How can I support my wife so she is able to care for our child while I'm at work?
January 25, 2012 7:15 AM   Subscribe

Women, what are some things you did after birth that helped you to become more self-sufficient in taking care of your child (i.e. not needing to have the father around all the time)? What are some things the father did to support you in this process?

Right now I'm working from home to support my wife and I'm really not able to focus on my work. If I could either work a full day uninterrupted in my home or go somewhere else to work that would be great.

My wife is tired all the time and it seems like it takes all her energy to feed our child (breastfeeding) as well as doing some chores around the house (I'd say right now household chores are close to 50/50. I do most of the cooking and some of the other chores like feeding the cats, emptying the cat litter, handling garbage/recycling, etc. She does most of the cleaning [apart from the toilets] because I'm a hopeless slob and she's a germaphobe).

I also do nearly of all the diaper changes and take over watching the kid when she needs to rest.

Of course, this means that my workflow is constantly interrupted. I often work from bed which isn't very productive, but if I go elsewhere it just means that I have to run upstairs many times a day to deal with diapers and other things with our son.

I know that raising a kid is a challenge and that it requires hard work from both parents, but I find it incredibly frustrating that I can't do my other job -- the one that pays the bills. My work is shoddy, my focus is gone, and I feel like I am letting my boss and the company I work for down.

At this point I feel like my wife really needs to get to the point where she can take care of herself and our child for an 8 hour period so that I can actually do my work.

Right now, for example, I'm watching over him so she can get some sleep but he wants to be held, so I am here, typing this with one hand instead of getting work done.

Key Points
  • The baby is around 4 months old
  • My wife is recovering from c-section surgery, and her back hurts if she holds the baby for more than a couple of minutes
  • I used to go to an office 3 days a week where I was generally more productive than at home. That hasn't been the case for 6 months
  • So far I haven't gotten any feedback from my boss on my work, but it's all pretty hands-off and I think he has understanding because of the baby. I'm not sure how long I can keep treading water before I start getting into trouble, though.
posted by nosh, daven, shtup to Human Relations (55 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Unless there's a physical, health-related reason, one person, either you or your wife, should be able to take care of one baby alone for at least an 8 hour period. Rule out any possible health reasons, make sure that your wife is getting enough good, healthy food, and that she rests when the baby does, and then... well, just do it. I don't mean to sound unkind; I know it's hard, and it's new, but single parents do it.

It helps a lot to prioritize - the house isn't as clean, the meals aren't as fancy, but that's what happens with a newborn. Buy a few more of the basics so laundry doesn't have to be done so often. Get in the habit of picking up after yourselves so that there's less housework to do. It sounds like other than cooking, you could still do what you're doing as far as chores go if you work outside the house.

I hope I don't sound unkind, because I don't mean it that way. Breastfeeding is tiring; maybe she's not eating enough to keep her energy levels up. But if she rests when the baby does, that can help a lot. The rest, you just fit the important things in around the diaper changes, and what you miss one day, you get the next.
posted by lemniskate at 7:27 AM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

hire a cleaning woman to come once a week to take off strain from both you and the wife.
posted by saraindc at 7:29 AM on January 25, 2012 [13 favorites]

What I did when my lambs were born was radically change the definition of "clean." If your wife is a germophobe that may be harder for her to do but if she can just care about clean and not care so much about messy then that decreases the daily burden.

I would suggest (gently) that you go back to work. Even 5 hours at work will make you more productive than 10 hours at home. That way when you are home you are focused, and when you are at work she will be able to rally her resources because she knows she can rest when you get home.

Routines are the answer. And good healthy fresh food, not convenience junk.
posted by headnsouth at 7:31 AM on January 25, 2012 [7 favorites]

Sounds like you all could use some extra hands while your wife recovers from surgery and cares for your child (It's impressive that she's caring for the baby and keeping up with her chores, but all that work is probably keeping her from healing, she really needs to rest as much as possible). Could you hire a mother's helper to be at the house during the day? Even 2-3 days a week would probably give you time to stay on top of your work.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:31 AM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

4 months sounds like an awfully long convalescence from a c-section...has she talked to her doctor or midwife about beginning to strengthen her abdominal muscles so her back won't have to work as hard?

Taking care of a baby for 8 hours alone should be within her capability but she may need to accept a higher level of mess. Chores are hard with a little one.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:32 AM on January 25, 2012 [13 favorites]

Things we did:

1) froze meals so no one had to cook, or ordered out a lot.
2) hired a cleaning lady to come every other week to clean actual dirt; let the clutter go
3) we each got to sleep in one of the weekend days (this might have been easier for us, because our baby was both breast and bottle-fed)

Things that made it easier for me to care for our baby alone:

1) as soon as I could, I left the house with the baby once a day, even if it was just to buy milk or drive around or go to the library
2) my husband lowered his expectations with respect to chores, etc - basically, as long as I kept the kid alive and wasn't miserable that was good enough for him
3) my husband brought food to our bedroom every morning, because sometimes I would forget to eat until noon
4) my husband told me it was okay with him if I stopped or lessened the breastfeeding. For some reason, I had it in my head that this mattered a lot to him, and it was the source of a lot of stress and anxiety for various reasons. I partially breast fed for more than 6-months, and cried when I stopped, but it was so helpful to have his support on this particular issue.
5) I slept when the baby slept, to the detriment of the laundry and the vacuum and dinner (see above).
6) Early on, my husband took care of the baby on his own one night after work so I could leave the house alone. I went to book club, or dinner with a friend, or to Target. It made me feel human, and it made me feel like he was capable of handling things alone (which he was).

Honestly, though, by four months, even with a c-section, things should be hitting a groove. Is it possible she has some postpartum depression going on?
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:33 AM on January 25, 2012 [25 favorites]

Have you considered that your wife may have postpartum depression. Does she have any signs of it?

At four months, she ought to be able to take care of him for 8 hours at a stretch, even with having had a caesarian. She ought to be able to hold him for longer periods of time at this point. I say this having a seven month old, and having had a caesarian of my own. Yes, it's hard, but it's not too hard.

She may also lack self-confidence. I fully admit that if know my partner is around, I'll depend on her much more than I need to. Does she have her breastfeeding "nest" set up? Like snacks, a water bottle, drinks, etc?
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 7:34 AM on January 25, 2012 [20 favorites]

From my experience, 4 months is the very, very beginning of emerging from all the chaos of having a new little person turn your world upside down. Some things are still all off kilter and will be for a while (maybe forever).

A couple of things come to mind in terms of things that might help:

1. Be sure you are talking to your wife about all of this. Having a baby is stressful for everyone, the best kind of stress, but absolutely stressful. You have to renegotiate lots of things about your relationship and that takes constant communication. Let her know how you're feeling and that you want to support her, but that you need X (e.g., 3 hours of uninterrupted work time for a start or something like that). Work together to figure out how that can happen. Part of that might be letting some of the housework slide a little. Our house will probably never be truly organized again, but the trade off for being able to focus on work and our preschooler is totally worth it for me and my husband. See what you are each willing to let go of a little.

2. Having your sleep disrupted is overwhelming in those first months. Might you be able to take on some of the night feedings (with a pumped bottle) so she can get more solid rest then? She might feel in a better place to take care of the baby during the day if she's not exhausted.

3. Recovering from childbirth is a bear. If she's still in that much pain, it is worth speaking to her doctor to see if there is something she can do.

4. Is is possible your wife has postpartum depression? The fatigue, the feeling overwhelmed, etc. could all be signs. It's so common and it will make a huge difference to have it treated. Talk to her and have her talk to her providers about what next steps might be.

The more you can approach this as a team, the better you both will be at facing this new, and awesome challenge. Congratulations and all the best to you.
posted by goggie at 7:34 AM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Part of the problem is that it's difficult for me to bring this up without dredging up bad feelings.

