Postpartum

Dr. Amy's Favorite Things for Pregnancy, Birth and Postpartum

Over the years after working with so many mamas and of course my own children I have come across many products and ideas; some have worked wonders and some not. I would love to share my thoughts about my favorite things that I used and recommend!

PREGNANCY

Pregnancy Support Band: As your baby bump grows you will start to feel pressure on your pelvis. One great way to help ease the discomfort is a support band. This provides support under your belly. My favorite brand is www.babybellyband.com

Chiropractic Care: I highly recommend chiropractic care throughout pregnancy. It helps so much with alignment which can easily be thrown off in pregnancy. Good positioning of your baby is helpful for labor and birth. Regular chiropractic care is proven to help shorten labor and pushing. Dr. Amber Moravec with Naturally Aligned works right out of Health Foundations Birth Center. Of course I love her! She specializes in pregnancy and newborns.

BIRTH

Birth Plan Flexibility: I am a big fan of birth plans. I do like to think more of it a birth preferences. The thing about labor and birth is that it is different for everyone. There are guidelines of what a "text book birth" looks like which is great but everyone IS different. Things come up; things change. Try and keep an open mind and remain flexible for change.

POSTPARTUM

Double Electric Pump: Whether you are a working mama or not, having a pump is essential. Even if you are not working you will want to pump and introduce a bottle for times you are away. If you are going back to work you will want a good pump that is easy to transport. Check out our class PumpTalk 101; it is very helpful for coming up with a plan on introducing pumping. There are many good brands out there but I prefer Medela or Spectra

Hands-Free Pumping Bra: Along with a good pump, get a hands-free pumping bra! That way you can do other things like work on a computer or read a book. Try the Easy Expression Bustier.

Medela Hydrogel Pads: Even with a great latch your nipples will be tender the first few days. The Medela Tender Care Hydrogel Pads are heavenly. They are re-usable and help soothe your nipples. If you have cracked or bleeding nipples please reach out to lactation consultant right away. 

Bottle-warmer: Bottle warmers are a huge time saver. You never want to use a microwave to heat breastmilk or formula; it kills the nutrients and heats it unevenly. You can heat by placing in warm water but that takes a long time. The bottle warm is quick and heats the milk evenly. 

Nursing Tank: Nursing bras are great but nursing tanks are all you need in the first couple of weeks. They are easy and low-maintenance. Bravado has a great one; it is loose and comfortable during postpartum. You will find yourself living in it.

Woombie: I am a big fan of swaddling. When your baby was in-utero they were cozy and warm and didn't have a lot of space to move around. Think of swaddling as mimicking that space outside of the womb. It can be very calming for them and help promote good, restful sleep. I like the woombie because it is very easy to use and the shape of it is comfy for your babe. Swaddling should end by 2.5 months because of the possibility of rolling over.

Pacifier vs Fingers: Pacifiers in my opinion are awesome. Babies love to suck for comfort, it is very soothing. If you are breastfeeding you may find yourself constantly comfort nursing and it can be overwhelming. Pacifiers can help soothe your baby when cranky or tired. It can also help extend sleep. Sometimes parents are afraid of using one and will use their pinky finger to soothe. The problem is, your finger is attached to you! I remember hearing a mom say, "why don't they make fake fingers for babies?!" One popular brand is Avent Soothees.

Stroller with Click-In Carseat: Even if you love wearing your baby, a stroller is essential! Find one that works with your infant carseat. That way if your baby is sleeping you do not have to disturb them. Until your baby is sitting up strollers can be awkward and not very supportive to your baby's head and neck.

Pregnancy and Postpartum Uncensored

Let's be honest ladies, there are many things that happen during pregnancy and postpartum that no one ever told you about. In the moment they are far from funny but looking back all you can do is laugh!

Pregnancy Uncensored

No Control Over Gas: Starting in early pregnancy our digestive system does all kinds of strange things we are not used to. Gas being one of them. And it only gets worse as pregnancy progresses! This can happen in the most inopportune times...

Hiccups and Belching: Ladies with manners goes out the window. There is no stopping it. It doesn't matter what you eat or drink, it is happening! Thank your lovely digestive system once again.

Unpredictable Emotions: You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll probably yell. Emotions are up and down throughout pregnancy. They can change on a dime any time of day. Commercials alone can get the tears flowing. Hunger can cause an angry outburst. The next minute you may find yourself dying of laughter. 

