Five Tips for Settling in After Baby: Postpartum Care
As a birth and postpartum doula I have the privilege of working with parents in the brand new weeks of fresh and raw parenthood. Those weeks are glorious and all together wildly consuming. They take all of you. They leave nothing behind. It is sometimes called the fourth trimester, and that is how it should be treated, as the final steps of bringing baby earthside. I often sit with pregnant mothers and go over their birth plans, their wonderful and bullet pointed birth plan. Most parent have thought of so many things to add to this plan that it is often hard to get it onto one sheet of paper. When asked about their postpartum plan, however, I’m met with a curious gaze. “I just want to get baby here!” is often the feeling new moms have, but in those early weeks parents are so grateful when they have put a plan into place. I am going to list five of my most recommended “MUSTS” of a postpartum plan. Use this, add to it and make it yours!
1.Plan for a support system to surround you.
I cannot stress enough the importance of having a supportive postpartum team around you. When a mother plans her birth she plans her birth team carefully; partner, OB or midwife, doula, sister or Aunt Sally (or maybe not Aunt Sally…code word for Aunt Sally…Ok, no Aunt Sally). You typically don’t want just anyone there. Birth is a sacred space. You use the energy of those around you. Postpartum is the same; it is sacred and full of vulnerability and beauty. A good support postpartum team may look similar to a birth team, your partner, your OB or midwife, a postpartum doula and family who truly understands the necessity of helping out. The benefit of having a postpartum doula is that they are trained to meet the needs of a brand new family. It is our job to be part of that supportive team, whose goal is to see you thrive, get rest and heal. Often times a new mom (and partner) needs the comfort of being nurtured without the responsibility of nurturing anyone but the new baby and themselves. A postpartum doula fills this role perfectly. Also, this is a wonderful gift new parents can be given by friends or family that cannot be there.
2.Find someone to do a compassionate and full birth debrief with you.
Your head and heart are often so full after you give birth. You’ve just been though a life changing, amazingly tough, remarkable and growing experience! There is joy, elation, fear, questions, loss, anger, pain…pretty much every emotion and hormone all mingling together for quite a few weeks (or more)! A compassionate birth debrief is just what the doctor…or midwife…ordered!
“Debriefing is telling our story, complete with experiences and feelings from our point of view. It is a verbal processing of past events…Debriefing is an opportunity to share in depth recent experiences with someone who is willing to listen and care, without judgment or criticism. -Dr. Ken Williams
Debriefing, when done correctly, can bring so much healing and growth. It gives new parents the opportunity to voice what they are most proud of, and grateful for from their birthing experience, as well as to process and begin healing from anything that may have hurt their heats. When parents are given the opportunity for a compassionate debrief it can bring emotional release, illumination, self-awareness and appreciation. Another thing to consider is that it is never to late to debrief your birth, find someone now to talk about a birth that happened a million years ago, it is never to late to begin to heal and grow.
3.Consider getting your placenta encapsulated.
Placenta encapsulation can be a great help to moms during the postpartum period. Often having this supporting element makes so much difference.
**Among the possible benefits are:
Increased release of the hormone oxytocin, which helps the uterus return to normal size and encourages bonding with the infant
Increase in CRH, a stress-reducing hormone
Decrease in post-partum depression levels
Restoration of iron levels in the blood
Increase in milk production
4.Plan your food
Make sure to have friends and family bring hot meals or freezer meals ready to cook. This may seem like an after thought to many new parents, but trust me, when you are in the middle of “fresh-parenting-week-one”, you will be so thankful for that ready-made meal that your friend drops off in the afternoon. Meal Train is an awesome website to share with your family, church, and friends. At least two to three weeks is a good amount of time to plan for meals being brought to your home (some people plan for every other day drop offs so that they can finish left overs). Another helpful idea for meals is to have a freezer meal prep party with your friends and family before baby arrives, that way you still have something to pull from when the Meal Train dwindles off. Having baggies of pre made snack packs (think, fruit, veggies, boiled eggs, nuts, granola, coconut flakes…nom nom nom, I could go on and on, but I’m making myself hungry) is wonderful to have so you can grab as you sit down to breastfeed or rest.
5.Give yourself the gift of grace and time to heal.
So many new moms are excited to get back to doing things they couldn’t do while pregnant, or didn’t have the energy to do. This is exciting, of course, but should be tempered with their commitment to holistic healing. The only expectation you need to have on yourself in those early weeks, heck, early months, is to bond, love, heal, and truly settle into your new self. You will be new. You have just birthed an amazing human, and birthed or rebirthed yourself as a mother. That is no small thing. You are incredible and it takes time for all your amazingness to settle into your new life and body. Honor this time, allow yourself conscious, and sometimes disciplined, time to fully heal your heart, body, soul and mind.
Courage, Dear Heart, You got this.
For resources on any of these tips, please visit: Island Birth Association or Sugarbush Doula
Anita Ortega is a perinatal professional and placenta specialist. She is passionate about life, joy, wholeness and all things birth related! Anita works with expecting families on Whidbey Island and surrounding areas to help them experience birth and parenthood with even more joy, hope and self-actualization.
She longs to see parents grow into the people they feel most whole as; and believes this can be hugely impacted by their birthing and postpartum experience. You can find her at www.sugarbushdoula.com