I also need tips on how I can put this forward without making it feel like a criticism. Some of the comments above -- that by now she should be able to do x, y, z -- are probably internal monologues already going on in her mind that she's feeling bad about. So one of the common pieces of advice -- "just show her this thread" -- seems dangerous to me because she'll read the "just do it" comments -- which are helpful and probably correct -- and see them as attacks.

Her scars still hurt from time to time and I've mentioned talking to a doctor about it but haven't pushed it.

The baby breastfeeds all the time it seems (at least once every 2 hours during the day); we still haven't gotten into a good groove with that. Also, the baby doesn't seem to sleep that much. Putting him on a schedule seems like it would help but I'm not sure how we move from chaos to schedule. Because of these things, she's tired much of the time because she doesn't get enough sleep or the sleep isn't deep enough.

I guess it would be helpful to hear from people who really did have a struggle starting out and how they made their way through. I know it's never easy but it seems like every step of the way has been a struggle (the baby was two weeks late; the baby wasn't nursing well and her supply was low; the baby struggled to gain weight initially; she seems to be taking longer than normal to recover from the surgery).

Post-partum depression is certainly a possibility; she's struggled with it in the past and is taking Zoloft to handle other issues as well. Not sure how to broach this subject either.
posted by nosh, daven, shtup at 7:45 AM on January 25, 2012

Thirding the postpartum suggestion.

I'd also suggest that you be sure that she's eating enough. Trying to lose pregnancy weight while you're breastfeeding is, in my experience, really, really hard. I spent about a month going "oh, it'll be fine, I'm just on a little diet..." and that month was miserable--I was exhausted constantly. As soon as I started eating normally again, things evened out for me. YMMV, obviously, but it's worth considering.

Also, in the short term, have you considered buying a sling? I was a single parent who worked from home for the first several years of my daughter's life, and she spent a ton of her first year in a sling. It's very easy to put the baby in a sling and then go back to the computer and keep working. It may be easier for your wife to hold the baby in a sling, as well, since the stress of the weight is in different places.
posted by MeghanC at 7:45 AM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Jumping back in to say, please, please talk to her again. I experienced postpartum depression and my husband was worried to bring it up. Like you he didn't want to make it seem like he was criticizing me, dredge up negative feelings, etc. The result was that I felt very, very alone struggling with feeling overwhelmed topped off with a heaping side of guilt because I knew I wasn't doing things as well as I should have been. Once it was finally discussed, it was such a relief and we could face it together. If she is feeling depressed, her thinking is clouded by that depression and she's not going to do the things she needs to care for herself. Try saying something like, "This has been such a rough transition for both of us. You are exhausted and I'm really struggling to do the work I need to do. What can I do to help you?" Point out what you've objectively noticed "You are in pain, and you are so exhausted that you're having a hard time caring for yourself and caring for the baby. That's really unlike you. I'm wondering if you might have PPD?" Gentle, nonjudgmental and simply stating facts. If she does have PPD, she needs help to get back on her feet. You are doing all you can right now, and it seems like reaching out for additional support is the only thing you haven't been able to do yet. Take good care of yourself while you keeping taking such good care of your partner and your baby.
posted by goggie at 7:58 AM on January 25, 2012 [12 favorites]

Are there Early Childhood Family Ed classes in your area? Just getting out of the house to interact with other new parents and talk about what was normal and how others were coping was a big help for me -- and these classes are set up to integrate with infants through toddlers. Also, I'm sometimes introverted, but also easily feel too isolated, so the classes were a way to see other adults.

What also helped me when my husband went back to work full time was just giving up on cooking for a year or two. We ate frozen, take out, or he cooked when he got home. It was too much for me, especially with breast feeding. My kids never got "efficient" at breast feeding either. It always took forever.

Good luck. Hopefully the sleeping thing will turn around soon. I found the book "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby" very helpful for how to recognize my child's sleepy signals (that I had previously overlooked).
posted by Malla at 7:58 AM on January 25, 2012

I have a 3-month-old. One thing that helped me a lot, in just the last few weeks, was adding one bottle of formula a day. I felt tremendous guilt (well, I still feel a little bit guilty), but it was so worth it. It just gives me a little break from the breastfeeding, and it seems to make my daughter less desperate for the breast during the rest of the day. I'm not sure if your wife would be open to it, but I found it really helped a lot.

I agree that she could be feeling some postpartum depression. I had a difficult labour and was in pain for the first 8 weeks or so postpartum. But even when I was feeling weepy, I could handle being alone for a day when my husband needed to leave the house (although it was difficult at that stage). Now it's no big deal, but again that is because my pain is finally gone.

I also agree that our definition of "clean" has changed, and we don't really cook real food anymore. I had to let those things go in order to keep my sanity. Good luck.
posted by barney_sap at 8:10 AM on January 25, 2012

50/50 household chores split is putting WAY too much on her plate. You need to step it up through a combination of getting over being a "hopeless slob"; helping her re-adjust her cleanliness levels; and getting outside help. (Unless she enjoys cleaning, which she might.)
posted by yarly at 8:15 AM on January 25, 2012 [20 favorites]

Reading your update, I think you really need to push hard on getting her to see a doctor. Her doctor will be able to tell the difference between depression and lingering effects of the caesarian. Everybody's experience is different, but by four months, I was completely healed from mine. I had no problem holding him, and although I had some scar pain in the first two months, by the fourth it was gone.

So, if I were you I'd approach it in a friendly, "Hey, I've been doing some research online about recovery, and I'm worried about you, because it seems like you've been having a harder time than normal. How about we make you a doctor's appointment?"

My child was 22 lbs at 6 months. He started wearing 12 month outfits around 5-6 months. Suffice to say, he is a giant (in both height and weight) baby who, given the chance, will nurse ALL THE TIME, much more than the every two hours people say is normal. From my research, every two hours is the maximum interval babies will want to nurse, and so depending on the kid, trying to get them on a schedule like this is difficult. Moms in developing countries will carry their kids and nurse them every ~30 minutes. So, I guess I say this, because she may very well be like me, constantly ridden with guilt that she's doing something wrong (like overfeeding) because her child doesn't adhere to the two-hour rule.

The only thing that helped me deal with the constant breastfeeding was changing my attitude. I resigned myself to sitting with a nursing or sleeping baby on my lap for much of the day. I read all five (that's ~5,000 pages or so) of the Song of Fire and Ice/Game of Thrones series in those first two months. Also, I always have my phone, snacks and water nearby. My partner is used to setting me up by gathering me things if I need to do an impromptu nursing session.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 8:16 AM on January 25, 2012 [5 favorites]

nth'ing that she should talk to her doc or midwife about her mental and physical healing. Most dads don't get 4 months off of work to help. (I got half that, as a breastfeeding c-sectioned mom.)

It's okay that everything goes to hell for a while in terms of house cleanliness and food prep. Our standard became "we are all alive, hooray!" for a while. That was really the best we could do.

She should be getting tons to eat--the caloric requirements for breastfeeding are higher than they are in pregnancy, and when my son was that age I was frankly amazed at how much I could put away, and I was still losing weight to the point where it was freaking me out. Also, nursing every 2 hours doesn't mean anything's wrong. Some kids just like to nurse all the time. I spent a lot of time online, watching movies, or just closing my eyes and being as restful as I could--never could sleep through it the way some moms can.

I also had a kid for whom the old adage "sleep when the baby sleeps" was met with a bitter laugh. I did most of the nighttime stuff (cosleeping was an incredible help on that front), in in exchange my husband would let me have a few lloonnng naps on the weekends, either bringing the baby in to feed after 2 hours or using a pumped milk, depending on what we agreed on beforehand.

A baby carrier may help with the backache; the good ones are designed to distribute the weight more evenly.
posted by tchemgrrl at 8:20 AM on January 25, 2012

Man, everything about this screams post-partum to me. I completely get why that would be hard to bring up, but have you broached it gently, at all? Especially if she has dealt with it in the past? Maybe bringing it up would be a huge sense of relief for her.