Wetting Your Pants: It could be a sneeze, a cough or a good belly laugh that causes it. It could be a trickle or a gush. The pressure on your bladder is no joke mamas! You may want to keep a pair of clean undies in your purse.

Nipple Changes and Pain: It is amazing how your body changes during pregnancy. Women's nipples and areoles become quite dark and large. The reason for this is for breastfeeding. It makes it easier for the baby to see them. But it can be quite alarming! Side note: if you are pregnant in winter, watch out! Cold temps can cause a stabbing pain in your already sensitive nipples!

Postpartum Uncensored

Bleeding and Mesh Underwear: Most of us are not prepared for the month long bleeding that comes after birth. Fun times. No period for 9 months and then BAM! 3-6 weeks of bleeding. To accommodate this you will be given mesh underwear with a pad that is more like a diaper. Victoria's Unkept Secret.

Hair Falling Out: A few months after your bundle of joy has arrived, your glorious pregnancy hair may fall out at an alarming rate. Don't worry- Although it may seem like you'll lose it all, you won't. Your body is just readjusting. During pregnancy you don't lose much hair at all so it is just making up for lost time!

First Postpartum Poop: This is definitely not discussed ahead of time and there should be a forewarning! After giving birth, which might feel like a huge bowel movement, the last thing you want to do is actually have a bowel movement! The pressure can feel kind of scary, but I promise your insides will not fall out even though it feels like they might!

Labial Swelling: Whether you push for 15 min or 2 hours, there will be swelling- probably lots of it. You may not recognize yourself down there. Stick with ice packs and 3-4 sitz baths per day. The swelling goes down! 

Hemorrhoids: This little cluster of grapes on your backside can happen in pregnancy, labor, birth AND postpartum. It is part of why the first postpartum poop is so uncomfortable. Have no fear, they do get better. Those lovely sitz baths will help immensely!

Pregnancy and postpartum is a very special time in a woman's life. It is beautiful and messy all at the same time. All laughs aside, if you are struggling during your postpartum time or something just doesn't seem right, please reach out. There are many resources in the Twin Cities such as, Postpartum Support Minnesota http://www.ppsupportmn.org, WildTree Psychotherapy http://wildtreewellness.com and Iris Reproductive Psychiatric Clinic http://www.irisreproductivepsychiatry.com

 

 

Top 10 Things Every Dad Should Know

Congrats! Your baby has arrived! This is a very exciting time for both moms and dads. As life shifts into parenthood, there are many adjustments to be made! We have talked with dads and compiled a list of the Top 10 Things Every Dad Should Know.

Sleep: Some of the best advice is to sleep when your baby sleeps. You will find after a few days that two-hour naps all night is simply not enough. Take turns. Four or five hours of sleep will become an amazing amount of time and you will feel like Superman. This goes for your partner too. Remember to give her breaks and time to sleep in between nursing. You will lie around and cuddle with the baby and for the first couple of weeks will have energy for nothing else. This is normal!

Hormones: Just when you thought your partner was done with hormone changes because pregnancy is over, you will realize that there is a big hormonal shift that takes place postpartum. Her body is going through major changes. Be gentle with her. She may cry more. She may have a shorter fuse due to hormones and exhaustion. Make sure she is well fed during the day and give her a little extra love and patience.

Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding is hard work! Especially the first two weeks. Expect your wife to need to talk about it. You may feel a little left out because this is something only your wife can do. You can support her by listening, making sure she has snacks and water, and getting her a good book to read during those long nursing sessions. If she has trouble with breastfeeding, offer support by setting up an appointment with a lactation consultant.

Poop: There is never too much you can say about poop.  You will talk about the color, the consistency, and how much poop there was during a diaper change. You will be proud of your baby pooping. You will Facebook about it. You will tweet about it. You will be covered in it.

Visitors: People are going to want to visit your new bundle of joy. During the first week, try to keep visitors to a minimum. If people do visit, make it your job to keep the visits about 15 minutes long. They may offer to help with meals, cleaning, dog-walking, babysitting older children, etc. Do not hesitate to say YES! And if they don’t offer, ask. These are some of the best gifts you will receive.

Your Baby: You’re baby won’t break. You will want to be gentle of course but babies are strong and made to be handled. It is completely normal for you to feel uncomfortable.  Go easy on yourself.  Sometimes it can take dads a little longer to bond with their new baby.

Friends: Once your partner has gotten settled in and you both have gotten rest and feel human again, remember to take some time for yourself. Go out with the guys for a couple of hours. Especially the ones that have been through this before! If your wife feels apprehensive about being alone organize a friend or family member to keep her company or just be there if she needs something.

