I work with women before, during and after pregnancy.
It’s noticeable to me that clients often make more effort to take care of themselves in pregnancy than in the early weeks and months of motherhood. It’s totally understandable- taking care of a precious new baby is the main and all-encompassing priority. However, to have the capacity to take care of someone else’s needs, you need to be able to take care of yourself. In the modern Western world, the postnatal period is not given much consideration. Women are expected to ‘get back’ to a previous life despite the radical changes that have occurred with becoming a mother.
One of the the biggest issues with the postnatal period is the lack of support. Most hospital stays are too short or too hectic, instead of providing a calm start to a baby’s life. However to settle in well and confidently at home, help is needed. This support either requires trusted ones being able to visit or stay, or the funds to hire help. It shouldn’t be the case that help at such an important time comes with a price-tag. Mermaid Maternity was a residential venture in Chelsea that aimed to support new mothers. It folded within 18 months, suggesting that the model for postnatal care still needs to be honed.
Here are some suggestions that I have, based on many years of working with new mums and listening to the challenges they face:
* Consider the postnatal period as the 4th trimester– or as an extension of pregnancy. Let life be as slow and simple as possible, so the focus is on you and your baby.
* Ask friends to bring a home-made soup or other simple meal when they come to visit (if you’re ready for company, or they can just leave it on your doorstep!). Or use a good healthy-food delivery service to ensure you are well-nourished.
* Consider a postnatal doula to give a helping hand and encouragement. A mentored postnatal doula is a good option if you are on a tight budget.
* Ask your partner to opt for some flexible working so that they can be home with you at times. Most companies have the technology to permit this, and it’s sometimes a matter of changing the precedent.
* Have a postnatal check with an osteopath or physiotherapist. There may be issues from the birth or related to breastfeeding that can easily be resolved so please don’t suffer in silence.
* Go for the easiest things that will make a difference. Taking a long, slow out-breath will help to release stress. A warm bath (can be as short as 15 minutes) will give you the chance to feel nurtured- even better if someone else runs it for you. Use essential oils in a diffuser to lift your mood.
* If you are under pressure, for whatever reason, to return to work soon, stretch out the 4th trimester for longer so you are regularly having space to nap or be with your baby without a todolist.
* Let go of the ’superwoman’ myth that you have to do it alone. To truly thrive takes having a team, so ensure you have what you need and ask for help.
* Remember that the lower the stress levels at this time, the higher the oxytocin which is important for bonding, breastfeeding and feeling joy. This ultimately means a happy mother-baby connection which is the foundation of all other relationships.