Otherwise, I would try bringing it up in a collaborative way. Maybe by saying "Look, work is finally starting to heat up again, and I need a better way to accomplish this. I sense that you're struggling with things. What can we do to make that better?" And see where it goes.

Or, if your wife is like me, she'd rather have you suggest specific things than ask what she needs. I feel horrible asking my husband to do stuff for me, so it works much better when he says "I am going to take over X", where X might be one nighttime feeding; the rest of the cooking or cleaning; paying the bills; making me an appointment at the spa. This might also work in terms of other things - suggesting that you move to at least partial formula feeding in order to take some of the stress off the breast feeding might help. "Honey, I know you are exhausted; you've done great to get baby 4 months of all breastmilk; how about we see if he'll take a bottle of formula at the 9 pm feeding so you can get four hours of solid sleep." If she expresses great relief at the idea, make sure she knows its okay to move to all formula if its necessary for her mental health.

Also, I recently learned that there is something called a post-partum doula. You might check that out.

Finally, do I read some other kind of tension into your update? Are you upset with her? Does she feel like you are upset with her? If any of that's the case, maybe it's time to spend some time putting the focus back on you as a couple? Regular date nights, where you can go out and talk about things other than the baby are key (someone once reminded me that eventually your kids grow up and move out and assuming you've stayed married all that time, you're still going to be living together. If you forget to focus on each other, you wake up 18 years later with a different spouse. So stay engaged with each other. Date nights help - even if its just once a month, and if its only a walk in the park).
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:24 AM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

(also, I'm not a doctor and I'm not trying to diagnose your wife; I just think it would be a really good idea to have that checked out, especially with the history. I'm sorry if that sounded harsh. Babies are so so hard).
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:25 AM on January 25, 2012

Last comment and I swear I'll stop.

I want to nth what some others have said that work for me:

I eat tons. I tried to limit my food and my milk supply also went down. That may have been a coincidence, but I'm not going to chance it. She needs to eat lots of food, good food, but lots of food.

Someone just mentioned co-sleeping. Has she tried this? Has she tried nursing laying down? Right now, our kid is going through a period where his sleep patterns have regressed. He goes down in his crib, but when he gets up in the night, I stick him in bed with me, we lay down together, I stick a boob in his mouth, and then we both fall asleep. It was a process getting to the point where I felt safe doing this, but wow, it's helped.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 8:26 AM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

I was also going to suggest cosleeping as a solution to her sleep deprivation. It's not as comfortable sleeping with a baby as it is sleeping alone, but it can be done and it may make a huge difference. I think sleep deprivation and depression are really hard to tell apart.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:35 AM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

I had PPD, and this all sounds very, very familiar. IANAD so of course it may not be that. But please, please, make her go to the doctor. Make the appointment for her, bundle the kid into the car seat, and drive her there. I'm not kidding. She won't do it herself. She is exhausted and every day is a struggle. Just do it. Come into the office with her and give your version of events if she is inclined to minimize and put on a brave face for the doctor. Ask me how I know this is necessary.

As far as the breastfeeding, be aware that any suggestion to give formula may be seen as a criticism or desire to undermine the breastfeeding relationship. It is very much a supply-and-demand thing, so if you lessen the demand (by providing formula), her milk supply will lessen accordingly. If she's ready to move toward weaning, that's okay. If not, tread carefully. As an aside, going to La Leche meetings, if available in your area, might be helpful to her in supporting her efforts and in understanding what's "normal" and what is not.

I agree with others who said that because you're there, you are being called upon to help. Once you have the PPD aspect figured out, perhaps she'd be okay with you spending half days at the office, 4 or 5 hours maybe, so she can begin to get the hang of it. Also, a doula is a good idea to transition to independence, particularly if you all approach the doula and say, we need a schedule, help us come up with something that works for our family.
posted by tuesdayschild at 8:35 AM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Actually, we do almost exclusively co-sleeping. But as mentioned it's not as comfortable (which is what I meant by "not sleeping deeply" above).
posted by nosh, daven, shtup at 8:37 AM on January 25, 2012

I worked from home when our daughter was 3-12 months, but it was part time. I would work while she napped (three times a day and then twice) so I'd get 4-5 hours in broken up into 1-2 hour chunks, sometimes finishing things up while she sat in a bouncy chair. Is it possible your job would let you lower your hours temporarily? But that's really if you were the primary caregiver, which you're not.

I second the notion of hiring someone to come clean every week or two. That might not be financially possible for you, but if doing some of those chores is taking you away from work, it is costing you money, anyway.

It's good that you're trying to take care of this now and want to figure it out. Babies are sort of designed to start off easy (heh) and get harder to handle gradually. That is, their needs are simple at first (feed, put to sleep, change) and get more involved (slow crawling that's easy to handle, walking, climbing). Ideally you should be able to get the hang of each phase more or less before he picks up new skills. You're behind the curve right now so trying to find a better routine will help you lots when he's more mobile and needs more engagement.
posted by davextreme at 8:39 AM on January 25, 2012

We have a three-month-old whom I'm nursing while writing this one-handed myself, so I know somewhat about that whereof you speaketh.

My husband's a professor and has a pretty flexible schedule, so he's able to help with the baby quite a lot. However, a couple days a week he's gone for work for maybe 6 - 8 hours, and most other days he's out of the house for a couple hours. And this is okay for me. (To balance things, he's in charge of the baby on Thursdays so I can leave the house and do exciting things like...going to the library.)

Him having eight hours to himself just for work every day? Probably not going to happen any time soon. Because even though I can be alone with the baby all day sometimes, doing it every day would be exhausting and lonely. BUT, an hour or two a day for each of us to do work in, scheduled with no distractions, is doable.

So...maybe ask for a smaller amount of time to yourself to start with? Also, you're probably stressed about being the income-earner for both a wife and baby right now, and that's very understandable.

Agreeing also that pain four months after a c-section suggests that something funny is going on, and she should be checked out by her ob/gyn at least.

Also, we do co-sleeping, but we also have a fold-out mattress on the floor next to the bed, so that if someone (mostly Husband) wants to get a more restful night of sleep away from the baby, while still being on the scene, they can.
posted by daisystomper at 8:41 AM on January 25, 2012

At 4 months of my sones were still nursing every 2 hours or less around the clock, had colic (so they did not sleep and screamed when put down) and I had massive PPD. It was awful. My husband would be gone for 10 hour stretches and I would sit on the stairs crying waiting for him to get home.

If you can afford it:
- hire a housecleaner
- hire a sitter to come and give your wife a break for a couple of hours, maybe twice a week.

Do you have family nearby? Do you belong to a church? Have friends?
Can a friend come and keep her company once a week? Can the church make dinners? Can a family member come and give her a break?

Talk to her about PPD. Please. My husband was afraid to talk to me the first time and things spiralled down hill pretty badly!

She should be able to handle a 4 month old for 6-8 hours on her own... if she can't, I suspect there is something medical going on!
posted by LittleMy at 8:55 AM on January 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

I have a 5 month old that has been eating every 2 hours from birth on, and only sleeps/naps on me. I am happy and can deal with her even when my husband is gone for extended periods of time (weeks). What saved us was (is!) babywearing. I can do stuff around the house, go on walks, go grocery shopping, go to the laundromat, meet with my New Moms Group - baby sleeps/eats through all this in her carrier and is happy and thriving. People ask me, 'Does she ever cry?'. Without babywearing, my daughter quickly turns into a screaming, unhappy monster (and I would be stuck at home, unhappy, isolated and exhausted).
Do everything possible to enable your wife to wear her little one.
There seems to be something medical going on - this needs to be sorted out, with a doctor's help, ASAP. In my experience, it is simply not possible to take care of a baby if you're not able to hold/carry/wear it for extended periods of time. Most babies need to be held to be happy.

And yes, this sounds like there might be some PPD going on, possibly on top of physical problems. Again, babywearing can help with that because it allows mom to get out of the house. And it's such a good feeling to be able to make your child happy.

