The importance of caring for mama and baby goes well past her pregnancy and baby’s birth. Often overlooked by first time mamas (and mamas to many), postpartum care is important to prepare for, all while remembering its effects on mama are different after each baby. As a mom to four, I can attest to this in my own experiences. I will be sharing some simple ideas to help care for and nourish a postpartum mama. You can help encourage her recovery, wellbeing, and support her physical needs.
Thoughts On Postpartum
Getting pregnant brings about significant changes for mama. Her body embarks on the greatest transformation of her life. Not only is this an incredible miracle, but a huge sacrifice of self for the growth and development of another. Her body is no longer her own. What she eats, drinks, and does all impacts her unborn child. Many moms do extensive research to learn and provide the best environment to help their baby thrive to their fullest potential.
Between birth plans, baby showers, keeping up to date with your baby’s weekly growth changes, and preparing a space for this new little person – so much attention is spent on preparing for baby. But what about after the baby is born?
I myself did not put much thought into what postpartum care would look like. I didn’t consider how the changes of my body would impact my self-image, or how my involvement in social activities would be altered. It’s easy to get caught up in the romance of preparing for the baby and not prepare for the reality of postpartum care needs. Creating a home and space that is inviting for the new life joining your family is important, however, the importance of preparing how to care for the mother’s recovery during postpartum is equal.
My Failed Postpartum Experience
My second birth was a home birth with an amazing midwife. I was blessed to have my son with a knowledgeable, wise women guiding me through the process. She empowered me more than I thought I was capable of during my pregnancy, labor, and delivery. It was an incredible moment for me to trust my intuition and instincts. I look back on my relationship with my sweet midwife with such fondness.
Days after my son was born, we had to abruptly move states. He wasn’t even 5 days old and there I was weak from the 10 hour labor, doing my best to recover, while packing up mine and my kid’s things. This broke me beyond belief.
In parting, my understanding and kind midwife did the best to give wisdom and knowledge in how best to care for myself. I did the best I could given the circumstances, however, I was unsuccessful. Spiraling into depression and not being able to rest while my husband was still in South Korea, I failed to recover adequately.
Postpartum Care Ideas
Having suffered such a difficult postpartum, I am thankful to say that recovery after my third birth looked drastically different. Here are the things that I think are so important to aiding recovery and a healthy outlook after birth:
1. Rest, rest, rest
This one is hard for me even when I am not moving across different states. However, the value of resting after birth is worth it’s weight in gold. My first midwife shared the 5, 5, 5 rule with me. 5 days in the bed, 5 days on the bed, 5 days near the bed. After my third baby I was able to achieve this because we created a space for me to. This leads me into the next recommendation.
2. Don’t isolate mama
After you have a baby, your hormones shift so drastically. You go from this incredible feeling to, well, intense after birth pains, bleeding, trouble breastfeeding, you name it. It seems like the moment you waited for so long to arrive is over in a flash. Then you are dealing with the lame after party clean up. Thankfully it’s not all that bad since you have the reward of a new baby. However, being confined in a room, alone and isolated, away from life happening, is in itself depressing. Coupled with imbalanced hormones is just asking for an unhealthy state of mind. So what can you do to help mama? Let’s find out.
3. Create a space for mama to be included!
When my third was born I was adamant to have a better postpartum. It was really important to me. So my husband helped me by moving our guest bed out into the livingroom. I was so happy to recover where my kids were playing, my husband was hanging out, and with all the windows letting in sunshine. It was a perfect set up for me to be included with life happening and I could lay down and rest.
4. Create a meal train
When my sister was pregnant, her husband and I were both gone after baby was born. Her support system was minimal and she had other children to care for. However, while serving in the Air Force, I had heard of meal trains that family support had done for women in our unit and I created one for her. Many times after, for my sweet pregnant mama friends, I would set up a meal train for them after baby arrived. After having my own children, I saw the value in this support system. Here is a link to the website I have used to set up meals for family and friends for years, even before having my own children! But there are now several websites out there that help someone organize a meal train for friends and family.
