Lying in after your baby is born is a great idea. I outlined many of the reasons why it's good for you and for baby in my previous article on why to lie in. But many moms think that it's impossible to take this time for themselves and their newborns – there is just too much to be done, there are too many people depending on mom! Sometimes single mothers think this won't work for them. But some advance preparation can make lying in in some way possible for every mom.
The first things moms worry about is food. If they're in bed, who is going to do the cooking? Postpartum is not the time to worry about fancy meals. Let it go. Don't place expectations on yourself. The first thing to do is to plan for a week off after your baby is born – you will need breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for that time, and possibly snacks, too.
So plan seven dinners you'd like… pick a casserole you can assemble and freeze now, then just pull out and bake after the baby is born. Or buy seven frozen casseroles, lasagnas, etc. Sure, processed food isn't what you want to eat a lot of, but a few days of it will give you a break.
Plan easy breakfasts and lunches. Keep the house stocked with sandwich bread and sandwich fillings as you get close to your due date. Plan on having cereal or oatmeal for breakfast. Again, you may generally choose more elaborate or nutritious, made-from-scratch foods for breakfast and lunch – but these easy-to-prepare meals can be made healthy and face it, they're easy.
Load your oatmeal with butter and cream for a milk-production boosting breakfast. Include meats and filling veggie slices (such as avocado) in your sandwiches – and perhaps eat some lacto-fermented condiments (like real sauerkraut) on the side to get probiotics into you and baby.
Good snacks to keep stocked in the house as you get close to your due date are cheeses, yogurts, hardboiled eggs, veggies, fruits, etc. You can also keep dips or salad dressings you like for dressing up snacks.
If you have a husband or older children who can handle some (or all) of the meal preparation, let them do that! If somebody offers to bring you a meal, say “yes!”
If you must be the one to prepare meals I suggest you set up your lying-in area for you and baby close to the kitchen. Being in a bed is the best choice because it will remind you to rest and not try to do too much. It's also safe for you to nurse baby. But setting up on the couch with a bassinet for baby next to you, or a firm air mattress on the floor could also work for a few days. Being close to the kitchen will mean you don't have to move around as much when you do need to get up to prepare meals.
With food comes cleaning. I suggest you do as little of it as possible. If there is nobody else to handle the cleaning, do yourself a favor and buy paper plates, plastic utensils, and plastic cups to use for several days. Yes, there's some waste involved – but it's much easier to throw those things away than to have a mountain of dishes to wash.
Don't worry about cleaning the house. Throw trash away, but otherwise, don't worry about dusting, vacuuming, etc. It can go for a week. If you have other children and nobody to help watch them, limit them to a room or two close to you… and limit the toys they have. They will survive with several toys and books for a week!
I'll give more ideas for older children in a moment… but the goal here is to have less to “pick up after.” Any child older than a toddler should be able to pick up after him or herself – and your toddlers can and will do a lot of their own picking up if you approach it right. More later.
Laundry can be another issue. Newborns can go through a lot of clothing, and you'll also want a fresh change at least once a day and possibly more (abundant milk supplies can cause very wet shirts!) Other children may also be generating laundry.
Again, if you have a husband, friend, family member, or older children who can handle laundry then let them! You relax and enjoy your baby 🙂
If you must do your laundry then plan to do a load every day or so – get up in the morning and put a small load on. Transfer to the dryer when done. Put the clean laundry in a basket and put it close to the bed with you and baby. Fold the laundry on the bed then place it, clean and folded, in the basket. Don't worry about putting it away. Older children can put their own laundry away, and toddler laundry can stay in the basket with yours and baby's.
I know I sound like a broken record – but if somebody else offers to do any cooking, cleaning, running errands – or anything for you – let them!!
Yes, you will want to get up and shower and go to the bathroom during your lying in period! If you have nobody to help with the baby while you shower, put your baby into a portable swing or bouncer while you take a shower. Sit on a stool in the shower if you need to – or sit on a stool or the toilet and give yourself a sponge bath. Use a peri-bottle to rinse blood and fluids away from tender tissues. I would urge you to be cautious the first few days, especially if you are alone with your baby/children. Dizziness and fatigue can be issues postpartum and you don't want to fall in the shower.
If at all possible, you should have somebody with you, the baby, and your older children the first few days postpartum. Your insurance company may allow a nurse to visit postpartum, or your midwife may visit you. This is something you should take advantage of!!
If you have an older toddler, put the toddler into a playpen while you shower. If you don't have one, you can have the toddler in the bathroom with you and baby.
If you're worried about having the toddler around the baby I would put the baby in a seat or swing in the bathroom or just outside the bathroom, then simply undress your toddler and bring him or her in the tub with you. Put a couple of cups or bowls in the tub for them to put under the water, sit on your stool, and rinse yourself down while they play 🙂 Then rinse your toddler down.
If you need to bathe toddlers or preschoolers, run a small amount of water in the tub, sit on a stool outside the tub, and quickly wipe each child down. You can simple run warm water through their hair or use a small amount of shampoo. Then help them climb out and dry off while you sit on the stool or toilet. Baby can be in a baby seat nearby. I would recommend that you let a few baths slide if you must do the bathing. A bath every few days for this one week will be just fine 🙂
I've mentioned strategies for older children already, but if you're alone to care for older ones things can seem overwhelming. Prepare ahead of time.
If you have toddlers prepare a box of special toys for this week. Put them in the room where you'll be doing your lying in. If somebody else will be looking after your toddler you can still do this – just store the toys in the part of the house where your tot will be.
