The postpartum period is commonly defined as the first six weeks following childbirth. It is an incredibly important time period in a woman’s life and in a family. There are so many things changing and developing in this time and it is so important to take care of oneself and each other during this time period. Unfortunately, the postpartum period is not something that is acknowledged often in US culture. It is very common that women are expected to “bounce back” quickly from pregnancy, labor and birth. The suggestions around how to rest and what to do in this time are often vague – if present at all. In our practice we highly encourage that moms and families cherish the postpartum time and plan ahead for a period of rest and getting to know the new baby.
In the first few days through the first week we highly encourage that moms spend most of their time in bed with their new baby. Hanging out skin to skin in bed with baby will help establish the breastfeeding relationship and help create a balanced milk supply for mom. All moms are encouraged to do minimal stairs in the first week postpartum (one flight or less per day!); especially if there is any perineal tearing or suturing. Taking 1-2 sitz baths or soaking baths per day is an extremely useful to perineal healing and overall relaxation. Families are encouraged to sleep when their baby sleeps and nap throughout the day as they are likely up in the night with a breastfeeding baby. We also suggest families consider having minimal visitors. It is so much easier to nap, breastfeed or take a bath without extra people in the house. If visitors are coming over to meet the baby consider suggesting that they bring a nutritious meal, clean the house, fold some laundry or take the dog for a walk. In the first week of this new baby’s life it’s important for the new mom to remember to stay well hydrated, eat whole foods and plenty of protein + veggies. Breastfeeding moms actually need about 400-600 calories more per day than pregnant moms!
In the second – third weeks postpartum moms typically begin to add a bit more activity to their days. Perhaps going from zero flights of stairs per day to two flights. Maybe adding in one small outing at the end of week two (for example, to see their midwife for a check up). Adding activities and errands in slowly over time is a great way to get “back into the swing of things” without overdoing it. One outing per day is usually plenty at first – a midwife visit, Target run and getting a newborn in and out of car is a bit much for brand new postpartum bodies & emotions! Typically, most women have stopped bleeding around week two; an increase in activity can lead to an increase in bleeding. Being mindful of this is important when adding in new tasks and errands. Listening to one’s body is key in throughout the parenting journey. In the second – third weeks it’s important to continue to be mindful of the breastfeeding relationship. Being out and about more may mean breastfeeding in public for the first time, needing to be more mindful of baby’s feeding cues as he or she may be in a car seat rather than mom’s arms, etc.
Around week four is a common time for families to be ready for more activity – maybe a short walk, maybe two errands in a day. It’s important to continue to listen to mom’s body and what she needs with activity levels. Easing *very gently* back into exercise is okay for a lot of women between weeks five and six. Gentle abdominal exercises that engage the whole core, short walks, light yoga and stretching are all great ways to reintroduce exercise. For questions about your specific body and exercise needs please get in touch with your midwife.
Throughout the entire postpartum period is so important to be mindful of emotions as well as physical healing. With the addition of a new, tiny human family and relationship dynamics shift, roles as individuals change and expand and that is a HUGE deal. It can be really normal to be emotional in the first week or two. Many women feel that their emotions are just “right at the surface”. They may cry more easily over things that are upsetting, or cry over things that are joyful. It is important to have someone to talk to about whatever sort of emotions are being felt during this time – talk to a partner, friend, counselor, midwife or just about anyone. Though being overall more emotional is normal it is important to be aware of how many good vs. bad days a mom is having, any dark thoughts, any anxiety or any concerns she is having. Postpartum mental health is just as important as physical health and midwives are present to care for both. If you have any thoughts or questions about postpartum mental health please let us know.
The postpartum period is unique, special, hard, tiring and magical time all rolled into one. Be gentle with yourself and those around you. Keep in mind your midwives are present and on call for both you and your baby as you move through this important time.
- Mother the Mother: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother Book
- Pregnancy & Postpartum Support Minnesota
- Postpartum Yoga Flow
- Homemade Postpartum Pads
- Postpartum Meal Suggestions
- Local Parent Groups:
- Lake Superior Midwifery Parent Group: 10am-noon, second & fourth Friday morning of each month
- Northland Midwifery Breastfeeding Group: second Tuesday of each month
- Women Circling Women Yoga