Is she in a New Moms Group? She needs someone to talk to who's in the same situation. Talking to you probably won't help; you don't 'get' her situation right now, this is completely normal for new parents!!!

Also: Get a cleaning lady, eat takeout, outsource as much as possible.
posted by The Toad at 8:55 AM on January 25, 2012 [6 favorites]

I struggled after a c-section. I ended up on bed rest for almost 2 months about 3 weeks after I gave birth.

#1 hire someone to clean the house.

#2 -- She needs iron and other supplements STAT! Labor and surgey and breast feeding are exceptionally depleting, especially all at once. I ended up dangerously anemic. The first symptoms were low energy and feeling very very emotional. Also, shortness of breath and accompanying panic attacks. The shortness of breath is from low hemoglobin levels, the panic comes from having trouble breathing.

Even if your wife isn't anemic, she's in need of extra supplements to support her body's recovery and aid with her disrupted sleep schedule.

(I was SHOCKED by the after-care I received post-labor, FWIW. Which doesn't seem uncommon. Fucking vitamins. So easy. Also, I skipped staying in bed for the first 30 days and had to do twice that to finally get well after narrowly avoiding a blood transfusion. I think if the doctors had told me to take my recovery seriously from the start, I would have, and I would not have gotten so ill 3 weeks to a month post-labor. But everyone acts like after a c-section you should be just fine and it's no big deal. Which is bullshit. I also did acupuncture to help with healing. 9 months post-surgery, I've had to hire a private yoga instructor to help me build up my core muscles. For the first time in my life, I was unable to exercise on my own because my body has changed THAT much. Everything that was once easy, now not. It's so weird having to "re-teach" my abdominal muscles to do what they're supposed to! I'm sorry? Where were we? Right. So the point is your wife needs care because her body is completely tapped out. Support her physical recovery and I very much predict her mental health will improve, too.)

3. She needs to see a GOOD doctor for whatever else might be going on with her and the baby.

4. Organic baby formula and pumping. Your wife has been up waking every 2 hours for 4 months to breast feed?? She needs 8 solid hours for a while. Is there some relative or friend who can do daytime duty while your wife catches up on sleep?

Also, at 4 months our pediatrician recommended trying baby oatmeal or rice cereal. We chose to wait until 6 months to try solids, but with a fuller tummy, your son might sleep longer. Check with your doctor.

PS. You're likely nutrient depleted and sleep deprived, too - which means you're not thinking clearly, either. A good multi-vitamin for you, too. I know, it seems too simple. Yet, it can't hurt as you take other action, and will likely help you both a great deal as you make your way.

We had a pretty tough time with the sleep scedule and everything else. For everything we did, I don't think anything really "worked" until we (me and Mr. Jbenben) realized we both needed extra supplements for a while. Just to help get us over the hump.

My advice is vitamins for you both + everyone else's good advice. Your doctor probably hasn't stressed this to you (mine didn't) so I will. Vitamins.

Got it? Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 9:08 AM on January 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

Dude. I could have been your wife for the first year of my son's life.

I was in pain from a c-section for close to 10 months. It became intermittent around 3 months, but every so often, it'd sting so much I'd curl up in a fetal position on the floor and would be unable to even pick my baby up. Couple that with post partum depression and the fact the apartment was a disaster zone and introduce guilt that feeds into the post partum depression that feeds into the guilt and oh, my, what a loop that is to be caught in!

Here is what I will say.

My doctor post-partum was crap. As soon as kidlet was out and I had my two week and six week appointment, they didn't do a damn thing for me. I'd call and say I was in pain, and it took THREE MONTHS for me to get an appointment at which point I was told my pain was "normal" and could last up to a year. When my son was 10 months old, I finally got in to seeing another doctor at another hospital who completely frowned upon that and put me in touch with a MIGS (Minimally Invasive Gynecological Surgery) clinic immediately.

You know what I needed? Lidocaine patches. Wanna know why? To get nerves to stop misfiring. Know what was causing my pain? Misfiring nerves. How easy was it to correct? $25, a prescription, and three weeks of wearing them. And I was finally not in pain any more.

So if your wife is still experiencing physical pain from her c-section, I wouldn't even go back to your previous doctor. I'd go to a new one. And please don't discount how physical pain can feed into depression and exhaustion and all of that be a twisted ring around the rosie of perspective.

As for the eating, that's pretty normal, even at four months.

As for everything else? Hire a post-partum doula to do some cleaning and grocery shopping or taking care of the baby so your wife can shower or nap and you can get some work done. But before any of that, I bet if you get any physical pain taken care of, a lot of other things will start to get better.

MeMail me any time. Or better yet, have your wife MeMail me any time.
posted by zizzle at 9:09 AM on January 25, 2012 [16 favorites]

Sitting alone and exhausted with a newborn, in a house that needs cleaning...that way lies madness.

Find a reason to get out of the house EVERY DAY. Find a Mom's group, go to the library story hour, do Little Gym/Gymboree/Music Together. Do them all. The idea of clapping in a circle with a bunch of other women made me want to claw my eyes out initially, but it was the very, very best thing for me -- gave shape to the days, which had become just one endless blur of bf'ing, diapers, crying, and poor sleep. Once we started going out a lot, the kiddo naturally fell into a more predictable schedule (I got him up, dressed, fed, then out to the library, feed again, then hooray! nap). Being around other moms dissipated the isolation I felt without my husband around, and gave me other people to laugh through the ridiculousness of having a newborn with.
posted by apparently at 9:13 AM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

We found that our 3-month-old starting sleeping deeper and longer once we moved her from our bed to her crib in her own room. She went from sleeping 4-5 hours at a time to 10-11 hours at a time, in just a few days after moving. It has made a big difference in how rested we feel.
posted by barney_sap at 9:19 AM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was home alone with my daughter from birth until, well, now (she's two).
A few things that helped all of us were:
1. cosleeping. My partner slept in another room, because the baby would wake him up when she woke me up to nurse. Pissed me off at first, because he got to sleep all night, but it only made him more capable of caring for the house while I constantly fed the kid.
2. A few mentioned good food, I would like to second that. I learned to cook from scratch when my daughter was wee and it has served us well
3. EXERCISE. Get her an Ergo baby backpack and have her go out on daily walks. If a baby sling hurts her C-section scar too much, just get a nice jogging stroller with a rain cover.
4. Know that this time WILL PASS. One day the baby will sleep all night, and then sooner or later the baby will wean, too.
5. Um, I'd also second getting her back checked out because, in general, at 4 months she should be feeling ok. She may have nerve damage from the epidural, assuming she received one (my back STILL hurts from mine). Although please understand that a C section is a major, major surgery and is one that most people assume isn't as serious as it really is.
6. The house will be a mess until the kid can clean up after her/himself, so just do the best you guys can. Get rid of a much clutter so you're not constantly picking up random, unnecessary junk which will in turn leave more energy to clean the dishes and sweep the floor .
posted by ohmansocute at 9:19 AM on January 25, 2012

As someone who fought her way through PPD, I strongly endorse the idea that she needs to be evaluated for post-partum depression, today if not sooner. nthing the "make the appointment, put everyone in the car, drive her" comment - she won't do it, not because she doesn't want to, but because she physically can't.

More than anything, I'd say she needs to sleep. My suggestion (while maybe not popular with the BF community) would be to either a) have her pump enough for 24 hours of feedings and then you just take over the baby care 100% and let her sleep for an entire day, or (if pumping is too hard, which may be depending on her supply) formula feed for 24 hours while she sleeps. (You could also go the donated breastmilk route on this). The point is - she needs to sleep. Really sleep. Alone. In a room. By herself. As much as she wants. Lack of sleep is a BIG indicator for PPD.

I wonder if there is a community nursing service where you are? Maybe check with the OB/midwife or hospital you used to see if they have a service where trained nurses come in to check up both mom and baby. This could be useful in getting her evaluated.

