What You Can Expect You Sixth Week Postpartum
“It’s gonna take 6 weeks.” We have heard this phrase concerning a recovery many times in our lives. Our bodies, our muscles and ligaments, our minds...need time absorb what has happened, to heal and strengthen. It’s gonna take 6 weeks.
1. The 6th week postpartum is the time when most new parents come to realize that they have made it through the toughest time and have emerged into the light of the new normal. You have come to realize patterns in your newborn’s behaviors; when she is hungry, tired, or needs a diaper changed. You learned minute by minute to understand her language and how to incorporate her life into yours, day by day.
2. By the 6th week postpartum your life has gradually patterned itself around supporting the needs of your newborn and your family. (and probably, your job) Here at 6 weeks you have had enough consecutive nighttime feedings to know how long your baby is likely to sleep between feedings. You have carried on through enough consecutive mornings, afternoons and evenings to recognize your own emerging patterns...adjusting your parenting choices and living style with this new baby.
3. By the 6th week postpartum many parents have had to return to work. You will have made arrangements for returning to your place of employment, arrangements for a private place to express and store your breastmilk and arrangements for childcare. You feel strong enough to get this accomplished. Most parents do not have any maternity/paternity benefits or paid parental leave opportunities and have no choice but to leave their babies with a caregiver. A paid caregiver.
The only federal law guaranteeing maternity leave in the U.S. is unpaid. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) will protect your job for up to 12 weeks after childbirth or adoption. For certain employees, your job will be waiting for you and you can’t be penalized for taking the time off. Some states have their own laws that extend the amount of unpaid leave employers must offer you, and several states, including California, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island, offer partially paid leave as well. You must check your individual state laws to know exactly what you are entitled to - by law.
4. By the 6th week postpartum, you feel well. You obstetric health care provider has cleared you for normal activities, resuming mild physical exertion and longer exercise practices. If you are able to remain home with your baby during the daytime hours, you have come to recognize when you can get household or home employment work done. Your breastfeeding is established, you recognize the hourly changes in your breasts signaling you for feedings or pumping; your comfort zones in your home for feeding sessions are well used and you have breastfed your baby many times while on the go.
It really does take 6 weeks, more or less. Give yourself the time to recognize the patterns of living with your new baby. You need these weeks to readjust, to regain strength, to learn to breastfeed and clean and cuddle this baby...to be able to just sit back one evening, 180 days into this new, normal life of yours, and say, “A-HA, I’ve made it.”
Paula Zindler RN IBCLC
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