Q: WHAT'S YOUR BEST ADVICE TO HAVE A PEACEFUL, HAPPY FIRST FEW MONTHS WITH BABY?
Answer: This is a great question that I will answer from what I have experienced myself to be helpful as well as what I have seen others have success with.
1) Be prepared - know what to expect out of those first few months of new parenthood. That will likely mean lowering your expectations. Get rid of the idea of perfection and more comfortable with going with the flow (aka baby's needs). The more you are ready to let go of your pre-baby life, the more easy the transition will be. When baby is born you have just entered the 4th trimester. In the first few months, she is figuring out her days and nights. She is figuring out how to voice hunger, discomfort and tiredness which are all new experiences for her. It will be a dance as the two of you learn to communicate. Be gentle with yourself and try to put yourself in her shoes. That will help give you perspective.
2) Have help - This is where postpartum doulas shine. Birth doulas speak for themselves, but postpartum doulas are a unsung hero of the transition to motherhood. If you don't have a PP doula PLEASE find someone, your spouse, a friend, your mom, your neighbor, someone you really love and trust to be there for you, to cook you meals, to be a sound board for all the ups and downs of early motherhood. Postpartum depression has been linked to feelings of being alone and isolated and feeling unsupported. We used to live in tribes where every woman took care of each other. Create your tribe, even if it only consists of you and your partner.
3) Get outside - sunshine and fresh air and an adult conversation will get you out of your own head. It will help gain perspective. It can be daunting to take your newborn out because you don't know when they might get hungry or have poop seep out their diaper all over your shirt or they may hate car rides. Make the effort. It is worth every bit of it to feel connected with the world.
4) Call a friend - have a friend who understands you and has been through it on speed dial. As soon as you start to feel trapped or freaked out call them. Make sure that friend is a calm, positive friend so they can help bring you back.
I'll touch more on perinatal depression in another question.
Q: HOW DO I BEST RECOVER AFTER A VAGINAL BIRTH?
After labor you are going to get these super giant maxi pads. Instead of using the hospital ones make your own. Go get super giant maxi pads and soak them in the solution found here (http://www.mylittleme.com/homemade-postpartum-pads-for-soothing-and-healing/) and freeze them. Have them ready for the hospital. That will help start the healing as well as feel really good. When you get home still use those maxi pads you made when you are feeling sore.
Drink tons of water.
After 3-4 days you can start light Kegels. Every 3 days add a little intensity to your Kegels.
Also get a stool softener or ask a naturopath for a good stool softening recommendation. The first time you poop after birth puts a lot of pressure on your uterus.
If you tear, then it may take you a little longer to recover. If you tear naturally (no episiotomy) then the recovery will be faster.
Take my advice…or don't. Come back slowly! I mean really slowly. Allow yourself to get anxious because you feel like all you are doing in lying around. This will allow your uterus to set back into place. It will also help establish breastfeeding. It’s only 6 weeks until you doctor releases you for exercise and sex so enjoy those 6 weeks. It's a great time to really heal, connect with baby, and take it easy. All too often it's a race to see who recovered the fastest from birth and who lost the weight the fastest and who could exercise the most. Fuck that. Do you.
Q: HOW DO I GET MY BABY INTO A GOOD SLEEP ROUTINE?
Oh the question of sleep. This is a very difficult question to answer because I think it largely depends on your child. You have to feel into your child's needs. I just read a great quote, "Parents with less rigid ideas about how and where their babies should sleep are generally much happier and far less likely to be disappointed when their children cannot perform the way they are “supposed to” — i.e. sleep through the night." I am going to shorten it to, "Parents with less rigid ideas about how there baby should [be] are generally much happier and far less disappointed."
If you are in the "no baby in my bed" group, there is a great book called Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. I highly recommend this book to gain some insight on how babies and kids sleep.
If you are in the co-sleeping group, James McKenna is a great
I also recommend the 5S method from Happiest Baby on the Block. 1) Swaddle 2) Side or stomach 3)Sway/Swing 4)Shush and 5)Suck. When baby is born he is in his 4th trimester. He still wants to be in your belly. That is why you try to simulate that to help soothe him.
At first, about the first month, baby will not know his days from his nights. There will be no schedule at first because he will need to eat when he is hungry and sleep when he is tired. You might even get a night or two of full night’s sleep in the first 8 weeks, but he is still not ready to sleep through the night every night at that point. Once you learn his patterns and he starts to be consistent on when he likes to eat and sleep you can begin to nudge him into a pattern you like. You could be in either camp on sleep weather you co-sleep or have baby sleep in a separate room. Either way by about 4 months you can try (key word) to have a solid schedule locked down of 2-3 naps per day and going down for sleep at the same time every night. My best advice here is to do what feels right for you and your family. Do not get spun up in what your social circle, mother, doctor, or whoever else wants to be the peanut gallery has to say.