My 3rd baby was born almost 2 months ago and though he’s my third I’ve learned a few new things this time around and there have been many firsts. He was my first home birth (it was awesome) my first little boy, and he was also my heaviest but shortest baby. With two spirited little girls running around I’m learning even more about taking good care of myself postpartum and taking the time and letting myself rest so I can completely heal.
I was so blessed to be cared for by my mom, my husband, midwife, and friends, and slowly life is transitioning back to me being the caregiver to my family. The care I was given in the beginning has really helped enable me to do that.
Postpartum is such an overlooked part of the whole process of making a baby. It can be such a raw, emotional, and challenging time for many women and I think it’s important that we all recognize that. The mom’s needs are sometimes overlooked once the baby has arrived. Physical healing, time to mentally and emotionally process the birth or events surrounding, good nutrition, rest, support from others, and self care are such important investments that a new mom and her team can make for her and her family’s transition.
Looking back at my 3 very different births and postpartum experiences have inspired me to share some of what I consider a few postpartum priorities:
- Rest. With each baby that has come along, I’ve struggled with finding a balance between doing nothing for too long and doing too much too soon. I think the amount of time needed varies and depends on the person and the nature of the birth. Take rest time seriously for at least the first 3ish weeks (plus more for a cesarean) or as long as you feel you need to! Consider yourself royalty to be pampered and waited on- and don’t feel bad about it! There is no shame in not bouncing back a few days after giving birth. It’s not a competition.
- Herbal Tea. My midwife recommended and made for me an herbal tea blend she calls her Strong Mama tea. With alfalfa, dandelion, red raspberry leaf, it’s full of great nutrients like iron, folate, and magnesium. We also added some skullcap for mood and to reduce anxiety. There are a few other herbal teas you can buy ready to go, like Mothers Milk, Milkmaid, that have some of the same herbs in them.
- Accepting help. When someone says “let me know if you need anything” they mean it. Say “you know, I could really use…xyz (some lunch, a few groceries, some company, etc.)
- Seeking help-
- postpartum depression and anxiety are more common than you think, and there is nothing wrong with admitting if you struggle with it (I’ll admit it to you- I do!) Look for support- a friend you can lean on, a postpartum support group online or in person, or see a therapist for counseling.
- is breastfeeding a challenge? Get help IMMEDIATELY. I recommend going straight to your local La Leche League or an IBCLC for help. Your doula or midwife can also help you, and point you in the right direction if you need more assistance.
- Eating well- remember how you worried about eating organic, getting your greens and protein, and staying hydrated while you were pregnant? Same applies to postpartum! Your body is healing and at the same time you are feeding a small person. You need that good food. Make a menu plan and a grocery list while you sit and nurse, and send someone to get groceries (perfect time to take up one of your friends on their “let me know if you need anything” offer!).
- Drink all the water- We all know that our bodies NEED water to survive. We also need water to support the body’s natural healing process. Breastfeeding moms need water to support lactation. The last thing you want during postpartum recovery is to start feeling dehydrated. A good goal and reminder is to down a glass every time you sit down to nurse the baby. If you have older kids, this can be a great job for them to do. My 4 year old loves to help me out by bringing me water.
- Creating a happy place: turn on some uplifting music, diffuse some lovely oils, and get some sunshine to help keep the baby blues at bay.
- Alone time/quiet time. For us introverts, alone time is vital. It’s how we recharge. Even if you’re not an introvert and you’re feeling drained- alone time may be just what you need.
- Mama Cloth. Postpartum bleeding, called lochia, is like having a 6ish week long period (yay). If there is any tearing, those super duper maxi pads actually tend to slow healing and can create an environment for infection since they keep moisture on the skin. Instead, think nice breathable cotton. Using washable cotton pads (aka mama cloth), a prefold cloth diaper or even cheap terry washcloths folded in thirds will keep you dry and comfy while you heal down there.
- Herbal sitz bath- my lovely midwife had this in my birth kit and it was wonderful! I immediately wished I had this after having my other two babies! The one I used was from Precious Arrows, and I’ve seen that Earth Mama Angel Baby makes one now too. I highly recommend it! Brew up a big pot just like you do with loose leaf tea, strain it, and add 3 or 4 cups to your bath water. Put some in a peri bottle to rinse “down there” after using the bathroom. The herbs help the tissues heal and taking a bath is very relaxing. You can also add Epsom salt to your bath water to ease tired, sore muscles.
- Placenta encapsulation. Y’all. Another thing I wish I had done after birthing my other 2 babes. I had my placenta encapsulated for the first time. I was super down and weepy the first week but as soon as I got my capsules and started taking them as directed, I felt a huge difference. Healing picked up speed and I feel so energized, happy, and calm. The hormones in the placenta are to credit for this. You can even keep some aside to help with those lovely pms symptoms later. Here’s an article on the benefits.
Are you a first time mom, or have you experienced postpartum a time or two? What are some things that were helpful to you?