Also, you don't say much about how she interacts with the baby, other than nursing. Does she play with the baby? Sing songs? Snuggle and giggle? Count toes and fingers? If your wife doesn't do any of these type of playful things with your (surely adorable) baby, get the PPD evaluaton done right away.

Love to you both. You will get through this.
posted by anastasiav at 9:21 AM on January 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

Obviously check out the PPD issues. Good luck finding the most graceful way of telling her that it's necessary. Maybe tell her that it's affecting you too (men can get PPD) and that you want to go back to the doctor together and talk about screening for that. If she's already on Zoloft, I'm not sure what else they will do, but it's worth being aware of it anyway and doing what you can to combat it, even if its homeopathic.

Once you get a handle on that, you need to get focused on the practical issues you are bringing up about your job. It does sound like a big deal that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. If you are the sole breadwinner, she needs to support you in that, and if you think you need 8 hours to focus on work each day, she needs to respect that and hold up her end of the childcare arrangement I'm assuming you discussed ahead of time where she would be the primary caregiver. If you are rich enough to afford a post-pardum doula, babysitter, housecleaner, etc, I'm assuming you would be doing that already, right?

If she's not happy being the primary caregiver, that's fine, but she then needs to get a job to be able to help pay for the childcare costs.

If she is committed to staying at home, she needs to start making a social circle and schedule for herself and the baby. Ideas:
--Any family in the area? Grandparents? If they can't watch the baby for a few hours a week, maybe she can at least go over and hang out there for a day a week or something?
--Library story times. They are free. Who cares if your child is only 5 months. She'll get a chance to be with other stay-at-home parents and their kids which is the real point.
--Barnes and Noble (or some other bookstore). Lots of moms go there with their kids and just drink coffee, hang out, and look at books together.
--Find a gym (our local YMCA does this) that has free or cheap childcare while she works out. Our local Y allows you to drop off your kids for 6 hours a week for free (assuming you are working out during this time!). Our local YMCA also has tons of family programming (parent and baby yoga, etc).
--Have several weekly "playdates" (aka bitch sessions at this age). Regardless, however, she needs a mom's club pronto. Look these up on meetup or also MOMS Club ( and find a group for her to go to.

My husband is the chief breadwinner, working from home, (I also work about 20 hours a week from home for which we have childcare). I am the chief caregiver for the kids. That means that if my husband needs to work, I suck it up and deal with it. Doesn't matter if they are screaming, sick, I'm sick, the weather sucks, etc. It's my job to deal with it. My husband's job is to focus on his work so that he can keep his job and keep getting paid. Our house is a mess, and he wisely doesn't complain, any cooking is a mutual chore/decision, but the kids are chiefly my problem. I can't believe you are changing most of the diapers. Does she actually bring the baby to you while you are working and say, "I need you to change the diaper?" If she needs medication for germ-o-phobe issues, she needs to get some, but she obviously needs to be changing the diapers. Baby poop is disgusting. That's why you wash your hands afterwards.

I have activities (mostly free) that I do with my kids practically every day. This keeps us happy and sane. Hanging out around the house all day trying to catch up on sleep is not the way it should be at four months, unless you are landed gentry (and even then, it's hard to see why that's how you want to spend your time). You have kids, you don't get to sleep as much. You deal with it. It will get better when the kid is older, but you can't hold your breath for that, you have to just start trying to find ways of enjoying your life NOW.

OK. I'm truly sorry if that sounded harsh, but obviously this is for your eyes only. I'll trust you to be kind and tactful when dealing with this yourself.

p.s. If I were you I'd be sleeping on the couch until the baby is out of the bed. I know some people love co-sleeping, but I never got why it was better to have the two adults sleep less. As least get a sidecar-style cosleeper or basinet.

p.p.s. If nursing is such a chore, she needs to quit and start pumping or formula feeding. Breastmilk is great for the baby, but if it saps all your energy, it's not working out. Maybe at least a few formula feedings a day?
posted by tk at 9:38 AM on January 25, 2012 [5 favorites]

I agree with zizzle, primarily. I should also note that at 4 months, my partner does EVERYTHING. I'm still struggling to do the dishes every other day, and we have a really easy baby. (Of course I watch him by myself for 10 hours a day, too.)

I agree that hiring help is the way to go right now, but I'd also ask her to take the baby alone while you go to work for a few days. Her confidence might not be there because she's never been alone with him.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:41 AM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Get the baby out of the bed and into some sort of side sleeper you are all waking each other up and stopping the baby and the baby is stopping you guys from getting a good nights sleep.

She has breast fed for 4 months, there are no awards for killing yourself by breastfeeding, get her to look at supplemental feedings or switching to formula. Make sure you wife is eating right and taking supplements.

I know that saying don't co sleep, don't breast feed are pretty much heresy in modern mothering, but I watched my SIL spiral into 6 months of Post Natal Depression and exhaustion trying to be the perfect mother. Good enough is fine encourage her to understand that. If the kid is clean, fed and has a warm comfortable place to sleep it will be fine, all the rest is just bells and whistles.

Get your wife to a doctor that is sympathetic about her c-section still hurting and get her some help for it and suck it up and bring up PND as a possiblility.

If you can afford it or have a friend or family member that wants to help, get someone in to clean once a week. Buy frozen dinners, you can get pretty healthy ones if you look around, so you don't have to worry about meals.

You need to slowly wean your wife off of your support at home so you can go out and support your family by working. Maybe start with an hour or 2 a day for a few weeks and then just move the time up a little bit. Once she realises she can cope it will help her confidence with the baby in a lot of ways.
posted by wwax at 9:51 AM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Everything everyone else said - especially zizzle! Eval for PPD and C-section pain. Wear the baby. Get out of the house several times a week. Hire a housekeeper. Buy a crockpot. Get an Arms Reach co-sleeper so she can sleep a bit more deeply. Pump so you, dad, can take over a feed or two - Aim for getting mom a good 6 hour stretch of sleep (lifechanging).
I was a mess for about 6 months after my first. Looking back, I think I must have had PPD. Plus, my kid had protein allergies and reflux so she never, ever slept. Babies are hard! They take every bit of your attention and sleep and they suck your brains right out of your head. Cut her some slack, but make her check out her mental and physical health. You both need to be healthy so your kid can be healthy.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 10:34 AM on January 25, 2012

What are some things the father did to support you in this process?

One thing jumps immediately out at me.

(I'd say right now household chores are close to 50/50. ... She does most of the cleaning [apart from the toilets] because I'm a hopeless slob and she's a germaphobe).

This seems like a really easy thing to remove from the equation. From this line, nearly 50% of your total household chores is the cleanup necessary from you being a "slob" as you said.

If this is true, why not get this way more under control so you can knock out 50% of your household chores?
posted by cairdeas at 10:37 AM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Once the pain for the c-section is dealt with, your wife might benefit from physical therapy.

My insurance doesn't cover it, that's why I had to hire somebody. I went back to hiking OK after 5 months, but recently couldn't get through even 10 minutes of an easy yoga routine. That's when I realized I needed professional guidance.

About her back pain...

I have it too. Along with any injury that exacerbates things, many many people have lower back pain because of the way our muscles work (or atrophy) thanks to modern life. Basically, our core muscles don't get used much, so other muscles compensate and put pressure on the lower back, especially. So, your wife's back pain will surely get worse if she can't heal her abdominal muscles and build them back up to strength.

Google "Lower Cross Syndrome" for more on this.

Nthing everyone who recommends taking care of the sleep deprivation and chronic pain (or nutritional depletion I suggested) is critical. It is hard to feel good emotionally when your body feels like crap.
posted by jbenben at 10:50 AM on January 25, 2012

Please. We're kinda beating a dead horse at this point here, but... Doctor for screening for PPD and for what's up with her back if she can't hold baby - having a newborn is tough and there is no doubt that you're a zombie for the first three months AT LEAST, but I've got a 2 month old and a 2.5 year old, both c-sections (and many moms I know have had them as well) and my husband went back to work his 14-hour days the day I got home from the hospital with both of them. YES - it was/is overwhelming and I didn't get much done besides getting out of bed and feeding the three of us for a bit, but now I'm 2 months postpartum and doing everything I have ever done running my house, but with lots of adjusted expectations about what constitutes a clean house and what is "necessary" to do in the span of a day.

