Barbara Katz Rothman said, “Birth is not only about making babies. Birth is about making mothers-strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength.” When women come to their births prepared and educated, they are empowered to make the best decisions for themselves and their babies. Your preparation for birth will help your transition into motherhood to be easier. There are several things you have already done to prepare yourself for this transition. These things can help you feel good about your birth, make recovery easier and faster, and facilitate bonding with your partner and baby.
· Educate yourself in all of your choices for birth, by taking a childbirth class and reading about birth.
· Hire a care-provider who is on board with your birth plan.
· Hire a doula to support you and your partner in the birth you envision.
Your life is about to change in amazing and beautiful ways. Carl Sandburg said, “A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on.” The world becomes more beautiful and we live life with greater gratitude and purpose with the arrival of a new baby. Babies also take up a lot of time and it's helpful to anticipate our needs so we can better care for our babies. Here are some tips to make the postpartum period, also known as the "4th trimester" easier and more joyous.
· Breastfeed your baby.
Breast milk is the perfect food for your baby. It also promotes healing in you and helps you bond with your baby. Learn as much as you can about breastfeeding prenatally, take a breastfeeding class, and continue to learn after your baby is born.
· Consider placentophagia.
Though it may sound unconventional, there is growing research in the field of placentophagia—consuming ones placenta. Many women claim it helps in the postpartum period by assisting your milk supply, aiding your uterus in returning back to pre-pregnant size, reducing a woman's risk of postpartum blues and depression, reducing fatigue, increasing energy, easing the hormonal shift.
· Get support. This can come from your birth partner, family members, and other women.
Support comes in many forms. Emotional—listening ear. Physical—help with chores, baby care, etc. Spiritual—understanding what you may want or need to feel connected to your higher power and finding time for spiritual activities.
· Eating regular nutritious meals and snacks.
When you eat well, you feel well. Stock up on healthy granola bars, yogurt, cheese sticks, and nuts. Buy a pre-cut veggie tray from the grocery store and use it for easy meals and snacks during the week. Fruit is almost always an easy snack—apples, bananas, oranges, grapes, etc. Larger fruits can be cut up by a support person over the weekend and then mom can have quick and easy go-to snacks during the week. Pre-cooked chickens from the grocery store, instant oatmeal packets (without added sugar), and canned soups can be quick, easy, and nutritious options.
· Be okay with the mess.
It can wait—it will still be there next week or even the week after. Your baby needs you now. Take this precious time to enjoy and bond with your baby. If a mom is bothered by the clutter, ask a family member or friend to come help tidy up. Hire a teenager to play with older siblings or help with basic chores. Or consider hiring a postpartum doula. She will be happy to help with household chores such as cleaning, laundry, cooking, and even caring for older children while the new mom catches a nap. If finances are an issue—consider just 3 or 4 hours a week—it can make a huge difference and many find it well worth the cost.
· Get plenty of sleep.
A good rule of thumb to follow is—sleep when your baby sleeps. This means, take a nap no matter what time it is. You will be glad you did. A well rested mom is a much happier mom. You may want to consider safe cosleeping, baby sleeping in the same room as mom and dad, or not. Try different things and figure out what you are comfortable with and what works best for YOUR family.
· Wear your baby.
Your baby has been carried around, by you, for 9 months. Most babies still enjoy being close to their mothers (and fathers) after birth. Some babies refuse anything but being in the arms of their mom or dad and that's okay. They may just need more time adjusting to life outside the womb than others. When you respond to your baby's cries by holding, rocking, and nursing your baby, you are teaching your baby how to communicate and that your baby can trust you. Your loving response teaches your baby that he or she is important and valued. This will help your baby to grow up to become a confident, loveable, independent individual. Listen to your instincts—hold your baby, snuggle your baby, and respond to your baby's cries—and notice that it just feels right. Do this with confidence knowing you are giving your baby a wonderful foundation in life by responding to your baby's needs. A baby cannot be spoiled—only loved.
Baby wearing can reduce crying, improve breastfeeding, bonding and attachment—all which can be helpful in reducing stress as a new parent. It is a wonderful way for partners to participate in the care and bonding. It also frees up the wearer’s hands to do other things such as eat, do simple chores, and care of older children.
· Seek out other women that share similar philosophies in mothering.
Join a mothering group (or start your own) where you feel you get support in your role as a woman and mother and one that encourages you to listen to YOUR motherly instincts.
· Be Good To Yourself.
Some mothers can experience burn out. To prevent this, or if it occurs—to bounce back quickly, it is important to take care of your needs and listen to your instincts. If a mother starts to feel overwhelmed it can be a sign for her to take some time for herself. Get a massage, schedule lunch with friends, take a yoga class, go for a run, take a bubble bath, or a long nap. Do something for yourself that helps you to feel refreshed and rejuvenated and excited about being a woman, partner, and mother.
You are about to embark on a beautiful, exciting journey called motherhood. Where you will grow lots, and love much. As Dr. Seuss would say, "You are off to Great Places! … So be sure when you step, step with care and great tact. And remember that life's a great balancing act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed!"
Kelly Colvin, HCHI, HCHD
Thanks to LindsaySharifiPhotography for sharing her talents.