Taking Care of Mama: Postpartum Recovery

The following is a guest post by Donielle of Natural Living Moms.

I felt as if I’d been hit by a truck, or at the very least, a small car.

Labor was tough and my body somehow pulled muscles I never knew I had. So I spent my first few postpartum days resting and allowing my husband to change the majority of the diapers. But on day four I woke up and felt almost fantastic, I actually got up and mopped the floor, started writing thank you cards, did some laundry. And soon as in too much pain to move again. Throughout the next eight weeks, I went through this cycle; felt good, over-did it, and was back on the couch in pain.

We seem to be focused so much on “doing it all” that even after we women give birth, we seem to think we should be able to bounce right back up and begin about a normal day. To be the “super mom.” Or to get back into our pre-pregnancy pants as soon as possible! I wanted so badly to “have it all together” and be the woman everyone else wanted to be, but for me this thinking led to a longer recovery and undue emotional stress.

In the few weeks after a woman gives birth, there are a few things she can do to hep her body heal both physically and emotionally.

Stay Home

As exciting as it is to welcome a new little baby into your family, traveling all over town to show him/her off sets yourself up for failure. Establishing breastfeeding is so important in those first couple weeks, and most new moms and babies take time to figure out how it all works. Staying home allows you to be available to nurse whenever the baby is hungry, and keeps you relaxed so you can more easily feed.

Both you and baby are also more susceptible to illness, especially if you were given antibiotics during or after labor. Being in your own home and not at the mall (yes, I went to the mall when my son was only a few days old!) lowers your risk of coming down with even simple colds.

Rest

As much as possible, you should rest on the couch after birthing for at least two weeks. I know it’s hard to do when you’re probably the one in the house that does all the basic household chores and makes all the meals, but doing so will help your physical healing and lesson the length of time you’ll experience bleeding.

This also helps with uterine after pains since contractions don’t stop right after labor, but continue to work on getting your uterus back to its original size. The more active you are, the more painful these contractions can be, so make sure to allow yourself a few weeks before doing any cleaning, grocery shopping, or exercising.

Another great way for women to both rest and heal after birth are soothing herbal baths. Not only do your muscles need a nice hot bath to relax away soreness, if you’ve had a vaginal birth, your nether regions may need a bit of healing as well. Herbal baths can easily be found in health food stores and online through Earth Mama Angel Baby, but you can also make your own post partum bath salt with just a few simple herbs and coarse sea salt. Spending 15 minutes per day in a hot bath with your devotions or other good book is good for both body and soul, leaving you feeling renewed each day.

Take Care of Your Own Nourishment

The focus after a baby born, is of course….on the baby. But mom needs special nourishment after the birth as well, and taking take of those needs helps you to get back on your feet feeling stronger and more able to handle the day with a newborn.

  • Choose low sugar foods. This has to be one of the most important dietary tips for new moms as sugar can damage the immune system, contribute to yeast issues like thrush, yeast infections, eczema, mastitis, and diaper rashes. It can also upset hormone production, and as your body tries to get back into the swing of things and figure out a new hormone balance, too much sugar can lead to major emotional upset. So choose carefully out of the goodies that people bake for you and freeze them for later.
  • Eat nourishing foods. In order to help the body heal, choose non-processed foods as much as possible. Put your husband in charge of dinner duty and give him simple recipes that even he can make, pack smoothies with nutritious ingredients, and choose protein-rich snacks and meals. Use supplements when needed to fill in the gaps in diet.
  • Drink plenty of water. Water helps in both elimination and milk production so making sure you drink enough water after giving birth is pivotal.

It’s not always possible to be waited on hand and foot for days at a time, let alone a couple of weeks. And sometimes our husbands have to go back to work before we’re ready (physically) to take over the house again, but resting when you can and feeding your body the foods it needs will go a long way in sustaining you through the newborn days.

Enjoy your time as the momma of a newborn, just make sure you take care of yourself as well!

Mamas, what have you found helpful in your time of postpartum recovery?
Editor’s note: As I find myself recovering from childbirth with two little ones running around, I’d love to hear how those of you with multiple children have allowed yourself time and space for postpartum recovery amidst a full house.

Donielle is a momma of two little ones, a “real foodie” who believes that good food heals, and blogger at Natural Living Moms where she blogs to inspire and encourage other moms. If she’s not cuddled up on the couch reading books you can usually find her in the kitchen where she {tries} to make most of the food they eat from scratch.

Reading Time:

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21 Comments

  1. se7en

    Fabulous post!!! I think we just forget all the aches and pains and suffering after nine months of pregnancy… the body really has to adjust back or as back as it will ever be to its previous self!!! I wrote about it just after our last baby born… because I knew I would forget about it within the month and just remember the easy breezy bits!!!
    http://www.se7en.org.za/2009/10/20/se7en-things-you-forget-about-newborns-and-newborn-mums

  2. Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    I can totally relate to that hit-by-a-truck feeling! I’ve had four deliveries (three natural) and for me, the longer and harder the delivery, the longer and more intense was the I’ve-been-run-over feeling. I wish that weren’t so, because a woman doesn’t have a whole lot of control over that variable!

