What is the Postnatal or postpartum period?
Conventional belief states that it is the period from 6-8 weeks after the delivery of the child. But truly it is up to the mother to decide what defines the postnatal period. Only the mother can determine when she feels that she has successfully adjusted to all the changes around bringing a new life into the world. These changes can be physical, spiritual and emotional.
After the birth of My first child Mirabai, it took me about 3-4 months to feel I had healthfully adjusted to motherhood.
I was surprised to find that after the birth of my second child, Silas, it took me nearly nine months to feel I had things under control. I was overwhelmed and my body was depleted after the second birth and it took me a lot longer to rebuild the strength and vigor that was required to take care of two children (under the age of two) and myself. I often felt helpless and overworked like I was in a foggy daydream and I couldn't ever really wake up. I wanted my mother to be close all the time but I found myself separated from her on the other side of the world. At times I felt so alone even though I had two babes and a loving husband right beside me. It was by far the most challenging time of my life. As I allowed the passage of time coupled with the help of my family, my husband and the guidance written about in the article below, I found myself emerging anew and my strength returning threefold as a resilient and powerful mama!
The most common question that new mothers ask is "how do I take care of myself while taking care of my child or children?" In this article I will offer up some helpful suggestions to follow when caring for yourself during the postnatal time. I have gathered together a bundle of knowledge from many different sources and from my own experience as a mother. In his book Magical Beginnings, Enchanted Lives, Deepak Chopra states "It is not selfish to take care of yourself; rather it is essential that you maintain your own mind body balance so that you can provide everything your new child needs to flourish physically, emotionally and spiritually." I believe every human is deserving of that.
Nourishment and Self Care
Begin by journaling and writing your birth story
I believe it is important to write your birth story in order to aid in the process of your experience and also as Ina May Gaskin says in her book Birth Matters, "Stories teach in memorable ways. In that sense, they are much more valuable than wrote learning and memorization. Stories have always been a medium of education amongst humans." Your birth story will help you and the rest of womankind.
Nurturing your baby
Parents and newborn babies are meant to be together. The intimacy that you nurture with your baby during pregnancy should continue after you have given birth through cuddling, soothing, feeding, rocking, holding and carrying. Chopra says "Baby's have a primordial need to feel physically connected to their caregivers and seek this intimate bond soon after birth. Fathers and partners can share in this intimacy from the first minutes of life."
It's difficult to know your emotions in the first few months due to fatigue, hormonal changes and the fact that most of your body's energy is going into the healing process. A helpful way to manage your mood-swings and your mind is through meditation. Meditation balances your entire system, mind, body and soul. A simple 5 minutes dedicated to sitting or walking and clearing your mind can be extremely beneficial. look to https://aimeeraupp.com/product/pregnancy-postpartum-guided-meditations/ for helpful guided meditations. But remember it's best to find the method that works best for you. Meditation can be as simple as practicing breathing-awareness when you are up late at night feeding your baby. It's necessary to note at this time that if you have continued feelings of sadness and hopelessness its important that you contact a professional. Postpartum depression is real.
Moving your Body
Honor your body by taking time out each day to move in any way that feels good to you. You can dance, walk, stretch, swim or practice any other form of movement that brings you joy. The benefits of exercise are many, ranging from reducing stress to improving sleep. According to Harvard Medical School exercise helps memory and thinking through both direct and indirect means. The benefits of exercise come directly from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors—chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells. Indirectly, exercise improves mood and sleep, and reduces stress and anxiety.
Honor your own healing time
Try to allow your body to heal in its own time. Do your best to take care of yourself and give your body a break. Remember your body just created a beautiful miracle. Commit to taking it very easy for the first few weeks after birth. Make bonding with your newborn your highest priority.
Finding your tribe
It took 9 months to grow your baby inside and it may take even longer to adjust to your new life with baby in your arms. Be kind to yourself. Those early days can be filled with joy and laughter but they also can be very trying as a new mother home with your little one. If you don't have an already existing tribe of support around you try to seek out a new mothers's group in your community. You can also organize some time for yourself during the day to meet up with friends or loved ones when baby is napping or when your partner may be available to hold baby for a while. Another option is to connect through online communities like this one. Talking to others who can relate to your current environment can give you perspective and comfort during the new born days.
