by Mary Ewing
“Pack an extra change of clothes for baby and yourself.”
“Sleep when your baby sleeps.”
“Have a diaper ready and waiting before you start changing in case
he ends up going again…um, make that three or four ready!”
“Keep a nursing station in several rooms with snacks, water, and reading supplies.
That way you stay nourished, hydrated, and well read.”
These were just a few of the sage tidbits passed along to me before my first baby was born. And while they came in handy, what I did not realize until after the birth was that no one had even come close to preparing me for the realities of what it’s like to have an infant to care for.
I was ready for myriad diapering problems, knew chapter and verse about nearly every possible philosophy on how to get babies to sleep, was up on most spit-up and peed-on stories, but no one had sat me down and shared serious probabilities like:
∙ I would need an entire six weeks to recover after having the baby;
∙ I may have a lot of inflammation, maybe even a tear to heal from;
∙ Nursing may not be the entirely glowing and bonding experience it is touted to be (although it was bonding and often glowing, it was also at times uncomfortable and hard work);
∙ I would need to eat a good deal of nutrition-dense foods so my baby would get enough to satisfy her;
∙ My body would not be the same again for a long time, if ever.
I was not prepared for standing in my hospital room 24 hours after having our first daughter, battling nausea (from blood loss), continuing pain (I tore badly), exhaustion, and being disillusioned that my body looked really bad. On top of all that, I now had an infant who was totally dependent on me for her survival.
I don’t say this to discourage you from having children, because I gladly endure all of this to have my four kids (and hopefully more in the future)! I’m writing this because I wish someone had forewarned me, so I could be a bit more prepared and not so shocked by the “new normal.” Had I known there were things I could do to boost my blood supply immediately and eliminate some of the nausea and exhaustion or that there were simple things to help with some of the pain after labor, I would have definitely had a leg up in starting motherhood.
With what I learned, my subsequent postpartum recoveries have gotten progressively better. So pull up a cup of tea, and let me share with you a few things out of my postpartum experiences that may help you avoid the unnecessary problems I encountered my first time around.
Diet Not Thyself!
For nine months, I relished having a good excuse for my expanding waist line. Once I held my baby, though, I was ready to fit immediately back into my “real” clothes. I remember looking at my middle right after that first birth and literally crying at how terrible my abdomen looked. I was ready to jump on the diet band wagon—and I did. Wrong move.
Even though I was due to be a bridesmaid in three weddings just months after having her, my Emma would have been better off if I hadn’t tried so hard to “get in shape” for the events. She was fussy and not satisfied with nursing so I, like a lot of people, thought my milk was just not very good. I began to supplement immediately. What I have since learned is that when I was dieting—i.e., starving myself—I was also depriving Emma of the rich fats, proteins, and other nutrients needed to help her feel satisfied and full. Therefore, during the postpartum weeks and throughout nursing times, you should not try to lose weight by limiting foods.
By the time we welcomed my third baby into the world, I was so flabby that my midwife could actually put her hand between my abdominal muscles, but by then, I also knew how to manage my diet the right way for baby and me. What you can do after a birth is to eat the same diet I suggest for pregnancy.
The Weston A. Price Foundation (www.westonaprice.org) nursing mother and pregnant mom’s diet provides both you and your baby with a fantastic, balanced array of nutrients to help you both: you to heal and restore and your baby to grow and develop. It also offers the added benefit that, because it disallows all junk foods, you should better achieve your optimum weight. Add to that the calorie-burning properties of nursing, and there is a real possibility you actually will achieve a slim waist (just don’t make that your primary goal).
Many people recommend a postpartum exercise plan to help with slimming down, but please be cautious about over-exercising during nursing. While functional exercise is tremendously beneficial to maintain functionality and movement, I would caution against extreme exercise routines or rigorous training regimens—especially long distance running—because most such approaches burn too much fat. This can deplete your fat reserves which are needed to help your baby. Find a functional routine that encourages moderate cardio exercises and flexibility.
Oh So Tired!
Tiredness comes with the territory when you have a new baby. Your infant needs constant attention, and tending to her is only made more exhausting if you already have other children that need you, too. Despite what everyone says about sleeping when your baby sleeps, you still need to wash clothes, shower, and cook. The blood loss that comes with a birth also contributes to your exhaustion. And while I can’t solve your laundry problem, I can suggest some great supplements for extra energy and help with post-birth anemia.
Beeyoutiful’s Liquid Chlorophyll is terrific for boosting blood cell formation. This will help your body produce what you need to replace what you lost. In addition, it’s a great anti-inflammatory which will help decrease inflammation caused by birth. For my last two children, I’ve started taking Liquid Chlorophyll within minutes of the birth and have not experienced the nausea and vomiting I did with my first two children.
Regardless of which sleeping philosophy you choose for your child, remember this as you are helping your little one adjust to life: your baby has lived in a warm, peaceful place for nine months, always soothed by your heartbeat and your movement. Taking a baby out of that and expecting him or her to self-soothe immediately is an unreal expectation. The first few weeks should be a time of holding and teaching a baby to soothe. Don’t set yourself up to fail by expecting yours to be a perfectly scheduled baby from day one. Soothing skills must be learned, and you are the teacher. So give yourself and your new one some time to recover and to enjoy each other, even if that means a few more days until you attain your perfect schedule.
