As many of you know, I am a postpartum doula with extra training and certifications in traditional holistic postpartum care. I believe that if we moms were better prepared and equipped for, as well as supported through, the sacred postpartum period, many ailments could be lessened if not avoided.
Before baby’s arrival the focus is on the mother’s well-being, with frequent visits to the doctor and friends and family checking in to see how she’s doing. Once she gives birth, the next visit with her care provider isn’t until the “six-week check up.” A lot can happen in those first six weeks, and mom is often left to navigate this unknown territory of brand new mommahood all on her own.
Many women express feelings of being cast aside, or overlooked after they give birth. With the excitement of the new baby, the tendency is to transfer the focus from mother to baby. Everyone is so eager to meet and hold the baby. Mom may be flooded with questions like “How much did they weigh?”, “Do they have hair?”, “Who do they look like?”, rather than genuinely being asked about how she is doing. So what can we moms do to set ourselves up for a postpartum period in which we can thrive? I am so glad you asked!
Nourishment –As crazy as it sounds, food is usually not that high on a new mom’s priority list. As a doula, more often than not, when I arrive at a new momma’s house she hasn’t eaten anything recently. There are several ways to ensure that you stay well nourished.
Meal Prep – Personally, I am horrible at this, but having meals that just need to be heated up means the battle is half won. Before baby makes their grand entrance, why not have a get together with your favorite people, where you cook some of your favorite meals, and prepare them to be frozen? Have a partner who loves to cook? Is it feasible that before they leave for work, they can make sure you’ve got what you need to sustain you until they return?
Meal Train – Organize, or better yet have a friend or family member organize a meal train. Food will just appear, it will be amazing! There’s always the option to ask that food be left in a cooler next to the front door if you’re not up for visitors. People willing to help understand that mom and baby need rest and that there will be plenty of time to visit later.
Meal Subscription Services – Sun Basket, Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, etc. There are a lot of options these days to accommodate your dietary needs and your budget.
There’s no one right option and these are just a few suggestions. Some things to keep in mind: no matter how you give birth, your digestive system is put on hold during the process. Choose foods that are warm and warming in nature. The stomach and spleen have to work much harder to digest cold and raw foods. Choose foods that are easy to digest at first and work your way up to heartier meals.
Bone broth is a great way to build up the blood after birth, it also helps to lubricate the digestive tract and is a great source of collagen to aid in the healing of tissues post birth. It can quickly be turned into a soup by adding a few ingredients of your choice. It can be used in place of water when cooking grains, and can also be sipped on it’s own- a great way to not only hydrate momma but also provide nourishment that plain water doesn’t provide. Making sure to eat foods that provide nourishment, warmth, and are easy to digest gives your still slow digestive system time to get back up to speed, not to mention you want to do what you can to facilitate easy bowel movements.
We make sure to eat healthy when we’re pregnant, because we’re “eating for 2”. When we are breastfeeding we’re still “eating for 2,” but we are now in a deep phase of healing as well.
Rest – I can’t stress this enough! Rest is so important to our well being. Lack of sleep can lead to illness, cognitive impairment and postpartum mood disorders. Take that old saying “rest when baby rests” to heart. I know napping is not easy for some people. If you find it difficult to sleep during the day, please make it a point to at least rest when baby sleeps. Laying down, even if you don’t sleep can be very healing. I’ve had a lot of moms report how much better they feel after just laying down. Please note that rest for the non-breastfeeding parent is important also. They don’t have the added benefits of oxytocin flowing through their bodies with every letdown.
Asking for and Accepting Help – Asking for help, accepting help, and/or hiring help doesn’t mean you’re weak and can’t handle new mommahood on your own. It’s proof that we were never designed to handle it all on our own in the first place. There are more people willing to help than you would think, and they are just waiting for you to ask or accept their offers.
My mom was a “birth coach”, or “lamaze coach”, as they were called in the 80’s. One thing that she always suggested to her clients was this: Once you are home from the hospital with your new littlest love, have this rule for visiting- “When you come, bring a meal or do a chore.” No one has ever turned down an opportunity to visit because of this.
When people ask if there’s anything they can do for you or if there’s anything you need, take them up on it! Why not have someone else run to the store for you? If it’s someone you trust, why not have them come over and keep an eye on the baby so you can take a shower? Whatever you need, try reaching out and asking for help. You can start this practice of asking for help during pregnancy. (This is a great time to practice saying no as well. It’s absolutely ok to say “no”, or “not right now” when people ask to visit.)
If there’s ever a time to ask for and accept help it’s definitely the postpartum time. Your body has accomplished so much and is still doing so much to provide for this new little baby. You deserve help and support now more than ever.
If you like to read and have time I highly recommend the book “The Fourth Trimester” by Kimberly Ann Johnson. It’s full of great information and has a wonderful Postpartum Sanctuary Plan template for you to go through and fill out with your partner. There’s also a Postpartum Relationship Plan template, Dividing Household Chores template, a Meal Train Letter template, and an appendix titled Essential Foods for Postpartum Healing followed by recipes.
A little planning and prepping during the last trimester will go along way during your postpartum period.
My desire is that every mom emerges from the postpartum in strength and health, feeling encouraged and empowered.
Love and Blessings,