There's a lot out there about how to have a good pregnancy – entire books, websites, and even apps devoted to the subject. And there's plenty about basic baby care…
…but there's not much on how to have a good postpartum.
Life postpartum isn't all about the baby – there's still a you inside the “new mama” – and you still need to feel confident, healthy, and ready for the adventures of motherhood. As I wait for baby #8, I've taken some steps to get ready, and thought I'd share them with you!
Good Pregnancy Nutrition
If you've read, listened to, or watched anything I've done, you know I emphasize how important good pregnancy nutrition is to having a healthy pregnancy, a healthy baby, and even a safe birth. But good pregnancy nutrition doesn't stop there…
…it sets a foundation for a healthy postpartum. It sets a foundation for a rich, abundant milk supply. In other words, it's really important!
Eating well gives your body the energy and stores it needs to heal postpartum. It gives you a full pregnancy blood supply, so you bounce back from birth more quickly. It means you have reserves when you start breastfeeding your baby (a very energy-intensive activity)!
I've been emphasizing good pregnancy nutrition, and paying especially careful attention as I move towards the final days of this pregnancy – I even pulled out my diet chart and started using it again!
Freeze Meals for Later (and stock the pantry)
Good food doesn't matter only during pregnancy – but I know that my hands are going to be full once baby comes. That's why freezer meals are really important. I take a few extra minutes a few nights a week and double, triple, or quadruple the entree I'm serving.
Taking that time has filled my freezer with pans of rich lasagna, tasty chicken & broccoli Alfredo, hearty chili, and more. There are two important points about these meals:
- They are all meals I really enjoy
- They are easy for me to stick in the oven and then move on!
Many mamas forget to eat once baby is here – but in reality you're still providing all of your baby's nutrition. Freezer meals are a simple step to pamper yourself.
I've also worked to stock the pantry up this pregnancy – especially with ingredients for simple, nourishing soups and smoothies. Both are easy to whip together (by Scott at first, and then by me) and both provide a lot of nutritional bang for their buck. Having what I need to nourish myself on hand goes a long way to making sure that I actually get what I need to keep my energy levels high, heal from birthing, and build a great milk supply for baby.
Prepare for a Natural Birth
My journey to natural birth – and through 7 natural births to planning #8 has been interesting…
…I started by choosing natural birth because
- I don't like hospitals
- I didn't want my baby getting drugs
…but over time I have found so many more reasons for natural birth – and today safety and confidence are at the top of my mind.
Preparing for a natural birth means getting ready physically, gaining knowledge, and learning skills to work with baby during your birthing time. There are also mental preparations to do.
…but again, for me, understanding the complex physical and hormonal processes of birth, and knowing that they create safety for me and baby, are my primary motivation. I know that the hormones of birth protect me from bleeding and they help my newborn baby breathe and adapt quickly after birth…
…plus they foster a strong bond between myself and my baby – which in turn creates confidence in me as a mama.
You might think that with baby #8 I feel totally confident, but I tend to have a lot of the same worries I do with every pregnancy – how will birth go (and how will labor start?!), will my baby be healthy, and how will I manage with baby and everything else I need to juggle?
Knowing that I'm going to get that hormonal confidence boost from a natural birth – and knowing that I'll be strong and healthy due to the safety mechanisms built into natural birth – help me to feel confident about postpartum with a new baby <3
Gear Up Gut Health
Good gut health is important to so many areas of life, and three are especially important postpartum:
- Feeling comfortable after birth (no bloating or other digestive problems)
- Having a more content baby (!!!)
- Higher energy levels after the birth
I want to enjoy all these benefits of good digestive health – so paying attention to gut health during pregnancy makes a lot of sense.
What does it take to work on this? Fortunately the steps are pretty simple:
- Make sure I'm eating healthy, whole foods and minimizing processed foods
- Take a high-quality probiotic
- Eat probiotic foods (like yogurt, kefir, and fermented veggies)
- Enjoy nourishing soups made with bone broths
Digestive issues actually have been an issue for me during this pregnancy, so I've tried to make sure I'm focusing on the above steps as I get closer to my baby coming.
