The following is a guest post from Stormy of The Happy Herbal Home.
If you’re pregnant you’re super excited (and probably a bit anxious) to meet your new little bundle. If you’re getting close to your due date, then you’ve probably already prepped really well (probably too well) for your little one’s arrival.
You read the parenting books, figured out how you’re going to feed, dress, and diaper your baby. Researched your birthing options, made your choices and created your birth plan. You’ve got this whole thing figured out!
All of that is great, except so many mamas forget to prepare for themselves postpartum. You are going to go through a MAJOR life changing event. (Even if it’s not your first birth.)
You are going to be experiencing so many different things!
Massive amounts of love
But there are not so great things too. Things that no one warned me about. Things like:
Crying (umm…hello hormones)
Trouble figuring out the breastfeeding thing (not as easy as it seems it should be.)
I feel like if someone, anyone, had warned me I could have enjoyed my time much more. That being said, I did figure it out fast. My second postpartum was amazing. I loved mostly all of it.
So, for you to rock your postpartum, make sure you are completely ready before your little one makes their debut.
Ways to Make Your Postpartum Recovery Easier
Prepare to heal your body
It makes me want to laugh writing about rest. My first 2 weeks with a baby I didn’t sleep. I was so sleep deprived I started hearing voices. I knew they weren’t real, but it still freaked me out. The problem was my baby was a rough sleeper and I was paranoid about SIDS. He just wouldn’t sleep without me holding him, ever.
After two months, out of sheer exhaustion, I finally gave into co-sleeping. He slept 3 whole hours! I hadn’t tried it beforehand because all the horror stories I read about the dangers of co-sleeping. Now I feel very differently. There are many benefits, including more sleep for baby and mama. Just something to keep in mind. If it’s something you’re considering, just make sure you follow the safe co-sleeping guidelines.
If co-sleeping just isn’t for you find a way that works. The old adage “sleep when baby sleeps” still holds true. If you can take a nap when baby naps, do it! Do not worry about cooking, or the house, or anything else. Get sleep! Priority number one.
Keep your body nourished
Your body won’t heal without good nourishment. Wounds need essential vitamins and nutrients to heal, especially zinc, vitamin C, and protein. You don’t need to get caught up on the details of this though. A well-balanced diet will be more than fine and don’t forget to continue taking your prenatal vitamins as well.
Some great foods (especially if you’re going to be breastfeeding) that are easy to prepare:
And of course lots of veggies
Personally, I was too exhausted and in too much pain to cook anything. I definitely appreciated when anyone would bring food to our house. So, if someone asks if you need anything, say yes and ask for food! (Don’t worry about being polite, if they are asking they probably genuinely want to help.) Also, ordering groceries online is amazing! Check if your area has grocery delivery or at the very least grocery pick-up. Then ask if someone can pick them up for you.
Heal your injuries
There are so many natural ways to help heal your body after birth. My personal favorite is with an herbal bath. If you’ve never had an herbal bath, it may sound like a silly luxury, but it’s so much more than that! The different herbs help your body in all different ways. In the DIY recipe, I use each herb helps to heal the body in different ways. That mix helps clean the wounds, promotes new skin growth, reduces swelling of injured areas, relaxes muscles and gives you a sense of calm. It honestly held up to all of these claims too. I used the bath mix for my second postpartum and the difference was amazing.
For vaginal deliveries, you can use the herb mix above and put some in a peri-bottle for sitz baths. Personally, I find it useful to keep the liquid warm on the stove in a large pot and ladle it into my bottle before using the bathroom. The warm liquid makes peeing so much more tolerable!
Witch hazel and aloe can also be super soothing. Simply put them on a small circular gauze and place them on your pad between changes. These work very well for hemorrhoids too as they help decrease swelling.
Drink red raspberry leaf tea. If you haven’t been drinking it during your pregnancy you can read all about the great benefits here. If you already know what a great pregnancy herb it is, you may not know how awesome it is for postpartum too. Because it works on the uterus to tone it, it helps your uterus shrink back to its original size and place sooner. This helps slow the flow of bleeding faster too.
