There's a big difference between the newborn photos new moms share on social media, and the pictures that are saved on their phone for their own private browsing. And it's understandable to a certain degree! No mother wants to share all of the precious moments, or the pictures that are a little "too real" for Aunt Betty and everyone else to see.
Whether it's because the photos are sentimental and you want to hold on to them for yourself, or because you don't think they're flattering, these raw, real photos after having a baby are the best, by far.
My sister-in-law is a photographer, so she shot my birth and all of the pictures that came after. I didn't share the real ones. I tucked them away on my computer for my family, and that was that. But I have so much respect for women who are willing to share their stories online, no matter how messy or sensitive they are. They put themselves in a vulnerable position in order to help other women feel less alone, and to share their story - the whole story, not just the fluff.
Let's take a look at 15 raw photos that show what life is really like after the baby is born.
15 Beyond Exhausted
Chances are you'll end up falling asleep with your baby at least a time or two. Of course, it's never recommended, especially when you take severe exhaustion into account. But it happens to the best of us. If you feel like you're going to fall asleep with your baby, it's best to have someone else nearby, to keep an eye on things and make sure the both of you are laying in a safe position.
I won't lie, I was this mom on several occasions. I'd always wake up with a jolt, terrified and confused at how I let it happen. But it's natural, you just have to be extremely careful.
Newborns spend about sixteen to seventeen hours a day sleeping. If you have a newborn right now and your tired brain can't figure out the math, just know that it's a LOT.
Sometimes it's hard to lay them down without waking them up, and sometimes you'll both fall asleep while nursing. It's adorable and concerning all at the same time.
Lori Feldman-Winter, the co-author of the new recommendations of the AAP concerning SIDS, says, "If you are feeding your baby and think that there’s even the slightest possibility that you may fall asleep, feed your baby on your bed, rather than a sofa or cushioned chair."
14 Getting Milked
Milk drunk baby pictures are just the best, aren't they? There's nothing cuter than a baby who's just passed out after a big meal. There's more to it than the fact that babies sleep a lot. Anyone that has breastfed will tell you that there's an intense feeling of sleepiness that washes over you, especially towards the end of the feeding.
The same thing happens with babies. It's more common in newborns under three months old, but the effect can last as long as you breastfeed.
According to Pinky McKay, "Breastmilk contains a range of hormones, including oxytocin, prolactin, and cholecystokinin (CCK). These hormones are released in both mother and baby during breastfeeding and have a sedating effect on both of you."
So, not to worry! I've seen countless forums and questions from new mothers asking why their baby gets so drowsy during feedings, to the point where they almost seem intoxicated.
It's all normal! The hormones your body is producing is putting your baby to sleep. What's even cooler is there have been studies done that suggest a breastfeeding mother's nighttime milk supply contains peak levels of melatonin to help your baby get on a schedule. Could the human body be any cooler?
13 Diapers All Around
Most people are so excited about their new baby coming, that they often aren't fully aware of the less-than-pleasant things that go on with a woman's body after the delivery. You think pushing and birthing the baby is hard? As someone who had an episiotomy and was sent home with zero meds (yes, I did call some in soon after) let me tell you - it's rough.
If you weren't aware, women have to practically wear diapers for quite some time after the birth, and the bleeding can last up to six weeks. Of course, after the first couple of weeks, it should just be a light flow or some spotting. Or, if you're incredibly unlucky like me, you'll get about 2 weeks to breathe and then your period will hit, making it almost 3 months of god-awful messiness and pain.
You'll be hooked up with a gigantic pair of stretchy mesh underwear, and the biggest pads you've ever seen in your life. Oh yeah, and the good ol' squirt bottle. Can't forget about that! You won't want to wipe down there (you really shouldn't), and honestly, you shouldn't even look down there for a while if you know what's good for you.
Not only will you be changing your little ones' diapers for the first time, you'll be changing your own. Oh, the joys of motherhood.
12 Milk Machine
The amount of time that new breastfeeding moms spend breastfeeding or pumping is absolutely insane. Some days it feels like it's all you do! Especially for those who have encountered issues early on, from their baby not latching, to a low milk supply. When a new mom is trying to build their milk supply up, they'll often pump during a nursing session, or even immediately after. If their baby isn't latching at all, and they're exclusively pumping, they'll often be attached to the pump every hour and a half to two hours, for about 30 minutes per session.