However - and I'm not saying this to be harsh to your wife but to highlight that something needs to be done but it's not for you to stay home and help with everything - being unable to care for one child and just *exist* at home at 4 months postpartum is not normal and should be checked out. Especially if your wife is exhausted still, nursing every two hours, and unable to hold or change the baby. I'm not saying your wife is being a weenie about her pain or her ability to do stuff. I'm just saying that something really is wrong, either physically or mentally there that she needs help with. It's awesome you have helped her out this long but if she really is this miserable, it's worth looking into further, whether a new doc, nutrition changes, lifestyle changes, whatever...

Here are some suggestions, besides the obvious, which is See A Doctor, Please and have them check for PPD, her thyroid function, and pain needs!:

1 - If you go shopping, make sure your wife has lots of healthy snacks on hand and water - nursing is exhausting but only if you aren't getting the nutrients you need to support you and baby. You need LOTS of water and to eat high fat/nutrient stuff like almonds, raisins, milk, cheese, etc. all day long to keep yourself from bottoming out.

2 - Consider feeding baby some rice cereal or something that you and your pediatrician think is appropriate. 4 months is not that early to start to feed them "real" food (slowly, and being careful abut allergens, yadda yadda yadda...)and it will hopefully keep your wife from nursing every two hours, which isn't absurdly abnormal, but if it's overwhelming your wife and sapping her dry, it may be too much for her right now.

3 - Any chance you guys can get baby out of your bed so you can sleep a little better in between feeds? With my first, she basically slept in bed with us until 9 months which I thought was more convenient, but I NEVER slept because I couldn't relax. Once we got her used to her own spot (still in our room, but in a pack n play), I couldn't believe how rested I felt even though I was still waking for feedings at the same frequency.

4 - Starting right now, when you take things out and use them, put them back right away. Let momma take the baby part of things (ala - she does the diaper changes), and you take care of not being a hindrance instead. If you are a slob and your wife is stuck in the house all day with cabin fever from being babyhousebound and freaking because she has to look at your mess, this helps neither of you. I get it. My husband helps around the house when he can on weekends, but otherwise ends up pulling stuff out to use and leaving it out, which makes me absolutely insane. I hate being in a totally messy house, especially when I'm not able to go out and do much when the kids are little. You can help by not contributing to the disorder. Let her get into the housework that is part of every day life - laundry, dishes, whatever, but when it comes to messes that are completely unnecessary like piles of clothes on the floor that you haven't bothered to take ten feet to the hamper, stuff on the kitchen table other than food and silverware... put things away as you use them and don't let that stuff creep into your house and into your wife's brain.
posted by takoukla at 10:55 AM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Things were tough for me at first. It took me a while to figure shit out. I was depressed and my baby was a constant eater (breastfeeding, and all attempts at bottles failed miserably), and a terrible sleeper. I was a mess. But my husband HAD to go back to work, there was no work from home option, I had to just get through the days, often 12 hours or more, alone with my baby. For a long while my husband was still doing more of the housework than he had before the baby, still cooking a lot of dinners when he came home from work. Memory is fuzzy, but I think our daughter was six months old before I was anywhere near "normal" (though my definition of "clean" has pretty much never recovered). Things were chaos for a time, but we all lived through it.

I think there's something going on, possibly she's depressed. Can you just go to work someday? For a few hours even, half a day? Do you ever have to go to meetings? Maybe she needs a bit of trial by fire to see she really CAN do it.
posted by upatree at 11:31 AM on January 25, 2012

I'm not a lady, I'm just a guy with twin 6-month-olds, but if you ask me you should give the baby a bottle of formula at least once a day. Babies don't eat as often on formula. If the baby sleeps two hours and then you give it a bottle and it sleeps 3-4 hours afterwards, then your wife could sleep for 6-7 hours uninterrupted, and then she will feel better in the daytime. Also our doctor told us to start trying solids at four months because they were growing so fast and eating so much, and our son took to it immediately and started sleeping a lot better. Even when we were breastfeeding at the beginning we were always supplementing with formula and our kids never ate every two hours, I mean our life is basically just on the verge of being unbearable all the time every day but holy shit I would be dead, I would literally be a corpse if we had to feed the two of them every two hours. That's just not a way that a person can live. You should give your baby formula at least once a day if you ask me. I'm not an expert on PPD or caesearean pain and you should maybe talk to a doctor about those things, but it couldn't possibly hurt for your wife to sleep for six hours once. Let her sleep an actual full sleep cycle and then see how well she does with the baby.

Also in terms of getting on to a schedule -- are you taking the baby outside at the same time everyday? Are you bathing it at the same time everyday? Etc. In other words, are you giving the baby a schedule? Babies like routine and will sleep better if you give them a schedule. Buy a sling to carry the baby, prepare a bottle of formula, and take the baby on a walk for a few hours once a day while your lady takes a nap -- and then she can rest and will be able to take care of the baby much better afterwards, presuming you can dissuade her from spending that whole time cleaning.
posted by creasy boy at 11:33 AM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have not read anything after your first update, so I apologize in advance if I am duplicating anything that has already been said. But your comment that baby wants to feed every 2 hours really jumped out at me.

Toddler thebRKP was like this. Needed to breast feed every two hours. The exhaustion I felt at 3 months (when I also had to go back to work) is still indescribable. Combined with PPD and the various issues I had breastfeeding, there were days when I would sit in the basement, in the dark, and just cry because I did not have the emotional or physical energy to do anything else.

So what helped me? My husband started taking over some of the night feedings (formula) and almost all of the household chores. I learned that it was ok to put the baby down while he was awake, on a play mat or in a rocker, so I could take a shower or make myself something to eat. When I got food poisioning and stopped breastfeeding (pumped and dumped) for 48 hours for fear of making the baby sick, my supply dried up completely and painlessly. After all the problems, I decided to take the cosmic hint and switched entirely to formula. Which meant that husband could take on additional feedings, which meant that I could do more on my own, including sleep.

The other thing that helped was one of my friends coming over once or twice a week to spend time with me. Just having her company was wonderful. She is the least baby-interested person I know, but kept me company because she cared about me.

Encourage your wife to see the doctor to have the incision checked and be reevaluated for PPD. Look around the house and see what chores you can take over for her in the short term. Find a sitter and take her out for a date - it does not have to be a long one, just go out for an hour without your baby and get some ice cream. Find out which of her friends has the time to visit with her during the day and talk her into setting up some daytime girl dates. And start going back into work, even if it is only one day a week. Slipping back into a pre-baby routine helped to add a sense of normalcy to my days, as if the world had not turned 180 degrees, but only 90.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 12:18 PM on January 25, 2012

I just want to add, if your wife doesn't want to stop nursing, please don't push the formula issue.

Formula is not an evil. My first child was primarily formula fed for a lot of reasons, but there are a lot of solutions here before "give the baby formula." How much is the baby really eating and how much is comfort? My daughter comfort nurses as much as she eats, and I'm happy to let her do that. Other mothers not so much, in which case, a pacifier would be a better solution than formula.

It may also be worth seeing a lactation consultant to make sure the baby is in fact eating well and as he should be. Nursing a lot for reasons other than comfort can also mean there is an issue. It doesn't always mean there is an issue, but it could be worth looking into.

But I really, really, really wouldn't jump to formula or rice cereal immediately. Our own very non-woo family practice strongly opposes solids before 6 months for a variety of research supported reasons.
posted by zizzle at 1:04 PM on January 25, 2012 [6 favorites]

I agree with zizzle again. There is also the fact that breastfeeding can have a positive emotional effect for some mothers. Now that I have the hang of it I find it relaxing and get a bit wound up if I don't breastfeed for a while.