Leaving the house as a family: This can be a little daunting and you will be surprised how long it takes to get out the door and you may feel like you are bring the whole house with you! Give yourself some extra time on those first few outings.

Your Partner: There are many ways to help and make the ride smoother. Compliment and encourage her. She has just given birth and she wants to hear that you are proud of her. Give her breaks, even to do something as simple as taking a shower. Reassure her that she is doing a fantastic job. Bring her meals in bed, all of them. During postpartum rest is vital for her. During recovery and healing, her main job is making milk, breastfeeding and resting.

Housework & Chores: Keeping the house clean and laundry done will be a huge relief to your partner and even further allow her to rest. She will surely thank you for it!

Health Foundations Birth Center offers a comforting, supportive environment for both moms and dads during pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Schedule a Tour and Information Session today!

What to Expect from Your First Postpartum Period

Photo by Piotr Marcinski/iStock / Getty Images

One of the many great perks of pregnancy is that you get a minimum of nine months sans menstrual cycle. No pads, tampons, monthly cramping or moodiness (okay, so those last two can happen in pregnancy too). At some point however, after your little one is born and your hormones settle back into a rhythm, your monthly visitor shall return. Many women wonder when this will happen and if it will be the same, worse or better than their pre-pregnancy periods. Here’s all you need to know about your first postpartum period and the factors that may impact how long it stays away.

If you are not breastfeeding your baby, you can anticipate the return of your cycle sometime around two months postpartum. There is a wide range of normal for that first postpartum period that can range from light to heavy, more or less cramping than you previously had, small blood clots and a consistent or inconsistent flow. Your period may be totally different than your pre-pregnancy period or exactly the same and it can differ after each child birth, as well. Whether breastfeeding or not, if your period returns soon after your delivery, avoid using tampons while your body is healing.

Breastfeeding your baby can be a game changer in the return of your menstrual cycle and fertility. Breastfeeding releases the hormone prolactin into the body which is necessary to produce breastmilk but consequently suppresses your reproductive hormones. The effect that breastfeeding has on the body will vary from woman to woman with some getting their cycle back a few months postpartum and others needing to ween entirely before their period returns. For women who practice ecological breastfeeding and natural child spacing, the average return of menses is 14.6 months.

Because breastfeeding suppresses fertility hormones and the return of your menstrual cycle, it can be used as a form of birth control for the first six months of baby’s life and possibly beyond. Learn more about maximizing your period of infertility following your baby’s birth and how to use breastfeeding as an effective means of contraception.

Although you can get pregnant before your first period because ovulation may occur, the chances are slim—about 6 percent. Because of this, some women who are eager to grow their family start to feel concerned about when their period will return. If you are breastfeeding around the clock and your body is continuously releasing prolactin and suppressing fertility hormones, it may begin to feel like your fertility will never return. If you are concerned about the return of your fertility because of age or your child spacing plans, there are usually ways to continue breastfeeding and still get your period back. Here are a few tips if your baby is over six months of age and you are concerned that breastfeeding is suppressing your cycle:

  • Start introducing solids: Once your baby is eating more solids, he may not need to nurse as often. Learn more about starting solids with baby.
  • Try cutting out a session and offering a bottle: Sometimes making abrupt changes to your pattern of breastfeeding can bring back your cycle.
  • Work on night weening: Research suggests that reducing time spent suckling at the breast between the hours of 12 and 6 AM may be most effective for bringing back fertility.
  • Be patient. Lactational amenorrhea may be your body’s way of telling you that it’s not ready for the next pregnancy yet and your child’s nursing habits may be indicating the same. In MOST cases, your period and fertility will return eventually despite continuing to breastfeed.

You may feel as though you have PMS symptoms for months preceding the return of your period as your body gears up for ovulation. It’s not uncommon to have some cramping, cervical mucus and other menstrual cycle indicators well before you get your actual period. Then once your cycle returns, it may take a few months for it to regulate back to a reliable schedule (if you’re lucky enough to have one). Although most women will begin to ovulate after their first period, it’s not uncommon to have one or more anovulatory cycle before returning to full fertility.

Whether you are welcoming the extended vacation from your monthly visitor or are anxious for its return, your period will return when your body is ready. If you have not had your first period due to breastfeeding and have concerns about the return of your fertility, talk to your midwife or OB to come up with a plan that works for you and your baby to aid in the return of your cycle. For questions about pregnancy, natural birth or your postpartum period, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center.

