So much about postpartum is the same during this pandemic, and yet, there are some very specific things that are different. We still need to fully recovery from birth. We still need to bond with our babies. And we still need rest, support, and care to make this happen. We still need to plan for what we want and prepare for the unexpected. And yet the world around us is changing quickly.
If you are pregnant, begin the postpartum planning process by tapping into your own wisdom, your own knowing. Ask yourself what you want your first few weeks and months with your newborn to be like.
- How do you want to remember this time?
- How do you want to feel?
- How do you want your home to feel?
- What are your hopes and dreams, and what are your fears?
- What is most important to you?
Pull out a sheet of paper and actually write. Get it all out. And then take a deep breathe, and begin making a plan.
Here are some important points to consider whether you are pregnant and planning or if you are holed up with your newborn right now. During this pandemic it is that much more important to lower our stress, strengthen our immune systems, know our resources, rest deeply, prioritize breastfeeding, and follow traditional wisdom. After giving birth, we are still physiologically completely interdependent with our babies. They need us and we need them.
Here are some guidelines to consider…
CALM YOUR NERVOUS SYSTEM
This the foundation of our wellbeing because it affects our immune system, our milk production, ability to bond, and our ability to think clearly. So what are ways to calm our nervous systems? Rest, warmth (think tea, soup, blankets, avoiding ice, cold etc), connect with loved ones who are in your household or use FaceTime to connect with others, skin to skin and closeness with your newborn, nature (a flower in a vase or looking at a tree outside your window), hydrotherapy/water (baths, foot soaks, sitz baths, pelvic steaming), laughter, beauty, gratitude practices, prayer, meditation, gentle movement practices, calming herbs and supplements. And singing! Singing is deeply relaxing for parents and babies!! And last but not least, give yourself a break from the borage of news and the stress inducing scroll of social media. You need to get to know your baby, not the details of the pandemic. While breastfeeding, look at your baby and focus on bonding. Fight boredom with audio books and podcasts. There is growing evidence that parents’ screen time is affecting bonding and infant development.
BUILD YOUR IMMUNITY
Maintaining a strong immune system is important not just to avoid Covid-19, but other viral and bacterial infections that we are more vulnerable to during postpartum. Here are some ideas to consider: eat well, stay hydrated, avoid sugar (this is so so important right now!), take extra immune support herbs and supplements, gentle movement (think slow dancing, gentle range of motion exercises, etc), hydrotherapies listed above. Also, create a plan for how to address sickness if someone in your household does get sick. Plan to stay home and avoid the hospital as much as possible. Many homebirth midwives are available to support families through this time and offer virtual and in home support.
KNOW YOUR RESOURCES
With social distancing in full affect, accessing resources is very different right now. This includes medical support and all other types of support you would normally receive from a person outside of your home. Put together a list of reliable websites that include both on line and local resources. Do not depend on a simple google search to get crucial information. Find providers and practitioners that are offering virtual services or telemedicine. This can include primary providers, midwives, doulas, lactation consultants, herbalists, vaginal steam practitioners, therapists, etc. Find on line groups to join, get connected electronically. This can include parenting groups, local groups, etc. Put together a list of people whom you could ask to deliver supplies or help in other ways if needed. Find key food resources in your community, which could be restaurant delivery or food banks.
REST AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE
This means for the first weeks after giving birth your only jobs are feeding and caring for your baby and staying fed and hydrated yourself. Eating and feeding and sleeping. This is the ideal. We all have different home situations and you may or may not have more help at home right now. Some families are all home together and some have parents continuing to work outside the home. List all of your normal day to day, weekly, and responsibilities, considering how this is changing during the pandemic. Determine which things can simply be dropped, what can be delegated and by whom. Plan ahead for your families meals, including preparation and shopping. If you have older children, get creative, love them, and do not worry about their academics. Ask for help.
MAKE BREASTFEEDING THE MOST IMPORTANT THING
(If you are planning on breastfeeding.) Breastmilk is your baby’s immune system. Here are some considerations. Stay well hydrated and eat well, feed on demand around the clock; focus on getting a good latch each time you latch on until it is easy, if you experience ongoing latch issues seek help; stay with your baby (no separation); getting in the bathtub together helps with many issues; try laid back feeding positions; during the first week watch for wet diapers; avoid supplementing as much as possible; use your breast as a pacifier (really!); get support for possible low supply; don’t use the pump unless absolutely necessary. Prevent mastitis (breast infections) by feeding around the clock, resting, noticing and addressing plugged ducts as they happen (do not ignore them!), support your immune system, go braless, and keep contact information on hand for health care providers and practitioners that can help. Avoiding the need for antibiotics is extra important right now. Find resources that you can access if challenges arise.
DO POSTPARTUM CARE PRACTICES
All those traditional postpartum practices that may have seemed like a luxury or antiquated before are actually that much more important now. They support full recovery, calm the nervous system, support milk supply and bonding. These include traditional set amounts of time for rest, traditional foods (think warming soups), and sitz baths and pelvic steaming. Sitz baths and pelvic steaming are both hydrotherapy modalities that also involve herbs. Both are deeply relaxing and support pelvic healing. Sitz baths are an herbal bath that you sit in, which can be done in a large bowl, bathtub, or the plastic “hats” that fit in the toilet. Sitz baths are warming and help pelvic tissues heal. Pelvic steaming (aka vaginal or yoni steaming), traditional to all continents, may be a more powerful healing modality and is best practiced with the guidance of our family’s traditional knowledge or a trained practitioner. It involves sitting over a pot of brewed herbs. The benefits are many including healing tears, hemorrhoids, and preventing infection. Supporting our pelvic healing is key to our overall health and wellbeing.
Parenting a newborn is big important work. Please know that you deserve to have the most peaceful and restful postpartum time possible. Plan for this. Most important: less cortisol, more oxytocin. In other words: less stress, more love.