This was something I was blessed to have myself after my fourth baby was born. In the past, I had dear friends drop by a meal after baby, which was a huge blessing. However, if you want to take this up a notch for your postpartum mama friend, consider setting up a meal train for her and her family for at least two weeks.
5. Share a nourishing meal
One of the things I remember most in my recoveries in postpartum is how hungry I am! Especially if you are breastfeeding your baby, your body needs a nutritious meal! Here are some things to keep in mind when making a meal for a friend or loved one, or if you are preparing freezer meals ahead of time.
Mineral rich foods: I like to add bone broth to the meals I make for a postpartum mama. Here is my recipe on how to make bone broth.
Protein: Make meals that are protein dense. Protein aids in the recovery by helping tissues to repair after damage has occurred.
Carbohydrates: Include complex carbs in your meal, it will help mama to have energy and stamina as she breastfeeds and has to get up frequently to tend to baby’s needs. Here is a great postpartum lasagna dinner recipe that is simple to make. You can easily double the recipe for your family and your postpartum friend’s family.
Fennel: If you can include fennel into your meal and have it taste good, this will help boost mama’s milk supply!
AVOID Sage: If mama is breastfeeding, avoid using sage in the meal you prepare. It takes very little to significantly reduce or dry up her milk supply.
CAUTION: Some breastfed babies are sensitive to spicy foods when consumed by the mother.
6. Offer a helping hand
This could look like going over to her home to start a load of laundry, run the dishwasher, tidy up a room that is overwhelming her, ect.
Another idea is to offer to watch the older kids while she takes a nap with baby or bringing your kids over to play with her older kids while you sit with her and chat.
Lastly, if you are running to the store, you could offer to pick up any groceries or items she may need.
7. Take her picture with her newborn
So often are mothers behind the camera taking photos of their baby, baby with siblings, and baby with dad. Offer to take a photo of her in those fresh early days of new life. She will look back at them with the warmest of feelings and have such gratitude in her heart.
How to Encourage and Support A Postpartum Mama
After mama has her baby, she will likely need to rest but also want to share her birth story at some point. Take this opportunity to be a good friend by listening thoroughly to her tell her story. I know for myself it is hard sometimes to not cut in with my own stories (us mamas love sharing a good birth story) but in good effort, allow her to fully share her recent event in its entirety before sharing your own. This process will allow mama to gain closure and confidence moving through her postpartum stage.
Everyone is different here, but something I suggest is allowing mama to work through what can bring her closure to her labor and delivery. Something I learned about in Korea was the idea of burying the placenta. My first baby was born in a hospital where they kept that placenta. My last three I have had the privilege of having beautiful homebirths and keeping the placentas so we could bury them. There is something so reverent about the experience of burying my placentas. It is a tribute to my body for the work it did to create the organ that gave my children life within me. Burying my placentas allowed me to fully accept closure in that chapter of my life and gave me the ability to move forward more peacefully after going through the actions of giving that organ rest underground.
I’m not sure what other women do to honor their pregnancy. Perhaps sharing this idea or giving them encouragement to express how they can give honor to their bodies could be helpful.
Lastly, let’s discuss the longevity of postpartum. This will look different for everyone. My last midwife was just as incredible and knowledgeable as my first midwife. She advised and cautioned me to be patient with my postpartum recovery. I was 36 years old at the time of having my last baby. Regardless of age, she believes that postpartum lasts from 6-9 months and could be longer for some mothers. I myself agree with this since most of my postpartum periods lasted until six months. This last baby took me longer to feel normal or myself again and he is just barely 8 months old as I write this. Be patient with the postpartum mama, understanding and support goes a long way in health and recovery!
Let me know in the comments if you have any other ideas to add to my list! How were your postpartum recoveries? Would these ideas have helped you?
Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. Psalm 127:3
Note: I drew so much on my own personal experiences going through postpartum periods to write these suggestions. Not everyone experiences postpartum the same, however it is a conversation that should be addressed. This is a link to a study that I read while writing this blog post. It should be known that it is not uncommon to struggle during postpartum. Helping mothers learn to identify these struggles and having guidance on how to navigate those times is imperative to healing and mental health.