Yes, that’s right, postpartum peace and tranquility. Ok, well, as much as can be realistically attained. This blog post aims to share some tips and tricks to get you and your new family off to the best possible start. I’m writing as a Certified Nurse Midwife but also as a mom of four. I’ve lived and learned and hope to help you avoid some common pitfalls that can take a toll on a new mom and family.
As midwives we send many moms home from the hospital with their new little bundles of joy. We often give instructions for postpartum rest that seem stern and strict. We know you want to be active, that you feel great and, of course, that you “can’t sit still”. BUT, you will likely be trading off feeling good for a short time now, for feeling run down and exhausted down the road. Sleep deprivation and the trials that come with parenting a newborn will have a cumulative effect and in a month or two you will likely wind up paying the price for being a “rock star” and bringing your five-day-old to the neighborhood BBQ. If you jump back into your activities full swing too soon you will find yourself feeling run down and exhausted at two or four months out. Just like there is no trophy at the end of your natural childbirth, though I highly recommend it, there is no badge awaiting you for being out and about soonest after giving birth; no one is waiting with balloons when you arrive to preschool drop-off with your two-day-old. And, while you will definitely get accolades from strangers at Tedeschi’s when you tell them your baby is “only five days old!”, that’s nowhere near enough reward when, at five months postpartum, you find yourself crying at four in the afternoon because you just. want. to. lay. down.
Following are my top tips for postpartum families.
Create your cocoon. You can do this before your birth. It’s as simple as creating a space for your recuperation. A clean room and bed, clean clothes and linens ready for your arrival. Ideally this is a bedroom or somewhere you can shut the door to the household chores. Have your fridge stocked with healthy snacks (fruits, raw cut up veggies, peanut butter/crackers, cheese, yogurt, trail mix) and have a large pitcher for water at your bedside. If you have access to a dorm size fridge this can come in very handy for keeping things at your fingertips. The more you have on hand the less you will need to ask for help—this “asking for help” can be a stumbling block for some moms (who me?). A few chairs are helpful for the rare visitor (see below: limit visitors). Ideally you will remain in your cocoon until you are recuperated. The less you venture “out” (even in the house) the less likely you are to try to jump back into your routines of cleaning/cooking/whatever it is you do. Staying in your cocoon will keep you on task recuperating and keep you in the proper mindset. During my recuperations, I napped whenever I was able, talked on the phone—a good way to connect with family and friends on your terms, read
People magazine medical journals, cleaned out the TiVo, read stories with younger kids, wrote thank you notes, designed a birth announcement…did I mention sleep?
Have help. Arrange for help to care for the NEW MOM and to assist with housework and childcare if you are welcoming a sibling. Partners are able to do a good deal of this, though outside help of either a close family member/friend or a professional postpartum doula will make for an even smoother transition for the new family. As a new mom your only responsibilities should be caring for yourself, your newborn and your immediate space. All meal prep, laundry, vacuuming, bill paying, getting gum out of hair, butt wiping, floor mopping, dog feeding, you get the idea, should be done by *someone else*.
Limit visitors. When I say limit I mean don’t have any or, if you insist, be as strict and selective as you possibly can with the people you allow into your cocoon. The days after childbirth can be very stressful on the new family as you adjust and as mom heals. The sleep deprivation and mom’s hormonal changes make for emotional ups and downs. Even sitting and chatting with a close friend can takes its toll. It’s impossible to know a perfect time for visiting so it’s best to put most off for a week at least. If you’re very up front and clear about this before the baby arrives it will be better received at the time. Most will be understanding, and those that aren’t are likely the ones that need the message the most. Please realize the magnitude of importance of this time for you and your new family. You’ll never have these moments again, put yourselves first and keep this special time for yourselves.
When you’ve spent your first days postpartum well, you will heal physically from your childbirth and will be ready to resume your normal activities in short order. It’s best if you start small with venturing out and getting back into routines of home and childcare. Pay attention to your body. Any increase in vaginal bleeding can be a sign that you’ve been overly active and you may need to cut back again. Please take care in building up your activity level slowly. In a few weeks you will get through your days with good energy and without a hitch…a rock star! Enjoy your new bundle of love! (If you’re not feeling the whole “bundle of love” thing…call us!)
The information in this blog post is meant for women recuperating from a normal vaginal or cesarean birth, and is designed for educational purposes only. Information is not provided as medical advice or as a substitute for professional medical advice or care. Always seek the advice of your physican or provider with any questions relating specifically to your case and care.