After you have had a baby you may realize you did not read any information about how to care for yourself post-birth. You may see conflicting things about where the baby should sleep, how much they should be sleeping, or if things like wearing your baby is beneficial or will lead to them being dependent upon you. Many women also feel like they should be living their normal life quickly and may even feel like they are failing if they aren't back to cooking and cleaning the day they give birth.
Please send this list to women before they give birth!
Here are a few ideas to help you after a birth:
1. Where should the baby sleep?
As close to you as you feel possible! The baby has been a literal part of your body for 10 months. In the days, weeks, and months after birth, they are not ready to be without you. We co-slept with all four of our babies. We never had an issue of accidentally rolling over the baby, or having a hyper-sense that did not allow us to sleep because we felt every movement from the baby. Instead, I experienced rest. Co-sleeping means no getting out of bed, walking down the all, picking up the baby to feed, change the diaper and then putting them back to bed. The baby would wake up, I would offer my breast, they would eat and fall asleep. As they got older, I was asleep before they even finished. In the younger days, my husband would change the diaper while I nursed but it was done so swiftly that we were both back asleep quickly. There is a co-sleeper (link below) that sits next to the bed at bed height that we did have and use too. This was used more during their nap times, and when they went to sleep before we did. Inevitably, they were back in bed with us within a couple of hours. But if you do get hyper-sensitivity, the co-sleeper is a great option.
From my experience, I got to the point where I would wake just seconds before the baby stirred as they became hungry again for milk. This was helpful because I could offer my milk before the baby was truly awake.
I am planning multiple posts that detail breastfeeding. For this post I will just say that breastfeeding is easier than using a bottle or than pumping. I have heard many women say that using a pump to feed the baby or making formula up is much easier than breastfeeding. It is not. When the baby is hungry, you pull your breast out of your shirt and they eat. Then you burp them. Pumping takes tons of time, and for some women it will not pump as much milk as they are told the baby needs so then they start supplementing. Formula is inferior to breastmilk in many ways, but another is having to wake up, make the bottle, warm it up and then feed the baby. This translates into less sleep. I do understand the women who do need to work and therefore need to pump breastmilk. This little part of this post is not directed at them. This is for women who do not know which to choose and see other women choosing things other than just offering the breast.
Breastfeeding helps with bonding especially because there is an energetic arc line that crosses a woman chest at the breast. So while the baby is nursing they are in that energy space and continuing to bond with the mother energetically while also releasing oxytocin to the mother. So many wonderful things happen. And to the women who say, "I want to be able to leave the baby with other people so I can go out" (not for reasons such as work, etc) I would respond, "Your baby is yours and they need you. You chose to have a baby and for quite awhile, they are attached to you!" Yes, it is a transition. Yes, it can be a big shift for someone who was really enjoying their alone time before the baby (which was me before having children). However, it is what they need for healthy development, and just nurturance in general.
Sleep when the baby sleeps if you have no other children at home and if you have the privilege of staying home with the baby. Nap when they nap, as you need it. Sleep as they sleep at night. Some babies will easily sleep more at night (and let's be honest, newborns sleep almost constantly in the beginning), while some will sleep more during the day and "come alive" during the night. So, sleeping when they do allows you to get the rest your body needs to recover from birth and to feel renewed.
4. Sitz Baths
Taking a bath after birth is heavenly. A sits bath is a bath that is only filled waist high, and usually full of wonderful herbs. You can take multiple baths per day. Adding certain herbs that are beneficial in healing your woman parts is also wonderful. (Link below) Take those few minutes to take a bath when the baby is sleeping or being held by your spouse or someone else that is close to you. It feels wonderful.
5. Baby Wearing
Wearing your baby in a wrap is easy. There are many types of wraps (I love my sling from Rockin Baby Shop [not an affiliate link]). I have put a link to another I also used that worked great for me too. You may find that you like a couple of different wraps, slings, or carriers for your baby for different things. Wearing the baby around the house while doing laundry, or making food is so freeing to me! I still keep the baby close, which is what my heart and body are yearning for, while also being able to make food, read a book, or fold laundry. (For the first few weeks you should be not doing much of anything. But when you get your energy back and feel like doing more, the wrap is the way to go!)
This is a different category than sleep. After you have a baby, you have a dinner plate sized wound on your uterus (from where the placenta was attached). Seriously. So, although you cannot see this wound, it is there. If you had a c-section, then you also have the addition of recovering from surgery. To allow your body to heal quickly, rest! I recommend having other people who are planning to bring meals for at least one week, if not two! You can plan to have some meals in the freezer, or ask your husband to take over dinner preparation for awhile if you have been the primary cook.
Ask a family member or friend to come and clean the house so you do not have to worry about it. Find a place in your house that you can be all day. Most of the time that is in your bed, other times it may be on the couch in the living room. Have diapers, wipes, water, snacks, burp cloths, and your phone near you. (The phone is to call someone, read something if the baby is sleeping, or to take millions of photos of their little sleep smiles!) Then plan to stay there unless you need to use the bathroom, or grab something easy from the fridge. After the baby is born it is called the "lying in" period. Stay inside, rest, be with your baby, establish breastfeeding and allow people to care for you unconditionally.
7. Placenta Encapsulation
Eating the placenta is more common in other parts of the world. Although this option is a great one (or freezing the placenta and adding little chunks of it to your morning smoothie!), placenta encapsulation is another way to go. It is true that you will lose some of the qualities of it through dehydration BUT it is in capsule form which many women can usually stomach more easily. Consuming your placenta helps with postpartum depression, post-baby brain fog, mood-swings, energy levels, and breastmilk levels! It is so wonderful. You most likely have a placenta encapsulation specialist in your area. If you are in the Boise area, I used Gretchen Vetter with Synergy Birth Services and she was fantastic. These specialists come to your house, take care of everything with the placenta, sometimes will make some placenta art if you'd like them to and they clean and sanitize everything after they are done. If you are in a hospital, ask your doctor to save the placenta and bring a cooler. It is helpful to have a family friend that is able to come to the hospital and take it home and put it in your fridge for you. One less thing to have to think about. Seriously ladies, this helps so much!!
8. After-ease Tincture
I did not notice afterpains after my first baby (most women don't). Afterpains are the uterus contracting after the birth to bring the uterus back down to its normal size. However, after my second I did notice them although they were bearable. After my third was born, I was crying through them during the night because I did not want to take any pain medication and I had not looked into herbal remedies to help. (I have no idea why since I had studied herbs well enough that this info should have come up!) While pregnant with my fourth I found the after-ease tincture. Putting a dropper full in a glass of water and sipping it throughout the first few days made them painless! I could feel it contracting as the baby nursed, but I did not feel it. It kept me from painful, teary nights! This is a must if you've had a baby, or two, or three already! (You can find the link to the one I used below or feel free to find a recipe online and make your own!)
So, there is my list of things that helped me most with recovering after the birth of my babies. Each time things looked a little different but I think they all went pretty well. Do you have things that you found helpful that you think should have been on this list? If so, what are they?