Becoming a new mum was one of the most amazing experiences of my life – but at the same time one of the most daunting.
We go through a huge transition with our bodies, a huge effort to birth our babies, and once our baby is born, energetically and functionally our brains chemistry becomes rewired. We no longer just have to take care of ourselves, but also another little human. How can we focus on taking care of ourselves, when our new brain chemistry is wired to focus on protecting, loving and nurturing our newborn baby?
I know for myself when my first daughter was born, it was an emotional rollercoaster.
Despite trying everything that I could to have a natural birth – acupressure, acupuncture, optimal fetal positioning, different birth positions to encourage her to turn, we weren’t successful. I had an amazing partner, an extremely supportive midwife and another great midwife from the hospital who all supported me to no end with my determination to birth my child. In the end, due to her position against my Pelvis and my own bodies energy reserves running out – I went into shock, we ended needing an emergency c- section.
If you are a mum already you will understand what I am talking about and for mums to be it happens every time. I will never forget when Lexie was born and they pulled her out and I heard her cry with the announcement of “it’s a girl”. The relief, anxiety and joy that swept through me was a complex lot of emotions and once she was placed on my chest, a wave of love consumed me and I burst into tears. Partly from relief that she was here and born safely, and I remember also thinking “oh my goodness now what do I do.”
Part of looking after a newborn is also so much about self care. So what can mums do to assist themselves with healing after the birth of their baby (or babies)?
From a TCM viewpoint in China and other Asians countries there is the practice of the “Golden Month” – in Africa it is known as “the 40 days”.
This is where, after the birth of the baby, the mother is nurtured back to health and the mother/mother in law/ other female relatives band around to take care of the mum and to assist her with learning how to be a mother and how to nurture and care for the newborn.
In Asian countries, a new mother is the most beautiful person in the world and she needs to recuperate from her journey of growing a baby and delivering that baby.
The main aim of this month is one of rest. She is meant to just rest. Not see visitors, not worry about getting back into her pre-baby clothes or her pre-baby body back. Her number 1 job is to rest, breastfeed the baby and recover.
It is up to the female relatives and her husband to cook, clean and provide for her.
Visitors are not recommended, and it is not imperative for her to go out and show off the baby like it is here in Western Society.
It is extremely important to nurture the new mother, as by nurturing her now, we can prevent many chronic illnesses from occurring and we also reduce the risk of postnatal depression and exhaustion.
So how we can we recover easily from childbirth in a Western Society?
To assist with a good recovery post-birth there are 4 main things that we need to consider:
1. COMPLETE REST!
We are exhausted after giving birth and we have depleted our energy stores and our blood stores. We need to rebuild these stores up, recuperate and also replenish ourselves so that we can produce enough energy to produce breastmilk.
When we say complete rest – this means that you try and get as much sleep as possible. Rest when the baby rests. Sleep when the baby sleeps (if the baby sleeps).
Organize prior to the birth to have family and friends come in and assist you. The birth of your first baby and subsequent babies is huge and draining and you will need assistance.
Stay home, in your PJ’s and just focus on yourself and your baby. If you have a toddler – and have in home help – ask the help (Grandparent, friend) to look after the older child so you can have some one on one time with your precious baby. However, make sure you can give your older child one on one time when the baby is asleep too, so that they know that they are loved and still part of the family and don’t feel displaced.
For the first 6 weeks, intercourse should be avoided as your uterus is still shrinking and intercourse in the early weeks can negatively affect hormone production for breast feeding as well. You need the time to also recover from the birth.
2. PAMPERING AND MASSAGE – you need to be looked after and pampered. In China, the mother is bathed, has her hair brushed and is massaged every day. While this is not necessarily possible, ask your partner if, while you are breast feeding, he can gently give you a foot massage, or massage the tops of your shoulders. This also promotes the let down process and oxytocin flow.
Massage on the body assists to remove toxins and built up fluids in the body. By massaging the mother – with oil and herbs, she is being nurtured and pampered and her stress levels are generally lower. Her body responds to touch and it helps to build up her self esteem and resilience.
Warming – also known as mother warming is also used. This is where herbs are used to warm the abdomen of women who have just given birth. The herbs can be used to supply warmth to the lower abdomen and the lower back and also on the legs. Warmth is necessary, as after giving birth a females temperature becomes lower and it is important to protect her from the cold. In Chinese Medicine – we use Moxa to put warmth back into the body. You can buy these sticks from your local TCM practitioner and they will demonstrate how to use them. Please see my video demonstration on the webpage. If you don’t have access to a moxa stick – a hot water bottle to the lower abdomen will assist. Also use warming herbs in cooking such as ginger, cinnamon.
Ask your partner to bring you some food, water etc or to take the baby so that you can have a long hot shower or a cup of tea. Drink warm teas and warm water. Avoid cold water. While breast feeding, or feeding your baby, soak your feet in an Epsom salt foot bath with some essential oils in it such a lavender, Rose and chamomile.
3. DIET – eat warming and nourishing food that is easy to digest and often bland in taste. This is the same all over Asia. Warming and easily digestible foods are favoured post-natally as this food provides energy for you to recuperate and also provides energy for the baby, so that you can produce breastmilk.
In general – soups, casseroles, warm teas, bone broth soups and congees are consumed post-natally. I will also add up a basic recipe for congee. From the congee basic recipe you can add in protein – eggs, chicken, vegetables – usually sweet potato, pumpkin and spices – ginger which is warming and assist with digestion.
