Pregnancy is such a beautiful and sacred time! Our bodies grow bigger with each moon as we shift from maiden to mothers and wait excitedly for the arrival of our sweet baby. There is lots of preparation in anticipation of THE DAY your little one will be born but nothing truly prepares us for what is to come. Labor & birth are a fascinating journey that will transform you in ways you might have never imagined, but what comes after the birth is something not many mothers think about or prepare for. Yes, many books touch briefly on the postpartum period and most parenting classes teach you newborn care and breastfeeding basics but the truth is that once your baby is born, most of the attention shifts to THE BABY and as a culture, we tend to neglect the huge change the mother is going through in the postpartum period and we tend to create unrealistic expectations of what this time should look like.
The fourth trimester refers to those first three months of your baby’s life. Those first months where you are not only getting to know this new little person but also getting to know yourself as a mother and adjusting to your new life. Your body is healing from birth, your breasts are producing milk, and your mind is focused on what your baby needs and can easily neglect or ignore what YOU might need during this transition. Early postpartum can be a very emotional and difficult time, our bodies are literally going through some significant hormonal changes that can make us feel all sort of emotions that we might not even understand; in addition to very little sleep which can make anyone feel like a crazy person. As we nourish our babies with our precious milk, we also experience the physical demand of breastfeeding and may feel ran down especially if not well nourished or have any essential vitamin and mineral deficiencies which is very common in postpartum moms. But what I am trying to tell you is that despite all these new challenges and barriers you are likely to experience, this time can also be a very magical time if you implement some simple yet important guidelines for your well being.
Writing your Birth Story
Not necessarily to share with the world but for your own processing. The sooner you get this done, the fresher and richer the details will be! You may want to talk about it with family or close friends who will listen. Expressing your impressions of this profound experience and your transformation is a very important step to your postpartum healing.
Getting Enough Rest
Have you heard of the term Babymoon? It’s basically a honeymoon but with your baby! No exotic destination needed for Babymooning, you’ll spend your days laying on your bed or lounging on the couch, nursing and cuddling your baby while reading a book, watching all those shows you been wanting to watch and sleeping. It might be hard to lay all day if you are an active person or if you are used to be out and about but honoring this rest and recovery period for at least the first 3-4 weeks after birthing will help your transition be much gentler and will provide the perfect environment for peaceful bonding. It will also help you stay focused on healing and establishing breastfeeding . Try to not even leave the house during this period and of course limit visitors so you are not feeling like you have to entertain anyone. A basic rule is, if you are not comfortable being topless in front of them, don’t let them in your cocoon while Babymooning! As you begin to gently venture out into the world again and receive more visitors, make sure you take at least one nap with your baby a day. “Sleep when your baby sleeps” is some of the best advice a new mother can receive! By implementing this resting routine, you are going to feel good even if you are waking up several times at night because you’ll feel well rested and therefore sane, happier and better equipped to care for your baby!
Nourishing your Body
Eating nutritious foods and drinking plenty of fluids during the postpartum period is as important as it was when you were pregnant. Planning for your postpartum nourishment before you give birth is a very wise idea. Ask your family or close friends to set up Meal Train so once your baby is born, you can focus on bonding & recovering and not worrying about what’s for dinner. You and your partner can also stock up on favorite foods, easy healthy snacks and pre-homemade meals that you can store in the freezer. After birthing, warm soups and broths are the best nourishment a new mama can receive. Think about what you put in your body and choose foods that are easy for you to digest. Aim to have at least three main meals and healthy snacks in between every day. Herbal teas such as Red Raspberry leaf, Hibiscus, and Alfalfa (amongst others) can promote healing and balance.
This part sounds easier than it actually is. Most of us have a hard time asking for help, especially as we step into our new role of caregivers and feel the need to have everything under control. But I’m here to tell you that this attitude will not be at all helpful and to remind you that “It takes a village to raise a child”. So don’t hesitate to ask for help when you are feeling overwhelmed, tired or just need a break. After all, you are just human and EVERYONE reaches a breaking point. Talk to your partner about how you are feeling emotionally and physically and listen to your body! You can ask for help before you reach your breaking point and therefore be better company for anyone around you, including your baby. If you don’t have family or close friends around, hire a Postpartum Doula!
This might mean different things to each of us but the key is to do what feels good to you and finding what brings you joy and doing it as often as possible. As we become mothers and focus ALL of our attention on our babies, it gets harder and harder to make time for ourselves. But taking care of ourselves is as important as taking care of our baby! Remember those lovely demos flight attendants usually do before the airplane takes off? They say, in case of an emergency to ALWAYS put your oxygen mask on first before your child’s! This applies to motherhood as well! Because when we don’t take care of ourselves and we reach that point of exhaustion and burn out, it gets harder to take care of others and we are not the best caregivers. So find what fills your oxygen tank so you have plenty of energy and love to share with those around you!
Here are some ideas:
- Take a long shower
- Get a postpartum massage
- Take a relaxing herbal bath
- Schedule some alone time
- Get a pedicure or a haircut
- Put on some make up
Toning your Body
It’s important to allow your body to rest and heal in the first 6 weeks after birth. As you gradually regain your strength, and when you feel ready, you can slowly begin toning your body internally and externally. DO NOT strain or push yourself to get back to your pre-pregnancy body too quickly! If you do, you risk injury. Remember that it took you 10 months or so to gradually gain weight during pregnancy and allow yourself TIME to gradually lose the pounds returning to your pre-pregnancy size. You can include your baby as you move and stretch your body in ways that feel good and help you regain your strength. Once again, find what works best for you. Take a daily walk, begin an exercise program, attend a Mommy & Baby Yoga class, or put on some music and dance with your baby! It can be simple or more demanding depending on your ability and preference but regardless, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY as you become more active again. Remember to always warm up before vigorous activity, cool down before you stop and breathe as you tone your body.