Five New Year’s Resolutions for New Moms

New Years Resolutions 2016

As 2016 quickly approaches, you may be considering what your resolutions are for the coming year. If you’ve become a mom for the first time this year, your life has probably changed a good deal along with your priorities. Here are a few ideas for New Year’s Resolutions that can apply to most new moms.

1) Get Connected: Despite the many joys of being a new mom, sometimes it can be somewhat isolating. Those first few months with a new baby you will likely find yourself at home a fair amount of the time catering to the ever present needs of your precious little one. Many moms even find themselves struggling with postpartum depression or anxiety which is not uncommon as your hormones adjust after pregnancy. Getting connected to other new moms in your community can be a lifesaver during this time period. Try attending a breastfeeding support group or checking out websites like Meetup.com for local mommy groups in your area. Connecting with other moms will not only get you out of the house but will give you a support network as you learn the ropes of being a new parent.

2) Put down your phone: As a society, we have become obsessed with our smart phones. From Facebook and Instagram, to email, shopping and games, there isn’t anything you can’t do on your iPhone. If you often find yourself mindlessly scrolling through your newsfeed while playing with your baby, or checking your email at stoplights, it may be time to begin practicing some self-discipline with your electronics. Although your little one may be too young to realize they don’t have your full attention, these are moments you won’t be able to get back someday while the internet will always be there to entertain you.

3) Prioritize self-care: Often one of the first things to go when you become a mom is remembering to take time out to care for yourself. Although having a baby is an around the clock job, it’s important to work together with your partner so that you can make time to take care of your own needs. Whether it’s taking a bubble bath or nap, sneaking out for a yoga class, going to the dentist or meeting a friend for lunch, your physical and emotional wellbeing should still be a priority when you have a baby.

4) Nurture your marriage: Finding time for your partner when you have a new baby can be challenging. You’re both exhausted from the sleep deprivation and you are trying to manage all of life’s responsibilities in addition to caring for your new babe. Making time for one another can often feel like the last thing you have time to add to your plate. It doesn’t have to be a date night to count towards this resolution. Think of little ways you can show each other you care in your everyday life. Leave a love note unexpectedly, plan an in-home date night, pick up a favorite treat to share after baby goes to bed, or offer simple words of affirmation to let your husband know you love him. Happy parents are the foundation for a happy family.

5) Get organized: Life can sometimes feel a little out of control after adding a new baby to the mix. Responsibilities and chores you were once always on top of may be piling up around you now despite your best efforts. Give yourself some grace to let things slide after a new baby but if it’s beginning to add stress to your life, it might be time to get organized. Whether it’s more efficiently delegating chores in your household, putting together a family budget spreadsheet or setting aside specific times each week to take care of necessary tasks, being more organized can help you and your family feel calmer amidst an eventful time of life. 

Pregnant distracted with smartphone

Whatever your New Year’s resolutions are this year, be sure to acknowledge all the remarkable things you’ve done in the past year. If you’ve become a mom for the first time, take a minute to realize the amazing journey your body has undergone through pregnancy and childbirth. Recognize the truly selfless nature of motherhood as you give of yourself every day and night to care for and nourish your baby. So as you take out a pen and paper (or your iPhone) to jot down those goals for the coming year, remember to make your own well-being a priority as well. Your family will function at its best when mom is happy and healthy. For all of your questions about pregnancy, natural birth or caring for a new baby, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and a tour of our Birth Center.

Infant Massage: How To

babymassageAs we mentioned last week in a post on the benefits of infant massage, this special activity with baby can be a great bonding tool with myriad benefits to both babies and their caregivers. While no special training is required to offer healthy touch to a baby, here is some additional information on how to give infant massage.

When to massage

For young babies, it can be ideal to offer a massage when your baby is in a quiet yet alert state. You may want to avoid the time just after a feeding or when baby is sleepy.

Setting the scene

Lay a soft towel or blanket on the bed or floor where you will offer the massage. You may also wish to sit on the floor (or bed) with the soles of your feet together and knees apart, forming a diamond shape with your legs. Drape the blanket over your feet and between your knees. Undress baby down to the diaper and place him or her on the blanket, head toward your feet, facing you.

You can use massage oil in a non-breakable container. Almond oil or coconut oil work well for many babies, but you may wish to test the oil on a small spot on baby's skin and wait a day to ensure they aren’t irritated by the oil.

