As a doula and a childbirth educator I have heard this many times. Truth be told, I have said this countless times myself! But the #1 thing you can do for yourself and your baby postpartum is REST! Why?
Your body needs time to heal and to establish a good milk supply. It can’t do that as well if you are up and running around all the time. The first week or so partpartum is an intense time for you, mama. You have just completed the miraculous task of bringing forth a new person into the world; that takes serious work! Your body needs rest. You are likely not getting long stretches of sleep at night (if you are, please share your secret!) and you are exhausted. Most of us Type A’s are not good nappers; we just can’t stop long enough to nap and even if we could our brains won’t stop thinking about all the things we could be doing or need to be doing. Am I right? So, you at least need rest during the day.
Some signs that you are not doing a good job of resting? Increased lochia (postpartum bleeding), increased physical discomfort, exhaustion, low milk supply… the list actually goes on from there, but that ought to be enough to help you see that rest is important.
So, for my fellow Type A mamas, I offer these helpful suggestions:
1) Honestly… just do it. I know, I know. You will be dying to help and to take care of all your visitors; this is what we do. But there are very few times in life when people beg to wait on you hand and foot. Let them. Not only is it good for you, it’s good for them, too. The same joy that we gain from taking care of those around us is being robbed from them if you decline their help. So let them serve you… it will make them feel good. And you need the help whether you want to admit it or not (or whether you realize it or not).
2) Store up meals before your baby’s birth. Or better yet, let people sign up to bring you meals. MealBaby is a great tool. You choose the dates you want meals brought and even specify your food preferences, then email it to all your local friends. They sign up and bring you food. Awesome, right? I suggest scheduling people every two to three days since people like to bring enough food to feed you for several meals.
3) Plan for restful projects you can do during your babymoon. Perhaps a knitting or crochet project, a scrapbook, loading pictures onto an online album to share with friends and family? Whatever you choose, plan ahead to have everything you will need. And it must be a restful project! No reorganizing the linen closet.
4) Welcome visitors when you want to. If you are a social butterfly, it might be nice to have people come visit. In fact, it might actually help you rest! Do resist the urge to take care of them while they visit… the purpose of their visit is to spend time with you, admire your baby, and help with what they can while they are there. You do not have to be perfectly made up or have your hair done. I promise. If you would prefer not to have visitors, decline politely if they call and answer the door in your jammies if they show up (or hide and pretend you’re not home/asleep). Offer any help offered from your visitors (see tip #1 above).
5) Accept that the Hollywood moms who seem to bounce back to pre-pregnancy perfection in 2 days is a LIE. No one expects you to take off running after you have a baby… except, perhaps, you. Give yourself grace and find a new normal. Birth is life changing. The new mother version of you is stronger, braver, and capable of anything; just don’t try to take it all on at once. Add things back into your life one at a time and back off when you reach your limits. If you don’t care for yourself, it will be more challenging to care for your family.
While the days drag on right now, you will soon find that your snuggly, sleepy newborn has turned into a busy, independent baby, so enjoy your babymoon. Lie in bed, skin to skin, with your precious baby while watching your favorite movies and eating all your favorite things (that you allowed others to bring you). Enjoy the fact that for now, someone else is cleaning your house, doing your laundry, and cooking your meals. One day, sooner than you may be ready for, the offers will stop and you will once again be busy running your household. But trust me on this one – if you say no to help, those offers will dry up even quicker… take it from someone who worked away her first babymoon (how else do you think I learned these things?).