What's in my Postpartum Toolkit
This week I am resharing an old post from my old site. I used all these tools again to maintain sacred space after my third baby this winter, plus one extra that I'll share at the end. ~lis
The first time I was pregnant, much of my focus was on the Pregnancy and Birth instead of the Postpartum transformation to Mamahood and the Newborn. For me, newborn care and being a Mama was all pretty instinctive. But the shift, the transition, that was the messier part I hadn’t planned for. So, for my second baby, I had plans in place for a Postpartum baby moon, as much baby mooning is possible with another little one around, and that preparation made all the difference.
The truth is, you can never be totally prepared for birth, and postpartum, and the space in between. You can never be totally prepared for the love that over takes you, for the grief that seems to come from nowhere and everywhere, for the overwhelming need to hold your baby, stare at her all night and day, even if that means you don’t sleep. We can plan and focus and then let go, and still the only way to get through it all is to go through it. This is a period that transcends time, and is all about settling in to your new roles and processing the incredible experience of birth. It is the biggest life transition I know.
That said, there were a few ways I prepared differently the second time, and it did make a huge difference. I’ll share my Postpartum tool kit with you today.
1. A Postpartum Doula My first transition into motherhood was a weepy one, and it was difficult to feel understood because I had a healthy baby in my arms after a rockin’ natural home birth so shouldn’t I be over the moon happy? I knew I wanted to be supported and honored in this major transition in a loving, non judgmental way. I also knew that this request was more than my partner could handle with work, homestead chores and our other child, and that it was simply beyond a role another family member could fill. We sought out a Doula and were ALL nourished by her presence and help. She deeply understood the emotions of birth, family, and motherhood. She came in the home peacefully and ready to help, looking for my list of small chores and including our son in the help. I 911 texted her and another doula friend at times and they were right there for me, through the phone & in person. She helped me take care of my self with food, baths, chores, kid care, and sincere, sincere listening.
“What new mothers really need is a few weeks of personal sanctuary time; spa treatment complete with massage, specially prepared healthy meals, time to rest and relax, soothing baths… hours to take in the landscape (in this case, baby), time to journal, time to dream, hours of afternoon naps. They also need an extra pair of hands- someone to run the bath, hand them a towel when they get out, bring the tea or water, answer the phone, take messages, and screen visitors. We need someone to focus on our needs, physically and emotionally, so we can focus on the needs of our newborns…. It is unlikely that someone can fulfill all of these roles; therefor it’s best to have a support team made up of people who can each meet some of these needs. Unfortunately, many women have difficulty asking for help…. Super-mom is a fairy-tale character. Real women have the right to ask for help and deserve to receive it.” – Aviva Romm, M.D.
If you cannot afford a Postpartum Doula, but this need resonates with you, consider asking for donations as a baby shower gift (*I did this the 3rd time around!*). If you know someone that is pregnant – THIS is THE gift!
2. A House Full of Food Nourishment is a HUGE part of recovery, both physically and emotionally, as well as helping your body make milk. Favorite, healthy, easy food to pull out of the freezer or pantry so that everyone, especially Mama, is fed. I spent time preparing freezer meals & stock in the last few months of pregnancy and also stocked the freezer with frozen organic veggies and fruits. At my blessing way I asked friends to contribute a freezer meal instead of a gift if they were able. This way, I didn’t have to interrupt my mama bear hibernation to go to the store, and neither did my partner. It’s good to plan on at least 1 week of food in the house; I planned for 2. A friend or doula may also help you organize a Meal Train.
Things I recommend are: Prepared Soups (buy or make fresh and freeze), Organic Nut Butters and/or Hummus, Frozen Fruit for Smoothies, Meat or veggie stock, Nuts/Seeds/Dried Fruit, Canned Fish (packed with Omega-3s), Organic Eggs, Sweet Potatoes, Greens, Ginger/Garlic (warming & healing properties), Grains you like, Favorite easy snacks for husband/other kids and you! And .. Dark Chocolate.
Nursing mamas need more food and water than at any other time of life. You will want to have nutritious snacks handy and plentiful in your home before the time of birth so that you are prepared for the enormous increase in calories you will need. I recommend having snack stations around the house and especially beside your bed.
3. The Placenta! For me, it was a no-brainer to ingest all those nutrients & hormones in my placenta. Both times I found significant hormonal balancing effects from my placenta. I also found it energizing and had abundant breast milk, so much so that the second time I only took one placenta capsule per day because I was overflowing with milk. I ingested my placenta both raw in smoothies and then later in capsules. I cannot imagine navigating the early days & weeks of postpartum with out my placenta – it feels like a part of the birth process and transition itself.
Clients I work with report reduced bleeding, increased, thick breast milk, higher energy levels much sooner than predicted, and great physical healing. Part of your placenta can even be made into a tincture that can be given to baby in circumstances of trauma or severe illness.
Check in your area for Postpartum Placenta Specialists, or contact me, and see what options for preparing your placenta are available.