Take a break with a 5-10 minute Sitz bath
You can sooth your bottom after labour with a Sitz bath. Making this bath is easy: add warm water and soaking salts (dried comfrey, calendula and epson salts) to a basin made to sit on the top of the toilet or you may use a shallow filled bathtub. You can also buy pre-maid Sitz bath packets online or in any health-food store. Sit and soak for 10-15 minutes, its quick, easy and a nice rest for your body and mind!
Find 5-10 minute activities that bring you joy
You can take whatever activity that brings you joy and modify to 5-10 minutes. After baby is born you will be very busy and most of your spare time will most likely go to eating or sleeping but if you can find it in yourself to take 5-10 minutes to do something you love you will surely feel the benefits.
Outside time with your baby
Get the sunshine vitamin for you and your baby. When your skin is exposed to sunlight it makes vitamin D from cholesterol. Sunshine and fresh air are your best friends. Vitamin D has many health benefits. During the postnatal period this vitamin can promote healthy bone structure and can help prevent depression. Mid-day is the best time to bask in the healing rays from the sun. If you live further from the equator you may need to take a supplement during the Autumn-Winter months. The wonderful news is you only need 20 minutes a day! So get out there and go for a walk with your wee one.
Postpartum Care Kit
Below is a simple list of items to include in your postpartum care kit. You can easily make it yourself or you can ask a loved one to make it for you as a gift before birth. It's an easy way to feel pampered after baby comes and also to feel prepared for the days after birth.
I was so grateful for my basket of goodies in my care kit. I continued to add items after the experience of my first baby's birth. Feel free to add anything you might think helpful.
The check List
~ A practical reusable basket to keep materials in
~Reusable water bottle and healthy snacks
~ Herbal teas such as mama's milk and postpartum recovery teas
~ A good book for the mama to be
~ lactation biscuits or cookies
~ Meal train organized by family or friends
~ Arnica (oral and topical)
~ Sitz bath packets
~ Padsicle kit (once these are made they will have to be kept in freezer)
You can go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_WksdcJsw2c to see a tutorial that we love on DIY padsicles.
Eating wholesome nourishing foods to promote healing and healthy milk supply
The best way to ensure that you and baby are nourished is through eating a hearty well balanced diet consisting of a healthy amount of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Have your friends and/or family set up a meal train for you. This is very easy, you can go to https://www.mealtrain.com to set up a meal train simple and easy. This way you have most of your meals taken care of for the first month or so of babies life. You can also cook (or have loved ones help you out) some of your favorite nourishing meals before baby comes and put them away in the freezer.
Rest and Regaining your Strength
According to Ayurveda, sleep is the nursemaid to humanity and one of the pillars of health. Most healthcare professionals say it best to sleep when baby sleeps and this is very good advice. Sleep plays an important role in our physical and emotional well being. Allow yourself permission to let go of cleaning, entertaining guests and household errands for a while after birth and make rest your top priority. When you sleep your body begins its work, healing damaged cells, boosting your immune system, recovering from daytime activities and recharging your heart and cardiovascular system for the next day. In the beginning your sleep will be interrupted by nighttime feedings and general baby care but if you look to your total count of hours in a 24 hour period it would be most beneficial if you could attain a total of 7-8 hours.
Pelvic floor exercises (kegels)
Pelvic floor exercises will help you strengthen and regain tone in the muscles of your perineum. They also aid in the recovery of trauma from stitches and tears. You may find it hard to hold these muscles in the beginning but after time they will regain their normal strength if you do your exercises every day.
Here is how to do a Kegel exercise:
~Find the right muscles: To identify your pelvic floor muscles, stop urination in midstream. Once you've identified your pelvic floor muscles you can do the exercises in any position, although you might find it easiest to do them lying down at first.
~Perfect your technique: To do Kegels, imagine you are sitting on a marble and tighten your pelvic muscles as if you're lifting the marble. Try it for three seconds at a time, then relax for a count of three. You can increase this time as your muscles strengthen.
~Maintain your focus: For best results, focus on tightening only your pelvic floor muscles. Be careful not to flex the muscles in your abdomen, thighs or buttocks. Avoid holding your breath. Instead, breathe freely during the exercises.
~Repeat three times a day: Aim for at least three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions a day.
