How to practise self-care in they fourth trimester, by the authors of 'The Little Book of Self-care for New mums'
Beccy and Alexis are a midwife and doula duo who have worked with thousands of women over a combined 30 years, supporting them through pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period. They run pre and postnatal workshops, a maternity gift box company and have just released their first book, The little Book of Self-Care for New Mums. Here they share some of their top self-care tips for new mums during the 4th trimester.
Slow it down
First week in bed, second on the sofa.
We know resting as a new mum sounds like an oxymoron- but it is SO important! Rest helps bodies to heal, ready to look after and feed a baby.
In many cultures’ mums are put to bed for up to 40 days to rest and bond with baby. We know our society isn’t set up for that, but for years we have recommended our mums try to have at least the first week in bed and the second on the sofa.
If you can, get some friends and family to help with meal drops, childcare for siblings (then your partner can rest with you) and help with household chores, it’s actually a lot more doable than you’d think.
During the first week mum can rest/sleep between feeds. She can eat nourishing foods and have lots of skin to skin which has many calming benefits for both mum and baby. Having a week in bed can help slow down visitors too, and if they aren’t people you’d be happy to have a cuppa with in your pjs, then they shouldn’t be visiting. You will reap the benefits later (both physically and mentally) of really slowing down and allowing the body some time to heal, adapt and catch up with itself.
During the second week, move to the sofa (or the garden if you need fresh air) but stay in pjs and continue to rest! You will probably be feeling itchy to leave the house by now, but fight the urge just one week longer, and instead enjoy getting to know this new person in your life!
If you don’t have family or friends nearby you could look into having a postnatal doula who can provide support to you and your family allowing you to rest.
Expect all the feels
No matter how you birthed your baby you are likely to have moments where you feel rather fragile as your body begins the healing process, your hormones settle and your mind processes the huge transformation you are going through. Its no wonder we feel a little tearful at times.
As if this wasn’t enough, the hormone that brings our milk in, can also bring with it a waterfall of emotion, so lots of women experience a very tearful day 3 or 4, and this is a time when you will need an extra-large dose of TLC.
It is perfectly normal for a new mum’s mood to fluctuate as hormones coupled with tiredness can really play havoc on our emotions, but we always advise mums to keep an eye on themselves. If your moods and emotions are preventing you from meeting your own or your baby’s day to day needs then it’s wise to reach out and ask for some extra support. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, no mother was ever meant to do it all in isolation.
Prepare for the night feeds
Keep the lights low, this will stop you and the baby waking up too much so will help you both get back to sleep quickly.
Take a flask of decaf or herbal tea and a snack to bed to have during the night feeds, this will nourish you as you feed little one and help settle any hunger, helping you get you back to sleep quickly.
Be prepared for the night sweats! The postnatal hormones can make us sweat more than we could imagine so having a dry top close by to quickly change into will help you get comfortable again so that you can drift back to sleep.
MANAGE YOUR VISITORS
In the early days and weeks after giving birth, be honest with your friends and family about your need to rest and get to know your baby. It is not self-indulgent or bad manners, it is essential as you start your motherhood journey to take it slowly and be gentle with yourself as you heal. There will be plenty of time for rounds of tea and cake in the weeks and months to come. In fact, booking people in after your partner has gone back to work can be a lifeline to look forward to on the days when you are flying solo. Remind the well-wishers that you will be SO grateful of their help and company in the weeks to come, and this will give them a sense of being able to help, which in turn makes them feel good.
BUY SOME EARPLUGS
We’re not saying shut off and don’t respond to your baby, on the contrary, a crying baby often needs to be held and jiggled, but the high pitch and noise of their cry can be very stressful and makes us release cortisol, a stress hormone which leaves us feeling frazzled. Pop in some earplugs and you will soften the noise of the cry and feel instantly calmer, whilst still dishing out the much-needed mama hugs.
PLAN SOME YOU TIME
Carving some essential time out where the old you can spread your wings, or at least give them a little stretch is so important. So often mums say to us that they really struggle with the huge identity change and repetitive day-to-day routine when they become a mum.
Sometimes it’s while we are away from our little ones that we can remind ourselves of our other talents and worth. That’s why ‘Freedom Friday’ became a thing – just a couple of hours a week to get your partner, parent, friend or a sitter in so that you can spend a little bit of time remembering what set your soul on fire before kiddos (if you’re exclusively breastfeeding this may involve picking your timing carefully between feeding or expressing prior to going out).
It gives you a little something to look forward to on the days that can feel a bit repetitive and challenging and leave you feeling re-energised and excited to see your little one again!