    Like many women, I tend to let self-care slide during busy times–and the postpartum period is definitely busy! But in the long run it’s soooo important to stay on the couch and let yourself be waited on. I think it’s hugely helpful if dad and grandma know how important it is, too. (I’ve been lucky on that one.)

    Great post!

  3. suzannah {so much shouting, so much laughter}

    earth mama angle baby makes a “bottom spray” that is amazing on stitches and sore, healing areas after a vaginal delivery. it is so soothing, and i wished i’d had it the first time around!

    i agree–resting and taking is easy is so key! plus, it allows you to focus in on breastfeeding, too. let other people make food/ look after the other babes until you heal.

  4. Living the Balanced Life

    I think it is important that we let new mamas know they may wake up feeling great on day 5, but they can’t overdo it! I had a friend who always came over and helped me after the birth of my 3. She would bring a meal and clean up too.
    I think we should accept help that is offered. Think about what needs to be done and when someone asks “Do you need anything?” you have an answer ready for them!
    Great tips!
    Bernice

  5. Rebekah

    Great post and reminder to those of who aren’t expecting how challenging those first few day can be.

  6. Anna

    These tips are great, my sister is pregnant and I’m sure they will be useful to her Thank you 🙂

  7. Christie

    After my third baby was born, my OB gave me strict orders to do NO work for three weeks. She said that included not unloading the dishwasher. Also, she told me to go outside every day.

  8. Mariposa

    I’m currently in postpartum recovery. I have to say that I think recovery is worse than labor and I had a natural childbirth. lol Maybe it’s because it’s my first…. Anyway, my husband and I saved up money during my pregnancy so that he could take 3 weeks off to help. Also, the first few days after coming home from the hospital, we refused visitors so we could adjust to our new family life. This was very helpful, especially while learning to breastfeed. Having to constantly cover up for visitors would have made things a lot more difficult!

  9. Michael

    Nothing important to say here, just that pregnant women are the most beautiful ones on earth. period.

    thank you for reading, 😉

  10. Michael

    Nothing important to say here, just that pregnant women are the most beautiful ones on earth. period.

    thank you for reading, 😉

  11. mandee

    I wish I had read this a year ago! I really needed this advice after having my son. The weeks that followed were so incredibly hard, my neglect of my own needs only increased the physical and emotional distress.

    In addition to physical recovery, how can moms cope emotionally during this time?

  12. ryan

    What a thoughtful post. I’m currently training to be a post partum doula. Post partum doula hours make great baby shower gifts, especially for second (or 5th!) time moms. I encourage all women to look into hiring a post partum doula. Even if you don’t think you can afford it, most doulas I know work on a sliding scale or are willing to barter.

  13. Angel7

    Make sure you rest when the baby naps, and give your body the proper nutrition it needs–those are two important things to remember after you have a baby.

    http://faithfulsolutions.blogspot.com/

  14. Stacy

    My last birth was very hard and left me in pain for almost two months. I don’t know what I would have done without my mother-in-law who stayed with us for a lot of that time and ladies from church who brought over meals when she was gone. It was hard to accept that I needed help. But I really did.

    If you have other young children running around, I suggest help!

    Also, let some of your expectations go for a while. I remember feeling sad that I was letting my kids watch more tv that usual (since the usual is almost nothing), but looking back, it was for such a short time and helped me retain some of my sanity.

  15. Rachel @ The Travel Pen

    I live in East Asia, and the women here seem to do this a bit better than we westerners do. Most women here are expected to stay indoors, relax, and do next to nothing for 30-40 DAYS postpartum. They call it “sitting for a month”. Usually, a parent or hired help takes care of all household duties during this month.

    On the other hand, this tradition can also feel a bit restrictive to some women. While I agree that postpartum rest is important, if well-meaning guidelines become restrictive rules, this can also be emotionally taxing. For example, my Asian sister-in-law often felt a bit controlled by some of the “rules” associated with her “sitting month”. The point here is for mom to get the rest she needs in order to heal, not to control mom. 🙂

  16. sap

    you are right about the breastfeeding – it is super important! for the mom and for the baby – for health of both of them, and for the connection between them.

  17. VSC

    Thank you, I really have to keep all this in mind for the next two months : )

  18. RE

    I just got around to reading this post. (It was a busy weekend around here!) I hope I don’t step on a hornet’s nest with this one, but one of the things I felt was key to postpartum recovery was being in good physical shape throughout my pregnancy. I continued to exercise (run, swim, walk) through both of my pregnancies (with doctor’s approval), and I felt that it made all the difference in the world. I still had that “hit by a truck” feeling afterward, but I believe my body healed faster because I continued physical activity during pregnancy. Of course, not every pregnancy or birth is uncomplicated, and the advice given above is definitely worth following.

  19. Jazz@theticketsite.net

    Great post! This is a good reading for my pregnant sister who is a first time momma. A great preparation tips for her postpartum period! Thank you!

  20. hongvan

    Great post for who is a first time momma.Thanks for your sharing

  21. ryderms

    I did the same mistake of doing all the things I could in the house.. I felt invigorated after 2 days of giving birth..but after a day, I completely needed bed rest for a week. ..that was3 years ago and now that I am giving birth come nov..I know better and thanks to this post ..now I have to find myself some herbal things for my bath…

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