Today I’m excited to have my friend Danielle, doula and co-founder of Chesapeake Birth & Baby here to talk about one of the hardest parts of early motherhood: the postpartum period. Many associate this with postpartum depression but really it’s much more than that, it’s the period of taking care of yourself after you have a baby and it’s often overlooked by so many women and partners as the focus is always on the new baby. Taking care of yourself, healing, and getting adjusted to your new life with a baby takes time, patience and a support system. Danielle’s sharing her tips on how you can prepare for this phase of motherhood!
What is your background with Chesapeake Birth & Baby?
My partner Megan and I have been attending to the needs of women and families separately for over 10 years, we decided to join forces about a year ago so that we could offer a more comprehensive set of services. We both have a passion for supporting women through pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period. We saw a real lack of support for women after birth, and wanted to fill that void. We work hard to create a community for women during the postpartum period, through collaboration with therapists, clinicians, dietitians, lactation consultants and, generally, a more broad outreach to women in our area.
What are a few things a woman can do to prepare for the postpartum period before she gives birth?
We’ve all heard the middle school adage “Knowledge is Power!”, but important life situations such as this, it rings very true. The “Power” you earn leads to confidence, comfort, and security in your birth and new baby experience. Take as many classes as you can to prepare yourself as much as possible. And have your partner join you; s/he may remember something you don’t in a moment of need that could save a stressful situation. If you plan to breastfeed, make sure you have taken a class. If you don’t know anything about babies, take a newborn care class. Or, if you simply need a refresher on the experience, take any class.
Have all your supplies ready. Nothing is worse than being in pain of some sort and having to be left alone with your newborn while your partner goes and gets you supplies. Make sure you have giant granny panties, pads and a nice nightgown. Stool softeners are a must for obvious reasons. The perinatal spray bottles are amazing for sore vaginas. We strongly encourage women to do basically nothing but bond with the baby and take care of their healing bodies for the first week.
Early on start thinking about how you will be supported postpartum. It’s important, not only for physical recovery, but emotionally as well. Our philosophy is that postpartum care is preventative care. When mother and baby are set off on the right foot from the beginning it sets the tone for the first year of the baby’s life.
Talk with your family about how you want things to go when you come home. Do you want lots of visitors right away, or wait a couple of days, or a couple of weeks? Can family come and stay, or only visit for short time periods? Be clear about this in advance of the birth or it can add stress once the baby is here. If conflict or stress seem to come along with family, consider hiring a postpartum doula. They support you without judgment, have lots of knowledge about breastfeeding and bottle feeding, infant care and your recovery physically and emotionally. They can help by doing the everyday chores like dishes, laundry, errands and sibling care so you and your partner can focus on bonding with your new baby and each other. This care can make your transition to motherhood seamless.
What are your 5 tips for self-care post baby?
- Be kind to yourself. Things are new in so many ways. Your baby is adjusting to life outside the womb and you’re adjusting to taking care of and feeding this new being.
- Get support! This will allow you to do the basic things, like take a shower or rest if the baby is awake and you are tired.
- Give it two weeks. The first two weeks are not easy. You’re healing, you’re learning to feed your baby and listen to their cues. Figuring out those things takes time, on top of the very little sleep! After about two weeks your body starts to feel better, you typically start to get better at breastfeeding and a routine starts to form. And, probably most importantly, you learn how to function on less sleep.
- Sleep or rest when your baby is sleeping. Sleep and rest are important for so many reasons. Sleep deprivation affects the same parts of the brain as alcohol. Consider this when your baby is sleeping and you’re faced with doing chores or getting rest. The chores can wait, rest is more important.
- Find a tribe. Create a group of a few friends or even just one to share the trials and tribulations of motherhood with, and maybe a random glass of wine at a 3 o’clock play date.
Bonus tip! Treat yo’ self! Self care is so important at this stage in life. You are giving a lot to so many people and the old saying goes “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” It doesn’t have to be something big, but make it something just for you. I love kombucha, so I always buy myself one at the store. It’s only mine. I do not share it with my kids. This is a treat for me. Do things to fill your cup so you can fill others.
Are there any specific online communities or resources you suggest for new moms?
Image by Olive Juice Photography