I remember those days all too well, and while there were parts of it that I miss immensely, like the bond I felt with my son and a feeling of pride for producing something that nourishes him, there were many aspects that I don't miss at all.
Waking up every 2 hours, being attached to the couch practically all day when your little one is cluster feeding, it's all pretty overwhelming, especially for first-time moms. No matter how much you research and talk to other moms, nothing can mentally or physically prepare you for the amount of work that goes into breastfeeding.
11 Stuck To The Pump
Continuing on from the last picture, moms who pump are practically attached to their breast pump at all times. It's crazy how much misinformation there is out there regarding women who exclusively pump, but you should know that it is possible, but it is difficult.
Kelly Mom sums it up perfectly, "Sadly, many (including health care providers) will tell mom that this is a crazy idea, and “it’ll never work”; “you’ll run out of milk”; or will say “you simply will not be able to keep up”. Without the support and information she needs, a mom may simply give up.
Those who don’t give up often are faced with other issues to overcome. They often feel like they are in a class by themselves, excluded from the usual groups of moms who typically form into “support groups” either for breastfeeding mothers, or for formula feeding mothers."
I remember feeling this way. My son had a poor latch, so yes, I would breastfeed, but often times my supply would dip down and I'd end back up on the pump from sun-up to sun-down. (Really, it was sun-up to sun-up). Mothers who exclusively pump often feel alone and left with very little support. The bottom line - moms who decide to pump should do so every 2 hours, waiting no longer than 3 hours between sessions. Say goodbye to sleep!
10 Cutting The Cord
This is such a beautiful moment that this photographer caught. Home births are fascinating and beautiful, and the father cutting the cord is just too sweet!
Dads have been cutting the umbilical cord for a long time, and it's often seen as a deep bonding experience between the father and his new son or daughter. According to Essential Baby,
"A Portuguese study published late last year suggests that dads who didn’t cut the umbilical cord showed a decrease in emotional involvement with the baby one month after the birth, when compared to those who did."
Still, there are fathers who refuse, such as Andrew Cahill. He told Essential Baby, "I do feel there is something a bit forced about the father cutting the cord, an attempt to give the man a role to play, when really, in my view, he doesn't need one."
Other men refuse simply because they're squeamish as the cutting of the umbilical cord has a surgical feel to it.
Still, whenever a dad decides to do it, it's always looked on favorably. There's just something so sweet and sentimental about it! While some may feel that it's almost as if men are forcing their way into an experience that they don't belong in, the general consensus seems to be that it's nothing more than a sweet moment. Men are very much a part of the birthing process if they so choose to be.
9 Real Life Vs Social Media
Kathy DiVincenzo summed up postpartum depression beautifully in a Facebook post featuring the two pictures shown above. In the post she asks for us to “push past the discomfort society has placed on postpartum mental illness” and hear her out. She admits that she suffers from postpartum depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
She writes, "I feel like it’s time to show you what that can really look like, not just the side of me that’s ‘Facebook worthy.'”
“The only thing more exhausting than having these conditions is pretending daily that I don’t.” DiVincenzo writes. “I work twice as hard to hide this reality from you because I’m afraid to make you uncomfortable. I’m afraid you’ll think I’m weak, crazy, a terrible mother, or the other million things my mind convinces me of and I know I’m not alone in those thoughts.”
I think many women can relate to this. Postpartum depression often goes undiagnosed and untreated because women want to feel strong, and in control of their emotions after having a baby. We don't judge others who suffer from it, but we certainly don't want to be the one who has to see a doctor and admit that our feelings are less than pleasant.
Everyone pictures new moms as women who are completely in love with their new life. Maybe a little exhausted and overwhelmed at times, but overall, it's expected that we'll share beautiful, clean pictures of our new babies while gushing about how in love we are and how perfect and complete our lives now feel. For many women, it's not so black and white.
8 Meeting The Siblings
Introducing the new baby to their siblings and cousins is always fun, but it can be a little overwhelming. Everyone wants to hold the baby, everyone's just losing their minds over this adorable ball of cuteness that they can now call their family. It's just as heartwarming as the baby's first breath, if you ask me.
