‘Early Postpartum’ is generally considered to be the first 40 days after childbirth.
It is a delicate and precious time of getting to know your new baby and your new body. Yet it can also be a confusing and overwhelming time.
Traditional Cultures around the world have long practiced and recommended that a new mother and baby stay home. Mexico, India, China, Iran, Morocco are just some of many of the countries that have their own postpartum traditions for rest and recovery, which is generally known as ‘confinement’ at home for the 40 days.
Different cultures across the world have their own variations of ‘confinement’ yet the overall intention is the same. To look after the new mother so that she can properly go on to look after her new family.
The Chinese say that the first 40 days determine the women’s next 40 years of wellbeing! Thus Postpartum care is taken very seriously and considered a necessity not a luxury.
The general theory is to make healing and rest a mother’s priority. The practice is simple and basically involves the following basic principles:
Stay in, Stay Warm, Stay Hydrated, Wrap up and Eat well
Since running the Real Flow Yoga Postnatal Yoga Teacher Training I have been researching these topics in depth and so knew without a doubt that this is something that I was adamant that I would try after the birth of my second son Sage. The process was surprisingly really wonderful as opposed to boring! and the results were fantastic.
I felt so good physically, mentally and emotionally by the end of the 40 day period and my son was also really settled, contented and is now a very happy baby that sleeps and feeds well. I didn’t even experience the day 5 postpartum blues which I anticipated as it is so common and I remembered it so clearly from my first Son’s postpartum time!
I would highly recommend postpartum confinement as a means to surviving and thriving during these early days (and nights!) and setting yourself and your baby up for the long run. The specifics of what you do and don’t do during this time is completely up to what feels right for you.
So here are some of my suggestions for the 40 day confinement
- Use a hot water bottle every day. Keep it on your pelvis and womb area
- Wear warm socks, keep your ankles covered (the uterus and ovary acupoints correspond to the ankles within reflexology).
- Wear a hat and several layers, keep windows closed and have blankets handy
- Drink warm water rather than cold water
- Keep showers and baths brief, Avoid washing your hair too frequently and if you do, always use a hairdryer
- Add warming spices to your meals; ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne, cumin are all great at keeping the body warm
Rest & Sleep
- Practice Yoga Nidra for body awareness and deep rest
- Sleep when baby sleeps, as much as is possible, granted if you have other children it’s not always possible! Don’t feel guilty if your other children watch a little more telly than usual. Nothing wrong with a good snuggle on the sofa!
- Don’t rush going out and about. Your body is seriously recovering and your baby has enough to contend with being out of the womb so staying home for these early days is optimal for both of your wellbeing.
Healing & Recovery
- Move a little bit. Gentle circular motions for the joints to keep blood circulating. Don’t sit for hours without getting up.
- Don’t neglect your pelvic floor exercises. Get on with these as soon as possible. Even if you did not experience a vaginal delivery. Your health care provider should advise you with a way of practising, whether its sets of Kegel lifts or breath awareness and gentle activations just make sure you practice as often as is advised. Build it into your daily schedule so you don’t forget. Pelvic Floor activation is so important for healing as well as regaining postural integrity and will build the important foundation for your fitness regime to return, when it returns!
- Practice dry brushing. Its great for lymphatic drainage, bringing blood circulation and clearing out water retention and toxins.
- Wrap-up and bind your belly and hips with a scarf or belly wrap. It protects your joints and helps heal abdominal diastasis and protects your lower back.
- If you experience nightly cold sweats sleep between two towels with the duvet on top. This will prevent you from needing to change your bedding every day when you wake up drenched and uncomfortable from the sweats.
- If you experience engorgement, cabbage leaves in your bra really does work! Massage off the excess milk in the shower as son as possible to avoid mastitis which causes a nasty fever and can lead to infection.
- For inflammation pain and bruising, use arnica and add turmeric and ginger to your diet. You can also take Tumeric as a supplement.
- If you have injuries to the perineum, Bathe in healing herbs such as chamomile. You can buy a lovely Postnatal mix here
Nutrition & Diet
- Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water keeps your milk supply up and helps keep your digestive system well functioning. It also helps you flush out hormones and clear your liver
- Support your elimination by staying hydrated and eat foods that are easily digestible.
- Nutrient dense, early digestible warming foods such as stews, soups and bone broths with sweet root vegetables are idea.
- Avoid gassy veggies like cabbage, kale and broccoli as they over burden our digestion and also make your milk gassy so can cause colic for baby
- Super boost your diet. Oats are amazing for increasing your milk supply as is fennel tea.
- Drink Golden Milk (oat milk, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger and cayenne) and include Cacao, Maca and Ashwahgandha for a natural mood boost.
- Supplement your nutrition. Speak to your health care provider to check if your iron levels are OK, otherwise you may need to supplement. It’s a good idea to continue to take your prenatal supplements to support with the demands of breastfeeding.
Emotional & Mental Wellbeing
- Get support with breastfeeding as soon as possible
- Write down your birth story. Processing birth story can be a powerful way of healing. Heres an article on this topic
- It’s not possible to give your baby too much love affection and attention. Cuddle and snuggle and be close with your baby. it promotes the bonding and positive healing and mood-boosting hormones
- Be realistic. Don’t expect to achieve very much in the day or to sleep very much at night. You and baby aren’t likely to formulate any kind of regular routine or schedule yet so give yourself peace of mind by lowering your expectations of yourself and baby.
- Get help with housekeeping. Whether its family, a Postnatal Doula and/or a housekeeper.
Things to keep you occupied when youre staying home:
- Organise your wardrobe, pack away any clothes that don’t (and won’t for a while) fit or aren’t suitable for breastfeeding.
- Have friends visit you, the kind of friends that you feel comfortable with and won’t feel the need to host them but rather they are willing to help you out with some housekeeping and meals!
- Enjoy watching box sets and Netflix. Listen to podcasts and audio books. Now is the perfect time to chill and binge.
- Enjoy preparing and cooking meals. Freeze what you can so that you always have good food daily available
- Reflect on your annual schedule and plan how and what you would like to do with your family. This might involve organising logistics such as childcare, or visiting family or day trips, work plans or booking a holiday
- Research local mummy and baby classes that you’re keen on for the end of the 40 day period.
- Floss your teeth, get a good skin care regime going. Do your own nails
- Organise your space for example, if you live in a house with an upstairs, have a baby bed and nappy changing set up both upstairs and downstairs as you don’t want to have to run around finding a blanket or wet wipes etc! I recommend the Sleepyhead, its amazing how well my son would nap and sleep in it!