Often times the period after birth is something mothers don't think about until they are in it. It is helpful to prepare for this time beforehand. Some topics to consider before you give birth are: SUPPORT, HEALING, BREASTFEEDING, NOURISHMENT. In this post I will cover the first two topics.
A key component to having a great post birth period is having reliable and helpful support. This can be in the form of your partner, a parent, a postpartum doula, a nanny or a very loving friend. Having additional help around the house can help you feel comfortable and safe during this time of transition and healing. Your physical body is recovering from birth, there is fluid leaking from several places and you probably would really love a shower and a nap. Maybe even a hot meal if you’re able. Having the support of an extra set of hands can really make a big difference. If you do not live near family or if your partner needs to return to work soon after birth, I would suggest hiring a postpartum doula. A postpartum doula supports new mothers and families in a variety of ways. She provides lactation support for any breastfeeding concerns, can do light housework, prepare healthy meals, help to get you comfortable with that new baby wearing contraption you got at your shower, and aid with newborn care. Unlike a baby nurse, a postpartum doula focuses her care on the mother and her needs. Also unlike a baby nurse, a postpartum doula does not work in 24-hour shifts. You are able to purchase blocks of time with your postpartum doula, even overnight shifts. She is there to lend a hand when you need a shower or a nap. I like to remind my clients that you can’t pour from an empty cup. Taking care of yourself if vital.
Whether you have an unmedicated, medicated, vaginal or cesarean birth you will need time to heal. Your body has just grown a tiny human who is now living outside of your body. There will be new sensations and new feelings that you will need to adjust to. Here are my top three tips.
Number 1 is to rest. Some cultures practice a custom of staying home with the new baby for 30-40 days. You don’t have to set a specific number of days where you stay home, but take it easy for the first week. Take time to indulge in that new baby smell and cuddle in bed with your little love. Don’t allow too many visitors. Any guests who are coming to see you should be people that you feel comfortable around letting it all hang out. Stay in your pajamas and let them pamper you with food and comforting gifts. When someone asks if they can do anything to help, don’t be shy! Ask for what you need. That can mean quiet time, meals, cleaning, errands, a foot rub, whatever you need. Just ask.
Number 2 is vaginal and perineal care. If you experienced perineal tearing or an episiotomy you’ll need some extra TLC while you heal. Your doula and your care provider can make specific recommendations for your particular needs. A favorite of clients is to make padsicles. Prior to birth you can make and freeze large maxi pads with alcohol free witch hazel and pure aloe vera gel. I always suggest choosing organic ingredients when available, particularly when being placed on a very sensitive area.
To make padsicles:
o In a small spray bottle mix the witch hazel with aloe vera.
o A couple drops each of lavender, geranium, frankincense, and rosemary essential oils can be added for additional healing properties. I recommend using essential oils only if you have experience with them and are confident that you do not have adverse reactions.
o Spray the mixture onto clean, dry absorbent maxi pads. The pad should be damp and not soaked. The pads still need to be absorbent.
o Wrap in plastic wrap or foil and place in the freezer.
o Remove from the freezer about 10 minutes prior to use.
The extra witch hazel mixture can be used as a wonderful peri spray to soothe skin.
Recovery tip number 3 is for vaginal and perineal healing as well. A sitz bath can be soothing option once healing has begun. Sitz baths are available at your local pharmacy or online. You can make your own herbal sitz recipe or you can purchase a premade mix. My favorite brand is Earth Mama Angel Baby. The herbs come prepared in a large tea bag, making it easy to prepare your bath. You simply soak your bottom in the sitz tub.
Having a plan in place and products prepared prior to giving birth can help to give you a leg up on your postpartum healing plan. “Always be prepared” is good advice in life and particularly for the postnatal time.