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After You’ve Feathered Your Nest: 9 simple tips for postpartum healing

elizabeth b. March 22, 2013
Mother holding her sleeping baby girl
Image by Timboblk

By Sara Elizabeth, Contributing Writer

You’ve laundered the baby’s layette, assembled the crib or co-sleeper, sorted the diapers and wipes, tucked away extra blankets, and all you need is your new baby.

But what about you, Mama?

As someone who has dealt with postpartum depression, there are many things I wish I’d known in the past. All of my focus was on preparing to receive a brand-new family member; not much planning went into how to prepare for those early postpartum weeks.

We don’t live near family, so the only support system we had was through our local church (and we were thankful for it), and a local group of friends. If you have family who are willing to help, take them up on the offer.

Since our theme this month is on simplifying, here are just a few bits of advice for new mamas:

1. Ignore the clock during those first couple of weeks

If you feel like sleeping during the day, don’t ignore the urge because you feel it will interfere with your nights. Chances are high that your precious love is going to disturb your nightly slumber, and you’ll be more prepared to meet his or her needs while feeling somewhat rested than being super exhausted.
If need be, turn off your phone and let the answering machine or voice mail take your calls, and put a note on your door which instructs visitors not to ring the doorbell and/or not to continue knocking if someone doesn’t immediately answer. (I write this from experience.)

2. Set visiting hours in your home

That way we had time to prepare and we could make sure the baby was fed, content, and things were somewhat in order. When visitors do drop in unannounced, don’t let them overwhelm you. They’re on your turf and unless they’re offering to help, feel free to politely let them know when it’s time for the baby to have some quiet time again.

3. Keep a water bottle near you at all times

If you’re nursing, it will help keep you hydrated. If you’re not, you still need it. It’s amazing how you may forget to drink water and even eat during those early days.

4. Keep nutritious snacks, such as fresh fruit, grab-and-go vegetables, and pre-cooked small meal portions on hand

Because your schedule will likely be topsy-turvy, eating at your regular times may or may not happen. Plus it’s almost guaranteed that when you’re able to settle down at the table, your sweet dear one will want to nurse or be held by none other than mama.

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5. Continue taking your prenatal vitamins, even if you’re not nursing

Your body is healing and adjusting, and because of the busy days ahead, you need to ensure you’re getting your nutrients.

6. If someone offers to bring you a meal, accept their generosity

My husband said he felt silly accepting meals and that we would be fine without them, but it was wonderful to wake up from a late afternoon nap and find a hot dinner waiting for us. If you don’t have friends and family who can provide meals, look for some good freezer meal recipes that can be prepared before the birth.

7. Make arrangements or a plan of action for getting out of the house, in case you feel you’re going to go stir crazy

I like to retreat to mybedroom, with the baby, during those first few days. But by about day three or four, I long to get outside. Sometimes this means that my husband drives me to the local supermarket or to a park. Other times it means that I take a walk around the block. The last time I had a baby, it meant standing at the edge of my garage, because of heavy rain; so if you’re likely to have inclement weather, consider finding a mall or other spacious indoor place where you can get “out” without getting soaked or frozen.  Even a calm, understanding friend’s house can provide a break from cabin fever.

8. Rest

If you’re able, have someone help you for the first couple of weeks, whether that’s a family member, friend, or a postpartum doula. Those first few weeks can be a roller coaster and it’s very helpful to have someone who isn’t feeling the effects of hormones and sleep deprivation nearby to provide a reassurance. Even if you feel as though your strength is back, take it easy and follow your care provider’s directions. If your postpartum bleeding begins to increase, that’s usually a sign that you’re overdoing it. I’ve always been eager to get back into a schedule or even a fitness routine as soon as possible, but I usually do so too early and set myself back.

9. Most important, because I take this part very seriously: if at any time, you have thoughts of harming yourself of your baby, have irrational thoughts, etc., please call your care providerimmediately

Even if it’s 3am! Don’t think about the “what ifs” or if someone is going to look down or think less of you for needing help.  You aren’t the first woman to deal with these kinds of scary feelings and you won’t be the last. Doctors and Midwives are trained to help you and they help women every single day, so call them. The postpartum time for a woman is both an exciting time and an emotionally and physically challenging time as well. If you can get help early enough, it can make a world of difference. Don’t let it drag out.

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The first few weeks after birth are both my favorite times and my hardest times. I have a thyroid issue, so we have to keep an extra eye on my moods, because I get a double whammy of hormone fluctuations. I have many sweet memories of rocking and nursing my tiny babes but I also remember many tears from feeling tired and overwhelmed. Because of my history with PPD, we have safety measures in place (which include everything listed above) and it’s made a world of difference.

What advice would you give to a new mama who is preparing for her babymoon?

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  1. I’m due in three weeks with our fourth baby. This list is great, but incredibly idealistic! I have two kids in school. Another at home, and will have a newborn added to that mix. I honestly don’t think there will be naps for me. The kids need to be brought to school and picked up. The three year old tends to get into trouble… How do I even begin to rest? I have definitely suffered with postpartum baby blues, maybe even depression, in the past, and it terrifies me. I don’t want to be that person again!

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  2. Thanks for the advice! Have any tips for an almost 2nd-time mama? Big sister will only be ~21 months when our son arrives in May.

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  3. Two words: placenta encapsulation. This sounds disgusting but I highly, highly recommend it for postpartum healing. I remember that first week after my son was born, and every time I had that dark cloud start to form, or that feeling of impending doom that I couldn’t shake, I’d take a dose of my placenta pills. Some dismiss it as a frivolous hippy extra that has no benefits, but the results were real. Placenta encapsulation has also been known to increase milk supply, speed up lochia to end sooner, and to regulate your hormones. I remember crying as I took my last dose. I would have had triplets just to have the placenta pills.

    Google it, and find someone who will encapsulate for you- it is worth the 100 bucks or so to not have to do it yourself (even that makes me gag!)

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  4. I want to expound on number 9. If ANYTHING feels “off”, call you provider. NO detail is too small. If it strikes you as off, ask!

    Reply

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I’m Kate, mama to 5 and wife to Ben.  I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I’m also a big fan of “fancy” drinks (anything but plain water counts as ‘fancy’ in my world!) and I can’t stop myself from DIY-ing everything.  I sure hope you’ll stick around so I can get to know you better!

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