Beginning

Start with a gentle stroke from baby's head to toes. If baby stiffens up, cries, or becomes irritable, switch to another area of the body or end the massage for time being. If s/he responds well, start gently massaging his/her body. Here are some techniques for each body area.  Note: their is not one particular "right" order of body areas to massage.  You may choose to work from trunk to extremities, or the opposite, or massage in any order that feels right.

Tummy

  1. Hold your hands palms toward you, fingers pointing in (wrists bent), so the edge of your pinky can move across your baby's belly. Starting at the base of the rib cage, stroke down with one hand, then the other, continuing one after the other.
  2. Massage her belly with your fingertips in a circular, clockwise motion.
  3. Do the "I Love U" stroke: Trace the letter I down your baby's left side. Then trace an inverted L, moving across the belly along the base of her ribs from your left to right and then down. Trace an inverted U, stroking from low on the baby's right side (your left), up and around the navel, and down the left side (your right).
  4. Walk your fingers around baby’s navel, clockwise.
  5. Hold baby’s knees and feet together and gently press knees up toward the belly. Rotate baby's hips around a couple times to the right. (Great for expelling gas. 

Note: Avoid massaging tummy if the umbilical cord site hasn't completely healed.

Head and Face 

  1. Cradle your baby's head with both hands, gently massage the scalp with your fingertips, as if you're shampooing. (Avoid the fontanel, the soft spot on top of baby's head.)
  2. Massage her ears between your thumb and index finger.
  3. Trace a heart shape on baby's face, bringing your hands together at his/her chin.
  4. Place your thumbs between your baby's eyebrows, and stroke outward.
  5. Stroke from the bridge of the nose out over the cheeks.
  6. Using your fingertips, massage the jaw hinge in small circles.

Chest

  1. Place both hands on baby's chest and stroke outward from sternum to shoulders.
  2. Beginning at the sternum, trace a heart shape bringing both hands up to the shoulders, then down and back together.
  3. In a crisscross pattern, stroke diagonally from one side of your baby's hip, up and over the opposite shoulder, and back down to her hip.

Arms

  1. Hold her wrist with one hand and hold your other hand in a C-shape around baby's upper arm; make long strokes from her shoulder down to her wrist
  2. With each hand grasping her arm, one right above the other, stroke down from shoulder to wrist with both hands rotating in opposite directions, as if you were gently wringing out a towel.
  3. Massage baby’s palms, moving thumb over thumb from heel of the hand to the fingers.
  4. Stroke down from the wrist to fingertips on the back or front of the hand. Gently squeeze and pull each finger.
  5. Roll her arm between both your hands.

Legs

  1. Hold the ankle with one hand and hold your other hand in a C-shape, thumb down, around your baby's upper thigh. Stroke from thigh down to foot, skipping over the knee joint.
  2. With your hands grasping the leg at the thigh, one right above the other, stroke down from hip to foot with both hands rotating in opposite directions, as if you were wringing out a towel.
  3. On the sole of her foot, use a thumb-over-thumb motion to massage from heel to toes.
  4. Use your whole hand to stroke the bottom of the foot from heel to toes.
  5. Stroke the top of the foot. Gently squeeze and pull each toe.
  6. Roll each leg between your hands, as if you're rolling dough.

Back

Place baby on tummy horizontally in front of you, or lay baby across your outstretched legs. Keep baby’s hands in front of him/her, not at the sides.

  1. With both of your hands on baby's back, move each hand back and forth (keeping them going in opposite directions) from the base of the neck to her buttocks.
  2. Hold your baby's bottom with one hand and use the other to make long strokes from the neck down to the bottom.
  3. Using your fingertips, massage in small circles down one side of baby's spine and up the other. Avoid pressing on the spine directly.
  4. Massage the shoulders with small circular motions.
  5. Massage the bottom with big circular motions.
  6. Holding your fingers like a rake, stroke down her back.

Other infant massage tips:

  • Make strokes gentle but firm, and not ticklish.
  • Build massage into your baby's daily schedule.
  • Follow baby's signals about when to stop. A massage can last anywhere from a few minutes to as much as 30 minutes, depending on baby’s moods.
  • Enjoy this precious time with your beloved little one.

New Mama Self-Care

Woman Lying in a Bathtub Holding a MugSelf-care can be a real challenge in the early postpartum and throughout early motherhood.  With a little one needing care 24/7, a home to keep somewhere in the realm of clean, adult relationships to nourish, maybe other kids to care for, and often additional work inside or outside the home, it can be hard enough to get food in our bellies and count on more than one hand how much sleep we had the night before. But self-care is paramount, especially in the postpartum and first year of motherhood when we are often depleted and giving far more than we are receiving.  Mamas need a full well of their own to keep giving as motherhood requires.  They also need a full well because they deserve to BE well.

