“Stretching herself too thin, she breaks her connections. Staying too busy, she has no time. Doing for others, she neglects herself. Defining herself only through others, she loses her own definition. The wise woman waters her own garden first.” - The Tao of Women
I believe that planning for the postpartum season needs to become the norm in our culture. Just like we encourage parents-to-be to sign up for Lamaze classes, learn hypnobirthing techniques, and write down their birth preferences, postpartum deserves just as much forethought and intention. It’s a delicate time, and we must treat it as such. Being as prepared as you can be can make all the difference. As a Postpartum Nutrition Consultant, I believe we should prep mamas for what to expect in those early days, but also look a bit further down the line, like how to set up safe sleep situations when you’re struggling with the crib, or how to reconcile your old identity with an ever-evolving newer one. The postpartum season can undoubtedly bring about its fair share of turbulence, but with proper preparation you can enjoy a smoother journey.
- Know what nutrients to prioritize. Did you know that our nutrient needs postpartum are actually higher than during pregnancy? I didn’t! The concentration of many nutrients in breast milk is directly correlated to maternal intake. Other nutrients remain constant for baby, but mama will become depleted if they’re not consuming adequate amounts. For example, choline concentration in milk is directly correlated to maternal intake. It is a nutrient vital for infant brain development, on par with folate. Avoid postpartum depletion by working with a nutritionist to plan out meals of warming and nutrient dense foods, like broths, to keep your health and wellness up. Check out The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother by Heng Ou to learn more.
- Educate yourself on some of the most common postpartum conditions. Know what to watch out for, write down some remedies to soothe specific conditions, and know when you’ll need to contact your care provider for further support. Certain ailments like mastitis and fatigue may be mitigated with early at-home intervention, but may also need immediate further care. It’s important to know how to spot the difference. A nutrition consultant can help you learn what to look out for and offer holistic methods to approach the various conditions. A great read is The Fourth Trimester: A Postpartum Guide to Healing Your Body, Balancing Your Emotions and Restoring Your Vitality by Kimberly Ann Johnson.
- Identify your main self-care pillars and plan how you’ll incorporate them. Make time for yourself. Put something on your calendar every month (or even every week) that is just for you. You are a mother now, but you are also still an individual. Whether it is a massage, a yoga class, or a coffee date with a friend, you may miss your baby but you won’t regret the recharge. You can’t pour from an empty cup, so ensure you are regularly filling yours up.
- Know it won’t always be this intense. Early postpartum is an intense time. I didn’t recognize my body, felt utterly exhausted, was physically recovering from an assisted delivery, and I was just getting to know this beautiful new human. There are ways to set yourself up for a smoother ride, but it’s best to buckle up and enjoy the journey, knowing it won’t always be so bumpy. A flexible mindset that welcomes each day as it comes can make a big difference when entering postpartum. This phase shall pass.
- Build your village before you are postpartum. Who can you lean on to support your family during this delicate time? Can you set up a meal train? Who will walk the dog while you are recovering? Do you have a pelvic floor therapist lined up? Can you invite a masseuse into your home to relieve tension and help you unwind? Do you have a preferred acupuncturist that can support you? Identifying these support people before baby arrives is so important to feeling confident in your network and knowing you will be taken care of. It takes a village to raise a child and to help a new mother during the precious time of matrescence.
- Learn about what normal infant sleep can look like. Sleep training messaging is everywhere, but it’s not for everyone. If we understand the reality of what sleep may look, how it changes, and how we can best support ourselves and our baby through the journey, we’ll enter postpartum ready to roll with anything. Little did I know that your baby’s sleep can change dramatically around the four month mark as their sleep patterns begin to mature. While I am not an infant sleep specialist, in my personal experience, my daughter went from nearly sleeping through the night as a newborn to waking hourly during this time. It may seem dire, but entering with low expectations around sleep and being pleasantly surprised is better than the opposite!
- Learn about alternatives to cribs. While some babies sleep great in one, others do not. Postpartum is not the ideal time to be researching and taking classes to know how to sleep safely. While many parents say they will never share a bed with baby, over 40% of infants in western societies end up bedsharing some of the time (Blair, et al., 2019, 4). Knowing how to do this safely will allow for a shame-free experience and an ease around sleep. Knowledge of the alternatives is a great tool to have in your back pocket - infant sleep specialists on Instagram like @heysleepybaby and @becauseofbebe are amazing guides when it comes to learning about the wide range of what biologically normal infant sleep can look like and how to best support your baby. Also check out James McKenna's book, Safe Infant Sleep. Know there may be some trial and error to find what works best for your family, and that’s okay.
- Invest in a postpartum doula if you can. In hindsight, I wish I had. While pregnant, we can focus so much on the birth that we forget that is just the beginning. A postpartum doula can help alleviate some of the early struggles, including establishing breastfeeding, providing nourishing meals, and holding baby while you bathe. They are worth their weight in gold, and a service you can actually register to receive! A new kind of registry that supports the true needs of new mothers, Little Honey Money, provides the opportunity for loved ones to contribute to a cash fund that gifts services from Postpartum Doulas, chiropractors, massage therapists, acupuncturists, meal deliveries and more.
- Have the number of a lactation consultant on speed dial. Ideally, one who will come to your home the first few days. Whether you are having a home birth or a hospital birth, the first couple days you will often find yourself surrounded by lots of support. For me, the nurses in the hospital were amazing in helping us learn the skill of breastfeeding. However, it wasn’t until I got home from the hospital that my milk came in, and we really struggled to figure it all out. Having a lactation consultant come to the comfort of your home and support you through your unique challenges in your own environment is an invaluable tool that can make all the difference in setting up a positive breastfeeding foundation.
- Prepare to be cracked wide open in ways you cannot plan for. Just as with labor, while there is so much we can do to prepare for postpartum, there are a lot of unknowns. Embrace the fact that we cannot plan for everything. If we go into postpartum with this outlook, we’ll be able to weather the storms more peacefully, and the sunny days will be a welcome break.
*We discuss these topics in depth in my 6-session The Nurtured Mama Circle, launching November 1.
Sorayya Dossett is a Seattle-based animator-turned-Nutrition Consultant. After the birth of her first child, the intense and delicate postpartum season caught her completely off-guard and left her feeling depleted. This experience ultimately led her to enroll in Oh Baby School of Holistic Nutrition to become a Certified Nutrition Consultant specializing in Postpartum. Sorayya is the founder of Hello Mother Goose, a nutrition practice that provides both 1:1 and group support to mamas and mamas-to-be. Her ultimate goal is to mother the mother; she wants postpartum care (and prepping for it!) to be just as normal as pregnancy and labor prep. She truly believes when the mother thrives, the whole family can thrive.
The content provided in this article(s) is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. Neither Carson Meyer nor C & The Moon LLC are liable for claims arising from the use of or reliance on information contained in this article.