The postpartum phase begins after the baby is born. It is intrinsically interwoven with the newborn phase; so much so that it is often overlooked and ignored.
We often hear that as long as the baby is healthy everything else is okay. How the birth unfolded or how the new parent is coping, all fall short of making sure the baby is healthy. But should that really be the standard? If a new parent is safe and healthy, then the baby can be safe and healthy. If the parent caring for the new baby is suffering; how strong can the family unit truly be?
At Just Breath, we know very well how intense and demanding the postpartum period is. Between feeding, changing and rocking it’s amazing how an entire day can pass without you feeling like you’ve had a second to jump in the shower. Although this period of time can be chaotic, we don’t think families should just “get by”. We aim to assist families in navigating this period of time to find the supports that your family needs to thrive and to wholeheartedly enjoy this fleeting time.
Preparing for the newborn phase is one thing: clothes, bibs, stroller, crib, diapers. Of course, there will be unexpected things that come up but if the baby is diapered, fed, and sleeping, baby is usually happy. Preparing for the postpartum phase is a different story. There are parts of yourself and the feelings you experience that may be unexpected. If you have other children the needs of your new baby plus the needs of your other children may be more than what you were ready for. It’s said to raise a child it takes a village; this is the time to call on your village.
As your postpartum doulas, we work to help make your transition a smooth one. We offer unbiased, evidence-based support for all of your needs. We can help you sift through options while leaving all opinions and “shoulds” at the door. Our focus is on you and recognizing how we can best support you and your family.
Feeling the highs and lows between changing hormones, disrupted sleep, a healing body and a major shift in your identity not feeling like yourself can be expected. For some people the postpartum phase can bring them all the cozy, warm love feelings and for others a cloud of darkness and upset overshadows everything. All of these feelings are normal and are deserving of attention. Checking in to see how much baby weighs or if baby is sleeping are typical questions a new parent is asked. Asking how the parent is REALLY doing often gets overlooked. We, as a society, need to work on listening to new parents. To truly hear their words and create safe spaces for them to share their feelings. If those feelings are of sadness and overwhelm, we more than ever need to listen and find a way to lend a hand. Unfortunately, many birthing people see it as a sign of weakness to admit they are struggling with mental health in the postpartum period. These reported statistics (many cases go unreported) show us that it is very common to feel low after baby is born:
→ 40-70% of birth people suffer from the baby blues
→ 10-15% of birth people suffer from postpartum depression
→ 20-50% of people experience no mood disorders
As doulas we are able to actively listen with no judgement. We can help support you through nutrition, finding ways to incorporate healthy everyday practices, education about your changing hormones, and referring you to other practitioners or support groups when needed. We can physically support you by offering an extra set of hands. We can take care of baby so you to get some alone time. We can prepare healthy food and help out around your house. We can make you a warm drink and listen to you speak freely. Everyone’s needs and support looks different and we are committed to finding what works best for you.
No, not baby’s sleep – your sleep. Bottom line is we need sleep to keep our body properly functioning. Sleep regulates hormones, affects mood and nutrition – sleep affects everything. Between the end of a pregnancy and bringing home a new baby a good quality stretch of sleep is hard to come by. That sleep deprived, zombie-like feeling comes from fragmented sleep patterns. Factors such as a disrupted sleep pattern, being physically uncomfortable, having higher levels of stress or anxiety and being awake to take care of baby makes getting good quality sleep very difficult.So what to do? Honestly, sleep or rest when baby does. For some it’s easier said than done but especially in the early weeks it’s crucial. Try to put the chores on hold. The laundry and dishes aren’t going anywhere, so put them out of your mind and close your eyes. If you have other kids, call on your village to take them out of the house or come over to watch them for you.
Leave the guilt behind – you will be a better parent if you are rested. Don’t put pressure on yourself to be with your other kids every time baby naps; it’s important to give yourself permission to take care of yourself first.