The Pain that Didn’t Go Away
Once the birth trauma is past, it can be disappointing to find out how much you still hurt. You ache all over and have afterpains—and it tends to get worse with each baby. With my first two children, I used a large amount of narcotics and other pain relievers. But I was super excited to use Beeyoutiful’s Ow!-Ease to reduce soreness with my most recent baby. I rubbed the salve on my abdomen and back to relieve pain. Combined with Bromelain, using it eliminated any need for prescription or over-the-counter pain medications. I was thrilled because this not only prevented my baby from ingesting the drugs but helped me stay more alert and able to care for the baby. (Note: Ow!-Ease is not for use on broken skin. Do not apply it to any cuts or abrasions, and use it with care around the baby. Thoroughly wash your hands of any residue before handling your infant.)
Miracle Skin Salve was my second, equally loved, friend. I wish I had known of Miracle with my first baby. I had such bad lacerations I couldn’t walk without pain for over a month. Thankfully, I haven’t experienced such bad ruptures since, but I have had a lesser one which my midwife still thought may need stitches to heal properly. Wanting to avoid suturing, I applied Miracle Salve liberally to the one-inch tear, and when my midwife did her five-day checkup, she was amazed to find that the tear had almost healed. Although she cautioned me to take it easy, she said I was free to resume normal activities. Not only had Miracle helped heal the tear super-fast, it had completely relieved the pain. Other than the first day, I felt no discomfort at all. Definitely worth having—and spreading—around!
Getting Your Hormones to Behave Again
Emotions are raging, skin is dry, your body is rearranging itself, you’re hot then cold, your world feels like it will never be the same again. Thankfully, time does help, the support of family and friends is invaluable, and there are some great supplements that can relieve a lot of the symptoms—or at least make them tolerable.
Beeyoutiful’s Red Raspberry Leaves has probably been a friend throughout your pregnancy, and it can still be your friend now. It helps tone your uterus and allow it to shrink back into its regular size and place. Raspberry also helps some women increase milk supply. I love the convenience of the capsules, especially since adjusting to life with a new baby can be hectic. Although I love to drink red raspberry tea, it is much simpler to use the capsules and be assured I’m getting an appropriate amount each day.
Evening Primrose Oil is my next favorite. Unfortunately it has taken me four postpartum periods to realize what an asset this simple fatty acid can be for a recovering mom. I had horribly dry skin after having my latest baby. A nutritionist suggested I add Evening Primrose Oil to my regimen. After just 24 hours of consistent use, I saw a marked decrease in skin dryness, and my emotions seemed a lot quieter. My skin regained its turgor and softness within three days of starting EPO. I also realized the hot flashes had stopped, my breasts were no longer tender, and I felt much less soreness. In addition, EPO helps relieve hemorrhoids, and the oil’s fatty acids are tremendously important in relieving postpartum depression.
I’ve outlined below a few other helpers that are important during this time.
- Magnesium Citrate. Your body is working hard to keep up with the demands of your newborn baby and her growing body. As a result, the reserves in your own body can get depleted. Magnesium levels in particular are often reduced quickly. One of the biggest symptoms of this is “being snippy.” There are, of course, a load of potential reasons to excuse your snippiness, but wouldn’t it be nice to alleviate the need for them with just a few capsules? Magnesium helps relax muscles, including your baby’s. A baby lacking magnesium is often fussy, so by taking your daily magnesium, you can relax both you and your baby.
- Tummy Tuneup and Digestive Enzymes. You may have worked on your digestion prior to and throughout pregnancy, and it isn’t time to stop yet! Anything you take into your body will also help your baby as he adjusts to eating, drinking, and eliminating. These two supplements will help build baby’s digestive tract, as well as help her process anything in your breast milk she may be having a hard time digesting. It also helps you because the last thing you need right now is an upset stomach! I have not only taken the Tummy Tuneup myself, but from Day 1, I give it to my children. For a nursing baby, I sprinkle a small portion on the nipple just prior to nursing. My goal is to get an entire capsule in my wee one each day.
- Colic Calm Gripe Water. This one is for the baby! I learned about Gripe Water when my son was small and very colicky. After I spent weeks walking and rocking a screaming child, my mother-in-law found this great bottle of gold. After giving it to him just a few times, we were both in heaven, and I’ve never since been without it while there is an infant in our house. It quickly relieves pain and helps baby rest. I’ve recommended it to many friends who are always quick to sing its praises. Several key ingredients help calm the digestive system, bind with eliminate and the offenders, and relieve pain. It is safe for daily use or can be used for breakthrough problems as well.
Wouldn’t Trade It for the World
Even with the pain, exhaustion, long days and long nights, irritability, depression, unknowns, and emotional moments, I still would not trade a second of mothering for anything. In the midst of all that happens after birth, you won’t get these days back again. The sweet cuddles, the tiny baby melted onto your chest as he sleeps, the smells of a newborn, the tiny clothes, and adorable grunts and coos will only last for a few short weeks before they’re gone forever. Cherish and enjoy each minute. Love on that baby, and take care of yourself. Hopefully with a little help from the friends I’ve introduced you to, you can look back at these times and have only good memories of your recovery!
Products mentioned in this Article:
Red Raspberry Leaves
Evening Primrose Oil
Colic Calm Gripe Water