10 Tips for a blissful postpartum
Type 'postpartum' into Google and see what happens - I wish I could say you got a free delivery of flowers but I can't. Depression, anxiety, baby blues, even psychosis ....... In Australia we have a postnatal depression rate of 16% (1 in 7 women) with 80% feeling the 'baby blues' in the first few days/weeks after giving birth 1. Really, the most exciting time in our lives, becoming a newly born mother and this is what you can expect? Let's look at some ways we can ease into new motherhood to try and prevent or minimize these feelings.
1. be prepared
The pure fact that you're thinking about life after birth is huge! So many of us are focused on birthing our baby's and not factoring in keeping this mini me forever. What are a few ways we can prepare for life after birth? Talk to your partner, let him know how he can help, talk to your family, maybe an extended visit by your mum might help, stock up on some easy to cook/reheat meals, set up some play dates for your older kids.
2. go easy on yourself
You grew a whole human person and it exited your body! Do you know how amazing you are?!?! Don't expect to fit back into your jeans when you leave the hospital, or be back at the gym in under a month. In fact, don't expect to be out of your pj's before 5pm. Your only 'job' is to allow your body to rest and recuperate and learn to feed and care for a new baby. That's it. If you manage a load of washing - bonus!! Have you heard the term '40 days for 40 years'? (google it) It basically means take the first 40 days after birth to heal and bond with your babe and the benefits will last 40 years! Sounds pretty awesome to me!
3. placenta power
Ok, ok - I might be biased here BUT women are shouting from the rooftops (listen......) that by taking their placenta capsules it has eased the transition back to life after pregnancy. Feeling more balanced in their emotions, energy levels higher, healing faster, better milk supply - many of the contributing factors to feeling fatigue, anxiety and depression. While the studies are limited the stories of women are not. This could be an added arrow in your bow....
4. say no to visitors
Maybe not totally no - but at least set some boundaries, maybe you want a full week at home before visitors, maybe you want them to call first, maybe the password to open the door is "I have lasagne". But it is NOT your job to entertain or worry if the house is tidy enough or there is food for visitors. They come, they cook/clean/hang washing, they stay the appropriate amount of time and if they're lucky they get a baby snuggle as a reward - and they are ok with that! Ps if you feel you can't whip a boob out to feed a baby in front of your brother/uncle/father-in-law then maybe they need to wait for a visit after your ninja boobin skills have developed a bit!
So who's mum/grandma told them to 'sleep when the baby sleeps'? Me, me, mine did! But my first baby didn't really sleep much! This ties in to the 'no visitors' concept. If your baby is asleep, why be up entertaining visitors - go have a rest (that doesn't have to mean actual REM sleep), listen to a 5min meditation or a yoga nidre or even a few minutes of deep breathing - your immune system with thank you for it. Our bodies need rest to repair itself, reduce cortisol and adrenaline and more oxytocin (for falling in love with our baby and to release the milk from our boobs) The more rested you are the more prepared you are for the repetitive tasks of feeding, burping, changing a baby - your day will be filled with this.
Healthy nourishing food will aid digestion, fuel your body to strengthen, help with milk production, make you feel warm and loved and prepared for the challenge of learning new mothering skills. Hunger will affect your patience and tolerance of repetitive/mundane tasks. A full belly will help you deal with challenging moments, aids your immune system and keep you going! Don't forget to drink too - fresh water, herbal teas etc, limit caffeine as it's a diuretic and can make you 'buzzy' and heighten the anxiety feelings. During the early weeks/months of pregnancy your body rapidly increased your blood volume to help transport oxygen and nutrients to your growing baby. Now you need to flush all the extra waste products out and reduce the extra fluid you've been carrying. Do your kidneys and liver a favour by eating and drinking well.
7. set up a feeding station
Breastfeeding requires a lot of calories! In the early days you might feel like you are constantly feeding a baby, one feed rolls into the next. By setting up a couple of feeding stations you will have a drink and a snack at arms reach and you can replenish your body as you nourish your baby. This is true for bottle feeding babes too, you still need to care for yourself (see ^ Eat)
8. do something every day for yourself
Self care - you've heard the term 'you can't pour from an empty cup' and it's true, you can't. As a new mother I can tell you I always put myself last, I thought I was being a good mum by putting the needs of my family first and it felt good, for a while. Then I was tired and resentful and feeling flat. My cup was empty and no one was filling for me. There is a reason you put the oxygen mask on first and then your companion in an aircraft emergency, just think about that for a while. Now I'm not meaning go for a 5 hour spa day, massage and mani/pedi (although I would never say no to that!) But lets be realistic, what makes you happy (remember oxytocin, the happy love hormone) do you love a nice hot cuppa tea and read a book in the sun, do you love to watch a romantic movie, chocolate (moderation - sorry fun police), laughing, some yoga stretches or a few big deep belly breathes to get those endorphins going etc. Before your baby comes to your arms think about the things that make you happy and write them down, make a little list and leave it on the fridge or somewhere it will remind you (or your carefully selected visitors) Take a couple of minutes every day to do something for yourself. Then use some mindfulness techniques to ensure you savour every moment - feel you cup filling to overflowing, feel the oxytocin rising and how amazing it feels!!
Nothing increases stress levels like feeling you 'don't got this' - yes, parenting and caring for a newborn is hard. You are learning new skills, your body is leaking from all over the place and you doubt yourself. You turn to the gazillion number of books/forums/groups on parenting, sleeping, breastfeeding, settling - and you're left feeling overwhelmed, depleted and doubting you can keep this kid alive long enough to go to school! But guess what, you can do this. If it feels good do it (think sleeping arrangements - own bed, your bed, dog bed) If it feels wrong - listen. You will be given a mountain of 'advice' from well meaning people - some you will even be related too! But someone once told be 'think of advice as a bag of hand-me-downs, keep what fits and toss the rest' We learn by making mistakes, this is how we cultivate our intuition - be brave and follow your heart and don't be afraid to trip once and a while.
10. ask for help
While cultivating your intuition it's important to find people who 'got your back', your mumma tribe, those people who will stand and cheer you on and pick you up and dust you off when you fall. These are the people you can reach out to when you need to let it all out and ugly cry!! These women will become lifelong friends. Maybe you can hire a postpartum doula (wink wink) we can help you put all this together, visit you once a week for six weeks, love all over you, do some washing and cooking (I even give you a massage - hello Spa Day) I am the fairy god mother! Know there are also skilled professionals when the dark days get darker and you feel pushed to your limits - there is great strength in asking for help!
So, I hope that gave you something to ponder and a place to start thinking about how you want to experience your postpartum - falling in love with your gorgeous baby in a beautiful oxytocin filled love bubble - all becasue you took some time to put a few things in place! And knowing help is always available to those who ask for it! (Harry Potter reference)
Would you like help with some personal planning for your postpartum recovery or would like to know how I can support you to find your feet and feel confident and nourished as a newborn mother? Please get in touch, I'd love to care for you.
Source: 1. Beyond Blue 22/7/2017 https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/postnatal-depression