Baby Center has some awesome ideas regarding the big introduction to your older children's new sibling. "The hospital may seem unfamiliar and scary to your child, so keep visits short and flexible. Make sure a familiar adult is there whose only responsibility is your child. The caregiver may want to plan a special outing after the visit. Having somewhere fun to go makes it easier to leave Mom... Once you introduce her to her sibling, allow your child as much contact with the baby as possible. Show her the baby's body and let her touch him."
This mostly applies to introductions done in the hospital. If you wait to introduce the baby once you're ready to settle at home, you'll still need some support. And if you're smart like this family was, you can hire a photographer to capture those first moments. The pictures will surely bring tears to your eyes for years to come, and you only get one first meeting.
7 Everyone's Favorite
Everyone's favorite: Spit up! Just kidding, it really is the worst, isn't it? If you haven't been spit up on, just know that it never gets less gross, but something about it being from your own child makes it a heck of a lot better. (If it's possible to make getting spit up on a positive experience).
It is bound to happen to you at one point or another. My son didn't spit up very often, but I still woke up with it on me and on our bed on several occasions. And on about half of those occasions, I would wake up, get disgusted, get over it and decide, 'Well, I already got it on me, and the baby's still asleep, so... I'll just take care of that later.' Yes, you're allowed to judge me over that. Exhaustion can really make you put hygiene on the back-burner.
Babies spit up for various reasons. If it happens frequently, you may want to bring it up at your next pediatric appointment. Many babies suffer from acid reflux, and some medication may be required to help their discomfort and keep their milk down.
ABC recently claimed that "babies are increasingly getting misdiagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, a condition in which food and liquid in the stomach leak backward into the esophagus."
They also claim that the FDA has not approved certain drugs for children under a year old because "no studies have found them effective in that population."
Dr. Eric Hassall, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation in San Francisco told ABC that before turning to medication, parents should first try a few other things out. He claims, "Oftentimes, severe unexplained crying in healthy kids is caused by a sensitivity to a cow's milk protein. When severe unexplained crying occurs in otherwise healthy infants, prevalent causes include sensitivity to a cow's milk protein." He encourages breastfeeding women to switch up their diet before completely agreeing to try out different meds.
6 The Good Ol' Nursing Pillow
This pillow is an absolute lifesaver. Some women say they've never used it at all, but those that do almost always swear by it. Especially in those early days, where the baby can't support themselves at all, and you're still getting used to holding a newborn nonstop, nursing pillows can be super useful.
They allow you to cradle your baby without feeling like your arm is going to fall off. And as for twin moms - I just have no idea how you would tandem breastfeed without it!
A boppy pillow can work just fine, but some of the niftier nursing pillows come with straps that you snap around your waist, holding it in place. You can't get up and start walking around while the baby nurses this way, but it frees up your arms quite a bit and keeps both you and the baby comfortable.
For many breastfeeding moms, this picture shows what they do about 60% of the time. If you're not laying down nursing or trying to squeeze a shower in, you're sitting with your nursing pillow and a happy, comfortable baby. This picture brings back so many fond (and not-so-fond) memories for me.
5 You Get Your Sleep Where You Can
Does this look familiar? If you're pregnant, this is a glimpse into your future, for sure. Make sure you fall asleep with your baby in a safe position, as mentioned above. This technically wouldn't be deemed safe if a professional looked at it, but hey - it seems the dad was close by, capturing the moment and keeping an eye on things.
You gotta love how real this picture is. She doesn't look like she's faking it at all. She's exhausted, folks. She fell asleep with her shirt halfway up and a baby passed out on her belly.
This picture actually sparked a ton of comments and articles. The lady shown above is a reality star named Zoe Hendrix. She posted this picture on her Instagram with the caption, "SICK AS a flea-bitten dog in the backstreets of Bali."
Several eagle-eyed fans quickly spotted a probable cause for her sickness and discomfort: Mastitis. One commenter wrote, "As a midwife I’d say you have mastitis. I really hope you’ve jumped on it now. Best of luck it bloody sucks."
Because of her fans, Hendrix went to see her doctor and was diagnosed and put on antibiotics immediately. It's just heartwarming, isn't it? Not everyone has heard of mastitis, and even fewer people would be able to discern what her symptoms were over. But the small spot on her chest that looks a little red was a big indicator.
