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My Korean wife and I are expecting our first child in a couple of months and I am curious how things normally go directly after birth. My assumption was that both my wife and I would need to be constantly caring for the child but she thinks that it will be me doing basically everything except breatfeeding. Quote from her copied from text message

i'm just going to feed the baby that's all i'll do i'm staying only in the bedroom nobody else than you and [the dog] is allowed in the bedroom. that's all I want you take care of your parents if you want them to come if you want to know what other people usually do about visitors, you can google you should start reading about baby and wife care

I really have no idea what to expect, so what she is expecting feasible or is it going to be impossible?

Also I thought we would need a lot of help so I was going to invite my parents to come (hers will come a couple of months later). Is it normally helpful to have parents around immediately after the birth or is it better to wait and do things alone?

  • Hi and welcome to Parenting.SE! Please take the tour and read the help center. Like on every other stack, questions are supposed to ask only one question. Is your question about your wife's expectations or about your parents being around immediately after birth? Regarding the latter, this may depend on your parents and we don't know them. I'm not sure how others' experiences may be helpful there. – Anne Daunted GoFundMonica Jun 10 at 15:12
  • @AnneDaunted Thanks for the welcome, I would classify this as a two part single question about the experience immediately after birth. a) Is my wife only resting and feeding an option? b) is having parents (or any help) a good idea? – Max Ehrlich Jun 10 at 18:56
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    In some cultures, what your wife is suggesting is exactly what happens when women give birth in that culture. For example, see For Chinese Moms, Birth Means 30 Days In Pajamas. I don't know what your wife's cultural background is, and whether it's different from yours, of course. – Greg Hewgill Jun 10 at 22:04
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    @GregHewgill That's very interesting, she's Korean, there's a lot of overlap in the two cultures – Max Ehrlich Jun 11 at 14:12
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If you set things up the right way, mom only resting, holding baby and feeding for the first few days is feasible, and may even be ideal for establishing a good milk supply if she wants to exclusively breastfeed.

The first week or so, a breastfed newborn's basic needs are as follows:

  • Clean diaper and clothing
  • Nursing on demand (which is usually very, very often 'round the clock)
  • Remaining at the right temperature
  • Being held close (ideally skin-to-skin) by a parent/caregiver as much as possible

That's basically it. Newborns don't need to be bathed daily, and some of the household chores can wait a couple days for your wife to begin her physical recovery from birth. If you prepare in advance with a safe sleep space for baby in your bedroom, food for the adults ready to easily heat up, plenty of diapers and baby supplies stocked up, etc., it's reasonable to let mom rest, nurse, hold the baby and have other family members take care of the other tasks, which are essentially, diaper changes, making sure the new mother is fed and drinks enough water, care for the dog, and washing lots and lots of baby laundry. You may also be the one to get the baby in and out of the crib or bassinet for the first days if it's painful for your wife. Reaching down into the crib to pick up the baby was excruciating in the first days after my C-section!

Do be aware that a newborn is going to want to be held and/or nursed pretty much 24/7, and it's healthy to provide this level of contact as much as possible. So in this scenario your wife is probably still going to be the one caring for the baby a good deal of the time, but 'caring' in this case is mainly just holding/skin-to-skin, snuggling, rocking, nursing, nursing, nursing some more.

It's probably not a feasible plan for very long, as the needs of a baby rapidly expand, but as you have no other children to care for you may be able to make it happen for a brief time while she recovers.

Having your parents to help or not is a very personal thing. It's not uncommon for a brand new mom to be very 'territorial' and not want any extra people in the house, and especially not to want to be a hostess for any guests. Also some grandparents are pleased to wash out poopy baby clothes and make a run to the store because you forgot to buy baby shampoo, and others would like to be entertained, hold your new baby, eat whatever is in your fridge and generally be more work than help. Only you know which kind you have!

If your wife does not want to have your parents there right away because she honestly doesn't think it would be actually helpful, I think it's best to go along with her wishes.

Edit: For full disclosure, I did not stay in bed/my room after my baby was born, but he nursed so long and so often that I was basically in the rocking chair or on the couch and out of commission at least 50% of the time anyhow for about the first 5 days!

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    As for the relatives - the fluctuating hormones after birth may not be helpful when it comes to dealing with family that may rub the new mother the wrong way. Just saying... – Stephie Jun 10 at 21:37
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    I like this answer, except for the comment about the baby preferring contact with mother. We don't have any studies that suggest this. Either parent will do. – Rory Alsop Jun 10 at 21:43
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    Some good - no, great! - advice here (especially about visiting grandparents), so +1 from me. But... I (also) am curious about the statement, "...baby would prefer it to be mom that does most of the holding...". I understand the importance of infant-parent skin-to-skin contact, but am unaware of any study concluding there is a gender preference on the part of the infant. Please supply the source of this information. – anongoodnurse Jun 11 at 0:59
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    I really lashed out at my MiL as soon as I came home from the hospital for cleaning up the master bedroom (and being nice). Fortunately, both my husband and MiL did not take it to heart. So it really depends on the relationship your wife has with your parents. If breast feeding, the baby is going to be at the breast for atleast 50% of the time, so make sure your wife has a comfortable chair (rocker with pedestal or a lazyboy work best) to sit and sleep in. – user61034 Jun 11 at 3:41
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    Thanks so much for the detailed response, this is really good information. Based on this I'll start preparing early so that she can have the experience she wants – Max Ehrlich Jun 11 at 14:13
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I really have no idea what to expect, so what she is expecting feasible or is it going to be impossible?

In the short run, yes, it's feasible. You can take care of the baby's needs (except, obviously, for breastfeeding). So if you can take a few days/a week or two off work, you can do most of the baby care (changing diapers, carrying the baby, rocking him/her, lulling him/her to sleep, getting up at night, bathing him/her etc. Most of these things come naturally and don't have to be learned in advance, although reading a book about baby care certainly won't hurt; when you're not sure about something, you can ask the nurses at the hospital to show you, but even with their help it's normal to feel overwhelmed at first).

In the long run, obviously this isn't going to work. You'll have to share the work of caring for the baby because babies are just too. much. work for a single person to do it next to a day job. Also, I think it's better if both parents care for the child; not necessarily for the child (who most likely doesn't care yet), but for the process of growing into a family together, and so both of you know what taking care of the baby means, so that you can discuss how to do things when you're unsure about something (which will be often).

you can google you should start reading about baby and wife care

I don't know your wife, but I'd take this sentence seriously. It's hard to judge from a text message that doesn't transport any emotional context, but to me, it sounds strangely like an accusation that you're not doing or caring enough (especially with the first sentence "I'm just going to feed the baby that's all I'll do"). So you should probably talk about this.

As for having relatives in the house, yes, any additional help is useful when there's a newborn around, especially to keep the household running while you're taking care of the baby/wife (especially when your wife needs to recover from a difficult birth), but I don't think there's any general answer to your exact question:

Is it normally helpful to have parents around immediately after the birth or is it better to wait and do things alone

You'll have to talk to your wife and see if she's uncomfortable with your parents around to find the answer to that. I would err on the side of making your wife feel more comfortable, even if it means more work for you, unless you're getting too overwhelmed with work.

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