Having a fleshed out postpartum plan is just as important as having a detailed birth plan. 

The fourth phase of motherhood is a transitional period between birth and 12 weeks postpartum. It’s a period where your baby is adjusting to the world and you’re adjusting to your baby. Think about it: your body just birthed a child, you’re sore, and your hormones are stabilizing. While there’s often much to be celebrated, it can also be a physically and mentally challenging time for moms, and a period of major developmental changes for babies. The fourth phase is a time of joy and exhaustion. Having a support system planned can make a huge difference in how you feel in those early days.

Read on for a deep REACH into the things a new mom may need to best ensure that her body, mind, and sense of self recovers from birth.

Rest

Yes sis, rest means, no cooking, no cleaning, and no running unnecessary errands! Simply put: Everyone who didn’t just birth a baby is responsible for household chores. Use your time relaxing with the baby. Skin-to-skin is one way to slow things down and bond with your little one. You may get annoyed when people suggest, “Sleep when baby sleeps.” But they’re on to something. Sleep deprivation is real…and terribly difficult to manage. You’ll be dealing with an inconsistent baby routine on top of night-wakings that will take some getting used to. So, prioritize resting whenever you can. Your mental and physical health will thank you. Your main focus is to eat, sleep, feed the baby, and allow your body to heal. Let your partner and family members handle all other tasks.

The postpartum body deserves and needs just as much respect, nourishment, nurturing, adoration, celebration, care, honor, tenderness, acceptance, love… as the pregnant body. Or maybe more.

– Shelley Halloran

Encouragement

Use this period of time to soak in positive energy and support. Give in to unbiased education and encouragement in parenting skills. Surround yourself with people who validate your feelings and support the way you decide to parent. Build boundaries to protect your heart and mind from those who may discourage you or cause you to feel incapable, even if they do so unknowingly. If you are seeking assurance of how you feel or what you’re experiencing as a new mom, find community in a local mom’s group that meets online or in person when it’s safe. These groups are great ways to make new mom friends and to find a “buddy” for your newborn! Finally, tap into your “ride-or-die” tribe of girlfriends that you can count on. The girlfriends who make you laugh, relax your soul, and constantly cheer you on. Yes, it takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to raise a mother.

Adjust to Motherhood

Some women may think that the journey of motherhood will be a steady, thriving experience. The reality is that motherhood is a series of highs and lows! It’s natural to think that because we are women, mothering should come natural to us. The skills you thought were inherent (ahem, breastfeeding) can lead to a lot of anxiety when they do not go as imagined. This mindset is dangerous and overwhelming and can lead to mommy guilt.  Remember that motherhood is a new role, whether you are a first-time mom or have multiple children! Give yourself grace, be patient, and trust in your abilities. If the transition to motherhood is overwhelming and seemingly more than you can bear, don’t be afraid to seek professional therapy. There is no shame in seeking help for the dark, vulnerable moments of motherhood. This period will feel new and unpredictable but know that as you gain more experience, you build confidence, and the adjustments will ride out.

Care

Self-care is a practice you want to adopt throughout this tender phase of motherhood and beyond. Use the postpartum period to attend to things that appeal to your emotional and physical being. Remember your only job is to take care of you baby and to take care of you [CONSIDER LINKING TO THE VAGINAL BIRTH BOX HERE: https://zmxi8qkpspv1qjhu-44323209372.shopifypreview.com/products/vaginal-birth-box].

  • Exercise: When you are cleared by your medical provider, and when you’re up to it, move your body in whatever way feels good to you. Studies show that physical activity is a mood booster, so go for walks, do yoga in your living room, or dance around to your favorite jams. 
  • Entertain yourself: Indulge in light reading or a new Netflix series to give your mind a break from the busyness–or mundaneness–of your day. 
  • Eat well: Consider a diet that consists of foods filled with nutrients that will aid in postpartum tissue healing like, protein (eggs, whole grains, chickpeas, fish), vitamin c (strawberries, oranges, mangoes), and zinc (meat, almonds, liver). 

Help

Many new parents underestimate the demand of a newborn in the early weeks. Imagine, there are so many new skills to master—changing diapers, swaddling, breastfeeding, and more! Dealing with all of this while coping with exhaustion and plummeting hormones can be emotionally and physically taxing. This is the time to accept, welcome, and ask for assistance. Help can come in a variety of forms: cooked meals, laundry, running errands, soothing the baby. In an ideal case, try to secure your helpers before the baby arrives. Enlist a family member to be with you so that you won’t be overwhelmed with trying to do it all. Be specific in what type of help you need and write it down if you must. Also, identify and connect with professionals who are available to help postpartum families: postpartum doulas, pediatricians, lactation consultants, midwives, doctors, therapists, pelvic floor specialists, night nurses, and housekeepers. Anyone who you can call on to answer your questions or to be physically by your side is going to make this time easier to bear.

Mama, above all, reach into your deepest self and trust her. Allow yourself to be imperfect. Allow yourself to prioritize your needs. Allow yourself to not do it all! You have feelings, emotions and reactions that may vary throughout the fourth phase of motherhood. Rest and be assured that you are not alone. And most importantly, if you are struggling currently, remember that seasons pass. The struggles and doubts you feel now will not remain with you forever. Prioritize your needs, communicate them, and embrace the journey for all that it’s worth. 

Mabel, Birthing Doula -Alexandria, VA.

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