However, we definitely give the baby a bottle so that I can get a full 4 hours (now stretched to 6 hours at times!) because otherwise my mental health suffers. There is nothing wrong with either option.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:08 PM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

In the longer term, once your wife is feeling more confident (and has been to a doctor) it will probably help to get out the house to work - even if its just to a nearby coffee shop. While you are working from your bed you are there and available. It might be an idea to start going out for two or three hours at a time so you are still there if she is overwhelmed later in the day.
posted by Laura_J at 1:11 PM on January 25, 2012

I am with barney_sap. We had our first one in a cradle in our bedroom and we DIDN'T SLEEP A WINK. We moved her a room or two away and once we couldn't hear every breath she took, we could get some sleep.

We fed all four of our kids formula and they are smart, happy, and healthy. This meant I could do the graveyard shift feeding, which I figured was part of being a new dad. Very shortly it became one of my favorite things ever. :7)

Also, my MiL brought us a lot of food for the first few weeks, and not having to cook was awesome. More generally, offloading some duties onto a third person is a good strategy.

And about you being "a hopeless slob"? Sorry, man, but now you're a Dad and it's time for Dadly things, like cleaning the house. I made a private contest with myself: how much of the work can I accomplish before she can? I never got it all -- my wife is a machine -- but it sure got me doing more.

Good luck! It gets better, I swear!
posted by wenestvedt at 1:31 PM on January 25, 2012 [6 favorites]

I have a 3 month old and a c-section, and a bad back due to other issues but exacerbated by pregnancy/section and am currently breastfeeding. So yes, pretty much the same situation. The first 5-6 weeks I was exhausted and put it down to sleep deprivation and the child eating around the clock (at some points he has been feeding every 1 1/2 hours). It wasn't this, it was the c-section. Once it healed, my energy levels improved drastically. I think she needs to talk to her doctor about this, it shouldn't still hurt.

Holding the baby and breastfeeding constantly with a bad back is AGONY. It gets worse and worse. I'm seeing a physio every week now in an attempt to address this who tells me it's a pregnancy hormone called relaxin relaxes the muscles and creates these issues, plus your core stomach muscles are gone due to childbirth etc. According to him this won't really clear up until I stop breastfeeding which is when the hormone goes away, although he is trying to make me more comfortable.

How do I deal with this? I breastfeed lying down. It's made a world of difference. (obviously you can't do this when you are out, but then I express or take a bit of formula.) Sitting up for any length of time, even in a car still hurts but now it's not constant and I know it will hopefully go away after breastfeeding stops (probably around 6 months for me). He's also told me to do Pilates and I will start shortly, this apparently is a big help and will rebuild my core.

Ditto what everyone else has said about making sure your wife is eating well. If the baby is only ever feeding at 2 hour intervals and this is not just a growth spurt (in other words, she/he's never going to 3-4 hours at night etc) in your situation I would express as much as she can and give it to him in one hit before you put him down at night. The more milk they get the longer they sleep.

My little one only takes one breast therefore only gets a certain amount from that but if I express more than that (ie, both), he'll take more in a bottle and therefore sleep longer. If very exhausted, consider a bottle of formula at night - it takes them longer to digest so they sleep longer. Hey, whatever works and if it buys her 5 hours of straight sleep, I'm all for it.

The cleaning... let it go. get a cleaner, whatever. As long as you're not living in squalor, she needs to learn to get over it because her germaphobe tendencies are impacting the whole family now and your ability to earn a living and support your family. You need to go back to work and she needs to deal with her pain issues and start getting the baby to sleep more than 2 hours straight, more food will do that in whatever way you choose to get it into him/her.

Re the co-sleeping thing, it seems to make sense when the child is feeding that often, but assuming the above works and they start sleeping longer, it's time to get them into their own bed/room if you two ever want to get any sleep of your own. It sounds harsh and I know they're so tiny but really, everyone, baby included will get more sleep that way and your wife won't be so exhausted - she'll make more milk, she'll heal faster, she'll be more functional and so will you. We moved our little one in his own room at 2 months - in stages, first during the day, then I stayed in his room on a pull out couch at night for a week so he got comfortable, now he sleeps by himself, it's been 3 weeks.

Last night he slept through till 5.30 and I had to wake him up for a feed (first time! Yay!) so here's proof that someone in your wife's circumstance can come out the other end - though still early days of course. Now this is just what worked for us, but it's what you asked for, so I hope the info is helpful and not too preachy.

I don't think your wife is a wimp but I do think she now needs to be proactive in addressing this because you can't bear the burden indefinitely without your work taking a hit which is bad for everyone. Best of luck, she can always memail me if she needs a support buddy, and you can too, it's rough out there! You'll get there, everyone does. Oh and tell her to join a mother's group.Nothing like knowing other ladies in the same boat as you.
posted by Jubey at 6:52 PM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Train yourself to put everything you use away when you're done with it. Dirty dishes straight into the dishwasher. Clothes straight into the hamper. Clean laundry straight into the closet, etc. etc.

Makes life easier for her now, and will be an excellent habit to be in by the time the little one is mobile and grabbing stuff.
posted by elizeh at 7:46 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had a c-section w/my first. He was born in Jan. and we'd just moved to Michigan, where it was cold and dark and I knew nobody. I recovered from the c-section pretty well, but the baby had reflux, which meant he was up all the freakin' time (reflux = pain, nursing makes it feel better - so he wanted to nurse every other minute it seemed). We started him on meds for that and I cut out dairy for awhile, which also helped with the reflux.

What really helped me, though, was the infant massage class I was lucky enough to get into. The instructor was a local massage therapist who specialized in prenatal and infant massage, and she was wonderful. I learned to be confident in handling my baby, and we did massage almost every night until he was about a year old. To this day (he's 7 now) he still likes it when I massage his legs and feet. Plus getting to hang out once a week with other moms like me was really nice, since I'd moved away from my support group.

The other thing I learned to do was stockpile breastmilk, and when I'd get to the ragged edge of not enough sleep, I'd wear earplugs to bed and let Dad get up and give baby a bottle and do the night care. I didn't do it often (maybe once a month), but it was my lifeline when things got overwhelming. I've known parents who split the night shift - if baby is up before 1am, mom handles it; after 1am, dad handles it. We have an aunt and uncle who used to alternate nights.

I went back to work full-time at 12 weeks and I was feeling good at that point. Kiddo was pretty well set in his routine with eating and naps, though I BF on demand (we nursed through 1 yr) and never worried about forcing a routine. I was tired ALL THE TIME though. I wasn't just tired, actually - I was kind of a ghost. That level of sleep deprivation is not something I ever got used to, but I coped OK, and it got a tiny bit better every month.

So I think you should def. be back to work outside the home, and it sounds like she really needs some additional support. If you're worried about her having PPD, please tell her so and encourage her to call her drs office. She might not like hearing it initially, but in the big picture she needs to take care of herself so that she can take care of the baby. And if she's not part of a mom's group, or going to regular events where she can meet moms with young babies, it might really help to initiate something.
posted by hms71 at 8:57 PM on January 25, 2012

Have two beds, at opposite ends of the house. Swap co-sleeping duties. The person who is 'off-shift' needs to actually, properly, *sleep*. As far a feeding goes, either formula, or just bring the baby to the mother, and latch the baby on without waking up mum too much. If you are both sleeping, you'll both feel ridiculously better. Seriously, if someone comes and looks after the baby for a few hours? Go to sleep.
If you have visitors, and want to help 'with the baby'? Best thing for them to do is clean.

Look up some baby feeding-sleeping books. You need to get the breastfeeding out to every 3-4 hours, because that shit is exhausting when doing it constantly.
I know from my nephew that it wasn't just the breastfeeding, it was the whole cycle of nappy change, feed, slight snooze, burping, want to play! Feeding again, and on it went, between which you are trying to get washing on, get bottles washed. Hectic.