Share the tasks – your partner or another support person can help with diapers and holding baby. If baby is being bottle-fed someone else can take a turn with feeding. If baby is awake and you’re tired, hand baby off to someone else and close your eyes. With a newborn there’s no stopping that you will be up often through the night. A newborn has a small belly so they typically need to eat every 3-4 hours. There is hope; know that this phase will pass and longer stretches of sleep are in your future. When you are in the thick of it try your best to get some extra shut eye whenever you can.
Often times we feel pressure to do it all, to be a Super Parent; but letting others step up and lend a hand can make a world of difference to how you experience your postpartum phase.
THE POSTPARTUM BODY
Whether you had your baby vaginally or by cesarean your body has put in a lot of work and needs time to heal. If your baby came into your arms by surrogate or adoption, this postpartum phase remains taxing to your body as well. Between holding baby, sitting and laying in different positions, disrupted sleep and more it is easy to understand why you may not feel like yourself in your own skin.
During postpartum our bodies need to relax and be still in order to repair. Sometimes you are physically forced into this; maybe a painful cesarean incision, uncomfortable stitches or sore breasts, makes it impossible for you to get up and moving. Other times people feel great and want to get going with baby at their side. Regardless of how you’re physically feeling, internally your body needs an opportunity to heal. It’s time to pause. Taking this time to slow down allows you and baby the opportunity to connect and sync to each other’s rhythm. This allows for feeding, sleeping and overall health to have a strong start.
Even with the rest and time you may notice that you are still feeling discomfort. This is normal. At 6 weeks postpartum you will have your last visit with your care provider and be advised about the level of activity your body is ready for. You may get the all clear for exercise and sexal intercourse – for some people this is thrilling, for others it is terrifying. It is important that you listen to your body about what your body is ready for. Just because you are deemed healed by a medical professional may not mean you are ready to go back to pre-baby activities – take it at your own pace.
If you are experiencing back pain, leaking urine, feeling pressure in your pelvis, experiencing pain during inercourse or other symptoms that you didn’t have pre-baby, it’s time to talk about your pelvic floor.
Your pelvic floor is comprised of a group of muscles that are all interconnected. These muscles assist in controlling urine, sexual functions, support for your organs, and stability in your core. Seeing a pelvic floor specialist helps you strengthen these muscles and repair trauma that likely occurred during pregnancy and childbirth. Without proper rehabilitation, you could live the rest of your life in discomfort. Having additional pregnancies causes more trauma and can make your symptoms worse. As your doulas we can assist you in acknowledging your symptoms and refer you to a pelvic floor physiotherapist to start your healing.
Having a new baby can cause unexpected hardships in a relationship with a partner. Especially if this is a first child; the world you once knew with just the two of you has been flipped upside down. Communication is key. Checking in with one another about your needs and listening to where your partner is at is crucial. Being honest and open is needed to navigate this new territory. Taking some time for just the two of you can be a huge help. Sitting down to eat together or going for a walk may seem unimportant but carving out that time can be just the space you need to open up and connect. Again, this phase will pass, newborns do not stay newborns forever.
When it comes to having sex, even with the “all clear” from your medical provider you may not be ready. Take it slow and learn what you are comfortable with at this point in time. Be open with your partner about how you’re feeling emotionally and physically. There is no magic number of weeks postpartum that you must have sex by. All couples move through this time at their own pace. Honour where your body is at and be patient and clear with your partner about what is right for you. Again, this is a passing phase. If sex is causing you discomfort or anxiety, talk to others. You will be relieved to know this is a common theme for most new parents. As always, reach out to us and if additional support is needed we are happy to listen and refer you to a trusted professional that can offer you the support you need.
The postpartum period is filled with new experiences. Through them all be gentle on yourself. Give yourself praise for all that you do. Celebrate your body for the incredible abilities it has. Reach out to your village and feel their support. This phase can feel like a lifetime but is short lived. Please contact us if you could use an extra set of knowledgeable hands at your side or referrals to other trusted professionals.