Many new moms plan well for childbirth by taking birth classes or hiring a doula, but what about the postpartum time? See our top postpartum tips for a healthy recovery after birth!
As doulas, we have a vested interest and expertise in supporting new moms and parents prenatally, helping them to have a healthy pregnancy and supporting them to prepare for childbirth. We also focus a lot of attention on preparing for the postpartum time, an often forgotten space of extreme transition and growth into motherhood. See our top postpartum tips to have a healthy postpartum recovery after birth!
Tip #1 - Build a well of support- a diverse team of friends, family and health providers.
I'm sure you've heard this top postpartum tip before. Build a support team. What does that really mean?You need to be intentional about building a well of support, not just a support team. Building a well of support is different than a support team because a well, think a deep cavern that holds water, has a sustained and ready flow. Just like a water well, you want your team to be deep with overflowing support, resources and love to give to you and your family. In order to have this ever-flowing well of support, your team needs to be deep and diverse. The folks around you, friends, family, your care providers, all have different skills, resources and levels of support to provide to you during your postpartum time.
Tap into that! Make a plan during your pregnancy where you map out your biggest needs, potential areas of worry or stress, and then plug your people into slots to support you with those items. Maybe your best friend is great at organizing a meal train for you. Awesome! Ask her to Quarterback your meals, coordinating the process from beginning to end. She will feel glad to have a tangible role as part of your well of support. Family may be great to ask to come and clean your home on a schedule. Mothers and Mother-in-laws are traditionally awesome at this task, because they often think they can clean better than you anyways (ha- joking but not joking!) What if you don't have a well of support made up of friends and family? Build it with service providers by budgeting for cleaning services, food delivery, grocery delivery fees, or laundry services.
Finding it difficult to fit these extras into your budget? Trade or barter! Local parent groups are a good place to tap into a community. What skills or resources can you trade for support? Many parents make clothing items by sewing or screen printing (hello, baby hair bows-- what market!), offer babysitting, or put other skills to use to get the help they need after giving birth.
Tip #2 - Prioritize rest and refreshment.
Prioritizing rest can be difficult, for a few different reasons. You have a newborn, and it's biologically normal and encouraged for your newborn to wake every couple of hours to eat and check in with you and your body. Are you feeding your baby from your body? They might want to check-in with you even more for comfort nursing and to smell you. All of this is totally normal and good for their development. This can feel overwhelming to you, especially if you aren't well supported in other areas of your life during this postpartum time.
The optimal top postpartum recovery plan is for you to focus on your healing and the nourishment and growing of your new baby. When things get more difficult is when you try to do everything else- the housework, managing the household, caring for older children, cooking and all of the "business as usual" tasks. Business is not as usual because you just gave birth. You may have heard that after giving birth, the space in your uterus where your placenta once grew leaves a dinner-plate-sized hole. In addition to having a lack of support people to do "all the other things", the other major hindrance to postpartum recovery is doing too much too soon.
Maybe you feel great after giving birth, which is incredible! Please don't take that as a sign to do four loads of laundry up and down two flights of steps in one day. Your bleeding will be an indicator that you've done too much. Take the time to rest and refresh. Stay in bed the majority of the first few weeks. Be catered to. Ask for what you need. And when you do leave the bed? Take a short walk, open the windows, light a candle and add some beauty to whatever recovery space you're in. That's the refreshment part!
“Postpartum should be a time of healing, nurturing, and adjustment, but our fast-paced culture often overlooks this crucial period."
Tip #3 - Nourish yourself, physically emotionally and spiritually.
Not only is nutrition, nourishment and hydration critically important during pregnancy and while giving birth, but also during the postpartum time. If you're breastfeeding, you are burning an estimated 300-500 extra calories making milk and feeding your baby. Ensure you're eating foods high in fiber and protein, and heavy on the fruits and vegetables. Don't skip meals! Make sure you have a snack basket at your bedside for those late night hunger pains when you're up feeding your baby. Trail mix, bars, fruit and cheese sticks are great quick-to-grab options in a pinch. Don't forget to keep hydrating! If you have a BWS Doula Agency doula supporting you through your pregnancy and birth, then you've heard us discuss the importance of electrolytes during pregnancy. Don't skip out on those now! Keep up the electrolyte water, either through purchasing quick-grab packets to add to your water (I like these *paid link) or make your own healthy, homemade version with one of these recipes!
Call on the maternal energy and allow friends and family to visit. Ensure your visitors are willing to help with things around the house and that they offer a voice of encouragement, love and support. Keep a list of household items that need done on your refrigerator and direct visits to pick something to do off of the list when they inquire how they can help you. Connect with your care providers, including your Midwife, Doula and/or OBGYN if you feel like you're experiencing signs or symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety. Please don't suffer in silence but seek help! A doula can help you and your partner or supporters to be able to recognize the signs. Seek help here if you need some immediate support.
Whatever feels spiritual to you, whether that be connecting with your own body in some way, such as light stretching, taking a beautiful bath, breathwork or meditation, do that. Maybe spiritual connection that speaks to you involves religious practices such as prayer, reading, listening to worship music, or even connecting with nature by taking a short hike, or sitting in the grass under the warm sun. Connect with yourself or Creator at least once daily. This will help you feel grounded in a time that can often feel chaotic.
Honor the new you during this time.
After participating in the extreme sport of giving birth, no matter what number of pregnancy you're on, you emerge a brand new person on the other side. You're now on the postpartum side, and it's incredibly normal to feel different or not quite yourself. You're leaking fluids, you're adjusting, you're learning this brand new being who is now a central part of your family. It's a brand new dynamic, with two brand new people: your baby and you. As you plan for this transformation, consider adding us a part of your well of support. We have birth and postpartum doulas readily available to help make your postpartum recovery time as healthy and smooth as possible. You've got this, and we're here to help you! Implement these top postpartum tips to get a head start! Click here to schedule a free chat to get a supportive doula to add to your team.
Dr. Jodi Cunningham
BWS Doula Agency Co-Owner
Certified Doula & Evidence Based Birth® Instructor