Porridges and congees are given as the oats and rice give complex carbohydrates to the body, which is a quick energy source. Proteins – from egg and chicken also supply necessary nutrients to enable blood production which assists with recovery.
The reason behind this is that the rice has been cooked for 8 hours, releasing the nutrients and it is easy on the spleen and stomach to digest the food. It provides immediate energy for the mother and also assists with digestion as it is warming.
We also suggest that you eat a wide variety of foods, but that you try and avoid raw foods and cold foods as these are hard to digest and require more energy.
Foods which are really good for breastfeeding mums and post-natal mums include:
Eggs, chicken, nuts and seeds, warm water, ginger, rice, oats, brewers yeast, B vitamins, steamed vegies and fruit. Nut butters and coconut oil, olive oil, tuna and cooked salmon.
4. MOTHER THE MOTHER – once a woman has given birth she will never be the same. And it is the same after each subsequent birth. Each time you give birth you are reinitiated into motherhood. Mother the mother so that she herself can learn how to be a mother and to develop those skills needed to be a mother. It is the right of females to gather together and celebrate the amazing achievement of growing and birthing a baby. “it takes a village” is what we hear all the time, yet in Western society we have become isolated.
Prior to the birth, decide who will be your support group, and also organize for help while you recover. If parents are a long way away organize dates for when they will come over to assist you.
If you cannot have family around, a post natal doula’s can be of assistance. They come in and take care of you and assist with housework, cleaning cooking. This is a great asset to have if you don’t have family around and your partner has to go back to work quickly, o cannot take time off.
SOME OTHER TIPS INCLUDE:
- Limit visitors immediately after birth.
It has become a Western society “thing” to show off the new baby. However, there is a huge dynamic adjustment that must occur. It is no longer just yourself and your partner. You have a new baby or babies and you must learn to get to know each other and to bond. By encouraging the “no visitors” you give yourself and your family time to discover each other and to learn your new role, while also giving yourself time to recover, sleep and rest. You are not being rude – you are enabling and giving yourself a chance to adjust.
- Exercise – during the first 6 weeks no exercise apart from walking is recommended. At your 6 week check up, you can chat with your GP or care giver about an exercise program. However – before commencing an exercise program, please go and see a physio for a pelvic assessment and a program to assist you with pelvic maintenance.
SRC recovery pants, Pelvic Girdles and abdominal wrapping also help to assist with providing you with support post partum. It is extremely important that we look after our pelvic and abdominal area, as our internal organs have moved around a lot to make way for our baby, and our pelvic floors have had a work out. A physio check up at 6 weeks will assist with abdominal separation issues and pelvic floor issues and SRC recovery pants should be worn for the first 12-14 weeks post birth.
- Do not compare yourself to other mums.
The best thing that you can to do to maintain good mental health is remember not to compare yourself to other mums and their babies. Everyone will offer you advice on how you are parenting and what you “SHOULD” and SHOULD NOT” do. My advice from all this is listen to what they are saying and take away what you want. Do what works for yourself, your partner and your baby. What works for you, may not work for others.
For your own mental health – follow your own instincts. You are a mum and mum’s are hardwired to protect and nurture their young.
Being a new mum is hard. You are sleep deprived, tired, your brain doesn’t function as it used to, it can be isolating and lonely and stressful.
Try and get out of the house after the first 6 weeks for a least 20 mins a day. Go for a gentle walk. Organize to catch up with a friend or join a playgroup or a mum’s group. This helps you as well and you can socialise with other new mums.
To assist with stress – soaking your feet in Epsom salts and having oils in an oil vaporizer can assist with adjusting your mood. Lavender and rose are great to have going through the day and may assist with sleep as well.
Keep baby in with yourself and your partner as long as you can and if you can breast feed lying down – it helps you to get rest. If baby is not sleeping and you are exhausted, and if you have breastmilk frozen, see if dad can feed baby while you try and get some sleep or ask dad to take bub for a walk.
MY BEST TIPS FOR ASSISTING WITH RECOVERY POST-NATALLY ARE:
- Limit visitors
- Eat, sleep and rest
- Leave housework and focus on recovering and spending time with your newborn
- Go out of the house for a walk in nature
- Self-care – rest, sleep when baby sleeps, drink warm teas, ask dad for help, plan time away from baby
- Join the Australian Breastfeeding Association – many of their groups hold weekly meetings and it gives you a chance to get out of the house and meet other mums and provides support. Breastfeeding counsellors are at every meeting and it covers topics for all different stages of motherhood – such as introducing solids, boobie badies, night feeding etc.
- Go at your own pace. Don’t put pressure on yourself.
- If you feel that you are not coping, please talk to someone. 1in 6 women suffer from Post-natal depression. The earlier that it is picked up and assessed and strategies are put in the place, the easier it will be on you.
The best way to recover is to look after yourself during the first 6-12 weeks post-natally. This gives you time to recover, replenish your energy and bond with your baby.
If you would like to book a consultation with Dr Julia Bartrop, where she can assist you with post-birth recovery and energy, you can book here.
Also, if you would like to join a supportive community where you can receive realistic tips and advice on rebalancing your health from a qualified professional then feel free to join our Facebook Group Rebalance Health and Wellness.
Written by Dr Julia Bartrop – qualified and experienced Acupuncturist and busy mum of 2.