Postpartum support is one of the things I love most about my job. I adore preparing women and their families for birth, and am honoured to attend that moment when baby comes earthside, but the experience of supporting a mother and family postpartum, watching them find their feet and grow as parents and a family unit makes my heart swell.
The thing that makes me sad? So many people don’t seem to understand how key postpartum support is – and I’m not saying this as a way of selling myself (although if you are looking for support, please do contact me!) but I do think people undervalue postpartum support and the impact it (or the lack of) can have on a new family.
If your family don’t live nearby but have planned on staying for a while after you’ve given birth, you might not think you need the extra support. However, once your partner (if applicable) has returned to work after their two weeks leave, and the family leave to go back home, and you realise that most of your friends are all at work during the day, things can quickly become overwhelming, not helped by your hormones trying to settle themselves!
Whether paid for, or recruiting in family and friends, preparing and organising support for yourself after the birth of your baby is paramount.
Even if you had a lovely relaxed water-birth, listening to your body and taking it at your own pace, you still need to allow yourself and your body time to recover. Your body put a massive amount of effort into birthing your baby, and it deserves some rest! Our society makes it seem like you need to be superwoman, do everything and have your pre-baby body back in 3 days flat – It’s not true!
Snuggling up in bed with your newborn and family is a great way to start. Try not to worry about housework or cooking up amazing meals, just relax, recuperate, and get to know your baby.
Pregnancy Hack: Try to cook a couple of meals a week during the last half of your pregnancy that you can portion up and stock in the freezer – this way you have a stockpile of healthy home cooked meals for the immediate postpartum period, without the effort!
Aside from all the exertion from birth, your body is also making massive adjustments now your baby is earth-side. Your kidneys get to work on decreasing your blood volume to pre-pregnancy levels (which means lots of toilet breaks for you!). Your hormones work together for your milk to come in over the first few days, and over the first three months your ligaments and joints, which softened to allow your baby passage into the world, also return to pre-pregnancy state and your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles start to regain their tone.
How a Doula can help
Food: If you haven’t managed to stock up on healthy meals before birth, something that a lot of birth/postnatal Doulas offer is to cook some for you! Depending on preference, these can be cooked in your home and transferred right to your freezer, or can be made in the Doulas home and brought over at one of your postnatal visits. Most Doulas would also be happy to pop out to a nearby shop to re-stock essentials that you have run out of.
Light Housework: If you’re like me and no matter what people tell you, still worry about your house being clean and tidy, many Doulas are happy to do light housework (but please do bear in mind that you have hired a Doula and not a cleaner) and will run the hoover over, or tidy away your dishes for you. These can relieve mental stress, and also reduce the likelihood of tired parents falling over things on the floor in the middle of the night!
Bonding with your baby is a crucial aspect of the immediate postpartum period. Whether your first baby, second or third, each baby is different and creates a change in your family dynamic. Spending uninterrupted time with your baby, and skin to skin contact all help with bonding. It also helps you to start to learn your baby’s unique cues for their needs with can be especially beneficial for breastfeeding.
How a Doula can help
Small Errands: Answering the doorbell, so you don’t have to interrupt skin to skin (although you won’t be the first topless mother to surprise the postman!). You may have a number of visitors and maybe gifts or meals delivered during those first few weeks. When your Doula is there, popping up to answer the door, receive offerings, and kindly turn visitors away if it’s not an appropriate time can do wonders for your bonding time.
Listening: Each baby is different. If you’re a first time mum, you might worry about everything, if you’ve had a baby before, you might worry that this baby isn’t doing what your last one did. Anxiety can affect the way you bond with your baby. A Doula can provide a listening ear and reassurance, supporting you to explore your relationship with your newborn.
Both recovery and bonding are key elements of a babymoon. I’ll be writing an article on this shortly – once it’s up, you can find it here.
Yes I uttered those words! Just because you are a mum, doesn’t mean you don’t matter anymore. In fact, it’s even more imperative that you take some time for self care. When you feel your best, you can better take care of your family.
How a Doula can help
Baby Care: If you’re going to take time away from your baby, you need to feel happy about it, whether it’s 5 minutes or a couple of hours. Leaving baby with Dad (and possibly existing children) can feel overwhelming for both of you. Doulas are a great solution – often families will hire their birth Doula as their postnatal Doula, but even if not a Doula is different to a babysitter. They will spend a lot of time with your family, getting to know you, your parenting philosophy, your baby’s needs etc. A Doula can support your partner in feeling confident taking care of your baby by themselves. A Doula can rock your baby whilst you take 15 minutes for a shower alone. A Doula can accompany you if there is a class, a talk or an event you’d like to attend, keeping baby nearby in case they really need mummy, or if you are breastfeeding. A Doula can take care of baby for a couple of hours for you to spend some alone time with your existing children. We’re here to support you.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and fragile, it can take a toll on your relationship. Something I do in my antenatal sessions, is ask couples or primary care givers to think of a list of activities (that take around an hour or so) that they currently enjoy doing together. The aim of this is to create a list of activities that they can carry on enjoying together after baby is born. It is usually achievable to find someone to take care of baby (and siblings) for an hour so that you can have some alone time and stay connected.
How a Doula can help
Baby Care: As above! Having built a relationship with your Doula, you may feel more confident leaving your baby with him/her and taking a short amount of time for yourselves.
I hope this post has offered some insights into why postnatal support is so important, maybe for reasons you hadn’t considered before. As part of my antenatal sessions, I can support you in creating a “Postnatal Plan” to set up a system of support for yourself. More obviously, I also offer Postnatal Support myself – if you have any questions, please do get in touch.