As a mother of 4, and a recovering perfectionist, I wanted to share my best tips for postpartum recovery.
In late winter, we brazenly put in an offer on a 2 acre 100 year old home. It was to our surprise when our offer was accepted. In addition to migrating from the suburbs to gorgeous Oregon wine country, we were also moving at the tail end of my pregnancy. At 36 weeks pregnant, this was a slightly un strategic family planning move!
We somehow made it onto the other side of relocating and having our first home birth and fourth baby. I’m in my fourth season of hazy pregnancy recovery whilst breastfeeding a newborn land, so I’d thought I’d share my best tips for postpartum recovery.
1. Rest and Snuggle the Baby
Bathrooms dirty? Kitchen sink full? For the first 6 weeks after your baby is born, you get a cleaning pass. Your body is recovering from growing a beautiful human and it is also working hard to heal and repair. On top of the healing you are doing, you are establishing a milk supply and giving your baby constant love and attention. It’s quite the job description!
When talking to my midwives this spring about the importance of rest, they explained to me that the placenta site leaves a 8.5 inch wound that has to heal after giving birth! Your body needs to heal and repair just like it would from any other sickness or injury.
This is a time to spend in bed resting as much as you can and sleeping as much as possible as your body heals.
For my first few children, I never took rest very seriously. I love to get up and go. After my third was born, I gave myself little to no recovery time and ended up with severe adrenal fatigue. This leads me to my next tip for postpartum recovery….
2. Enlist Help However You Can
In order to properly rest, you are going to need help and support. Some cultures do a fantastic job of supporting postpartum mothers. In our frenzied Western culture, the art of supporting a new mother and baby seems all but lost. This means that we need to ask for help! Here are a few ideas for gathering support postpartum:
-If someone offers to help clean house, let them! They may not do it the way you would, but a clean floor is a clean floor.
-Set aside money, if you can, for house cleaning to come in once a week.
-Ask your husband for help, in specific terms. If the laundry pile is driving you crazy or you just need a moment alone to shower, ask for help in those specific areas.
-Accept offers of meals. While its important to eat healthfully, give yourself some grace in those first few weeks. If someone asks your preferences, request nourishing foods such as pho (bone broth rich soups), sushi, salads with healthy proteins and fats, etc.
-Use paper plates, napkins, etc. If there was ever a time for disposable utensils, this is it!
When we moved at 36 weeks pregnant, I had a sweet friend offer to come clean my new house for me. It felt odd for another mom to spend her precious time cleaning my mess, but the gift she gave me was immeasurable. She thought she was just cleaning house, but she really gifted me a refreshing of my spirit and a sense of hope that things would be normal again.
3. Be Kind to Yourself… and Your Spouse!
Unless you have been gifted with the rare baby that sleeps through the night from day 1, you are likely extremely exhausted. Imagine if you’d just been hired for a job and the hours are 6 am until 10 pm. You are also on call every night. You have no time off! This is how life with a newborn can be.
Give yourself grace during this time. This comes easier to some personalities than others! I tend to have a very hard time letting things go. Chores, messes, schedules and the behavior of my other children… these things are all very important, but they should not be the priority during your postpartum recovery. Be gentle with yourself, spouse and other children, and try to cherish this time you have to connect with your newborn and rest.
4. Accept Your New (Temporary) Postpartum Recovery Schedule
Babies have a way of throwing life for a curve, but it is very temporary. My sister has 8 children, and recently her eldest graduated from high school. She can attest that the time went quickly! When we have children, our lives constantly shift as our kids grow and develop. Our time with each child in our nest truly is limited. We will not have the same schedule we did when we were single or childless, and that’s okay! Learning to embrace the season of exhaustion and self sacrifice is hard, but it is just a season. As the saying goes, “babies don’t keep”.
Try to keep things simple during your postpartum recovery, knowing that this season soon will pass. A simple routine of showering, puttering around, and putting the baby on a simple sleep schedule may be all you can do right now, which is more than enough!
5. Eat and Drink Nourishing Foods
Nourishing foods may be the last thing on your mind when you are going through recovery from having a baby. But postpartum recovery and the milk supply is directly related to the quality of foods consumed. Two of my babies were born shortly before Easter, and I have memories of inhaling jelly beans and peanut butter chocolate eggs to cope with my new stress and exhaustion. Not the best choice, and my overall health throughout the following year suffered.
I have since learned that nourishing, whole foods are the best for creating quality milk and repairing the body from giving birth. Protein is equally important. A good rule of thumb is to try to eat as many fresh fruits and veggies as you can, alongside quality protein and fat sources. Fermented foods, bone broths, high quality fats from fish, grass fed butter, and nuts and seeds will do wonders for your recovery!
I recommend reading Nourishing Traditions for a holistic guide to healing foods.
Keep in mind that during the first few weeks after baby is born you will receive meals and treats from friends. Try to limit the treats, but don’t over analyze your diet at this point. Enjoy the meals you are gifted, and try to have protein+vegetable snack options readily available.