During my 5 years of seeing patients as a health coach alongside Dr. Frank Lipman, I learned that the postpartum period is a very vulnerable time. Thyroid and adrenal issues seemed to find a foothold during this stressful period. I heard so many women say some variation of:
“I haven’t felt the same since I had my baby X years ago.”
“[XYZ SYMPTOM OR HEALTH PROBLEM] got much worse after I had my baby.”
Yet when I had my first baby Leela, I had no clue. I thought maternity leave would be all walks in the park with baby and dog. I did too much, too soon. I was stressed out often, exhausted always, and my healing was slow. After having my second daughter Rumi this March, I took it much slower. With 2 kids under 2, my body has been working very hard since the first pregnancy in 2013. These babies are a like parasites that suck the nutrients right out of you, and I’ve been aware that this is a physically taxing time.
Here’s what I did during the “fourth trimester” to take care of myself:
I stayed in bed and breastfed the baby, as much as possible, a practice known as a “lie in.” This article which talks about postpartum practices in the US vs. other countries had a big impact on me. I literally didn’t leave the house for days, then ventured only as far as the deli half a block away, then kept my radius to about 5 blocks for a while longer. I watched 6 seasons of The Walking Dead in 6 weeks. Since I have a toddler who needed to go outside to burn off energy, this meant that her dad or a sitter helped.
2. Fewer visitors, more help.
Having a visitor stop by doesn’t sound stressful, but it can be, if you’re trying to tidy up the house, offer a snack, look presentable, or time the baby’s naps or feedings around the visit. This time, I had fewer visits from friends, and more visits from my parents, where I gave them guidance to come after Leela’s nap, bring her to the park, and then cook me dinner Thank you parents, for doing this multiple times!
3. Automate everything.
I signed up for Amazon Subscribe and Save to get diapers, wipes, toilet paper, toothpaste, laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, garbage bags. I use Fresh Direct for groceries. I have a neighborhood pet store that delivers Coconut’s dog food. We even have a dry cleaner who does free pickup and delivery. All of this helps — a little — when you’re in the thick of things with a newborn.
I drink my Shakeology
every day because it’s nutrient dense and helps me steer away from junk food, which I’ve noticed is about 1000x more tempting when you’re exhausted and depleted. When I started with Shakeology a few months after Leela was born, it helped my energy, mood and milk supply, so now it’s part of my everyday routine.
5. Unapologetically resting.
This is the hardest part for me. My conditioning says that lying around in bed all day = lazy and pathetic. But the fourth trimester is different! Have you ever heard that saying “summer bodies are made in the winter”? Similarly, I’d say that “energetic moms are made in the fourth trimester.” I simply had to not think of this as laziness, but instead decide it was necessary for being strong and energetic in the future.
6. Using babysitters.
Even when Rumi was too little to leave with a sitter, I got help with Leela. There are many things – fancy clothes, expensive dinners, cable tv – I don’t spend money on. I consider myself thrifty and often too practical. But 30 or 40 bucks for a sitter for two hours, when you’re going to be up ALL night with a newborn – that really helped me survive those first weeks. I think it helped Leela with the sibling adjustment too, because she was getting undivided attention and a chance to run around outside.
My iron was low when they tested it in the hospital, and I started taking Floradix
right away. (Warning: Floradix tastes gross.) My lactation consultant warned me that low iron –> overwhelm and irritability, and I didn’t need any extra of that! I also ate a ton of hamburgers for a few weeks. I don’t like hamburgers, I’ve been eating a mostly vegetarian diet for nearly 20 years, but I just listened to my body on this one and went for it. Karan called himself the “energy police” and would come home at night, take one look at my pale, dizzy self and “prescribe” me a burger. Bone broth would have also been good.
A glass of water every time I nursed. A big glass of water first thing in the morning. Half-empty glasses of water all over the house. I let my husband know that I ALWAYS need a glass of water, he doesn’t have to ask me first, or wait for me to ask. Water is my superfood, and I’ve gotten really good about drinking tons of it, and I think it has helped my milk supply and energy levels a lot.
Don’t get me wrong, I also did unhealthy things! There was chocolate, there were croissants. I stayed up too late watching Walking Dead many a time. I cried often and bickered with my husband for no good reason. But I think I’ve emerged from the fourth trimester relatively unscathed. I’ve started to exercise again. Rumi is healthy and sleeping for nice stretches at night. Leela likes her sister. All of those bleary long nights will be a distant memory soon enough, and I’m happy with all the choices to make resting and healing my j-o-b during the first few weeks.
I’d love to hear from you! What helped you survive and/or thrive during the first weeks with a newborn?
What new moms need to know about thyroid problems, by Aviva Romm, MD
The undervalued therapeutic power of rest, by Gloria Lemay
Lots of love,
Cozy Little Sleeper, a 3-week course for newborns age 0 to 4 months
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