March 2012

Childbirth is more than just a physical process of getting the infant into the world. It a very stressful and emotional time with very important implications for the infant’s future growth and development. Childbirth can, and unfortunately often does, happen without much planning or preparation. However, with mental, physical, and emotional preparation, childbirth can become a very meaningful event in the life of a family.

Planning for a healthy environment for your new child began either before you became pregnant, or shortly after you learned you were going to have a baby. Careful attention to diet, to prenatal care, and avoidance of alcohol and tobacco provided your child with a healthy “internal” environment throughout your pregnancy. Now you must consider the “external environment” including the potential for exposure to cigarette smoke. Environmental tobacco smoke is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in children. In short, the ill effects of tobacco are not limited to pregnancy, but continue throughout life.

Preparation consists of planning for the new baby. This means getting the crib, buying diapers, bedding, blankets, and clothing. It means discussing roles and responsibilities of mother and father, any sisters or brothers, grandparents, and other helpers. For mother it means proper exercises and nutrition under the care of her obstetrician, and if possible, attendance at child birth classes for both parents.

In spite of careful preparation, the excitement of the birth, the sharing of the experience with husband and family, and even the presence of a very special baby, most mothers experience a natural period of “letdown” during the first month. Sometimes this occurs during the first few days after going home from the hospital. It is accentuated by “all of the things that need to be done” now that you have a new baby in the home. These “baby blues” are both natural and frequent. Many mothers will have a tendency to cry, feel inadequate, and have doubts about their personal attractiveness. They feel inefficient, always behind schedule, and never able to catch up. This sounds terrible, but remember, these feelings last only a few days to a few weeks. The return of hormones to normal levels will help. However, organization of your daily routine, plenty of rest, and support from husband and family will lessen these feelings and shorten this trying period.

Frequently, it is beneficial to have someone to help for a week or two. This may be a relative or close friend, but no matter who comes to help, remember that this is your baby and you will be the one responsible for the care, rearing and training. Do not let the “helper” assume the care of the baby. Let him/her do the housework, take care of the other children, prepare the meals, and take care of you. You take care of your baby.

You will get advice from everyone you know concerning how best to care for your child. Listen to the advice, read and think about the topics discussed in this booklet and in other books, and watch how others care for their babies. Then you take care of your baby with love, concern, careful thought, and common sense. You can’t help but be a success.

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