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