Postpartum Expectations, Realities and the Impact of Those Realities

In the postpartum period, things don’t always go as planned. Today I’d like to talk about postpartum expectations, realities, and the impact of those realities.

Many women feel that they are very well prepared for their births. They took childbirth classes. They bought every single item on the baby list. They decorated their baby’s room with the perfect decorations and wallpaper, and they toured the hospital in order to make sure the whole experience goes smoothly. However, most of them do not prepare enough on how to handle the postpartum period as well. The postpartum period is the first few weeks directly following the birth of a baby. It is sometimes known as the “fourth trimester” of a woman’s pregnancy. It is crucial to understand the physical recovery process, the emotional adjustments, bonding, feeding, and proper support needed during this time in order to ensure that the new mother is well prepared for what awaits her. Not all things go as expected during the postpartum period, but with fewer expectations and plenty of help, it will make this period more enjoyable.

Everyone has heard the term “sleep like a baby.” People get the idea that newborn babies will sleep most of the time and only wake up to be fed. However, newborn babies’ sleep cycles do not begin to form into patterns until around six to nine weeks, as explained by The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley. Despite misleading stories of new parents saying their newborn sleeps for long stretches of time, this is not the case for most babies. Mothers become very frustrated when their three to five weeks old infant still wakes up every two or three hours during the night. This is perfectly normal. In fact, infants’ stomachs are extremely tiny, according to La Leche League Canada, so babies still need to eat eight to twelve times a day. It’s important to note that these will not be at set times. Babies may bunch feedings close together for some parts of the day and have them more spread apart for others. These “Cluster Feedings” are often the result of growth spurts that infants are known for. Babies need to eat so they can grow and thrive. It’s normal for babies to wake up often to get the nourishment they need. In between breastfeeding, mothers should be resting. In addition, if the baby spits up, it is okay to keep a lot of cloth diapers nearby to burp the baby every three to five minutes during feedings or hold the baby in an upright position; alternatively, the baby can be placed in an infant car seat or stroller. As babies get older, their esophageal valve, which controls the entry of food into their stomach, is developed, according to The Baby Center. This is why when babies get older their spit-up gets better, and in most cases, it disappears when the baby reaches about a year old. Feeding may be a frustrating process, but the mother should remind herself that this is a learning process for both her and her baby; every day she will gain more experience in dealing with this.

Movies and advertisements sometimes can be misleading. They often depict a happy mom holding her infant in her arms with a radiant smile and a confident attitude. However, in reality, mothers do not always feel ecstatic after birth. They might feel sensitive and cry more than usual. New mothers are often very irritable, anxious, and have mood swings. According to the American Pregnancy Association, around 70% to 80% of new mothers have negative thoughts and feelings after birth. This is often known as “Baby Blues,” and it is because of hormonal changes. They normally go away in a few days without any special treatment. It is very important that the mother understands the cause of it, and that she gets help from people such as a postpartum doula or family members who can help her with caring for her baby and let her rest as much as possible. Mothers should find time for themselves to take a quick walk outside, enjoy a cup of tea, and sit under the warm sunlight. All of these will help them to recover physically and emotionally from their labor sooner. There will be days or nights that they feel like nothing is working: no matter how they rock their baby or how many songs they have been singing, their little one is still crying. It is okay that the baby is crying because crying is the only way that infants have to communicate. Sometimes even making everything perfect for your baby will not stop them from crying. It’s important to know that occasionally a baby will just have a fussy period. It is difficult to deal with emotions and exasperation, but with aid from others and acceptance of things that cannot be changed, getting through these will be that much easier.

A mother loves her baby dearly, but sometimes she does not feel a strong bond with her newborn right away.  As a result, she might feel guilt, stress, and disappointment. If the mother feels little or no connection with her baby, she may be distant or withdrawn and behave negatively toward him or her. These bonding and attachment problems usually cease if she gets enough support, encouragement, and help. Family and friends can praise and encourage the new mother in order to lift her confidence in caring for the baby. Her partner or other professionals such as postpartum doulas and baby nurses can take over chores around the house so that she has more time to rest and bond with her newborn. When a mother is bonding with her baby, she not only provides positive love for her newborn, but when she holds, talks, or touches it, she helps to stimulate her newborn’s brain. Behaviors such as eye contact, holding, touching, smiling, and talking to the infant are all part of the attachment process. When a mother holds her baby next to her chest, she feels close to her baby. Bonding between a baby and its mother is one of the most magical processes with the right expectations and support.

Many mothers are not anywhere near prepared for how they feel following their labor. Whether it is a vaginal or c-section birth, new mothers may have mild cramping as their uterus slowly contracts back to its usual size, shape, and position. Also, other factors such as the size of her baby, whether she had more than one, and how strong her core was before pregnancy can determine how long it takes to get back to her previous stomach size. New mothers may lose some hair, feel teary, and have night sweats until their hormones return to normal. They will feel extremely tired from lack of sleep because they are continuously caring for their baby twenty-four seven. Additionally, if a mother is breastfeeding her baby, then she and her newborn are learning the process together. It takes time and patience; women may temporarily experience sore nipples and engorgement and feel like they never sleep since they are practically nursing or feeding their baby every two or three hours. Babies may want to feed again soon after breastfeeding. This is normal; the mother’s breasts will still have milk. The more a mother empties her breasts, the more it will make her feel less uncomfortable. It is important to seek help from a lactation consultant if there is persistent pain on the nipples every time the baby is fed. If mothers can understand the recovery process, it helps them feel less stressed about the changes taking place in their bodies, and they will not be so hard on themselves. It took nine months to carry the baby to term and it will take a while for a mother’s body to fully recover and get back to normal.

The postpartum period will be much more enjoyable for a mother if she has more help and fewer presumptions on how it is supposed to go. The postpartum period is the time that she should ask and receive help. She should rest as much as she can and enjoy the special time with her baby. She should drink plenty of fluids and eat well. Many studies have proven that if you get help and support from a postpartum doula, family members, and friends, you are more likely to heal faster, have a better outcome for breastfeeding, bond better with your baby, facilitate harmony between you and your partner, and limit the chances of postpartum blues and depression. Mothers should not be afraid to ask for help. That is really the only way a mother can be truly prepared for what lies ahead; if she accepts aid from others and keeps an open mind.


“Baby Blues: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment.” American Pregnancy Association, American Pregnancy Association, 18 May 2016, year-of-life/baby-blues/.

LLC Blog. “Thursday Tip: Newborns Have Small Stomachs!” Thursday Tip: Chocolate and Breastfeeding | La Leche League Canada – Mother-to-Mother Breastfeeding Support and Information, La Leche League, 21 May 2015,

Pantley, Elizabeth. The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night. McGraw-Hill, 2005.

Reviewed by the BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board. “Why Babies Spit Up.” BabyCenter, 18 Dec. 2017,

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