Yoga is good for overall wellness. It is known to improve sleep, reduce stress, increase strength, flexibility and endurance, decrease pain and nausea, decreased headaches and reduced the risk of preterm labour. It also helps you develop breathing techniques to aid in the birthing process and beyond. Once you have been cleared for exercise following childbirth, yoga can be a great way to build strength, improve posture, increase energy levels and reduce symptoms of postpartum depression.
Osteopathy is a form of manual medicine that detects and treats damaged parts of the body such as muscles, ligaments, nerves and joints. There are a number of types of osteopathic treatment, from the very gentle cranial techniques through to the more physical manipulative techniques. The Changes that a woman’s body undergoes in pregnancy and childbirth are vast. These changes occur over a relatively short period of time, and involve all aspects of the woman’s body. Osteopathic treatment during the pregnancy and after the birth can help the woman’s body to adjust to these changes and ensure the process is as comfortable as possible. Some Benefits of Osteopathic Treatment are: easing some of the physical discomforts of pregnancy, preparing for the demands of labour and helping the mother to recover after birth
Learning and Gleaning Knowledge
It is so important to glean knowledge from many sources and find what speaks to you. The birth of your baby is the beginning of a journey in self knowledge. These are some of the resources I continue to find useful as a mother and a teacher:
The Self Care Solution by Julie Burton
You are Your Child's First Teacher by Rahima Baldwin Dancy
Magical Beginnings, Enchanted Lives by Deepak Chopra
Good Night, Sleep Tight by Kim West
Magical Child by Joseph Chilton Pearce
Ina May's Guide to Childbirtth by Ina May Gaskin
Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding by Ina May Gaskin
Beyond the Rainbow Bridge by Barbara J. Patterson
Oral language is the foundation for learning. Language skills are the main medium through which learning takes place. Often the impulse for us, as critical thinking adults is to teach young children through explanations, coercion, punitive measures and other intellectual methods of language. If you begin to shift into a quiet/listening approach of instruction and guidance with your young ones you may see a positive change in their play and behavior. A non-reactive response coupled with movement can be very helpful in the early years.
The Language of Discipline
An effective way to correct and model the behavior you are seeking with a young child is through example in movement. Children find it almost impossible to resist movement because imitation is such an innate part of their nature. You may like to try this out when sitting at the dinner table and wanting your little one to finish their meal before leaving: you could say with the utmost conviction, "we stay seated until we have finished our meal", while you happily continue to eat your dinner with joy. If at some point throughout your day it is time to clean up and move onto the next thing you might want to say "it's time to put our toys away", or you may even begin to sing a song that signals clean up as you clean and tidy the toys away yourself and hand a block or book to your child to put away. Leading through example-action along with positive speech can have marvelous results and many of your disciplinary challenges will fall away. If you begin to reason with and fall into intellectual conversation, your child will imitate just that and you might find yourself with a 5 year old who can talk you into doing anything. After all, in the early years, to discipline a child is to lead by example.
It is also important to remember that children learn best through positive reinforcement rather than commands. For example, you might say, "we always hold hands in a parking lot" when your child is beginning to get a bit frisky when there are cars around. You use the positive language instead of commanding the words "stop running!!", which may lead you to a loss of temper. I am sure all of us can recall a disciplinary opportunity where it would have been helpful to use positive words coupled with healthy actions. Perhaps next time you'll give it a go?
Learning Through Imitation
The imitative nature of the young child beginning at birth and following through to age seven is so obvious and all-consuming yet sometimes we are unaware of its significance for parenting. Your child learns everything through imitation-sleeping, eating, walking, talking, dressing, tying shoes, movement, toilet training and on and on. You may have noticed seeing your actions coming through in your children's play (the good and the bad). This is imitation too, children learn their gestures and expression in this way.
Through imitation, simple speech and naming develop into full sentences and talking, so that the 2-3 year old usually has a good grasp on his or her language. "Language is the mold out of which thinking develops", says Rahima Baldwin. By the age of three, the child has developed place memory and is beginning to develop concept and time memory. But it is good to remember that the child at this early age is not yet able to form pictures or to call up memories at will without sensory reminders. This ability does not develop until around the age of six. You can read more about this in Rahima's book titled 'You Are Your Child's First Teacher'.
