Not too many things can compete with having a baby- in excitement or workload. Luckily, a little bit of forethought can go a long way in way preparing for a smooth transition from pregnancy to the sacred weeks following birth. Be sure to scroll down and check out the first half of my six tips for a happier and healthier postpartum period if you haven't yet!
4) Eat Your Placenta
Placenta encapsulation isn't just for hippies anymore. In fact, all but a handful of mammals instinctively consume their placenta after giving birth and this practice is becoming more mainstream with modern women. During pregnancy the placenta becomes a primary endocrine organ, taking over production of many reproductive hormones. These hormone levels are 20-30% higher than normal during this time! After birth estrogen, progesterone, endorphins, and other hormones, along with thyroid levels, drop immediately, causing a significant physical and emotional crash in new moms- also known as the "baby blues."
Luckily, encapsulation is an easy, no-mess way to consume your placenta and smooth the transition into motherhood... No yuck required! Women who consume their placenta consistently report benefits that including fewer hormonal swings, increased energy and milk supply, a decrease pain, less bleeding and an overall improved sense of well being- all from materials produced by your own body and processed into simple capsule form.
5) Adjust Your Expectations
This may be one of the most difficult steps in preparing for your postpartum because it can't be bought, scheduled or eaten, but adjusting your expectations for reality with a newborn may be an important step in your journey. Just like how TV and movies don't accurately portray childbirth (shocking, I know), they certainly don't portray the postpartum time either. Sometimes mothering comes naturally, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes breastfeeding comes naturally, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes you go for what seems like literally days without sleep, you partner doesn't seem to be holding up their end of the parenting deal, you look six months pregnant four weeks after giving birth and there's a bird nesting in your hair. Sometimes babies have difficulty latching and formula supplementation is appropriate. Sometimes you're crying and bleeding, feel like you've lost your whole identity and don't know how to keep your well- meaning, but exhausting mother-in-law at bay.
I am by no means trying to spread horror stories or scare you. I am saying that parenthood is unpredictable, beautiful, messy, exhausting and amazing. It's the hardest f@#*ing work you'll ever do. Be flexible, be open to a change in plans and remember that there is no perfect in the parenting game.
6) Stay Well Fed and Hydrated
This one sounds simple, but hunger and dehydration can sneak up on you when all your attention goes directly to your precious (and very demanding) newborn. While you may not be sitting down for three homecooked meals a day, it's still important to get an additional 500ish calories a day when breastfeeding.
So what's a new mom to do when you don't have the time, energy or free hands to hang out in the kitceh all day?
Seriously, being a new parent is hard. Ask for help, accept help, be flexible and take some time for self-care. If feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, depression, weepiness or anxiety persist for more than a couple of weeks postpartum, talk to your care provider, connect with others online at Postpartum Progress or The New Mama Project or check out these local resources.
Hibbert, Christina. "Postpartum Mood Disorders: An Informational Guide For Couples". Psychology Today.
Le Leche League
Do you have dreams of a magical Baby Moon when you'll do nothing but glow from oxytocin and stare longingly into your new babe's eyes? While planning for your ideal birth, it's just as important to plan for the period afterwards. Birth is like the wedding day and the postpartum period (and beyond) is like a marriage... more dirty work and significantly less glamorous. When you're pregnant with your first child it can be difficult (almost impossible!) to imagine that life with your new baby could be anything but perfect. We like to think that our love for our children is enough to get us smoothly through the trials of early parenthood, but that's not always the case. The combination of hormonal fluctuations, exhaustion, social isolation, and financial stress can push even the most prepared parent into a serious mood disorder.
Did you know that....
Though the baby blues and mood disorders can't always be avoided, there are certain steps you can take to lessen your chances and prepare for the beautiful postpartum period you imagine and deserve.
1) Practice Lying-In
Basically, America does postpartum WRONG! Here we're expected to birth a baby, go grocery shopping, clean the house and prepare dinner for visiting and doting relatives. In reality, that's a great way to pass a blood clot the size of a lemon, exhaust yourself and miss out on some serious bonding with your newest addition. Other cultures practice 30-40 days of "lying-in". This is where you and baby hang out in bed while family and friends take care of housework, older siblings and meal prep, allowing for faster healing, the opportunity to process the majorly transformative event that is childbirth and learn the quirks and challenges of feeding your new little one. Lying in is important for all new mothers, but is especially vital for mothers who birthed by cesarean section!
Not sure you can manage your household from the horizontal position? That's when it's time to call in some extra hands....
2) Say "Yes" to Help
Now is not the time to be a hero. When they say "it takes a village", trust them. After giving birth, you need help. Sometimes a lot, sometimes just a little. Good thing almost everyone wants to help when there's a new baby involved. Mothers, mothers' friends, mothers-in-law, sisters, neighbors, church ladies, aunts, strangers at Central Market... they all want to help. Take them up on it.
So when someone asks, "What can I do to help?", give them an answer! Here's a few ideas of what to ask for if you're unsure of what you'll need.
3) Get a Massage
No matter how you birth or feed your baby, your body will likely ache. Massage in the newly postpartum period is less of a luxury and more of a step towards homeostasis. The normal anxieties of parenting, plus waking up every two hours to feed a creature who's completely dependent on you, can wreak serious havoc on your nervous system and throw you into a fight or flight response that's hard to shake and you just can't think your way out of. Massage is a lovely and gentle way to coax your body back into relaxation and say "Yes, this is okay. I'm okay. My body can feel good again. I can recover". Massage helps your whole body take a breath and slip back into the relaxing parasympathetic nervous system that encourages faster healing, allowing you to be more present for yourself and your baby.
Not sure how massage works when you're leaking from just about everywhere and you can't imagine getting in the car or being away from your baby for more than 20 minutes? I take care of all of that and come to you! I love working with new moms who aren't quite sure what to do with their newly postpartum bodies. We set up the massage table in your home and get you comfortable. Baby is nearby with dad or grandma and can stop in to nurse as needed. No worries if baby needs to be close the whole time, as he or she can lie with you on the table and you can both be blissed out from a healing and recuperative massage.
Like what you've read so far? Stay tuned for three more practical and simple tips for a healthier and happier postpartum period!
Beyond the "Baby Blues". Harvard Mental Health Letter. September 2011.
M. Diego. Moderate pressure massage elicits a parasympathetic nervous system response. PubMed.gov. 2009.
Canadian Mental Health Association