It does get easier...
posted by Elysum at 11:16 PM on January 30, 2012

My son is 11mos old now and I can say that it does get better and yes, they do start sleeping and while I can VIVIDLY remember what your family is going through, it also seems like a thousand years ago.

I didn't have a c-section or PPD, but I can say that the one thing that absolutely helped me the most in the first six months was getting a solid chunk of sleep. I breastfed, but in the mornings from 6-10AM, my husband took the baby - who got a bottle of formula - and I got my only chunk of sleep longer than an hour. My own situation was complicated by my having epilepsy and thus needing more sleep than your average bear to begin with, so this wasn't just crucial to keep me happy - it was crucial to keep me conscious.

Anyhow, we chose formula during my nap and chose the morning as the time that worked best for my husband to take him single-handedly. Other than this one bottle, he was breastfed and after he started sleeping more at night and my husband started teaching in the mornings, he was exclusively breastfed until he self-weaned at 10mos. For us, formula was the right way to have someone else feed him as my neurologist advised me not to pump as I needed as much sleep as humanly possible with a newborn. For someone else, pumping might be the better choice.

That one four hour chunk per day absolutely kept me going.

Oh, and baby wearing. I still wear my son in his Ergo pretty regularly and he's creeping up on 20lbs. In the beginning, I wore a sling and that got hard on my back when he hit about 16lbs. If your wife is having c-section scar issues, I'm not sure if an Ergo would work as the belt goes over your belly - but it's pretty much the one baby item that I recommend that every parent gets. It's amazing. A Moby type wrap is a little more cumbersome, but might be a good choice for your wife to distribute weight better than a sling and also avoid putting any pressure on her c-section scar. For you? Try to wear your baby as much as you can in whatever contraption is most comfortable for you - it'll at least free up a second hand to type with! (My husband wore our son in the sling, which had the bonus of being so adorable I nearly died.)
posted by sonika at 10:46 AM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Okay, coming in here to post an update.

First of all, I have had to do a lot of thinking about what is really going on with me, starting with the realization that part of me doesn't want to work at all. The first week or so after birth when I was not working at all were really wonderful and it was just so great to be able to spend time with the baby and not feel any pressures. Also, the truth is I have not been doing all I can to focus on work even when I'm not confronted with outside distractions. So there's a lot of work I need to do to get myself in gear.

Second thing is it helped to hear reinforcement of both sides of the issue -- first, that I wasn't crazy for wanting some autonomy and to be able to get away and work and second that for some people it just takes a long while to recover from pregnancy.

Here are the things I'm currently working/planning/doing to help with the issue:
  • Food -- I'm going to try to make sure that we have plenty of food in the house. I'm going to continue my role as primary meal-cooker and try to make excess food so that we always have leftovers she can eat later.
  • Outside help -- a friend has agreed to be (for pay) a "Mommy's helper" and come over to clean, do some cooking, and take care of the baby for a while to give my wife a break.
  • Chores -- I am taking baby steps to be less of a slob. I'll also work with her to figure out a fair and doable distribution of tasks over the week
This past week, my boss called me. He questioned whether I was able to focus when doing all of my work from home. It was a pretty scary conversation initially, but after telling him that things were going better and that I intended to start going into the office he started sounding a bit more relieved so one of the bright sides of the talk is that it really brought to home to my wife how important it was that I be able to get dedicated work time during the day. As a result, most of last week I hardly ever had to take over looking after the baby during work hours, although we agreed that in exchange I need to take a larger share of that during the weekend.

The big news
Tomorrow (that, is "today" Monday) is the first day that I'm leaving the house to work. I am very nervous about it and hope everything will be okay at home; I think this will be the longest time away from my son. We've arranged for our friend the "momme's helper" to come in tomorrow morning after I leave to keep my wife company and help her out.

She is planning on going to a new mothers social group this Wednesday. She has started taking short walks around the block while holding our baby in an Ergo to build up her back strength. She plans to use some of the time that the mommy's helper is taking over to do some Yoga (she tried to do it earlier but the baby would always start to cry halfway through it).

We actually have both the Moby and the Ergo but have had a heck of a time figuring out how to use them correctly. I'm guessing YouTube is good for that but we always forget to have the Ergo around when we're near a computer and vice versa.

I did broach the subject of PPD with my wife; she is very certain she doesn't have it and I expect she would know, having dealt with depression in the past. She thinks these symptoms are largely a function of the surgery and a lack of sleep.

There are still a few things I think we can work on that I will gently bring up with her:
  • Hydration -- she doesn't get thirsty normally, so basically she has to remember to drink. Nearly everything I read online says that breastfeeding mothers should drink "to thirst" which is useless when you are rarely thirsty (except when you are at the point of actual dehydration). I'm trying to figure out techniques to get her to drink more often *without* seeming like I'm prodding or judgmental. Also, when "to thirst" isn't an option, how much should she actually be drinking each day? Is 8 cups/day more than enough?
  • Supplements, etc. - I think she was actually supposed to be having iron during her pregnancy as well; the problem was that the recommended supplement (a kind of liquid iron?) tasted terrible and was a pain to remember to take because it had to be refrigerated and apparently couldn't be consumed with other foods. I'm guessing a multivitamin wouldn't hurt either.
  • Exercise -- we *both* need more exercise; I"m going to start figuring out a way that we can take walks together (maybe during my lunch hour) with the baby, just to stay more in shape

posted by nosh, daven, shtup at 10:32 PM on February 5, 2012

Water/liquids--If she's not feeling thirsty and the baby has lots of diapers and good growth, she's probably drinking enough. I drink about 48oz a day, some days more, some days less. I think making sure she has her beverages of choice around is key, plus water bottles so she can drink anywhere. I'm sick of water at this point and will chug almost anything else in gratitude that it's not water.

Wearing the baby--give up on the moby unless you have a tiny baby. It's great for newborns, but the Ergo is much easier and will be useful for longer.

Once you get the waistband on and comfortable, pick up the baby. Put the arms on while juggling the baby and keeping the baby's butt inside the fabric pouch and one leg sticking out each side. While supporting the baby's back with one hand, pull up on the fabric until the baby's butt is as low as it will go. Clip the strap by the neck. If the baby seems insecure or you feel like you need to lean back to compensate, tighten the armbands. If it all gets fucked up, take the baby out and start over.

Vitamins--is she anemic? That could be causing a lot of her problems. She needs to be tested for it and they might be able to give her an iron injection. If not, chewable kids vitamins with iron are a godsend in terms of taste.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:16 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Ergo is about the easiest carrier in the world to use. Here's a YouTube clip - - but pretty much, if you can put on a backpack, you can put on an Ergo. Bonus - at four months, your baby has outgrown the bulky insert!

While breastfeeding, I was advised by my midwife to keep taking my prenatal vitamin. This might help your wife a lot!

I was also advised to drink a glass of water every time I nursed. Of course, I was INCREDIBLY thirsty so this wasn't really needed as prodding - but it might be a good rule of thumb. A number of women I know have observed that keeping hydrated was the easiest thing they did to boost their supply, so it'll really, REALLY help for her to drink more fluids.
posted by sonika at 8:02 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

the problem was that the recommended supplement (a kind of liquid iron?) tasted terrible and was a pain to remember to take because it had to be refrigerated and apparently couldn't be consumed with other foods. I'm guessing a multivitamin wouldn't hurt either.

I was unable to take vitamins during and after my pregnancy - they made me throw up.

My midwife had me eat two - three servings a day of Total brand cereal. Pretty much all the vitamins, plus fiber (plus milk). Cold cereal was kind of godsend after my son was born, actually - I could eat it with one hand, it was filling, and they add so many nutrients to it that it's actually doing more than its fair share to keep you going when you're too tired to eat anything else.

Thanks for sharing your update with us!
posted by anastasiav at 8:55 PM on February 7, 2012

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