Recent studies show that taking probiotics really does influence the microbiota (the “good bacteria” and “bad bacteria”) of the birth canal – so I know that by taking a good quality probiotic, I'm also getting my birth canal ready for my baby. A baby who starts life with a good microbiota is likely to be more content and struggle with few digestive issues him or herself.
Gather All the Baby Gear
Okay, this is the “fun” step – but it's been essential to feeling ready for baby to come!
Since this is baby #8 for us, we didn't really need much for the baby – and having 8 babies has helped me to realize that, well, babies don't really need all that much, period.
But it's still fun to gather things together. I had my teens help me pull down baby clothes and cloth diapers, which I then washed and sorted. I set up our diaper corner and filled a bin with newborn clothes (one side is girl clothes and the other side is boy clothes).
I also got blankets, burp cloths, and our little potties (for elimination communication) ready.
I did create an Amazon baby registry for this baby, mostly with cute outfits and fun things like bath toys and baby books – we've gotten a few things sent to us off the registry, so those things are set together for baby, too.
Finally I looked at what we had and determined that we needed a new car seat. I'd also like to get a Mei Tai (Meh Dai) carrier. I did order the car set but haven't gotten the carrier…
…so on the whole, I've got everything set aside and ready for baby in a little corner of my room. I'm excited and feel ready to welcome my little one!
Set Up Self-Care
Self-care is a buzzword that most of us hear… and most of us do not do!
Taking care of yourself when you're pregnant and mothering is vitally important.
But most mamas don't – either because they feel like they have no time or because they think it's selfish.
When I say “self-care” I'm not talking about spa weekends or week-long cruises. I'm not even talking about leaving the baby – though asking someone else to bounce a just-nursed baby long enough for you to take a nap or shower is definitely do-able!!!
I've realized that it's really, really important for me to take care of myself if I'm going to take care of my kids and be the wife I want to be for my husband.
One step I take now (while pregnant) is getting up earlier than my kids – it really makes a difference to have some time to read a bit in a book and in my Bible. Here's the truth – I'm usually reading a parenting book 😉 but personal development is a big part of self-care.
Self-care actually has a lot to it: eating well, resting, and having a little time for the you inside the mama. That's why I've been thinking about it during pregnancy. One thing I've decided to prioritize is getting my baby to take naps – once he or she is 6-8 weeks old, I'll work on developing regular naptimes (and I hope baby slips into those even before that).
Think Through Asking for Help
In addition to setting up self care routine for before and after baby, I've also decided that I'm going to ask for more help with this baby – asking Scott to take the baby if I feel overwhelmed.
I've been pretty guilty about feeling guilty asking someone else to take my baby for a little while. There are multiple reasons:
- Feeling guilty that I can't calm the baby down
- Feeling guilty that I need a little time away from my precious baby (and/or older kids)
- Feeling guilty that Scott feels uncomfortable soothing a cranky baby
- Feeling like I'm the only one who can really meet my baby's needs well
There are other things going on there – but those are big ones… and all of those feelings of guilt are not only not helpful, they're damaging.
The truth is, I can nurse my baby and then hand the baby over to another pair of loving hands. The baby will be fine, the other person will be fine (even if they feel awkward – especially Daddies need time to figure out their own ways to soothe baby). And I will have a few minutes to nap, to shower, to read to older kids, or whatever!
I have also people offer to bring meals by and help in other ways – and I'm making a list to take them up on their offers!
Plan for Physical Comfort
This goes along with digestive health in a way, because of course having good digestive health keeps you comfortable…
…but in the postpartum period there are a lot of other things that can be uncomfortable! Aches and pains are not uncommon – you've just given birth (which is definitely an athletic event!). And your body is adjusting from pregnancy, which displaced everything inside!
Your hips may feel wonky and your belly funky – it's all normal. Hormonal changes can also lead to dry lips and dry skin. And it's normal for your bottom to feel a little sore, too.