In order for a child to develop their thinking-memory and a sense of self (ego or "I" consciousness) they must first understand that they are separate from the world around them. They are no longer one with the world; instead they move into being an individual "me" or "I". Most of us as parents have experienced or are currently experiencing this shift in our children. They start to talk about themselves and use there own name in their speech for example, "Mirabai do" or my personal favorite "that's mine". At this time, the child is a completely willful being and we as parents notice another "doer " in the household who may sometimes oppose our own will with his or hers. This can be challenging and therefor has been labeled "the terrible twos". Rudolph Steiner states that the child at age 2-3 still has no moral sense of what's right or what's wrong (developmentally this does not arise until the child is 5.) I think this is worth pondering. If we are able to recognize that the "defiance" we may be observing is truly the first awakenings of our children becoming conscious of themselves (becoming self-aware), then we can stay calm and welcome this "willfulness" as a necessary stage of development. A wonderful way to allow the child to experience "doing" and their emerging sense of self is through imaginative play. Fantasy play makes its first appearance around the age of three making the child a master of play. In play, we see the child imitate the world around them in an ever-changing process.
Take time, be quiet and listen to your young one.....
You may find that leaving a child in peace until there is a natural break in their play or until they come to you with a question, can lead to a longer and more constructive playtime. We as adults are often interrupting children to 'teach' them about the world surrounding us. As the Indian yogi Sadhguru says, "when you meet a child you should not see yourself as a teacher but as a learner".
If we begin to listen deeply within ourselves we can start to understand that each object in a child's world has a voice of its own. We cannot be certain what the young child experiences when she contemplates an object. The secret life of objects is magical and enchanting for young children and we as adults with our intellect have no place in that world. It is best to leave the objects to speak for themselves. With the toddler for instance it seems best not to speak about things, but to let the things speak for themselves whenever possible.
For the young child the world is alive and therefore everything does speak. The time to be able to distinguish reality from imagination lies in the future and will come naturally. The young child experiences the world through movement and pictures. As David Elkind mentions in his book 'The Hurried Child', "If the personification of objects is done in a natural and responsible manner it can strengthen an inward listening of the child". Through encouraging the gift of inward listening, your child will develop a deep inner strength to build resilience in the future. That's a gift we all can use!
“There is physical warmth, emotional warmth- the warmth of love, of generosity, of true morality-and all of these “warmths” pour over and merge with each other. Perhaps most importantly, warmth is the essential ingredient in transformative work. Without warmth we cannot change, and the life of the small child is consumed with processes of growth and adaptation. Warmth helps us be healthy human beings on many different levels. A healthy education model understands that a child is indeed actively striving to integrate: to learn to feel comfortable in her body, to find the means for expressing outwardly what she feels inwardly, to develop a sense of security and understanding about all the new and unusual experiences brought by the world around her. To bring what is in, out; to make what is foreign, one’s own. Warmth helps that process.” ~Adam Blanning, MD.
Inner and Outer WarmthAs the seasons change and shift all around the world I am reminded of the importance of warmth. Keeping our children warm is essential during the colder months for their physical, cognitive and emotional development. When a child is sufficiently warm there is enough energy to support the development and growth of their brain and inner organs (especially heart, liver and lungs).
Warmth is one of the most simple gifts we can give our children on a daily basis, physically and emotionally. Woolen undergarments and hats are complimented by a warming touch, aromatic baths, warming drinks and nourishing food.
Children have an extremely high metabolic rate and therefore they very seldom "feel" cold even when they actually are. Woolen/silk long underwear are ideal for the colder months so the children can easily take them off and put them on when the weather may shift. My little one lives in her marino long undershirt. I very rarely wash it and often after I take her out of a bath at night I will put it right back on for sleep. The undershirt should cover the child's entire torso making sure their kidneys stay sufficiently warm. Some schools of thought believe this method to strengthen and hold the child's etheric body (life-force, energy) and so the garment is best worn for a prolonged period of time without washing. The type of fabric you chose to put on your children's skin is crucial. Natural fibers such as silk, wool, linen or cotton breath and insulate easily encouraging healthy circulation and warmth. As many of you know, wool has anti-bacterial /anti-fungal properties and can be self cleaning. Therefore you don't have to rush to wash these clothes. This can be very helpful for us busy parents! Merino is soft and not as irritating to the skin.
Nourishing your family through food
Warming food is an important part of nourishing and supporting your family's health and immunity during the colder seasons. Home made bone broths, soups, stews, spiced milks and hot porridges are a few yummy choices. And because these foods are slow cooked as opposed to raw they are easier to digest leaving more energy to keep our bodies warm.
