The following is an excerpt from Anchored + Balanced: A Roadmap to a supported & Nourished Postpartum written by Meg Whithed, CHN of Small Batch Wellness.
In the west, it’s hard to escape the bounce-back ‘influencer’ culture that touts getting back into pre-baby clothes the fastest or hopping back in the gym to grab those ubiquitous before and after selfies. All of this glorification creates a toxic and unrealistic environment that leaves new parents feeling isolated, different, and often ‘not-good-enough’. If we want to shift the maternal health crisis, we need to recognize that we have lost our way when it comes to how we care for people during this short period of time in their life. Instead, let's consider the opposite approach - a time to be supported through warmth, rest and replenishment. It is paramount that we embrace it with some thorough and thought-out planning.
To do so we need to dissect the pillars of care and see how they will fit in our everyday life. First, we might stop and take the time to understand what our own ancestors did during their postpartum period. What did their “village of support” look like? How long was this window of time? What foods did they eat? How were they supported? Then move deeper and look around the world and you will find that there is much that overlaps & aligns with a slow, birth-giver centered postpartum. Each culture might have different foods, herbs, and wares but there are so many similarities that understanding these universal principles can shed light on how we can align with these time-tested approaches.
As a Holistic Nutritionist that specializes in postpartum care, I work to treat the whole person using food and herbs first. Robust, mother centered care that is focused from day one on meeting the needs of a newly-born mother first. The pillars of care are well covered in phenomenal books that have helped the movement to reclaim postpartum. Here, I am reshaping this framework a bit to blend traditional ways with the modern demands of life after baby. I am hoping to encourage deeper consideration so we can adjust our mindset and embrace the intensity of this time.
Rest + Restore
Make the commitment for Deep Rest - notice I didn’t necessarily say Deep Sleep. That, of course, would be glorious - but alas new babies aren’t in agreement! Making this conscious commitment is going to look different for everyone. Too often we regard sleep as an indulgence and luxury, at times it’s almost a division of the HAVES and the HAVE NOTS. First off, staying in bed after baby is one of the ways we reclaim postpartum. Prioritizing this sacred time to heal and bond with baby is paramount and should not be considered a luxury. Rather, we should recognize that adequate sleep is just as important for overall health and even more so when we are healing from birth.
We work towards Rest & Restore by using this lovely framework:
- Sanctuary Space: Generally this is your bedroom stocked up with most things at arms reach including a breastfeeding station, access to water, reading material, self care items.
- First week postpartum, staying in bed one full week almost ALL of the time. This means not getting out for anything but bathroom visits, to stretch the legs and midwife visits.
- Second week ‘touching’ the bed. This means more sitting up, some very light stretching in the bed to keep up circulation, very light self-massage (not on the abdomen).
- Third week is ‘near’ the bed. We are staying out of the main, high-activity spaces in the house (kitchen, living room) and remaining under the radar as much as possible. This translates into still being in bed quite a bit but perhaps you’ve gone for a very short walk to stretch your legs or sat and soaked in some sun. This timeframe is among the hardest as often the energy is returning to the birth giver, being still has gotten old, and the tendency to want to commence regular activities is strong. Please consider resisting this; just like the digestion needs to be nurtured and slowly awakened, so does the body. I often hear from new parents that their bleeding has increased a bit during this time - this is the body screaming that you are doing too much too soon.
- Diet of the Mind: I mention later in this writing that diet is an ugly word in our house. However, a diet of the mind is more about restricting what we spend our mental energy on. A slow postpartum might mean only checking your phone a few times a day instead of the constant scroll. It might mean not watching or reading the news for a bit. It might mean skipping over that loud, violent movie. The raw vulnerability during this time can linger, we want our hearts and minds filled with beauty, calm, and tenderness.
- Practice Yoga Nidra: No poses required! This ‘yogic sleep’ illustrates why rest can be ALMOST as good as sleep (almost). Studies have shown that 30 minutes of a yoga nidra practice is equal to 2 hours of sleep. While not perfect, the guided nature and gentle attention to breath will help move the body from fight/flight (sympathetic nervous system) to rest/digest (parasympathetic).
- Horizontal Days: I love this phrase from Chrystal of Feminist Oasis as it’s just the most perfect visual. Once we move out of the first 21 days postpartum, we must still be slow and remain horizontal as much as possible.
In the immediate postpartum, this might seem nearly impossible. Feeding every 3 hours makes long stretches of sleep nearly impossible. Perhaps there also may be older siblings in the picture adding another layer to manage. Or maybe babe is fussy, gassy or glued to boob. What I am saying is that the above isn’t always feasible but that doesn’t mean it is not a worthy endeavor and care plan to strive for. Instead work to create a support system that understands this goal so that the road to feeling more rested, balanced and grounded becomes attainable.
Some thoughts if they work for you: Let the person breastfeeding sleep while the other stays awake (practice safe sleeping), sleep in shifts, sleep bank to help offset sleep debt (sleep every chance you get even if you don’t necessarily feel tired), enlist the help of loved ones and trusted professionals (hire a postpartum doula, night nurse), let people wait on you. Why? It's not to spoil you, although you deserve that, your body vitally needs this deep healing.
This all might feel strange but it's an excellent way to kick off your Fourth Trimester.
Resist the urge to DO the things, to FIX the things, to CLEAN the things, to ENTERTAIN the visitors. Lack of restful sleep for new parents is no laughing matter, we casually joke about it but the cumulative effects of not getting relief are dangerous. The issues with sleep deprivation are well documented but just in case you are unaware, “the greater the sleep debt, the less capable we are of recognizing it: Once sleep deprivation — with its fuzzy-headedness, irritability, and fatigue — has us in its sway, we can hardly recall what it's like to be fully rested. And as the sleep debt mounts, the health consequences increase, putting us at growing risk for weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and memory loss.” (Harvard Medical School)
To restore means to bring back. Part of matrescence is realizing our body is ours again. Well somewhat ours again - if we are breast/chestfeeding, we now have a new (and often beautiful) demand on our body. The truth is our body is indeed different - that part does not need to be fully restored. Embracing the evolution of being a newly-born parent means restoring some autonomy and restoring a baseline for health.
Interested in reading the rest of this article? Check out this link to it in The Postpartum Kitchen
About the Author:
Meg (she/her) is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist that specializes in postpartum care. Since 2015, Small Batch Wellness has been working to nourish new families throughout the Seacoast. She is also a student of Ayurveda and has ongoing studies in all areas of postpartum care. She believes that by blending traditional ways with modern-day science, we can create a postpartum that honors the individual’s path to wellness.
She has four offerings for families both local and virtual:
Purposeful Nourishment is a local grocery + goods delivery service curated for the family who just had a baby serving the seacoast area in Southern Maine + New Hampshire. Favoring local farms + shops, doorstep deliveries are hand picked to deeply nourish healing birthgivers as they navigate the early moments of parenthood.
The Postpartum Kitchen is an online database for families interested in including food as an active form of healing in the postpartum. Highlighting Postnatal Depletion Spectrum, navigate this unique time confidently with access to this resource library. A simple, versatile approach focussed on gut rebuilding, hormone balancing, and blood building while being anti-inflammatory AND anti-bounce back.
Anchored + Balanced is a partnership with partner, Birth Strong Doula. It encompasses the best of both worlds blending in person postpartum care with specific nourishment planning.
Lastly, Meg is available for ongoing Postpartum Nutrition counseling!
Find her here: