I recently got together with a few women who are moms, entrepreneurs in the field of maternal health, and advocates for better postpartum self-care. One of the women just launched a line of postpartum products, Ebi, to encourage self-care postpartum; the other, Lindsay Wolff of Birthing Matters Doula Services, a birth and postpartum doula, who just happened to be the doula who assisted in my birth.
Discussing our own experiences in postpartum- the highs, the lows, the “wish I’d known,” or “wish I’d done”- got us thinking, there needs to be more discussion about moms in the postpartum period. There is a lot of education around preparing for birth and preparing for newborn care, but there is so little information circulating about postpartum care for moms, which sends a message that moms are not a priority in the aftermath of birth. Admittedly, I felt that way. In the days to weeks after my son was born, I could hardly walk (I had a pretty intense delivery), my organs felt out of place, and emotions were unstable, and I almost immediately adopted an attitude of being a utility for this new baby, instead of giving myself the same nurturing and gentle, loving kindness I gave my child. I think back on it now and feel sorry for not being there, as an advocate, for myself. You can bet this time around I will be claiming the postpartum period for myself… we earned it and deserve it, and NEED the time to recover so that we can be fully present and physically prepared for the hard work of parenting.
Talking with my colleagues about what we would do differently in our postpartum experiences, we came to a consensus on a few points I wanted to share:
1. Apprise yourself of the postpartum services and resources available to you while you are pregnant
Pelvic floor physical therapy- IMHO, physical rehabilitation postpartum is essential for restoring function, as well as your sense of self, and self-esteem. In France it’s all but mandatory. I saw a pelvic floor PT during my pregnancy and was back in her office 6 weeks postpartum. I didn’t have any particular complaints but I wanted to get to know her and for her to have a baseline of my body before coming back postpartum feeling vulnerable and insecure about my very unfamiliar postpartum body. She helped with postpartum perineal recovery as well as diastasis recti.
Lactation specialist- We all know breastmilk is great for our babies, proffering nutrients and immune boosting substances. However, few anticipate how hard it will be. It can be painful in the beginning (don’t worry it doesn't last long!), stressful, and exhausting waking for frequent feedings. Pumping is a whole other beast. Identifying lactation specialists ahead of time can help you be successful in meeting your breastfeeding goals.
Mental health specialist- It’s hard to anticipate how you might feel postpartum. It is common for there to be some emotional adjustment, emotional instability due to major hormone changes and very real lifestyle adjustments; however ongoing anxiety or depressive mood is important to address with a qualified mental health therapist, particularly one with experience in postpartum mood issues.
Sleep Consultants- Sleep, what’s that? I need my sleep. Before kids, I slept 8 hours a night and anything less than 6 hours I’d wake nauseous, groggy, and irritable. I consider my son to be a “bad sleeper” (he didn’t sleep through the night until is 1st birthday and even now at 16 months, he only sleeps through the night 50% of the time). Second time around, I can assure you, we will be hiring a sleep consultant, because I suspect my son is not a “bad sleeper,” we just don’t know what we’re doing!
Postpartum Doulas- Postpartum doulas are like having your mom or sister around, but with more expertise and training to assist in the needs of a new family, and without the unsolicited opinions. They are there to hold the baby so you can rest or offer guidance on sleeping, breastfeeding, newborn care, or maternal care, among many other services. I had a lot of “is this normal?” questions for mine.
2. Find your Tribe!
One of the best things I did postpartum was join a New Moms group in my neighborhood. A year and a half later we are all still in daily contact asking for advice, meeting up for playdates, and sharing experiences. Meeting other moms who are going through what you’re going through builds community, confidence, and lifelong friendships.
3. Set Expectations with your Partner
Admittedly this on one where I needed some guidance. I’m a DIY kinda gal who feels like I can do it myself, even though I have a wonderful, present partner. I felt a bit possessive of my baby and wanted to be with him and found it hard to share the care even when I was exhausted. It might be worth talking with other couples who have been through the first few months of caring for a newborn to get their advice. It’s also worth having a discussion with your partner about the responsibilities of each so that you feel supported and you each get opportunities to connect with your newborn.
A few suggestions:
Mom breastfeeds—Partner can get Mom a drink or snack
Mom sleeps — Partner can bottle feed
Mom pumps — Partner can clean the pump parts after pumping
Mom breastfeeds — Partner can burp baby between sides
Mom rests — Partner can cook, clean, or offer a foot rub
Mom practices self-care — Partner can play with baby, cuddle baby, change diapers
Partners often feel like there’s nothing for them to do in the beginning when it seems like the baby does nothing but eat and sleep. As this list shows, there’s lots to do! It’s important to remember that mom is in recovery, whether from a vaginal or cesarean delivery and she needs a lot of rest and help. Cooking, cleaning, and even recovering are often neglected at the expense of care for the baby. Partners can help by assisting with those responsibilities so that mom can feed the baby and get the precious rest she needs.
4. Self Care
You don’t have to leave the comfort of your home to get care for yourself. Self care products, from herbal sitz baths to oils, balms, and even underwear, not only help you recover more quickly, but also send a message that self-care for mom in the postpartum period is important, dare I say, essential. We offer home postpartum acupuncture home visits as well as instruction in postpartum acupressure and other traditional Chinese medicine techniques, like moxibustion to support postpartum recovery. We also make a soothing Birth Balm that can be applied to both C-section scars as well as a sore perineum to ease pain, help promote fast healing, and prevent scarring.
For moms local to Boston, we highly recommend the following companies for postpartum support and community:
BOSTONNAPS- Mommy and Me groups, New parent groups in South Boston and Charlestown; pre- and postnatal fitness, lactation and sleep consulting and much more!
Beantown Babies- New Parent classes, lactation consultants, postpartum doulas, and more!
Wellest Health - Pelvic floor guru!
Maria Delorico - Perinatal and postpartum mental health specialist!
Little Lovage Club - New parents groups in the South End, birthday parties, and more!
Yintuition Wellness - us, of course! Acupuncture, acupressure and moxibustion for postpartum recovery, c-secion healing, hormone balance, new mom aches and pains, and easing anxiety, depression, and stress
This post is a long one but I felt like each point was important to mention. If you have more questions or if you’re a soon to be Boston mom who could use more help navigating pregnancy and/or postpartum, please don’t hesitate to reach out- if you couldn’t tell, we love talking about postpartum care!