Here are a few great recipes to get you going
Bone Broth recipe adapted from Nourishing Traditions
Traditional Ayurvedic Spiced Milk
Warming up your space
The physical environment must be understood in the widest sense imaginable. It includes not just what happens around the children in the material sense, but everything that occurs in their environment, everything that can be perceived by their senses, that can work on the inner powers of the children from the surrounding physical space. – Rudolf Steiner, The Education of the Child
Early learning is deeply connected to the child's physical and sensory experiences. Therefore everything the child hears, smells, touches and sees has an effect. Thus, we begin to understand how the space a child inhabits will play a large role in their learning and development. As the weather grows colder, the spaces we provide for the children should become filled with warmth physically and emotionally. Whether it be outside or indoors, the location can provide varied and nourishing learning opportunities. Creating a safe comfortable area for the child is essential for the enjoyment of self education in touch, balance, movement and inward listening. In any season, all of these experiences are created by the space we provide for our children and have the ability to instill a sense of warmth.
There are many ways to set up a space of warmth and comfort. Creating a beautiful seasonal nature table or making a little cozy nook for children to play, read or rest in are just two recommendations. The color of a space can create warmth. You may want to drape a pink, golden or peach colored cloth over a table or along any surface to warm your space. You can also choose to dress yourself or your children in warming colors to keep things bright in the cold winter months.
"The care, love, and intention expressed through the outer materials and furnishings of the classes are experienced unconsciously by the child. The child experiences the immediate environment as ensouled and nurturing." ~Susan Howard
Media Mindfulness is a way of being conscious of how much time we spend in front of screens whether it be televisions, computers, iPads, smart phones, video games or any other technological devices.
What screen time can really do to children's brains
When very small children get hooked on tablets and smartphones, says Dr. Aric Sigman, an associate fellow of the British Psychological Society and a Fellow of Britain’s Royal Society of Medicine, they can unintentionally cause permanent damage to their still-developing brain's frontal lobe. Too much screen time too soon, he says, “is the very thing impeding the development of the abilities that parents are so eager to foster through the tablets. The ability to focus, to concentrate, to lend attention, to sense other people’s attitudes and communicate with them, to build a large vocabulary—all those abilities are harmed.”
The brain’s frontal lobe is the area responsible for decoding and comprehending social interactions. It is in this corner of the mind that we empathize with others, take in nonverbal cues while talking to friends and colleagues, and learn how to read the hundreds of unspoken signs—facial expression, tone of voice, and more—that add color and depth to real-world relationships.
How and when does the brain’s frontal lobe develop?
The most crucial stage of frontal lobe development is in early childhood and it is dependent on authentic human interactions. So if your young child is spending all of his/her time in front of an iPad instead of chatting and playing with teachers, parents and other children, his empathetic abilities (the instinctive way you and I can read situations and get a feel for other people) may be dulled, possibly for good.
What you can do
Families should encourage "media mindfulness" in their children's lives. Parents and children can work together to decide how much time to spend with media every day, and to make sure good choices are being made about what media to take in.
Tips on sorting out screen time
What we are doing in our home
Here in New Zealand we live in a community space with family and friends. Niko, Mirabai, Silas and I live in a yurt and we have our own kitchen about 100 yards away from the main house which is the shared community space. There are travelers and friends passing through the main house most days and this can make it tricky to get every one on board for setting healthy media examples. We recently had a core family meeting and discussed how we can be better role models for the children and each other in the community. Media mindfulness was a topic that I had brought up and upon much discussion we decided to set up a 'internet cafe' in one of the rooms at the main house. Now we have a space where all the technology lives and where people can go and work on their computers or phones. The children can still be in the community space without the devices being used freely all the time here and there around them. The adults are showing that they have clear intentions and meaningfulness around using technology. The process and follow through of setting up a set space in our home for the use of computers and phones has been extremely helpful, healthful and rewarding for all of us and I highly recommend it for any family living in or out of community.
In Kim John Payne's book 'Simplicity Parenting' he touches on four guidelines that may initiate ease in your creative discipline journey with your children.
I left a handout at school which mentions effective methods in clearing out the clutter from your children's lives, starting with the toys. You can also use these techniques with their clothing. Please let me know if you need more information on this topic.
Payne believes if you provide your child with lots of time for free play and down time, many of your disciplinary issues will decrease.