By Sarah McClure and Charli Zarosinski
In the first three days after you’ve had a baby, both you and your baby are doing a lot and staying busy- but all from your bed! Snuggling with your baby from the coziness of bed ensures that your uterus can involute, or shrink down, in order to control postpartum bleeding. It also helps your body recover from the physical event of birth, guard against perineal and uterine infection, and establish a good milk supply. Skin to skin time allows your baby to feel that the world is safe. Their heart rate, respiratory rate, and temperature will match to yours. They’ll be able to smell your skin and get acquainted with your breast tissue to establish a good breastfeeding relationship. All this time with your baby calms your system as well, as you two are intricately related and need each other. The best way to care for yourself in this period is to:
- Lay in bed around the clock, changing positions to make yourself comfortable. Babies nurse better when the nursing parent is physically comfortable, so find the positions that feel good to you.
- Drink water, water, water! You’re fighting infection, you’re producing breast milk, and you probably got dehydrated during labor and birth. All of this means you need to drink up to half your body weight in ounces every day. Have people bring you water to the bed and only get up, with assistance, to urinate. If you like tea, consider substituting water for Red Raspberry Leaf Tea to strengthen your uterus and give you additional Vitamin C.
- Eat fiber and take magnesium! If you had a vaginal birth, you are probably very sore in your bottom. If you had a surgical birth, your abdominal muscles are working hard to knit together and recover and they need support. Magnesium is critical for muscle function. Eating fiber and magnesium early postpartum keeps your bowel movements regular and soft so you don’t have to strain too hard when using the toilet. No matter how you gave birth, this will make it easier on you.
- Sleep when the baby sleeps. Seriously! Your baby is on a short sleep cycle, waking and sleeping throughout a 24 hour day various times. They will not sleep long stretches like adults, so neither will you. This means that whenever they doze off, you should do the same. Don’t use the time to visit with friends or family and don’t use it to get things done. The most kind thing you can do for yourself after having a baby in terms of recovery and setting up healing is to SLEEP. Our bodies repair and rejuvenate when we are asleep, and that means you just have to use baby’s naps as your naps.
- Ask people to bring you nutrient-rich to help build your blood supply. Birth always involves blood loss, and breast milk is made from blood, so you need to replenish! Iron-rich foods such as red meat and leafy greens, bone broth, and lots of vegetables are a good place to start. It really doesn’t have to be fancy: eat the way your grandmother ate after she had her baby, and your body will thank you. You shouldn’t get up to make this food; someone should be bringing it to you in bed. This is a wonderful time to elicit help from family and friends you feel comfortable enough to be with when you are in bed, probably topless, sore, and very vulnerable. Choose people you trust and can ask without hesitation to care for you. If you don’t have someone like that in your life, hire a postpartum doula. We can’t stress enough that these early days of taking it very easy make your recovery ultimately much faster and smoother.
- Have your helper brew a sitz bath herbal “tea” for your perineum such as this one from Radiant Belly. When the “tea” is complete, have someone add it to a peri-bottle for you and use it to spray your perineum and vagina after you urinate. You won’t want to wipe for a few days and the herbs in this blend are anti-microbial to guard against infection. Eventually, you can also use these herbs as a component to a bath after consulting your care provider about timing of the bath for you and your healing trajectory.
- Process your birth. When you are ready, talk about your birth experience with someone you trust and love, like your partner, doula, midwives, or a friend who was there. Let them know you want to be heard and you want time and space to explore what it was like for you. Having the opportunity to have questions answered, have a good cry if it’s needed, or talk about what surprised you or what made you proud can all help to integrate the experience and move forward. Many birthing people have ongoing postpartum mood disorders that originate in a traumatic birth they don’t get adequate support from. Ask for what you need. You just did an incredible thing and you deserve the opportunity to talk about it. We are proud of you!
The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of your physician or licensed health care provider. You should consult your physician or licensed health care provider before engaging in any exercise activity described in this article to determine if it is right for your needs.