Mamas, here are some ideas that can make the postpartum era feel comforting, warm, nurturing, and even beautiful. This is a time of great transformation, and when the rough surface is polished away, one for new beginnings. Give it space to live up to its potential as perhaps one of the most forgiving and therapeutic eras of your life.
1). Call In The Meal Train
You might have a particular vision of your first meal after birth, but there’s no reason you can’t look forward to the meals that follow, too. Lots of families sign up for meal trains.
Traditionally in other cultures, new mothers aren’t expected to make their own food — much less task themselves with serving others.
Our culture is famous for the nuclear family, making it more difficult to imagine a scenario when extended family and other help can be available at all times, rallying around a new mother to hand her a hot plate before her stomach even gurgles, making sure her other children’s bellies are satisfied too. A meal train is a wonderful compromise.
During this emotionally sensitive time it’s best to avoid alcohol, caffeine, processed foods with synthetic dyes and additives, and added sugars. Insist your loved ones bring vitamin-rich foods and skip the glazed donuts for now!
2). Hire Thee A Postpartum Doula
Do you need to lay in bed with your baby, to be given plenty of space and time to just ‘be’? Or do you heal best surrounded by constant company to assist and engage you? Postpartum doulas nurture the entire family through this transition in whatever way is best for you.
They tend to the mother, baby, and older siblings; give family members time to take care of themselves; help with household chores; prepare meals; teach the new parents about childcare; offer emotional support, and so on.
Learn more about how postpartum doulas can help here.
3). Get Breastfeeding Help
Getting started with infant feeding can be tricky — not to mention sometimes very stressful. It can feel like too much pressure to get it right and to have the peace of mind that baby is thriving. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help with any issue at all, whether that means calling a lactation consultant, meeting with a La Leche Leader, or seeking online support groups.
Breastfeeding might not be what you dreamed but it shouldn’t be a nightmare either. When breastfeeding goes well, everything else tends to get a bit easier, too.
4). Wrap It Up With Belly Binding
Some cultures consider belly binding to be an essential postpartum custom. All new mothers have some degree of diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal muscles) immediately after birth. It eventually heals on its own for most, but for many it persists without additional encouragement.
Bringing the gap together provides stability and support for the weakened core, helps heal the opening, can help prevent scar tissue, decreases air and gas trapped in the abdominal cavity, encourages displaced organs back to their natural place, and uses pressure to squeeze out lochia and the extra fluids collected throughout pregnancy. Binding also offers a sense of emotional closure and strength.
Many modern American mothers choose commercial support binders, while some opt for Bengkung wrapping, which is tailored to each woman’s unique and ever-changing shape.
5). Heat Healing (Mother Roasting)
According to Rhythm of the Home:
“Mother roasting refers to the almost universal practice of keeping mothers warm immediately after the birth and in the weeks that follow. It is believed to seal the gateways, which have been opened by the birth, and to keep wind and cold from entering a vulnerable new mother’s body.”
The loss of the baby’s heat through birth separation leaves the mother without that internal heater she’s grown accustomed to over the past ten months. In following the mother roasting tradition, a new mother should consume hot foods like teas and broths to replenish blood loss, break down lochia, and hasten sluggish digestion. Other nourishing treatments include hot stone press, moxa/moxibustion, yoni steaming, and more.
6). Schedule A Massage
Mothers-to-be are quick to schedule pregnancy massages and chiropractic adjustments. After birth, a massage or adjustment might be the last thing on your To Do list, but it really is as beneficial as the same care given prenatally.
Postpartum comes abruptly, and it’s never clear just how long you’ll still be in the postnatal fog. Before you give birth, set the appointment for sometime in the expected first few weeks postpartum to reap the benefits when you need them most (you can even request a masseuse who takes house calls).
Treat it like you would if you were still pregnant — as a vital part of your healthcare regime.
7). Holistic Medicines as Needed
Labor contractions might be long over, but during this time you’ll might experience the afterpains exacerbated by nursing. You can take a natural tincture (ensure it’s safe for breastfeeding) designed to ease the potential intensity of sensation as your uterus contracts back down to its original size, shape, and location.
“Motherwort is good for all aspects [of] feminine endeavors. It regulates our hormones and is a cardiac toner so it helps with stress in both women and men. Angelic root helps close the pregnancy especially in women wanting to [accept] their last intended pregnancy. Lemonbalm is good for calming daily stresses and [it’s] a digestive tonic. It passes through the breastmilk giving not only a soothing to the new experience of life outside the womb, but [helping] in the new process of gut use. 2-4 dropperfuls under the tongue or in water to use as you see fit. 4 for moments of stress. 2 for mindful use of it’s magic.” – Mama Be of Be Natural Baby Care
“Elderberry is a a diaphoretic, diuretic, and mildly laxative. This means it helps assist excess water collected during pregnancy out of the body, helps induce the sweat women need for not only assisting [the] water out, but the now excess of hormones, and helps get your digestive back in order. Since it is high in [vitamin C] it provides further assistance in digestive regularity and aids in tissue repair (why it is so good during illness). You can use it for postpartum or hold onto it for immune boost in sickness.” – Mama Be of Be Natural Baby Care
8). Slow Down & Languish
I really should’ve mentioned this first: Lay in! Longer than you’d think. Your only “job” right now is to allow your body time to heal, to bond with your baby, and establish a strong breastfeeding relationship. That’s plenty of work on its own.