Coloring books and sturdy crayons (no markers this week!) and books should go in the box. Novelties like a small flashlight may also be fun to include. Keep your toddler in your lying in room with you, giving him or her a new toy here and there, coloring, and reading to them. You can keep simple snacks on hand to be shared periodically, too.
When it's time to clean up, start putting a toy or two back in the box and invite your toddler to do the same. Toddlers are natural-born imitators and will often enthusiastically help you clean up.
If it makes it easier for you, have your toddler's clothes in a box in your lying in room, and settle your toddler on a pallet on the floor for naps and bedtime this week. Or, if you're still co-sleeping, just cuddle your tot on one side of you and baby on the other.
Preschoolers and older children can occupy themselves better and be very helpful to you at this point. Keep your child close to you if you feel you need it – you know your child. You can prepare special things for older children just as you do your toddler, too.
Remember, if you can, have somebody else help with your toddlers and older children during your lying in. Even if somebody can only come for an hour or two and entertain your child or take him for a walk around the block, it will give you some time to have with just you and your baby.
Prepare Your Nest
Lying in takes a little work to prepare for – but I almost always enjoy the preparations. In the pictures in this post you can see some of my preparations. I'll share some of them and hopefully it will inspire you 🙂
I will have more beside my bed when the baby is actually here – most of it is in the bedroom corner right now. But I already have a small bin with newborn clothes, several blankets, and cotton balls close to the bed.
The clothing bin has gowns, onesies, hats, and t-shirts in it. There are also a couple of pairs of booties and several pairs of socks. Newborns don't need a complicated wardrobe and I personally have always loved having white things ready for my babies… so there's a lot of white 🙂
The corner has almost everything else I'll need in it. The things on the righthand side are mostly supplies for the actual birth – our birth kit, towels, a few things for the birth tub, etc. The things on the left, though, are things I have set up for myself and the baby after birth.
I have a basket with diapers – disposable diapers, prefolds, covers, and snappi fasteners. Yes, I run Natural Birth and Baby Care… and yes, I always use disposable diapers the first week or so with my newborns 🙂
There are a lot of options out there for moms today, and you should use the option you want. In the first week I like to use disposables because they're easy and require no washing 🙂
I have the cloth clean and ready, however. I like prefolds with a snappi fastner and a wool cover (Imse Vimse) so that's what I have. I've also started elimination communication in the first several days with my last two babies, so I have a couple of little “potty bowls” ready for that. I start EC when I feel ready – no arbitrary date or time.
The smaller basket is my “mama basket.” It has several things for me and some for baby. I have lotion in there – both my favorite lotion and Weleda baby lotion for dry newborn skin. I also have chapstick because my lips seem to get dry postpartum! I put in a couple of books that I would like to read, and a bar of soap just for me 🙂 That basket also contains my peri-bottle (definitely a good thing to have on hand!) and some other supplies for postpartum. Cotton swabs, used for cleaning around baby's cord stump, and nail clippers for both baby and I are included. I have plenty of pads for myself postpartum stowed under the basket.
Another thing I have under the birth supply bags is small, disposable waterproof mats. These are often called “chux pads” and I really like having them around postpartum. They are great to put under mom and baby – they protect the bed from leaking pads, leaking milk, and leaking babies! When dirty you just throw them away. After that first week I use a soft towel or receiving blankets to absorb milk and other leaks as my milk supply adjusts to realizing I have only one baby ;p – but during that first week I really like the pads that just get tossed.
I have my Boppy ready to go – I've always found a Boppy to work well, but any nursing pillow you find works for you is the one to have on hand. You can also see our packaged up playpen. That's actually for after the first week, when Scott will set it up with bassinet/changing table option downstairs. I'll move the baby gear and base of operations mostly downstairs after our first week, and it makes a really handy place to stow baby gear as we continue to adjust to life with a newborn (again)! We also have a sheepskin that makes a nice surface for baby if I need to put baby on the floor for a minute or two while I do something else. And I have my beloved wrap carrier – my favorite for young babies!
As you can see, I take the time to gather quite a few things together before the baby comes. I've also gotten other preparations done. I've helped the children get used to a routine and chores that can continue while I lie in with the new baby.
I always prepare a packet of recipes and menu suggestions for Scott – he's home for two weeks after a baby comes and handles the cooking (he's wonderful). He likes having recipes on hand so that's something simple I can get ready for him. I also shop for most of the non-perishable items for the recipes ahead of time.
I also stock the freezer with a number of freezer meals – these are mostly for after Scott goes back to work and I need to ease back into being the household manager and cook 😉 It's easy for me to thaw and bake something that I've already assembled.
A Few Ideas
These are just a few practical ideas for you and a glimpse of what I've done for myself. I truly believe that a lying in is of great benefit to you and your baby. I don't have the luxury of many relatives or tribeswomen coming in to take care of me – we do get several nights of dinners and I do have a fantastic husband – but I do a lot of the preparation myself during later pregnancy. It's part of the joy of “nesting,” and it makes for a smoother postpartum for me where I can spend time focusing on myself and baby. I get to know my baby, build my milk supply, and just rest and enjoy a few days reward for my excellent job bringing a new little one into the world!
I think that lying in and enjoying the pampering (prepared for yourself or brought by someone else) can help lower the chances of postpartum depression, milk supply problems, and just plain stress. Think of some ways you can honor yourself and your newborn with a lying in, or even a modified lying in – and enjoy this wonderful tradition after your new baby comes.