Congratulations on your labor and birthing your baby! As much as I was terrified of pooping myself and ripping through my perineum, I was even more worried about the aftermath. So, I did a lot of research on the fourth trimester of pregnancy. We take such great care of ourselves during pregnancy, decorate the nursery in anticipation for baby, and even take classes and hypnobirthing meditations to prepare our bodies and mind for labor, but many of us forget about self care after our baby is born. Especially in Western Society, you are viewed as a “powerful” woman if you can heal quickly and get back in shape, resuming your life as quickly as possible. While some women can do this, other women who push themselves too quickly can also find themselves years or months later with prolapse or incontinence or worse like reconstructive surgery. Who wants to pee themselves every time they laugh? So, take this time seriously to heal properly.
The fourth trimester is a time (~90 days) to care for yourself and bond with your baby. If you’re thinking…”Audrey, I don’t have 90 days! I have to be back at work in 6 weeks” then you’re not alone. At least give yourself 30 days of rest – ideally 15 days of being as HORIZONTAL as much as possible with the first 5 days in bed, the next 5 days on the bed and the following 5 days around the bed. You know what you just delivered – a 7lb baby plus your 4 lb placenta that is the size of a plate – that is why you are still bleeding mama…because you have a dinner size plate open wound that you need to heal. All of your organs moved to make room for baby, and it takes time for them to return to their prior place.
In Asian culture, there is a practice called the Sitting Moon, which is a time just after giving birth of 30-40 days of rest, earring warming foods, taking warm baths with herbs, relaxing and being pampered – HELLO, yes please! During this time of rest, I let everyone know that I wasn’t lifting a finger for 30 days – no cooking, no cleaning, no laundry. My only job was to heal, care for myself and bond with baby. I know, it sounds selfish and bitchy, but when will you get this time to take care of yourself and bond with your baby again? And, who really wants to get dressed up, clean the house, make food, entertain when you’re hobbling around in your diaper, bleeding, leaking from your boobs, feeding your baby every 2 hours, not showering or maybe even brushing your teeth and lacking sleep? Not me.
If you chose to do the Sacred 30 days, think about your house as your womb. Only let in people or activities that FILL you up rather than DEPLETE you. You have done a huge accomplishment by giving birth, and you need all of the positive energy and resources that fuel you. I let visitors know that we were doing the Sacred 30 days and that our visiting time would be short due to baby’s sleep/breastfeeding etc, and asked them to keep our visits to 45 minutes. I also added that if this was not okay, we could see each other in a month. Maybe you’re thinking this sounds mean. I know I was a little uncomfortable telling my friends at first. They were just being kind and wanting to help. But, boy did I appreciate my nap time instead of having to entertain. Also, your real friends will totally understand! Stay in your cozy robe, eat warming foods that nourish your body, take your supplements, and enjoy your sitz baths and freezer pads, because this is your time to heal. You deserve it mama!
Below is my postpartum plan. It really helped me heal mentally, physically and emotionally. I hope it is helpful to you. Please comment below of what helped you during your fourth trimester?
* This will be an ongoing list so come back to it, share it and comment below to let know what you love and what I should to add to this list
ESSENTIAL ITEMS FOR YOUR POSTPARTUM CARE KIT:
Freezer pads soaked in witch hazel and essential oil. You can also fill a condom with water and freeze that – it fits perfectly in your underwear and in all the right places. Another option is to take your used sitz bath pads, freeze that and use that herbal pad as your freezer pad
Earth Mama Sits Bath bags - use them in a bath or sits bath and then freeze them in the freezer to use in your diaper to cool down your nether region.
Fridababy Perineum washer (See below)
witch hazel Mix with warm water (I had a thermo of hot water and mixed that with cool water + witch hazel) and used it in my perineum washer each time while going to the bathroom, followed by a wet cool towel to pat dry. No toilet paper – OUCH!
maxi pad diapers
Hemroid Cream (even if you don’t have hemroids this cooling cream is amazing)
*** My routine was go to the bathroom and wash with warm water + witch hazel in my perineum bottle, then gently blot with cold washcloth. Line a huge maxi pad with tucks cooling pads and a line of hemroid cream. If you are still uncomfortable use a freezer pad in your diaper for a few minutes.
Motherlove MORE MILK PLUS to help support lactation
hakka pump (place on one breast while feeding with the other)
warm compresses for your breasts to help stimulate milk glands
massage your breasts downward and pump
cooling ice pads feel great in the moment, but be careful as they can clog your pores and ducts and cause infection. Think WARM when you’re in this postpartum period.
nurse often and change positions to help heal your nipples. If they are so sore, you can ask your doctor or midwife to prescribe a nipple compound (anti-fungal, steroid) that works wonders!
Be comfortable and relaxed before nursing…this really helps your baby relax
KellyMOM website is a great resource for breastfeeding questions
Join a support group at your local hospital or La Leche League
Cod Liver Oil
Floradix iron supplement
Motherlove MORE MILK PLUS to help support lactation
Magnesium Oil for cramps
HERBS: fenugreek, nettle, brewer’s yeast, chamomile, flax seed powder
Ask for help with laundry, errands, meal deliveries. That’s what friends are for! And ask your mom friends for advice.
Trust yourself - although breastfeeding is natural to women – it does not feel like it! You will feel like a 24-hour buffet and there may be a lot of crying, milk blisters, thrush, infections etc. Be patient and ask for help, get a lactation consultant, join LLL.
Sleep when baby sleeps. Or at least rest /sleep when you can. You will need it.
Keep healthy snacks close by – like muffins, almonds or fruit by your bed or nursing station. I think mother’s lose weight so fast, not from just breastfeeding, but because we have no time to eat because we are always breastfeeding.
Be gentle with yourself. This is all new and I promise it will get easier! Your hormones are all over the place. I was crying all the time for the first month. A light at the end of the tunnel is that every TWO weeks we had a breakthrough or a new milestone. So this was my hope that I continued telling myself that it will get better in a week or two. Just be patient.
Baby Chiropractors are amazing. Our chiropractor helped Hunter with her reflux and latch! If you’re in Maple Valley, I highly recommend Robinson Chiropractic Care. He also works with adults postpartum and prenatal
Prenatal Chiropractor: Michelle Law in Seattle was incredibly helpful when I was pregnant, helping me to ease my lightning crotch (yes, it’s actually a thing) and help get baby in the right position.
CranioSacral. If you’re in Seattle, I highly recommend Samara White.
Pelvic Floor Specialist for your nether regions. If you’re in Seattle, I highly recommend April Bolding.
Doula to help you through your birth or a postpartum Doula. We love our doula, Meg HeatherFord!
Acupuncture I love Tracey Steger at Maple Valley Acupuncture for prenatal and postpartum healing.
NaturalPath doctor to help you with any allergies and healing. We love Dr. Erin Cheatum at Madrona Natural Medicine in Renton, WA.