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New Mothers: Take Time for Yourself!
By April Terreri

New mothers, take heed: Take care of yourselves! That is the advice OF Shannon McGranahan, M.D., doctor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at St. Clair Hospital. "This is one of the first things I tell new mothers before they are discharged from the hospital and it's something I reinforce to them during their postpartum visits to me."

Most new mothers are already sleep-deprived when they enter motherhood, just by the nature of pregnancy in the last few weeks, explains Dr. McGranahan. "That coupled with the new baby who does not understand what a schedule is all about compounds the situation."

Take advantage of every opportunity, such as feeding time. "If you are breast-feeding, have your husband bring you your baby," suggests Dr. McGranahan. "Also have him bring you a glass of water. Have him diaper the baby and put the baby back down again so that all you have to do for middle-of-the-night feedings is to wake up and be there. Similarly, for bottle-fed infants, let dad take on one or two of those feedings."

Throughout the day, make sure you take several 15-minute breaks, she suggests. Place your baby in a safe place like a crib or bassinette and take a breather – away from your baby – several times throughout the day. "Sit down and have a cup of tea or glass of water," she advises. "Or do something just for yourself – like a crossword puzzle."

As the weeks progress, take advantage of the offers of your family and friends to care for your baby for an hour or so, in order for you to get away from the house and do something you enjoy – like visiting the local bookstore or library to read the newspaper.

The same principles apply for mothers with other children waiting at home. "Now you are struggling with a newborn as well as your other child or children. This means you are spread thinner – yet you don't want to sacrifice something your older children want to do or need from you because you don't want them to develop any feelings of resentment against the baby."

As for the day-to-day tasks awaiting new mothers, Dr. McGranahan stresses simplicity. "Everything doesn't have to be done your way. Remember there are many different ways to do things like holding, diapering and clothing your baby, so allow family members or friends to help you and let them do things the way they are comfortable doing them."

Train your baby to live on a schedule. "This is something that has to be started very early on," advises Dr. McGranahan. "I try to advocate feeding on a schedule, particularly when the pediatrician has given the OK that the baby is gaining weight and growing appropriately. If they are crying, it doesn't necessarily mean they need to be fed. You might want to just let them cry it out a little to get them onto a schedule relatively early on."

Similarly, train your infant that certain times of the day are for quiet time or for napping. "If you want your baby to do a morning nap, put him or her down in a safe place for a nap and reinforce that same time and same place every day," suggests Dr. McGranahan. Your baby doesn't necessarily have to go to sleep every time, so it's really a matter of getting your baby accustomed to rest during the same time and the same location.

However, today's hectic lifestyles can undermine your attempt at schedule reinforcing, so try not to cart your baby everywhere you want to go because your baby will sleep on and off in the car.

Finally, don't forget about your own nutrition. "New mothers want to get their pre-baby figures back right away," cautions Dr. McGranahan. "But I reinforce the fact that it took nine months for them to put on this weight." So don't deprive your body the nutrition it needs. "Remember, you had a life of your own B.C. – or Before Children. You need to remember that you will only be as good as you feel."

For more information, please contact Dr. McGranahan at St. Clair Hospital at (412) 561-5666 or in McMurray's Waterdam Medical Plaza at (724) 941-1866.

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