We probably all have enough checklists of things we need to do.  Here is a simple little check IN list for mamas—a way to become more aware of how well you are nourishing and caring for yourself.  Notice where you fall on the spectrum (how many “yes” and “no”s) and allow this to guide you towards greater self-care.

Check IN list for Mama Self-Care

Yes           No

____           _____    I allow myself to rest when I am tired

____           _____    I nap regularly or as often as I can

____           _____    I drink enough fluids daily

____           _____    I am eating well—I am able to eat when I am hungry, I eat often throughout the day, and the foods I eat are healthy and nourishing, particularly for me as a postpartum (breastfeeding) mother

____           _____    I eat something fresh and natural at least once daily

____           _____    I spend time in nature at least once, if not several times, a week

____           _____    I get sunlight (nearly) everyday

____           _____    I take care of my physical needs and wellbeing

____           _____    I get help or take measures to address physical issues that may arise.

____           _____     I take good care of my teeth

____           _____     I am able to keep up on personal hygiene as I’d like (bathing, nails, hair, etc)

____           _____    I exercise regularly and in ways that replenish (not deplete) my body and make me feel good

____           _____    I make time to relax and slow down

____           _____    I find time for things I really enjoy

____           _____    I regularly engage my creativity in some way

____           _____    I ask for help when I need it

____           _____    I speak up when my needs are not being met and seek solutions

____           _____    I forgive myself and others

____           _____    I take time to laugh

____           _____    I make time for my partner, my friendships, and other important relationships

____           _____    I practice kindness toward myself and my mothering, knowing I am doing the best I can in every moment

____           _____    I release expectations that don’t serve me

Take Action

Answering these three questions after checking in may also help to clarify what action you might take to enhance your self-care:

  1. What are three to five ways I could improve my self-nourishment?
  2. Whom can I ask for help or support to improve in these ways?  What would help or support look like?
  3. I deserve to take these actions because:  (you fill in the blank).

Be as kind to yourself as you are to your child. 

Give yourself permission. 

Advocate for yourself.

Ask for support. 

Forgive.

Breathe deeply. 

Laugh daily.

Be well. 

FREE Postpartum Class Next week

Join us next Tuesday October 1st from 10 to 11 am for a free 1 hour class in which we will discuss posture, strength, and flexibility changes that occur during pregnancy and after delivery. We will demonstrate correct alignment for standing, sitting, bending, lifting, nursing, and pushing strollers to protect joints from strain or pain. Participants will also be led through exercises including breathing to restore ribcage position, correct abdominal strengthening, gluteal exercises, kegels, and stretching of tight muscles. Please come in comfortable clothing and feel free to bring your baby. Instructors: Gayla Pleggenkuhle PT, PRC & Laurie Xiong, MPT have both had extensive experience working in specialized physical therapy treatment of pelvic floor and post partum musculoskeletal issues for over 15 years. They work at New Heights Physical Therapy in Mendota Heights. www.newheightsptmn.com

Class will be held at Health Foundations and is free!

Preparing for Postpartum

newbornFamilyWhen we are pregnant, it is easy to focus on the pregnancy and the impending birth.  While is it great to focus on the present and important to prepare for the monumental experience of birth, it is also crucial that expectant mamas (and their loved ones!) think about and plan for Life After Birth.  And we’re talking more than just preparing the nursery and getting all the “stuff” of new parenthood. Postpartum is a special time that deserves careful planning and consideration. While the postpartum period is customarily thought of as the first 6 weeks after birth; many midwives, health providers and mothers recognize that postpartum extends beyond this initial intense period of transition and healing.  In fact, midwife Raven Lang commented, “As long as the baby is still in diapers and you’re up in the night, you’re postpartum.”

While we could talk in much detail about that first year(s) of life with baby, today let’s focus on preparing for that initial month or two conventionally known as the postpartum period.

Here are five things to consider when planning for your postpartum.

 1.    Late Pregnancy Health: Nourish and Rest

A mama’s health in late pregnancy can have a profound effect on her experience of birth and the postpartum period.  A mama whose reserves are low going into birth and motherhood may find the journey much more arduous than the mama who makes self care a priority in her last weeks and months of pregnancy (of course, we encourage prioritizing self-care no matter where you are at!).

