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10 Tips for Recovery After Birth: Essential Rest for New Moms

Updated: Oct 4, 2023

Even if you feel great after birth, your body needs recovery. Athletes that have run a marathon will always take special care of their body, even if they feel in good shape after their achievement. You should do the same after birth!

Women resting on the sofa with a newborn baby in her arms.

Are you fully aware of the things your body needs to recover from? Here are some of the most common points:

- Your placenta leaves a wound in your uterus that needs healing.

- Your ligaments and muscles in your pelvic area are softened in preparation for the birth.

- Your perineum stretches 200-250% during birth.

- The tissue around your perineum is likely to have some damage from the birth.

- In case of a cesarean birth, you must recover from surgery in addition.

And do you know that your body does most of the recovery ‘work’ while you are sleeping and resting? Every new mum heard this advice at least once: ‘Sleep when your baby sleeps’. But you might experience that it is easier said than done. So here are my tips for rest during the first months after birth. And yes, you read that correctly: this is not just for the first days or weeks, this is for the first MONTHS!

1. Aim for rest instead of desperately trying to sleep

It is great if you manage to actually fall asleep and take naps post partum. However, if that is too challenging, don’t get frustrated and make rest your goal instead. Any laying down is good, even if it is with a podcast, some relaxing music or meditation in your ears.

2. Balance adrenaline with oxytocin

The first days after birth, your body produces extra adrenaline. This helps you to be alert to take care of your baby. Adrenalinemay make it difficult to rest and relax. Too much adrenaline can result in sleeping difficulties, which can lead to not feeling well, which can lead to slow down in milk production, which can lead to frustration, fear, feeling out of control, which will lead to increased levels of adrenaline, which can lead to…. You see the downward going spiral? So, remember: your body needs balance! And the antidote against adrenaline is oxytocin! Hopefully you know from your birth preparation how you and your partner can boost your oxytocin!

3. Make your shower a real moment of rest

Instead of rushing in- and out of the bathroom, take your time to enjoy a moment for yourself under the shower while someone else takes care of your baby. If possible, sitting down on a little plastic stool under the shower, would even optimize the moment of rest. Sitting in the shower has the benefit that there is less weight on your pelvis and your body can relax a bit more. It also may make it easier to have a look at any stitches and to clean these.

With a bit of luck, the sound of the shower prevents you from hearing your baby cry. You can even turn on some relaxing music, to really make sure you do not hear your baby. Selfish you think? No, it’s not. You really need these moments to take care of yourself, and if you leave your baby in safe hands, it’s totally fine to switch off and have a moment of complete rest.Your baby benefits from that as much as you do!

4. Skin-to-skin contact with your baby

Skin-toskin is not only really good for your baby, but also for you! Skin-to-skin contact stimulates the release of oxytocin, which neutralizes the fight-or-flight response (see tip 2). This decreases anxiety and turns on the body’s ‘rest and recover’ modus. Exactly what you need!

5. Make a not-to-do list

Many of us like to make to-do lists. But for the postnatal period, it is much more appropriate to make a long NOT-to-do list!

6. Breastfeeding.. bottlefeeding.. RESTfeeding!

Often, we are very focused on the baby when we are feeding. Is he/she really drinking? Is he/she getting enough? Is it not going too fast or too slow? When we only focus on the baby during feeding, we might end up in an awkward position. So, make sure to make yourself comfortable. Use a good support or feeding pillow, have a little snack and a water bottle at hand, put your feed on a pillow or footrest if you are sitting, take deep and long inhales and exhales and RESTfeed your baby!

7. Use online resources

Inside timer, Spotify, Youtube, etc. There are many (free) online sources where you can find guided Yoga Nidra sessions, guided body scan meditations, guided breathing exercises and things alike. Find the ones you like best, and use these resources to help you rest.

8. Listen to your birth affirmations!

Have you prepared for birth with hypnobirthing and did your birth affirmations help you to get into a headspace that felt safe and calm? Continue listening to these affirmations during your postnatal weeks. Feeling capable, secure, and knowing you cantrust yourself is extremely valuable as a brand-new parent. And it helps you relax.

9. Baby shower or woman blessing ‘wish-list’

Are your friends organizing a baby shower or a woman blessing for you during pregnancy? Great! Maybe you can whisper in your best friends’ ear that you would be very grateful if one of the activities would be to make an overview of your favorite meals and dividing the responsibility amongst your friends for who makes what, on which day after birth. Or maybe you prefer to have a list of (small) tasks in the house that they could do,once the baby is there. Often, friends find it very satisfying if they can help but they might not really know what is needed.

Also, when they ask you for suggestions for (baby) gifts, it is totally fine to also mention your own needs. A post-partum treatment, closing the bone ceremony, massage or whatever you fancy. As I said already under tip 3: your baby benefits from these things as much as you do!

10. Consider co-sleeping

Whatever sleeping arrangement works best for you and your family is totally up to you. Some parents experience that they get optimal sleep when they sleep with the baby in their room or bed. A very good, evidence-based online resource where you can read more about co-sleeping is BASIS (Baby Sleep Information Source).

About the author

I met Susanne, the most gentle soul that feels so deeply, at a Doula workshop in Norway. She is from the Netherlands and is living with her partner and two kids in Norway. Susanne founded NatalWisdom with the aim to provide support to parents in their transition into parenthood, mainly by providing birth preparation courses. She is an enthusiastic birth educator that passionately promotes rest and conscious recovery in the postnatal period. That is why she wrote a 'Postnatal recovery plan' - to help the parents in her course to seriously prepare for the first months after birth.

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