Keep a Good Relationship with a Newborn at Home
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RC: Hello everyone. This is Liz Harvey coming to you from our studios in New York City where we are dedicated to bringing you cutting edge interviews from many of the leading industry professionals across the U.S. In today’s episode, we are speaking with Stephanie Heintzeler. Stephanie is a German educated midwife, a U.S. educated doula, an acupuncturist and a certified lactation counselor. She is known as the New York Doula.
Stephanie has delivered over 1,200 babies and has experience with twins, triplets, breach babies and water births. She also works with newborn parents in their post-partum stage and holds classes and seminars for moms and dads to be. With a wealth of experience and knowledge in her field, Stephanie Heintzeler is widely considered to be one of the top doulas in the country. She is also a contributing member of our national network of industry professionals.
Today we are going to talk about a very important topic:
Keep a Good Relationship with a Newborn at Home
RC: Hi Stephanie, how are you today?
Stephanie Heintzeler: I’m good. How are you?
RC: I’m doing great, thanks. Thanks for being here.
Is feeding the baby the most important issue to focus on when the baby comes home?
Stephanie Heintzeler: Yes. Feeding the baby is. On one hand, it’s the most important issue but at the same time related to that is how the mother is doing. If the mother is not well, the baby can’t be well. Feedings are very important for the baby but if the mother is not doing okay – she has a lot of pain or she’s depressed, has postpartum depression – then it’s more important to look at, how is the milk supply, how is the pain, how much sleep does she get, how is the connection between her and her baby, where is she at emotionally, does she feel the connection, does she feel like she wants to feed the baby, breastfeed. There is a lot of ‘working though’ what happened during the birth, no matter how well it went. It’s been a process and it’s very exciting to have had a baby. Feeding is the underlying most important thing, but it can only go well when we look at all the other things.
Lack of sleep can prevent parents from enjoying their newborn. How can parents work on getting enough sleep?
Stephanie Heintzeler: Yeah. It can sometimes be hard to deal with frustration after a baby and not getting enough sleep makes it worse. The key is really to first of all, hire help. Prepare before the birth. See what we have at home, even test food. Have people who you know they’re going to bring over some food and help you at home a little bit after the birth. The other thing is really alternate. A lot of moms or dads, they call me after a few days and they’re like, “We don’t sleep. This is awful. The baby is gaining weight.” Okay that’s working, but they’re really not happy. They can’t enjoy the baby. They’re kind of fighting. The mom wants this and the partner wants that. It can be very, very stressful. Usually the key is to get enough sleep because at least both feel like they’re sort of rested and they can think properly.
Then we go over, “Okay what brings on what happened last night?” I talk to the mother or father on the phone. Then they say, “Well, we were up all night, both of us.” Then the first goal would be to change that and to use shifts. I tell the parents, “One should stay up until 2 a.m. and the next person stay up from 2 a.m. until the morning. Then at six or seven the other person goes back to sleep.” Of course both can sleep when the baby is asleep. Let’s say the mom breastfeeds and the baby is fussy after and alert for two hours, not drinking but is kind of maybe not restful for two hours. Then it’s important to see whose shift is it? It doesn’t help if both parents are up, it really doesn’t. Also, both parents are like, “Oh, let me take her. Let me carry him.” It’s very stressful. There’s this one person trying things out.
As soon as a partner goes back to work, I’m very keen on letting the partner sleep because they need to work. They need to make money. As much as they want to help, it’s not helping when they are overwhelmed and then go to work and come home. They can do that for three days and then that’s it. Then it’s really important for the mother to stay up unfortunately and get a baby nurse, get a postpartum doula so you have some help for you and your baby so your partner can actually do the job. I really notice how much better the relationship is. They just feel like they’re still partners and they are parents and that’s work enough. They’re not exhausted both of them because both have sleep, both have help, and they can enjoy the baby.
What are some resources available to parents who may not be bonding well with their baby?
Stephanie Heintzeler: The first thing is to look at how did the birth go? If I’m there, if there’s a doula available, the doula will immediately see if there’s any kind of postpartum depression or really lack of connecting with the baby. Then we see is it because of how the birth went? Is it because of lack of sleep? Is it because there’s no support – like there’s a doula a few times but the partner not…Is there even a partner? Or the partner is not so available? Are there kids? That can be super stressful.