Given that our society favors the “masculine” energy of action and motion—working up until the last moments before birth, continuing to meet demanding social, professional, and other routines, and the like—it can be difficult to give yourself permission to honor the more “feminine” going-within and stillness that is needed in late pregnancy.

Late pregnancy should be a time to rest as much as possible.  Let’s repeat that, because it is important: women in late pregnancy benefit from resting as much as possible.  Light exercise and excellent nutrition are also paramount to this time.

????????????????????????????????????

It won’t be long before your needs will be balanced against the intense and constant needs of another being that you will love and care for dearly.  This is a special time to really honor yourself—to treat yourself with the utmost kindness in preparing for the adventure to come.

Rest enhances recovery and reduces stress.  Lowered stress means a stronger immune system, better personal relationships, lowered risk of postpartum depression, and a more supported mother-baby bond.

So take naps, pamper yourself, eat well, take walks or enjoy light exercise (such as prenatal yoga), ask for help and invite in the calm and still energy needed to build up your reserves for the journey ahead.

 2.    Become educated about new motherhood

In our modern reality, many of us are not exposed to babies and new motherhood as much as our grandmothers and those before her were.  While so much of parenting is instinct and intuition, seeking community wisdom and knowledge can make you a more confident new parent.

Take time to learn about breastfeeding.  All our patients meet with our lactation specialist during their third trimester, but it’s also worth considering a breastfeeding class and other resources.  La Leche League is one great resource for all things breastfeeding and they have some excellent books available.  If you are interested in breast pumps, inquire with your insurance about reimbursement (more details about this can be found here).  If you plan to bottle or formula feed, educate yourself about these options.

Learn about newborns (their needs, rhythms, etc) and learn about what is common for mamas to experience physically and emotionally after birth. During your Early Home Care class at Health Foundations, offered by the wonderful childbirth educator and doula Rochelle Matos, you will learn all about what is common and normal for baby and mom during the early weeks at home.

An excellent book that delves further into the postpartum and beyond is Natural Health after Birth: The Complete Guide to Postpartum Wellness by Aviva Jill Romm.

3. Familiarize yourself with the common needs of new mothers (and share with your support circle!)

 Put simply, a new mama needs someone who will meet her needs so that she can meet the needs of her baby.  New mamas in the postpartum period also need:

  • Lots of rest
  • Time and space for reflection and processing
  • Someone who will guard her privacy
  • To feel honored, protected, and nurtured
  • Praise, encouragement, and validation
  • Noncritical support and advice
  • A good, nonjudgmental listener
  • Time out daily for a bath, nap, or quiet time
  • Nourishing food and drink
  • Time to bond with baby
  • Reprieve from the demands of daily life

4.    Make a Postpartum Plan

 Making a postpartum plan is an important pre-baby activity for an expectant woman and her partner and/or support circle (see below).  The first two weeks are all about mom and baby—establishing a bond, establishing breastfeeding, healing from childbirth, and getting to know one another.  The postpartum plan should be all about supporting mama and baby in those early weeks.

At Health Foundations, we really want our mamas to REST during the postpartum period and especially those first two precious weeks.  We recommend mamas stay in bed for the first week, except bathroom and bath breaks and NO stairs.  In the second week, we recommend mostly bed rest with a stair set once a day, max.  In the third week, you can begin slowly reintroducing additional activities, though we recommend a max of one short outing per day.  Evidence shows that the more you rest in these early weeks, the faster you heal, the quicker your bleeding will subside, and the better you will feel.

SONY DSC

Delegate Responsibility

Given this, it is important to make a plan for how your usual activities will happen (or not happen).  It’s a good idea to make a list of your responsibilities, delegate tasks that need to be done, and put off or plan ahead for other tasks.  Here are some examples:

