By Dr. Courtney Centrelli, Chiropractor at Fit and Centered
Rest is something that is very important and extremely undervalued in our culture. We live in this “go go go” society where everyone has a constant need to be doing. It is to a point where it is not to our benefit. People are burned out/stressed out, sick, unhappy and injured. Rest is the number one thing many chiropractors are recommending to their patients in the postpartum period.
It can be a challenge to do — your mind races with the external to do list when your body has its own internal to-do list. You just had a baby! Whether it was a vaginal birth or cesarean, your body has a lot of healing to do, and that takes energy. You may not be up and around much, but the energy your body is making from the food you are eating is being spent on healing. Every day your wounds are healing, and your uterus is shrinking. Right after birth, it weighs about 2 pounds. After the first week it shrinks down to half of that, and by two weeks it’s down to around 11 ounces and back in your pelvic cavity. By four weeks it will be about 3.5 ounces and close to its pre pregnancy size. Also, if you are nursing, your body is working on supplying the proper nutrients to another human being. That takes a surprising amount of energy. Nursing alone can burn 500-600 calories per day. To give you an idea of how much that is, depending on your weight and speed, you can burn about 250-350 calories during a 30 min run.
Your baby is only this little for a very short time. Savor every moment. It may seem like forever sometimes, but it is fleeting. Soak up the snuggles. This benefits you and your baby in mind and body. If ever there was a time to just “BE” now is that time. The benefits to you and your baby are immense in this period. There are many studies now touting the benefits of skin to skin. Resting skin to skin promotes bonding, reduces babies crying, helps baby regulate body temperature, and decreases the risk of mood disorders in mom.
Your body needs to heal. The best way that happens is with rest, sleep and good nutrition. Getting solid rest helps regulate blood sugar, it can make you happier, less anxious, depressed and moody, and it can boost your immune function. Some of the risks of not resting during this period include incontinence, hemorrhage, uterine prolapse, and diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal muscles at the linea alba). It is highly recommended to consult with a pelvic floor physical therapist before returning to exercise. It is recommended once you do begin to exercise, to work with a program (like the matriarc app), personal trainer, or exercise specialist trained in postpartum care. Some groups providing this type of certification to fitness professionals include Birth Fit and Girls Gone Strong.
The best thing you can do is set yourself up for success. If you have a strong support team (partner, parents, friends) ask for what you need. Ask for meals, ask for someone else to do the laundry, ask for someone else to do some light tidying if it drives you crazy to be in a mess. You can make some meals ahead of time and freeze them, so you don’t have to worry about cooking. You also could hire a postpartum doula to help with all these tasks mentioned. This way you can have the time to focus on yourself, bonding with your baby, and getting that all-important rest you need.
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.