4. A plan for Rest New PJs, plans for nap time with baby, and a couple of good books can all be incentives to get in bed . Think about how many hours of sleep you need to function now (generally 6-9 hours), and remember that you will need at least that much after birth. Of course you wont be able to get it all at one time, because a little some one will be waking you up to feed, so you will require more hours IN bed than just the ones you are sleeping. You may have to stay in bed until noon to get all your needed sleep, but I have found that a mom is more likely to sleep if she is in bed. If you get up to make breakfast, do a chore ect, chances are you wont be going back to bed until night time. New mamas really have to get creative with sleep, sometimes forcing themselves to close the blinds at mid-day, put an eye bag on and rest. Rest is the best conduit for both healing and reducing depression & baby blues … it is worth it! And YOU are worth it! (You just birthed a baby, remember?!)
5. Granny Panties and Pads You will want and need them! Bleeding tapers down, but can last up to 6 weeks. Cotton, comfy panties are forgiving and breath, reducing risk of infections. Lining your bed with disposable bed pads (ie. Chux Pads) or large cloth prefolds at night to prevent leaking blood can be really helpful so you are not changing the sheets each day. You can also use one up top if you are leaking a lot of milk.
6. Herbal Supplies My most used, and most given, remedies for new mamas are Motherwort tincture for afterbirth pains, Arnica for soreness, Rescue Remedy for anxiety & stress, and Lavender for rest. One of my doulas made me a lovely lavender spray that I could mist on my sheets, self, room, everywhere and it was divine.
Sitz Bath herbs are good for hemorrhoids, vaginal soreness and healing tears. These are easy to make or available at most health food stores. Common ingredients are comfrey, calendula, lavender, sage, witch hazel bark, myrrh and/or sea salt. Garlic is especially helpful for tears. Witch Hazel Pads offer unrivaled relief for hemorrhoids or an episiotomy as they ward off bacteria and promote healing
Favorite nourishing herbs for postpartum infusions include: Nettles, Red Raspberry Leaf, Motherwort, Catnip, Lavender, Blessed Thistle, Chamomile and others you are familiar with and/or feel called to. Infusions are a great way to get hydrated and nutrients at the same time.
An herbal breast-soothing ointment for sore or painful nipples as your breast adjust to constant nursing. Olive oil bases are recommended because they are safe for baby to ingest.
7. Journal to process feelings of all kinds in a safe way. A journal is a great place for this processing because it is just for you. It is a place to be vulnerable and to be your complete Self. Let the ideas, tears, joys, bliss, frustration, moments flow! If you feel like sharing, you can, but ultimately the process is what is important.
8. Baby Wrap! I find it as critical for my wellness as it is for baby’s to hold them as much as I can. Many studies have been conducted siting how skin to skin or baby wearing increases baby’s weight gain, secure attachment to mama, and even brain development. All I know is that it feels right to me. And it helps my babies. A moby wrap, a woven wrap, or a ring sling is indispensable for holding baby close when you feel ready to get up and take a walk or make a meal. It also keeps your hands available for helping a needy toddler. Papas can wear babies too, and this is often a great way for Papa to put baby to sleep.
9. Boundaries It is imperative to set boundaries as a mother, especially a first time mother. This is a practice of loving & honoring yourself, of stating your truth, and of sending a message to the universe of what you do & do not want. A simple sign on the door can establish that your home is a sanctuary for your new family and encourage visitors to be brief & pitch in with the dishes while there. You may want anyone to visit, but no one outside the family to hold baby. You may want to postpone all visitors until the baby is 1 or 2 weeks old. You may be totally cool with all visits, baby holding, gifts & treats, and need to encourage others to come help you out so that you can sleep. Explore your true feelings during the last weeks of pregnancy and hold conversations that may help you establish clear, loving boundaries before birth. Be open, as your needs may be different than you expected! If you want help with this, write me, I’d be happy to explore this with you.
10. As much Self-Acceptance and Patience as you can muster! This is the season of life to lift up all time-lines and expectations. It is a time to love and treasure yourself as you literally shape-shift and enter a new life phase. You are forever changed. There are so many ways that our birth, breastfeeding, postpartum, and mothering journey can just end up different than we anticipated or wanted. And that is a HUGE amount of energy to process. Guilt never serves us or our babies. Surround yourself with people, words, and tasks that emphasize Self-Acceptance, Patience, and Love.
Other Book Resources for Postpartum Wellness (I have no affiliations with these authors):
Natural Health after Birth by Aviva Jill Romm
Sitting Moon by Daoshing Ni and Jessica Chen
After the Baby’s Born by Robin Lim
Wise Woman’s Herbal for the Childbearing Years by Susan Weed
What ways do you anticipate needing support and love in the transition to motherhood? What helped you most in the postpartum time? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
**AND, my extra postpartum support gift this time? A massage home visit 3 days after birth! Total support!**