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Postpartum Essentials to Aid Your Recovery
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As you venture into postpartum, it’s normal to spend so much time thinking about your baby that you promptly forget about yourself. Often when you’re feeling overwhelmed, angry and generally out of sorts, it’s the very basic things you’ve forgotten to do. Tending to your basic needs as a new mum can be tricky, especially in the fourth trimester, but it’s essential for your physical and mental wellbeing.
When we asked our community what the most challenging part of postpartum was, sleep deprivation was number one. Sleep is essential for regulating the stress hormone, cortisol, so when your sleep is persistently interrupted, you’re more likely to feel stressed, upset, overwhelmed and anxious. Knowing that this phase is temporary helps you keep perspective, but it doesn’t make the present moment any easier.
Regardless of what stage of postpartum you’re in or how much sleep you’re getting, prioritising your basic needs every day is a practical way of taking care of yourself. Consider this a checklist worthy of a place on your fridge. Better yet, pass it onto your partner or support person so they can take care of you, too.
“If you’re feeling angry and overwhelmed, the hierarchy of needs is a structure, a key thing for you to go back to. It gives you steps to follow so you can figure out how to feel better. Ask yourself: am I getting enough sleep, rest, nourishment, movement? The hierarchy of needs is also a great tool to use in conversation with your partner so together you can work out how to facilitate your essential needs in postpartum.” – Yara Healy, Psychologist
Are you breathing deeply or are your breaths shallow and stressed? Have you stepped outside for fresh air and sun on your face? When you’re feeding or cuddling your baby, bring your awareness to your breath and take deeper, longer, more nourishing inhalations followed by relaxing, releasing exhalations.
Have you been drinking water or are you dehydrated? Remember that in postpartum, your water requirements are generally higher than they were in pregnancy, especially if you’re breastfeeding. Aim for 2-3 litres a day (drinking from a water bottle is a good way to keep track of your intake).
Have you eaten? Your brain will function much better if you eat well. In postpartum, it’s a good idea to prioritise warm foods as they aid digestion.
Head to boody.com.au/australianbirthstories – you’ll find everything you need for this time in your life and beyond plus a code to enjoy 15% off everything in the edit.
Rest doesn’t always mean sleep. Can you spend the day in bed, nap in the afternoon, go to bed early (a reverse sleep-in), spend the day off screens, limit visitors? All these things promote rest. Read more on postpartum rest, here.
Rest and lying horizontal is essential for postpartum healing and recovery but a few weeks after birth, you may feel inclined to go for a gentle walk around the neighbourhood. Let your body guide you! If you feel tension in your upper back and neck (very common in early postpartum), practise some gentle yoga movements to release:
If you would like to know more about the hierarchy of needs as well as practical mindset tools to navigate the challenges of postpartum, you’ll love Sophie’s interview with psychologist Yara Heary in episode 382.
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If you’re in the third trimester you’re no doubt thinking about all that’s to come; labour, birth, and a precious newborn baby. There is so much to look forward to and prepare for. But often, we spend so much time thinking of what our baby needs that we rarely think about ourselves. So, we’re here to gently encourage you (read: implore you!) to start thinking about your post-birth recovery. It’s generally quite a slow process and for many women, especially first-time mothers, it can be quite confronting. We don’t want to scare you but research shows that realistic expectations pave the way for a positive postpartum experience
Typically occurring between day 3-5 after birth, breast engorgement is a common symptom in early postpartum when your milk comes. It can also occur later in your breastfeeding journey if your baby sleeps for longer and misses a feed, or drops a feed during the day or night. It can cause your breasts to be full and hard and this can cause pain and make it tricky for your baby to latch. Essentially, your breasts can feel like they’re about to explode which is quite disconcerting.
You may have heard some nightmarish stories about mastitis and frankly, it’s not something you want to contend with at any stage of your breastfeeding journey. It’s most common in the first three months postpartum but it can strike at any time, particularly if your baby has reduced their feeds, is starting to sleep for longer periods at night or you’re weaning.
In early postpartum, breastfeeding and sleep challenges are common and can contribute to anxiety and overwhelm. Unless you have a private midwife, there’s a distinct void of health services in postpartum which makes it challenging to access professional support. It’s definitely beneficial to be aware of this in pregnancy so you can adequately prepare for postpartum.
Firstly, if you’ve recently birthed your baby and your bleeding has increased, don’t delay in seeking medical attention. It’s recommended to present to the emergency department at your local hospital and explain that you’ve recently given birth and you’re concerned about your blood loss. You may be experiencing a postpartum haemorrhage.
If you’re currently pregnant and starting to gather essentials for your baby, chances are you’re thinking about the must-haves for your nappy bag.
The colloquial and derogatory term, baby brain, has been used for decades to explain the forgetfulness and brain fog of new motherhood. But research proves that the brain in new motherhood is primed for learning.
Comfortable basics are absolutely essential for early postpartum when your body is soft and sore. Your physical recovery will be very dependent on your birth experience but, that said, no-one is bouncing back from pregnancy and birth. The whole concept of returning to who you were before your pregnancy is unrealistic; your body has taken almost a year to conceive, grow and birth your baby, it will take you time to recover and heal.