Recovery takes time.
We all tend to dive back into our regular routines too early. Society doesn’t do much to help with that. That first month is jam packed with activities! After all everyone and their mother has to see the baby, your baby will have a minimum of 2-3 doctor appointments, You might have your postpartum check up, the newborn shoot, first outing, and the list goes on. And that’s if everything is going well! If you are having struggles then imagine adding a lactation visit or two, ENT, chiropractor for you, chiropractor for the baby, pelvic floor therapist, and that list goes on. And you are trying to balance all of that while diving into a new role of mom or mom of more.
But that’s not why you need rest. Those are all things that stand in the way of rest.
Here is why you need rest.
You just had a baby/babies! No matter what stage of pregnancy your baby is born, regardless of how long you labored, regardless of wether or not your kept your baby, regardless of wether or not you are breastfeeding, Your body goes through unbelievable changes!
When you first conceive your body is flooded with a variety of different hormones to maintain the life of the baby and help your body function more optimally. These hormones are amazingly beneficial for both you and your baby and many of them have long lasting benefits beyond the scope of pregnancy. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a major shift that takes time to adjust to. And these hormones effect every single part of your body from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet. And the second your baby is born a second hormone wave comes and causes drastic changes in your body again. And, again, it impacts everything. And, also again, these hormones have lasting positive impacts, but it is still a dramatic shift.
Along with those hormones you also become a lifeline for a whole new human being. Your baby’s placenta attaches itself to the inside of your uterus to help make that connection solid between you and your baby. At full term your baby’s placenta will be about the size of a dinner plate. That means that large of a wound is left behind inside your uterus when it separates at birth.
And if you are breastfeeding studies show that making breastmilk saps more energy than growing your baby! And again that’s when things are going well. If you are also fighting supply, a latch issue, or something else it requires more time, money, energy, and mental space.
Your pelvic floor experienced something it either never experienced before or has only experienced a handful or less times. And the muscles in your pelvic floor are made for this! But it doesn’t mean it’s not a lot of work and it doesn’t mean it doesn’t take time and work to get back to the new normal.
How long your labor is effects your recovery to some degree. After all you will likely be a little more tired after running a marathon than running a 100 yard dash. But there is recovery no matter what. We don’t generally tense our ab muscles every 1-5 minutes for hours at a time.
That is a lot to unpack… I know.
All of that may seem like a lot to read and you may be feeling discouraged. But it is important that we understand just how vital rest is! And it can be done, and you are worth making it happen, now how do we make it happen?
- Keep the first 4-6 weeks as calm as possible. This is not the time to rearrange that closet or paint that hallway. This is the time to focus on you and your baby as much as possible. Ask relatives and friends for help around the house. More likely than not they are itching to help just don’t know what to do. Doing the classic newborn shoot is slowly becoming outdated. It is far better for you and baby to wait past the 4-6 week mark and do a simple lifestyle shoot. It’s low-key and promotes you being fully recovered before running around making miracles happen.
- Choose a quiet time for yourself and stick to it as close as you can! We have all heard “Sleep when the baby sleeps”. It’s such well-meaning advice but leaves little practical tips. So here is my suggestion. My advice is when baby falls asleep close to that quiet time. Close the curtains, silence your phone, get your book/turn on your show/crank up the ocean sounds, and rest or sleep. And if baby takes a short nap do some mommy baby snuggles until the quiet hour or two is up. This will help your baby fall into your own natural rhythm. And if a support person can be there during that rest time then have them tend to the baby when possible.
- Eat for healing! Yes you deserve all the sweets and treats for all your hard work. But balance them with lots of fruits, veggies, grains, and proteins. What you eat doesn’t matter quite as much as eating a balanced diet. Make each snack/meal as colorful as possible. If you struggle with appetite issues or not liking healthy food there’s lots of tricks to get around that! (I am sure that will be a whole blog post in the near future!) Eating and drinking for health will help keep your energy level up and help your rest be more efficient.
- Drink for Healing! Drink plenty of water but also find water rich foods to help like melons and Cucumbers. Flavor your water, infuse your water, whatever it takes to get something good in your system instead of just cold stale coffee all day. This will also help your energy levels be higher and rest easier!
- Do 5 minute exercise sessions throughout the day! Always remain within your physical comfort level, this is not the time to be building muscle. But some light stretches, walking in place, simple yoga, or something light can help reduce exhaustion. It also encourages good blood flow, helps your body settle back into it’s new normal, and peeks thirst to encourage you to drink. And don’t forget to do your kegels when you are up to it!
- Have your partner or family members help with night times and day times! Once baby has a full tummy there is usually no reason someone else can’t take a turn rocking the baby to sleep so you can catch some extra shut eye. Go over feeding cues with your support people so there can be a plan on when to bring baby to you if nothing else works. I created this cheat sheet to help loved ones support mom while she rests.
- Listen to your body and rest when it tells you to rest! Avoid outings or make them short outings! Yes you need to get out and be human for your sanity. But remember your stamina will likely be lower than before baby arrived and that’s ok! Listen to those feelings of tiredness. You can try an energy boosting snack, quick walk around the yard, or something to see if it perks you up. But if that doesn’t work take that unscheduled nap!
Overall what I want you to remember is that rest is productive. Your family and especially your baby need you rested. And chugging water won’t boost your milk supply but being stressed and exhausted will send it crashing down! Rest is self care and you are worthy and deserve rest and recuperation. Postpartum period is not supposed to be miserable it is a time to become like new.