By Karla Hoffman —
There are two definitions of “babymoon” that are vastly different—one is a vacation taken before the birth of a baby, the other, a time of bonding after the birth. Traveling can be an amazing experience and a great way to connect with your partner before the changes that a baby brings. But, this is not about that kind of babymoon.
The kind of babymoon that we will be exploring is the one that can have a powerful effect on the entire family. Establishing bonds and allowing a readjustment period during the first one to three months following birth is crucial. Studies show the attachment and routines created during a babymoon can affect both the physical and emotional health of the whole family. Consider this an intro to the magic of babymoons, and a guide for planning your own.
Human babies are born incredibly fragile and vulnerable. After a shocking entry into the outer world, they virtually shut down, sleeping for hours. This is done to protect their fragile systems from overload in a very stimulating environment.
It Starts at Birth
Newborns are limited to three reflexes: breathing, sucking, and swallowing. They are unable to even regulate their own temperature, depending completely on others to protect and comfort them. The world is a big, bright, loud, and scary place for a newcomer. The abilities that allow them to soothe themselves and control head movements come at three months of age. This time period from birth to three months is referred to as the "fourth trimester" and its goal is to recreate the experience of the womb.
Mothers also experience profound changes post-birth. There are added stresses, less sleep, and hormones that seem to run wild. Whether it is the first or fifth child, birth changes everything. It is essential for moms to take the time to learn new routines, adjust to the needs of a newborn, and to acknowledge powerful emotions surrounding the entire experience. Allowing time to explore the "new normal" also reduces the pressure for moms to "do it all." A babymoon allows her to focus on being present for some of the most magical days she will ever experience.
Now that we've discussed what a babymoon is, and the need to allow a gentle readjustment period for the entire family, let's look at ways to make it happen.
Eat, Sleep, Repeat
Babies don't eat on a schedule. In fact, it may seem like they follow very few feeding routines for the first couple of months. Whether you breastfeed, bottle-feed, or do a combination of the two, it should be on demand.
During the first week, it's important that babies regain their birth weight. Ideally they should eat every two to three hours and may need to be woken to feed. Breastfeeding babies often feed in small sessions that are closely spaced called "cluster feedings." The frequent latching helps to stimulate milk production and regulate supply. This is essential during the first week since it takes days for actual milk to be produced.
Since babies need to eat so often and be encouraged to latch instead of sleeping all day, experts suggest using a method called "skin to skin" during the first days.
Direct contact with their mom’s skin has a variety of benefits for baby:
- Increased chance of latching properly
- Maintains body temperature
- Maintains heart and respiratory rate
- Increases blood sugar
- Reduces crying
This closeness is best achieved with minimal clothing. The idea is to spend as much time as possible chest to chest. Keeping baby close by also provides the chance for the mother to bond with her baby, and learn important hunger cues.
The cycle of eating, diaper changing, and sleeping can seem never-ending in the first days. To increase the positive effects of this important time, it is suggested that moms stay in bed with their babies. A week of bed rest may not be possible for every family, so consider how you can work as much restful time in as possible during the first week.
Hold on Tight
Past the first week, the goal of a babymoon is to extend the secure bond created in bed to the rest of the world. Though skin-to-skin contact is still beneficial, it is not as practical outside of the bedroom. One way to keep baby close and experience similar benefits is by baby wearing. Using a cloth sling, woven wrap, or structured carrier allows the mother to be mobile while baby is close.
To closely mimic the skin-to-skin contact of the first week, you can use a woven wrap to keep baby chest to chest. It is essentially the same position as holding baby in your arms, and the wrap provides cover and security allowing freedom of movement for the mother.
Babywearing is a powerful practice with benefits far beyond the babymoon. You may want to explore options before baby is born at your local Babywearing International Chapter or baby boutique class.
Another amazing tool to provide security to baby is swaddling. Wrapping babies tightly in breathable fabric simulates the close quarters of the womb. This encourages extended periods of sleep and more peaceful waking moments for mother and baby.
A successful babymoon requires a plan. Involve your partner in the process, treating the babymoon plan like a continuation of your birth.
Here are a few tips to help you write out your plan:
You will have a minimum of two appointments for baby in the first month. Getting out of the house is always a new adventure with a baby, so consider keeping other plans at an absolute minimum.
Forgetting to eat is a real thing, and not allowed while breastfeeding. Staying fed and hydrated is crucial, and should be planned in advance to alleviate some stress. If you can, prepare favorite family meals ahead of time and freeze them. This may be a perfect task to delegate to a loved one.
Schedule sibling activities
If you have other children, be sure to include them in your babymoon plan. Keeping their usual schedule may not be possible at times. Gathering quiet activities and games that can be played with you in bed is one fabulous way to stay connected. You may also want to plan events outside of the house that friends and family can take siblings to so they get the important one-on-one attention that all children need.
Read about life postpartum
There are many changes that babies and their mothers go through in the first months postpartum. These are natural, yet can still be shocking. Since conversations with your doctor may be easily forgotten, find a good book on the subject. Keeping this nearby will allow you to reference it when unexpected changes occur.
Prepare some activities in advance
If you’re a busy person and like to stay active, plan some activities for yourself. Spending an extended period of time in bed is not easy for everyone. Prepare your favorite movies, books, and games to create a relaxing experience.
Birth is life changing. It brings new emotions that should be acknowledged and respected. Keeping a journal, notebook, or sketchpad nearby can be a great tool for taking care of your emotional needs.
Family and friends will be excited to visit. Keep in mind that they WILL understand if you are not ready for company. Involve those closest to you by allowing them to help with your plan. This could be by cooking meals, running errands, cleaning up the house, or visiting with older children. Welcome the help as much as you feel comfortable doing.
The first weeks following birth are an adventure for the entire family. Planning a babymoon allows your family to enjoy the ride together.