4 Grandma Tears
If there's ever a time to be happy to see your mother or your mother-in-law cry, it's this moment right here. Meeting their new grandchild for the first time will make just about any parent cry, no matter how tough they are.
I remember being in awe when my mom held my son for the first time. It just felt surreal. I couldn't quite imagine how she must feel, but I know it's special, and it's something I'd love to feel someday. Her baby had a baby. I mean, how cool is that? It's a big moment that will never be forgotten.
Parents who are promoted to grandparents turn into sappy fools the moment they hold the baby for the first time. If you've ever questioned whether or not your mom has any compassion after she told you not to do something as a teenager, you'll surely know at that moment. Nothing is more sacred or special than the gift of life, and the bond that families have with each other.
We're not sure if this new granny is thinking about all the money she's going to spend spoiling that baby, or simply how amazing it is that she raised a human who then produced another human, but it makes my eyes fill with tears.
3 Enough Sweet Moments To Fill Your Soul
If granny breaking down into tears wasn't enough to make the new parents cry, maybe moments like this will. No one has to have children to be complete. But I will tell you, I personally have never felt anything more fulfilling and beautiful than the little moments I spend with my husband and baby. The simplest of things can bring tears to your eyes and make you grateful for everything you've accomplished in your life. The mistakes you've made don't seem to matter once you see that you're capable of after birthing and raising another person.
Moments like taking a mid-day nap with everyone piled in the bed hold so much meaning beneath the surface. You feel connected to your partner, to your baby, to yourself. You feel right.
Except, of course, when you wake up in a puddle of spit-up. That doesn't really elicit feelings of happiness and thankfulness. Hey, not every day can be perfect!
If you have the right mindset, you can take these little moments and be grateful for them. You can stash them away to reflect on when you feel like breaking down because you're overwhelmed with life. It's all about perspective and having a positive attitude that helps you ride out the bad times.
2 Chrissy Teigen Keeps It Real
Chrissy Teigen is known for keeping things real with her followers when it comes to motherhood. She doesn't put on a pound of makeup before taking a quick picture for Instagram.
She shows it all - the real, raw, honest sides of motherhood that most people (even your average Facebook user) shy away from.
We're sure it makes her a tad uncomfortable at times because she puts herself in such a vulnerable position, but she always stands her ground and hits the publish button anyway, and for that - we love her!
Her honesty is not lost on anyone. It's refreshing coming from a celebrity. She told Yahoo Style, "I really want people to know that so many things go into all these things. Having help. My mom lives with us. I have hair and makeup people. I’m not getting up and doing all this by myself. If I’m not being done for something, I’m not going anywhere. A lot of hands go into it. We have help. It’s important for people to know that. I have the utmost respect for mothers and single mothers who go to work and come home and make dinner. I do all these things, because I have help. Luna goes down at 6:30 and has a nurse watch her, and I can cook dinner.”
Very well put! You can't judge a book by its cover, and those celebrities who seem to always look on point, even immediately after having a baby - they have help. You can't forget that.
1 Real Life, Baby
Yes, I know. Another postpartum diaper picture. They're just so real. How many people do you know that would actually post a picture of themselves like this after having a baby? I'm willing to bet, not many. Well, this celebrity had no problem with it. You can't help but be drawn to people who are so carefree and real with themselves and everyone around them.
HGTV host, Jillian Harris uploaded this picture along with her birth story to her blog. She went into labor several weeks early, and neither her nor her boyfriend were expecting it at all. They weren't even in the same city as their main delivery doctor.
Babble wrote, "Harris shared a photo of post-delivery that I think was one of the most beautiful and real moments of the entire post. You see Pasutto holding their son and Harris standing by the window, looking out in nothing but the famous mesh underwear that we all fall in love with after delivery. While it’s not glamorous, it is beautiful. And Harris proves just that." I couldn't agree more! She looks beautiful in all her mesh underwear glory!
References: Boredpanda.com, Babble.com, Huffingtonpost.com, Babycenter.com, Babble.com, Refinery29.com, Babble.com, Popsugar.com, Mumsgrapevine.com, Popsugar.com, RachaelGracePhotography.com, Scribol.com, Nursingnuture.com