For a safer and more satisfying labor and birth, researching the process and writing out our wishes for our own unique experience is helpful. But, what about our postpartum experience?
In the last post we talked about getting natural items together for our births. I thought it fitting to move from preparing for our labor and birth to preparing for our time postpartum, an experience that is just as important.
Researching to find out what we might need to thrive during this period of time is essential. A postpartum plan sets us up for an enjoyable and optimal recovery after bringing our babies earthside.
First, it will take us nine long months to grow our little loves. With excellent nutrition, supplementing, physical activity, and a compassionate, evidence based care provider to walk along side us, we can enjoy pregnancy without much discomfort or anxiety. That said, our complete healing shouldn't have to take less than nine months. Yes, I did say nine months. With an emphasis on healing and breastfeeding establishment during the first eight or more weeks, we can slowly transition into our role as momma over the next several MONTHS. I am speaking to the first time momma as well as the fifth time momma. We shouldn't give into the pressure to snap back whether it be weight wise, emotionally, or mentally. We are responsible for quite a lot now, and can only thrive when we are conscious of the need to be gentle with ourselves.
As a big side note, one of the biggest detriments to the postpartum period is visitors (please do not mistake “visitors” with “helpers”) . I know, I know. Grandma and Grandpa want to meet their grandchild and maybe hold them while we sleep. Our friends want to snuggle baby for a bit while we get stuff done around the house. Remember, everyone else will get their time to meet and greet this knew little life. We however, will NOT get these precious days of bonding and healing back.
own naps around visitors. We drifted in and out of sleep and each time she wriggled in her sleep or awoke I was close enough for an opportunity to excel in nursing). When I needed a break to care for myself, baby went to daddy’s bare chest for some skin-to-skin time.
Ok, now that my feelings about visitors (those who come to handle baby and sit on your sofa or “help” by taking baby from you while you sleep or get things done) are on the table, let's move on to some practical tips for those early postpartum days and weeks that can help get us off to a good and healthy start in mommahood.
Rest - Sleep when your baby sleeps. This is very important during the first eight or so weeks postpartum for healing and emotional health. If you have other children, have a family member or friend come over to play or take them out of the house for a bit.
Nourish - Eat well. Make ahead whole food freezer meals (soups, stews, pasta dishes, etc) and/or ask family or friends to cook you nutritious meals. Nutrition is just as important now as it was during preconception and pregnancy.
Hydrate and supplement - Keep a large travel mug full of room temperature water (with a straw) close to you at all times, especially when breastfeeding. Continue taking your prenatal supplements as well as all other vitamins and minerals that your care provider has recommended.
Ask for help - “Help” includes caring for siblings, cleaning the house, laundry, and cooking. Doing all the “to-dos” so that YOU can hold, bond with, sleep with, and breastfeed your baby.
Heal - Make ahead "medicated" pads (large overnight size Natracare pads, alcohol free witch hazel, optional lavender essential oil, gallon freezer bags. See this post for directions). *Do not mistake these "medicated" pads as pain relief. Their job is speeding along the healing process by reducing inflammation and any risk of infection.
Manage discomfort - Aside from swollen tissue and or any tears down below, our uterus contracts after birth in order to return to its original size and place. Sometimes this can last several days and range from unnoticeable to painful. Arnica (homeopathic tablets and/or oil) is a great, breastfeeding safe, natural remedy for swelling, inflammation, and pain.
Cry - Sometimes we can feel a bit like a crazy lady after birth. Our hormones are all over the place as they have dropped from their pregnant state and our bodies are trying to regulate them back to normal. Our tears contain the stress hormone cortisol. If we feel the urge to cry, whether we're sad or happy, we must let those tears out! Being open to releasing our built up emotions is so very healthy. This is an excellent article on the health benefits of a good cry ---> Emotional Freedom. However, if you are having irrational thoughts or feeling extremely depressive, please tell someone and seek help.
Eat your placenta - A way to help our hormones balance, boost our milk supply, and nourish our blood is through placenta consumption. I know, it sounds yucky. Do some research. I actually shared a bit about placentophagy several weeks ago here on the blog.
Forget the bottles and pacifiers - This might sound extreme, but then again, so might expelling a baby from your vagina without medication. I personally don't do things that might make me uncomfortable for a short while just for the heck of it. With a bit of research, we find that bottles and pacifiers can be cause for low milk supply. If you are going back to work, holding off on introducing bottles until breastfeeding is established is essential to maintaining a nursing interested baby and good milk supply. The same goes for pacifiers. I've heard the arguments, “But, I'M being used as a pacifier”. And, yes! Yes, you are. All this suckling and constant attachment is for your baby’s health and benefit. Baby at the breast, nursing or not, is keeping your milk supply up as well as supplying all the feel-good-sleepy hormones in you both (1, 2).
Wear baby - Now that you're strong enough to move about (maybe days or weeks later), get that baby in a sling or wrap. Keeping baby in contact with you is essential to their health and development (3).
Choose joy - Our mind has so much power over our physical bodies. By choosing to be joyful in the midst of our trying circumstances and discomfort, our perspective can be altered. Hopefully you hired a doula to support you during the birth of your baby and she helped you navigate your journey. The presence of a doula during birth has been proven to help women feel good about their birth experience no matter how it unfolded. Speaking to your doula or care provider to sort out your thoughts about your birth experience, or hiring a postpartum doula can dramatically reduce your risk of postpartum depression.
Wanting to research a bit more? Here are a few topics worth your attention as you plan out your postpartum experience:
I'm hoping that your research and preparation will pay off immensely during your journey through the postpartum period!
Warm wishes for a happy day!