I like to prepare in advance for physical comfort. I get a bottle of great lotion and a tube of chapstick to keep on hand to keep my skin feeling soft and soothed and my lips moisturized. I also choose a gentle soap to use in the shower (and I plan to ask for someone to hold the baby while I take showers and feel refreshed!).
I also like to make sure my immune system is primed and ready for birth and the early weeks with baby, so I usually take an echinacea tincture in the couple of weeks before my due date. I make sure I'm taking my prenatal vitamins as well.
Comfy pillows, fresh and clean sheets, and soft pajamas also make that first week after baby so much nicer – so I have those on hand – along with a new fiction book to indulge in during those early hours of nursing <3
Get My Little Ones Into a Routine
What do you do with your older kids postpartum?! Here's the secret – postpartum is not the time to think of that question…
…you need to think of it while you're still pregnant.
And a routine is a big part of the answer.
I've spent the last few weeks working my little ones into a regular morning and afternoon routine. They know what's coming when. My older “littles” can even read a simple picture schedule I created for them – and follow it without much input from me (Sadie, at 2.5, doesn't quite get the pictures yet, though she's thrilled to look at them – so she needs a little more shepherding).
Sticking with this routine up to baby and getting back into it ASAP after baby will really help save my sanity – and theirs!
The first week will likely be a little crazy – so some ideas for that week:
- Gather together a few shoe-box sized tubs
- Fill with fun “new to them” toys (second-hand toys are OK for this)
- Have a tub with new books you can read to them while nursing
- Have a few videos for them to watch (or add some movies and shows to your streaming queue)
- Get family and friends on board to take them for a special outing, or even just entertain them at home
I've made the routine for my little ones simple enough that I can direct it from the couch – so after baby comes and I'm settled in on the couch, we can all enjoy a smooth (and restful) day!
Walk for My Workouts
I have grand aspirations for making regular (if short) workouts part of my weekly routine when baby is a couple of weeks old…
…but it just hasn't happened yet with this pregnancy 😉
That's OK with me, because I've been focusing on walking – and walking often. Walking is an ideal way to stay physically conditioned for birth…
…and it's an ideal exercise to start with after you've had your baby.
Plus, I credit walking with helping me overcome the excruciating pelvic pain I had in past pregnancies.
Discovering proper alignment, how to take steps properly, and how to walk barefoot (and in minimalist footwear) has helped me to get my body back into alignment, which has kept baby lined up and my body feeling balanced and free of pain.
I find myself looking forward to when baby is a couple of weeks old and I can start taking gentle walks while holding baby – something that's supposed to help baby's alignment and need for regular movement (just like our adult bodies need movement!) – even possibly keeping baby more content 😉
Taking Baby Steps to Nesting
My compulsion to get my house clean started about 10 weeks ago and has gotten progressively stronger as I move toward the end of this pregnancy.
I won't say that my house was horrible or anything, but it did need some work – and it especially needed work in areas my kids are responsible for.
I started by setting clear expectations for them – and for their morning chores. We spent a week with me checking morning chores consistently. Then another week where we added in lunchtime chores, and finally, evening chores.
I assigned an extra chore when one wasn't done well. In the first few days of focusing on kids doing chores, a lot of my “detail cleaning” ended up getting done by kids 😉
Since then I've stayed consistent with checking their chores and their areas (along with the kitchen, dining room, and shoe area) have stayed reasonably neat.
I've used baby steps for the tasks that I needed to do, as well as for larger projects I had the kids help with (like cleaning the pole barn!!). Using baby steps I've been able to get my closet cleaned up (one shelf every couple of days) and reduce “piles” that have been sitting around. I try to do 10-20 minute bursts of work on the piles and to my amazement, they're going away!!
Scott has helped a lot by scanning papers so we can file those electronically – piles and piles have gotten scanned, filed, and now no longer clutter my house.
At this point it's just working down the piles and my last “big” task – scrubbing my tub… which I think I'll save for a couple of days before baby is due 😉