  • Laundry—perhaps someone else washes the laundry and folds it, or maybe you fold it on the bed
  • Cleaning—don’t clean!  Don’t even look at what might need cleaning!  Or if something absolutely needs to be done, delegate.
  • Grocery and other shopping—try to stock up on non-perishables ahead of time (plan to have enough toilet paper, etc. on hand for a month).  You can also shop online for food and other items, which can be delivered to your door.
  • Cooking/meal preparation—if you can, try to prepare and freeze two weeks’ worth of meals to have on hand for the postpartum.  Nutrition is very important for new mamas so consider simple nourishing balanced meals.  Also, learn about take out and delivery restaurants in your area and give them a try or at least snag menus to consider for easy meals.  There are registry websites, like foodtidings.com and mealbaby.com that can help coordinate meal offerings from friends and family.
  • Bills—consider starting online bill pay, if that makes it easier (it may be easier to click a button than fill out paperwork!) or delegate this task to another house member
  • Older Children—if you have older kids, make a plan for how they will be cared for once new baby arrives—can they stay at a friend or relative’s home for a couple days?  Will dad or another family/friend be “in charge”?  Will these children attend daycare/camp/school and how will they get there?  How can you prepare them for the changes to come?  How can you make this time special for them?
  • Visitors—Just like in birth, your partner or other close support person should protect your privacy and your boundaries during the postpartum, communicating with eager loved ones about how and when you are up for company. If you are not ready for visitors, it’s okay to ask people to hold off on visits until you are ready (baby will still be there!). You might also consider a “visiting hour” during which people can stop by shortly.  Consider asking your go-to person to make it clear to others that visits are best kept on the shorter side and that visitors are welcome to bring a meal or help out while they are over—maybe they take out the trash, load the dishwasher, change over the laundry, water plants, etc.
  • Make it special—the first few weeks are dubbed the “babymoon” (like a “honeymoon”) for good reason.  This is a precious time of strengthening the love bonds between family members.  It’s also a time to treat yourself with the utmost care.  How will you make it special?  Consider gifting yourself with little treats during this time, you deserve it after the hard work of carrying and birthing your baby!

Ahead of time, maybe you:

  • Get a manicure, get your haircut, get a massage(s), or go to a spa
  • Buy new makeup, a new (nursing-friendly) nightgown, or the like
  • Save a book from your favorite author or stock up on magazines
  • Load up your Netflix or similar with movies and TV shows you’ve wanted to see.  (funny, light shows are especially good for this time)
  • Acquire some new music by a favorite or recommended band or artist
  • Put up a beautiful piece of art or a picture that you can look at from your bed (consider natural images, which have been shown to help reduce stress and boost healing)

During your babymoon, you might:

  • Consider placenta encapsulation
  • Take sitz baths at least once a day
  • Change into a new outfit, open the windows, and welcome each new day
  • Look through albums of favorite trips or special memories
  • Journal about your experiences (they are often profound even despite the sleep-deprivation!)
  • Rest, rest, rest!
  • Eat your favorite meals
  • Drink lots of fluids
  • Be unreasonably kind to yourself

5.    Create a support circle

Some experts recommend that mamas delegate a close friend or family member as postpartum support coordinator—this person can arrange “assignments” for those in your support circle such as bringing a meal on a certain night, watching older children, coming over to doing a little house upkeep, etc.  This takes any potential pressure and awkwardness off mom to ask for support from others, if this is the case.  Of course, you can also arrange your support yourself!  Consider these possible members of your support circle:

  • Husband or partner—while every partner’s ability to take time off is different, it’s helpful to take as much time as you can—whether that’s a few days or several weeks
  • Older children—older children may be given special helper tasks
  • Relatives
  • Friends
  • Other mothers (perhaps women you meet through childbirth ed classes)
  • Postpartum Doulas—these experts are trained to meet the physical, emotional and practical needs of new families
  • Hired Help—some families consider hiring help for cooking, cleaning, and other tasks

family-support

Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself and enlist help in meeting your needs in the postpartum.  In the words of midwife Aviva Jill Romm:  “In order to fully nourish your family, you must have reserves to draw on—you need to be a full well.  Every bit of help you receive adds to your reserves. Planning ahead for postpartum care ensures that you will have the help and support necessary to keep your well full.”

What do you think?  If you have kids, what did you do or wish you had done to prepare for the postpartum period?  If you are pregnant, what are you doing to keep your well full going into new mamahood? 

Welcome to the Health Foundations blog

A blog is born! Greetings and welcome to Health Foundations’ new blog!  We are thrilled to create this virtual gathering place—a space for you to gather information, support, and resources during the childbearing year and beyond.

Here we will offer:

  • information about preconception, pregnancy, birth, babies, postpartum, and parenting
  • news about community and Health Foundations events
  • birth stories
  • insight from experts in the birth world
  • recipes
  • pictures
  • and much more

This blog is for and about YOU—our amazing Health Foundations families—we invite you to share with us your birth stories (and pictures!) as well as other stories about your birth and baby adventures.

We also welcome feedback—what would you like to see shared here?  What are your burning questions about pregnancy, birth, and new parenthood?

Please feel free to contact Jaime at Jaime@health-foundations.com with your questions, stories and feedback.

Thanks, come back and visit us again soon!

469755_10150978476250734_504943501_oPhoto by Gwendolyn Waite Photography