(Note: if want a 2 for 1 tea, try this nursing support tea which will give you the benefits of red raspberry leaf with milk supply boosting herbs)
Prep your mind
The postpartum hormones can make you feel crazy! It seems everyone is aware of postpartum depression now, which is awesome. But did you know that the hormones (amongst things like sleep deprivation and stress) can cause things like postpartum anxiety and postpartum psychosis? It can be caused by other factors too, like exhaustion, overexertion, and stress. There are lots of ways to help regulate your body and avoid the psychological issues that come after birth sometimes. To re-emphasize, rest is a big one, but there are other things you can do too.
Omega 3’s can help prevent postpartum depression and anxiety. You can read more about how here. You can take fish oil supplements to ensure you are getting enough omega 3s throughout the day. When choosing a supplement, make sure to find one that uses small species of fish, as they contain less mercury. This is especially important if you are breastfeeding. This supplement is specially formulated for postpartum women and the ones I personally take.
Magnesium deficiencies can cause so many problems in the body. The worst part it, the majority of people are deficient in magnesium. One of the functions of magnesium is neuro function, meaning it is vital for healthy brain function. When people experience any kind of stress (like labor) their body leaks magnesium through their urine and out their body, worsening anxiety and depression.
To ensure you are getting enough magnesium, you can take a supplement in pill form or as a drink. It also absorbs great through the skin meaning you can add epsom salts to your bath or even magnesium oil.
Breastfeeding has many wonderful benefits for baby. I’m not going to focus on that right now though. I’m going to focus on what breastfeeding can do for you. One of my favorite breastfeeding articles focuses on the awesome things it does for mama’s hormones. So if you’re on the fence about breastfeeding, it may be worth a try just for the oxytocin boost for the both of you. I think it’s one of those natural gifts we are given as mothers to help us get through what can be a very difficult time.
Prep your relationship
This one shocked me most. My relationship with my husband is really good. He’s truly my best friend. We lived together for 5 years before having a baby without many issues. But those first few months after our first was born, oh-my-gosh. We somehow turned on each other and it was terrible. We said things to each other we would never have imagined.
I knew that most couples struggle after having a baby, it is a major stressor in life. But I thought my relationship was safe from this. Lack of sleep, crazy hormones, no time just for each other. All these things translate to a lot of relationship stress.
Have a pep talk
The only thing I can offer here, is to talk now, before baby comes. By simply acknowledging that it may take a toll on your relationship is a great start. There is a really good chance that during an argument you may think “How did I end up with this person??” Someone may even threaten the divorce or separation, but…
Those thoughts aren’t real! If you didn’t feel that way before, it means you are feeling the stressors of the life-changing event of having a baby, and maybe the hormones.
Decided between the two of you that you guys acknowledge it will be hard. That you both will try not to play the “who does more” game, and that you will at least try to give the other some leniency, knowing that this is hard on them too.
Ask for help
It’s ok to ask for help! You actually should. Any family that wants to come and help with other kids, let them! If they ask what they can help you with, ask them to wash some dishes while you rest with the baby. Or better yet, to bring you a delicious, nourishing meal.
Consider a postpartum doula
A doula is typically thought of as a”coach” for a woman during birth, although I consider them much more than this. There are even postpartum doulas who specialize in helping women adjust to the postpartum period. They come to your house and new parents figure out how to transition well with a new baby. They help you figure out how to feed and care for your baby, can offer breastfeeding support, and help with things around the house.
Take time to enjoy
Remember this is all temporary, and the time goes by faster than we think. My biggest suggestion to you is even if things do feel really sucky sometimes, find a few moments to stop and mentally enjoy your new baby. Savor the smell of their sweet breath, and try to remember how silky soft their brand new skin is. This will give you a lasting gift you’ll cherish after the memory of pain and exhaustion is gone.
Stormy is Registered Nurse with two young boys at home. She has a passion for natural living and raising happy, healthy children. She writes at The Happy Herbal Home and helps moms find healthy solutions to everyday problems.