Then we look at what is the root? What’s the cause of the problem and how we can help. The first thing is, if you don’t have a doula, hire a doula, a postpartum doula. That can be incredibly helpful to just book 20 hours of a doula who will come three times a week, three hours. You could also look into having a baby nurse who stays with you 24/7. Who stays with you a month, or two months. There are nannies who could come in a few hours a day. If you don’t want professional help, you could look around and see friends, family members who come and they come on a regular basis. It’s not like, “Last night was terrible, can you please come?” It’s more like we schedule it. If the parents are relaxed the day before the help is coming, it helps tremendously. The babies are better off because the parents are more relaxed.
If postpartum depression would ever get diagnosed then the mother really needs professional help. If the dad has postpartum depression or the partner, which what can help is really to get some professional help for the partner, as well as both of them. Then we need to see because the partner didn’t go through the birth, the process of physical birth, but they clearly have something going on. It is a valid illness. One over seven moms get postpartum depression but one over ten dads get postpartum depression. It’s really something that can happen. The resources are different then. It’s more therapy in that case. Maybe a therapist who comes home to the parents. Maybe groups, that can be very helpful. Again, guidance. The doula is usually the number one helper. If the parents feel like, “We are not well,” and they see the obstetrician then of course the obstetrician or midwife would be the person to talk to.
Do you recommend that parents use carriers or wraps to hold their baby while they move around the house so they can stay connected with the baby while getting chores done?
Stephanie Heintzeler: Yeah, I like that. I really think they work beautifully. There is a lot of misconception about how you should carry or pick up your baby. The first months you really need to pick up your baby. If baby is crying or fussy, they need to be held. They don’t know you’re here. They don’t know you’re in the next room. They feel alone. Especially at night when it’s dark and quiet, it’s even worse than that. During the day usually babies sleep. I come there at 10 or 11 a.m. the baby has the best sleep ever. It is the nights that are tough. Once the baby gets the parents will be around no matter what even if baby maybe doesn’t hear the parents then they trust more and they’re generally more calm. They need to earn that. They need to learn it too.
During the ‘fourth trimester’ we call it, the first three months after birth, it really helps. For the parents, it’s quite nice as well especially for the partners. They don’t breastfeed, they can get some stuff done, they run some errands, they have the baby in the sling. I like the MOBY wraps. Those wraps that are real long slings that you can just use. It’s very easy. It seems difficult but it’s super easy to use. Parents really enjoy it and they really have their hands free. You don’t even feel the baby. It’s really amazing. You have like a eight pound baby in front of your chest and you don’t feel him. It’s just somehow at the center of gravity of your body that makes it very comfortable.
Lastly, at what age should the parents start taking time to play with and stimulate the baby?
Stephanie Heintzeler: A little later. Usually the first four weeks you don’t need to do anything. That can be tough because there’s nothing coming back from the baby. You’re like “feed” and the baby is pooping, crying, sleeping, feeding. There’s nothing else coming back and for some parents they’re like, “Okay?” They don’t really feel the joy and they kind of wonder, “Is this okay? We don’t really enjoy it that much.” I kind of tell them, “This is normal.” Here and there we get this angel smile. That can be a very blissful moment. After three or four weeks, they start to smile a little bit more. Usually at six, seven weeks they really smile. That’s the age when you often notice the baby is more interested.
The first three weeks they really don’t do anything. It’s too much for them. Everything is exhausting. There’s so much happening already for them. Just feeding, smelling and hearing the parent’s voice, that’s a lot for the brain. After three weeks, four weeks, putting your baby under those kind of play bridges or those play gyms, that can be nice. Eventually you’ll notice the baby will start looking at that more. I like mobiles too. Over the changing table, hang a black and white mobile because the baby can’t see any other color. It’s just like some prints, black, white, like a flower. The baby really stares there. They also stare at lights. They look towards the window, they look at the red color. They look at anything that’s a little lighter. That can be nice to use that.
Just observe your baby. Once he is looking and staring a little more and you really feel like, “Oh, she’s now inspecting whatever is in front of her.” That’s the time when you start to stimulate a little more. Very slowly. There’s not much you need to do. It’s enough if you stick out your tongue. That is a big thing for babies. Change your facial expressions. They are babies, they love that. Then slowly you give the baby something in the hand. They like looking at keys and things that make sound. It’s slowly. There’s nothing that needs to be done. Don’t overdo it.
RC: Got it. Okay. Well, thank you, Stephanie. We know you’re extremely busy so I just want to thank you for your time and your help today.
Stephanie Heintzeler: Thanks for having me.
RC: For our listeners across the country, if you are interested in speaking with Stephanie Heintzeler please visit www.TheNewYorkDoula.com or call 917-399-2031 to schedule an appointment. On behalf of our entire team, we want to thank you for listening. We look forward to bringing you more top quality content from our county’s leading industry professionals.