Newborn Motherhood in the COVID-19 Era

While birthing in the midst of a global pandemic does pose great challenges to mums and their healthcare providers, the COVID-19 era presents newborn mothers with incredible opportunities for a truly restful, rejuvenating and loved-up postpartum period. This may sound counterintuitive in a chaotic world, but it is possible that your experience of early motherhood, be this your first or third baby, could be the most beautiful time of your life, with better breastfeeding and bonding outcomes than pre-pandemic times. Thinking I’ve lost the plot? Hear me out.

The first six weeks of being a mum-baby team in just about every traditional culture is all about learning to breastfeed and falling in love. In traditional Chinese culture, the new mother’s mother-in-law lives in with her, feeds her special foods and enforces rules that ensure she does literally nothing except rest and breastfeed for forty days after giving birth. This is at odds to the merry-go-round of visitors and back-to-beach-body pressures sleep-deprived western mums have faced in recent decades.

Most recently, Australian mums have faced challenges getting the right support and information about breastfeeding. Education classes for pregnant women may have been held while they were still in paid work or busy with older children. Most Australian mums birth in a hospital and stay a few days, with (well-meaning) advice on breastfeeding altering with each nursing shift change. Dad has to wait his turn for a hold as guests come and go, and mum’s safe scent gets lost amongst Aunty Carol’s perfume and cousin Steve’s deodorant. Mums are encouraged to put baby in the crib when sleepy so as not to drop them off the narrow hospital bed, reducing valuable skin-to-skin time that builds up levels of our bonding hormones, and restricting access to the breast. Not surprisingly, baby is unsettled, so it is suggested to wrap him with arms in tight before laying him back in the crib, because heaven forbid he will develop a “dependence” on mum as a “sleep crutch” if he falls asleep on the breast. Rather than toning down the environmental stimulus and allowing the hours-old baby to suckle as he pleases around the clock, seeds of doubt are sown by others as well-meaning (but now defunct) advice from older generations is handed down - he’s still hungry so you must not be making enough milk, your milk isn’t “good” enough for him, if he needs to feed again so soon you’ll have to supplement with formula...

Eventually mum and baby are released home, where an endless pile of laundry awaits and the next round of guests come to ogle your little beauty. In the blink of an eye, two weeks has gone by and Dad is back to work, leaving mum to manage the days alone, and feeling guilty to ask for assistance overnight because he has to function in “actual society” the following day. A support group sounds great, but if you haven’t washed your hair in three weeks, every shirt is stained and baby hyperventilates from crying so hard within two minutes of being put in the car seat, what is the incentive to sit in a room full of strangers with your boob out? And don’t even get me started on finding time to do those rehab exercises...

Enter: pandemic.

Breastfeeding education class pre-birth? Online.

Reduced length of stay in hospital and restrictions on visitor numbers? More skin-to-skin, more time for quiet breastfeeding and rest, more time for you, baby and Dad to cuddle and bond in those first few days.

Don’t want your mother-in-law’s best friend’s son’s girlfriend to visit you in your trackies? Sorry, we’re bunkering in our own little isolation pod (and you should too), but maybe she could leave a meal on the doorstep?

Partner working (or not) from home long-term? Suddenly you have an extra two adult hands available to refill your water each breastfeed, make you cups of tea and prepare food that is more nourishing than toast. He might even get a taste of what days on end entertaining toddlers or homeschooling older kids is like.

Questions about breastfeeding? The top dogs who specialise only in this field (private International Board Certified Lactation Consultants, and the free counsellors at the Australian Breastfeeding Association) at your fingertips for phone and video calls, so you can skip those doubt seeders and advice on what “worked” for someone else in 1987. The incentive to breastfeed is higher if formula shortages are possible, so health professionals may also be more supportive of you reaching your individual breastfeeding goals rather than unwittingly undermining your efforts.

Facilitated support groups to help you feel truly heard, valued and valuable? Online, here.

Post-natal rehab sessions, in bite size, progressive chunks, that need no equipment and can be done in your pyjamas? Online, here.

For the first time in living history, the majority of Australians will be isolating, like newborn mothers have done globally for thousands of years. The foot has been taken off the social accelerator, and it is totally okay to operate at baby pace. There is no pressure for you to go out, to get back to some pre-baby body, to entertain. Your rules on who visits and when will be respected now more than ever. Your partner may get a better shot at bonding and understanding your needs as they witness the around-the-clock demands of a newborn. You have virtual access to experts and the friends you choose at any hour.

It might take some planning, but your post-partum-in-pandemic-period could just be the most loved-up time of your life.

Book your planning session now to find peace and joy in your post-partum.


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