You’ll never get these postpartum days back; every instance of choosing the “do nothing” recovery approach over the Western “productivity push” mindset, you actually end up giving yourself everything! By laying in, you give yourself a healthier postpartum, a better start to motherhood, and a more magical beginning to your baby’s life.
9). Honor Your Placenta
How would this look for you? Most likely, honoring your baby’s placenta won’t involve sending it directly to the biohazard bin.
A few ideas:
- Take photos of the placenta
- Bury it
- Make placenta art prints
- Dehydrate a portion to be used in jewelry
- Dehydrate the cord as a keepsake
- Incorporate it in a ceremony or ritual
- Consume it via encapsulation, smoothies, tincture, cooked, truffles, etc.
Purported benefits of consuming your placenta:
- Balances postpartum hormones
- Boosts energy levels
- Helps speed recovery of damaged tissue
- Replenishes iron stores
- Reduces postnatal bleeding
- Reduces stress (it contains high amounts of the hormone CRH)
- Increases breast milk supply
- Wards off postpartum baby blues and depression
10). Enjoy Bountiful, Restorative Nutrition
It’s recommended by most of the health community to continue taking prenatal supplements in the postpartum period and for the duration of breastfeeding (a variety of postnatal vitamins are on the market now, too). Of course, supplementary vitamins must be balanced with a nutritional diet that supports optimal absorption or they might as well be the most expensive placebos ever.
To prevent and treat postnatal depression and/or postnatal anxiety, some suggest trying a whole foods diet rich in the following: vitamin D, vitamin B complex, calcium/magnesium, iron, omega 3 fatty acids; and herbs lavender, chamomile, passionflower.
11). Bonding Bath
An herbal bath is a sweet way to connect closely with your baby after birth. Relaxing as one, drinking in a quiet moment to get to know each other on the outside, and together healing from birth in a warm, womb-like tub fragrant of steeped herbs that are perfect for soothing sore tissues. Baby gets to revisit the watery home he once knew, easing his transit into this strange new world.
I was treated to a divine postpartum bath for myself, too. The Designated Dad tended to the kids while Mama Be (of Be Natural Baby Care) drew up an almond milk and honey bath that made me feel nearly human again.
Sitz herbs: “To use, draw a bath of unusable heat about a 1/4 of a normal bath. Let it steep for 20-30 minutes then add water of a warmth comfortable to baby. You can use it for just you, but baby’s umbilical stump benefits [by healing with sitz herbs] while also inducing a wonderful calm in you both.” – Mama Be
Postpartum Padsicles bring alleviating relief to sore, swollen, tender tissues after childbirth. Even if you didn’t tear or didn’t have an episiotomy, your (strong yet) sensitive passageway of life will thank you for looking out!
I didn’t tear so I didn’t feel like I needed the Padsicles after all, but using them made me feel proactive, like I was doing at one thing nice for myself amid the constant nursing and holding and diaper-changing.
They fit nicely into those postpartum diapers or mesh panties you’ll sport for a while, too.
Read more about Postpartum Padsicles in this post.
After a tiny human departs your womb, your belly will shrink down to somewhere around the size you were earlier in pregnancy. Your skin deflates, so to speak, with it. Did you know skin doesn’t just stretch to accommodate an expanding uterus, the body actually grows more skin? More skin means more dead skin cells… and the perfect time for a great exfoliant.
“It is made with my infused beauty oil, Dead sea, Himalayan, and Sea salts with Citrus and Sage essential oils. These scrubs are detoxifying and should be used at most 3x a week so you do not dry out your skin.” – Mama Be
For postpartum, I stocked up on clary sage, frankincense, geranium, helichrysum, lavender, ylang ylang and combination oils Balance and Serenity. This post by Natural Living Mamma describes the benefits and indications for essential oils to assist in postpartum mood and physical healing. Personally I like EOs more for aromatherapy purposes than as topical agents, but obviously do what’s best for you.
This can be made with the same herbs used for a sitz bath, and for the same purposes. I found it was soothing to spray either directly or on postpartum mama cloth. Fancy and fresh. 🙂
“The spray sitz can be put in your most used bathroom. It no longer needs refrigeration, but I [put] it there to extend shelf life until it is needed.” – Mama Be