Postpartum Practices for Optimizing Outcomes
The postpartum time is the 6-8 week period after the birth of your baby, a delicate time of transition and adjustment for the whole family. This is a time to ease your baby into the world as gradually and gently as possible and a time for parents to be supported to rest, bond deeply with their baby, and for Mother to rebalance and nourish her body after the rigors of pregnancy and birth.
Optimizing postpartum outcomes is rooted in a deep understanding of the Mother-Baby Dyad. Whoever is participating in your postpartum care, be it a postpartum doula, family, friends, nannies or babysitters, should be educated prenatally on the physiological and emotional importance of supporting mothers to be with their babies during this time. This is a very precious time that we only get once for a few weeks with each of our children - I encourage everyone to spend it loving and honoring each other after experiencing the big creative force that arises with giving birth.
Here are my top tips for the postpartum time.
- Stay warm. If you’re birthing in the hospital, pack warm layers, including socks, and a hot water bottle to ease afterpains (avoid too much heat on the breasts as this can cause engorgement). Sip water warm or room temperature with lime and have warming, easy to digest foods, like porridges, clear broths, and soups made from root vegetables. Avoid icing the perineum - this numbs tissues and causes the body to redirect energy to raising the body temperature instead of giving its full energy to healing. Instead, do short, frequent herbal sitz baths in the first week postpartum. The warmth of the tea soak brings blood flow to the area and the herbs speed tissue healing and reduce discomfort and inflammation.
- If you are planning to breastfeed: During pregnancy, educate yourself deeply on how to initiate breastfeeding immediately after the birth of your baby. Days 0-5 are crucial for setting the physiological foundations for breastfeeding (we are mammals and our bodies look for certain naturally-occuring signals like the presence of baby on our chest, the smell of pheromones from the top of baby’s head, and a proper, deep latch at the breast). There is such a thing as “too much swaddling” during the initiation phase for breastfeeding. I like to remind my clients that newborns separate from their mothers at the umbilical cord only to immediately re-attach at the breast. From here newborns ease into life earthside gently - initially still very much dependent on their Mother and her body. Mothers are often poorly supported in establishing breastfeeding and early bonding with their baby, so keep in mind that you may have to be your own advocate and you’ll need to know what you’re advocating for and why it’s important. Include detailed plans for initiating breastfeeding in your hospital birth plan so your care team can have direction on how you would like to be supported.
- Have the support of a birth doula. The support of a birth doula in pregnancy and labor increases the level of satisfaction families experience at their births, and can affect outcomes in a positive way. Planning to have support throughout pregnancy and labor sets the stage for a smoother transition through the postpartum period.
- Oil your body and take a warm shower daily. Speak with your partner about having a dedicated hour each day for self-care. Feed your baby, then have your partner or a friend or family member who is confident with newborns hold the baby while you take a few moments to oleate and have a warm shower. Place a glass bottle filled with ¼ cup of organic oil (like C & The Moon's Malibu Made Glow Oil, a cold-pressed sesame oil or a sweet almond oil), into a shallow bowl, then pour hot water into the bowl to gently warm the oil. Working from the tips of your fingers and toes inward towards your heart, oil your body using light strokes. Also oil the scalp and ears. Take a pause to let the oil soak in, and then wipe the soles of your feet with a warm washcloth before taking a warm 20-minute shower. This daily practice grounds the nervous system, supports postpartum recovery, and clears energy. You can also arrange to have this done professionally in-home by an Ayurvedic practitioner or Ayurvedic postpartum doula. I provide this treatment in my doula practice.
And laugh together with your partner, family and friends as often as you can - truly the best medicine!
- Keep your baby on your chest or on your partner's chest as much as possible in the early days, “skin to skin.” This means the baby is in a diaper only, with their bare skin touching the parent's bare skin. Robes, button down shirts, and light blankets can go over the baby's back if you’re concerned about keeping them warm, but your body heat keeps the baby at the perfect temperature. Avoid dressing the baby in more than a diaper during skin to skin or having a cloth barrier between the baby’s skin and yours. This encourages the baby to latch and suckle often, regulates their body temperature, releases oxytocin, helps facilitate mother’s uterine involution and stimulates the mature milk to come in.
- Put phones and other devices in airplane mode around your newborn. Newborns thrive in slow transitions from womb to world and have very delicate nervous systems that can be extra sensitive to EMF exposure. Ask visitors to do the same when they come to see you and baby.
- Favor natural light exposure and limit artificial light. Newborns regulate their circadian rhythms gradually during the postpartum period. We can support this transition for them by allowing them to be in soft, indirect natural sunlight and following the light rhythms of the day. Try to wind down for sleep with your newborn following the setting of the sun. During wintertime when nightfall is very early, light your house gently, ideally with beeswax candles which emit negative ions, but otherwise with soft, diffused light until your baby has had time to adjust to the stimulation of bright light.
Take your postpartum doula to your first 2 pediatrician appointments, or be sure you can call them during the appointment if any concerns or issues are identified. Postpartum doulas provide extensive informational support and can help facilitate communication between families and care providers. Just as with birth doula support, postpartum doula support can open up options in care that families might not otherwise have had, particularly related to feeding and weight gain, which can be big topics in the early weeks.
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.