if you can, uber eats… anything that makes meals quick and easy for the family.
Chores – make a list of all the boring chores around the home that someone else can easily take care of e.g. walk the dog, mow the lawn, fold laundry, cook, change sheets, wash the car etc etc. Keep the list on your fridge where visitors can see it, it should empower them to help with some of the jobs they are able to do. Outsource jobs if you can afford to by hiring a cleaner or dog walker for the first month.. or 3 months. This can also be a great baby shower gift!
Child-care – have relatives drop off and collect older children from school or daycare so that you can just spend time with your baby without having to run them around in the car twice daily. Organise for relatives or friends to take your older child/ren out to the park or for a play to give you or you and your partner some quiet time, nap time or just alone with the baby.
Seek professional help
Check in with your Midwife, Lactation Consultant, local Australian Breastfeeding Association Counsellor, your GP or health care provider to also see what’s going on. There may be other things at play like feeding or gut issues, birth trauma or body pain that are causing your baby distress. Seeking professional advice and help can lessen these unsettled periods a great deal.
Carla is a Childbirth Educator, Holistic Sleep Consultant and mother-of-three. If you’d like to learn more hands-on techniques for settling your newborn, swaddling, setting up an optimal sleep environment and newborn sleep tips come along to Carla’s next Newborn Sleep Workshop
Written by Carla Morgan, Owner and Director of Birth and Baby Hub. Copyright 2018.