Self-care isn’t a bad word. Self-care is a word of acknowledgment for the needs of ones’ physical and mental well-being. In the 4th trimester, knowing when to say “when” to the juggling of life as a new mom. Reaching out for support and practicing self-care is essential to implement as the days turn into nights, and the days turn into weeks. Postpartum self-care doesn’t have to be grand or big plans. Self-care in the postpartum period is nourishment, physical activity, help with household tasks and errands. A good cry and conversation. A ship cannot sail with an empty fuel tank.
Hydration and Nutrition
The prenatal pills that replenished you with the vitamins, minerals, and energy that was lacking in pregnancy are beneficial long after the baby says ‘hello world!’. Continue to take the prenatal supplements in the immediate postpartum. As simple and cliche, as it may sound hydration and nutrition, are so…so…SOOOO important when recovering post-birth. Our bodies are made up of 70% water and how we choose to replenish our bodies to function can deter a healthy and speedy postpartum. Postpartum self-care in this realm can be obtained by sprucing up ordinary water consumption. Adding fruit, mint, or electrolytes to your everyday H2O provides a treat to the tastebuds.
The nourishment of good nutrition is another way to indulge in postpartum self-care. Yes, food is a necessity. BUT…what is it that we do throughout the pregnancy and often times when breastfeeding? We forgo our typical favorites and stay clear of foods that cause discomforts. During this time and thinking about your own postpartum self-care, indulge in your favorites and enjoy the foods you avoided during pregnancy. Of course, you know what your body tolerates, and paying attention to moderation and any items that may cause a reaction in your baby and in you.
Pain Management in Postpartum Self-Care
Pain management continues after the baby is born. Uterine massages, milk supply increasing, vaginal impacts of birth are some pain implications that can bring discomforts in healing and recovery. Postpartum self-care may look like taking the prescribed medications on a schedule. This care may look like self-weaning off of medications as one begins to recover. It may even look like taking an alternative approach to pain management through nutrition, rest, herbal remedies, and more. Pain medicine can cause constipation. Think about stool softeners both in the natural form of foods and over-the-counter medications.
Remember, it’s harder to “catch up” with pain versus staying on top of it. Give yourself grace in and time, and ultimately you are in control of your pain and receiving the care you need. Hone in on your natural and normal body inclinations. You understand your body better than anyone else and know how your body reacts to pain.
Activity and Community in Postpartum Self-Care
There’s something to be said about the healing power of activity. Physical movement, even as small as walking through the house, ignites the muscles and endorphins. Endorphins are natural mood-enhancer that flows through the body with a workout. Take caution in the early weeks of postpartum, and be mindful of the birth recovery process. Dancing it out is a great way to groove and move the body, provide entertainment for the baby, and keep your mood in balance. More active and strenuous activity is welcomed towards the 6-8 weeks after giving birth. That’s definitely something to look forward to! Along with moving that body, doing so with a friend is even more fulfilling. Someone to motivate each other on those tougher days of getting up and getting out.
Creating a village and community during postpartum can make a world of difference. There are so many avenues in which new parents can be a part of something bigger than their situation. New mom support groups get new parents talking about all things birth, babies, and parenthood in an environment that is safe. All while generating friendships that outlast the baby stage. (Ask me how I know!) Reach out to your provider for resources on groups and gatherings that they may be aware of. Better yet, talk with your doulas about it! They may already have something set up, or start one. As we know, online is where the social atmospheres have become the new norm. Meetup.com, Facebook, Peanut, What to Expect Groups are some venues that have active parenting groups that suit every stage and every unique family. Talking with other parents in your situation or even out of your situation is a way to give yourself grace and self-care, especially when everything seems upside down.
When Help is Offered, Take It
For some, help can’t come soon enough after the baby arrives. For others, there’s not enough help in their world. There are some that want to navigate the ship themselves. There’s no wrong way to postpartum, there are tips, tricks, tools and emotions, energy, and education. Take friends, family, colleagues, etc up on their offers to “Can I bring you anything?” They want to help out and may not know what’s the best way how to. By offering to pick up, drop off, swing by, pay for things you may need, want, or crave this is their way of supporting you best in their own way. So don’t be shy! You want a venti Starbucks drink of the season or a dozen donuts from your favorite shop, ask for it. You need someone to put the freshly washed baby clothes in the dryer, let them lend a hand. Ran out of ideas for dinner? Suggest a night that someone can bring you a dish.
Being supported in the postpartum realm can be difficult to say ‘yes’ and accept the help of those that yearn to support you. Meal trains, family member visits, postpartum doula support, hiring a housekeeper, a nanny, laundry service, and landscaping are ways to gain support.
Postpartum Self-Care is Not Selfish-Care
Being a woman of a particular age and a single mother, Claudia was astonished by the amount of support she and Evyn were receiving. Her colleagues had set up a meal train for weeks worth of dinners that Claudia also enjoyed for lunch the next day. Her family gifted her additional hours of postpartum support with her favorite doulas once she expressed how amazing they have been to her mental and emotional recovery. Claudia’s postpartum self-care routine consisted of morning meditation. She would retreat for a shower once her doula arrived. Together they would enjoy coffee and conversation on the patio; enjoying fresh air and sunshine. Claudia looked forward to these days and wondered how many new parents don’t have the luxury of enjoying the benefits of this kind of self-care.