three birth tips from a 50-year-old guy
That title sounds a bit odd, doesn't it. 🙂
As a father of two, I've had occasion, over the years, to offer my 'three tips' to first-time moms-to-be, and have received positive feedback. Recently I've been thinking about birth due to recent family and friend births, and figured I'd write them up...
Think of tips & techniques as tools, not rules.
I highly recommend childbirth classes; I really cannot say enough positive things about them -- even refresher ones. However, my advice for moms (and partners): view the tips and techniques taught as 'possible tools', not 'rules to live up to'. Specific moms may or may not find specific tips and techniques useful. The reason I note this is because I've occasionally talked to moms who have been disappointed with their 'performance' during birth -- often because they had an expectation from a class of how the birth 'should have' progressed. One mom told me she was embarrassed at how loud she was, thinking that if she would have performed the class' breathing and relaxation techniques 'better', she wouldn't have needed to yell. My thought: if yelling or grunting works for a particular woman -- that is fine, whether or not it is in any standard technique playbook.
Pick a close friend or family member to not visit until after four weeks have elapsed.
This is mostly for the first kid. It comes from a midwife, and was dramatically confirmed by our experience with our firstborn. She told us that after the child is born, friends and family will, understandably, want to come and visit and help out. By the time a month has elapsed, everyone has come and gone, and that is when the effects of sleeplessness can become more pronounced, and help is most appreciated/needed. Based on this, we planned to have one of our good friends fly in around five weeks after the birth of our first child. Our baby was colicky until about six weeks, and our friend's simple willingness to do laundry, to organize pizza deliveries, and to simply watch the baby while we both took a short walk was deeply, deeply appreciated.
It's not innate! Learn, and ask for advice.
I suspect that in times when multiple generations of families commonly lived together, or for those women who have had a baby after a bunch of their women friends have, this fact would not be the surprise that it was to us. However, we were among the first of our set of friends to have children, and so hadn't had the experience of extensive conversations.
I had naively assumed that breastfeeding would be some sort of natural, somewhat instinctive process, but our midwife encouraged us to go to a breastfeeding class. The instructor basically noted that given that our society is no longer made up of multi-generational families living together, many are not aware that the process can be difficult for mom and baby to get used to. In particular, she noted that because first-time moms are understandably concerned about the baby, that it's easy for an unconstructive cycle to quickly develop: mom is worried that baby isn't getting enough milk -> feedings thus become more stressful -> feedings thus become more difficult -> mom worries more. The instructor showed the (clothed) moms helpful holding techniques, gave information about dealing with sore nipples (and noted how commonly that condition occurs among first-time moms especially), and gave a hotline number for information and support and even a home-visit for a bit of coaching. For us, breastfeeding mostly went smoothly for mom & baby, but during a few difficult periods, the information and the normalization of the problem from that class was invaluable. (I trust that it's not even necessary here to spend any time noting why breastfeeding is a Good Thing.)
By the time we had our second baby a few years later, I noticed, in our brief hospital stay, much more information being offered about breastfeeding tips and techniques. I hope information this trend has continued. Congrats to all parents-to-be out there!