A custom many traditional societies had for new mothers, and one still honored in many cultures is a “lying in” period. This was and is a time period when the mother was to focus on her baby – others took care of the mother and her household. In some cultures this could be a very long period – such as 40 days!
Charlie, my midwife with Cassidy, Asher, and Brennan was absolutely adamant that mothers should spend their first week postpartum in bed with their baby. They should get up to use the bathroom and have a shower/sitz bath. Other people should make the meals, clean the house, do the laundry, etc. That can't always happen though – I'll address what to do when you must be the one to take care of the household.
I've tried to take this week with each of my babies. I think it's important for new mothers, though many mothers disagree or say they couldn't possibly find a way to have a lying in period. Others say they'd go crazy. I have always been eager to be sitting back in the den with the family at the end of my lying in, but I've really enjoyed the time to be pampered and especially to spend getting to know my baby.
If you're hoping to take a lying in period but aren't sure how you can I have some tips for you. Firstly, if you're worried that you'll go crazy by being in bed that long, consider how good for you the period is. It lets you rest postpartum. You'll be able to catnap when baby rests. You won't be overdoing it because you won't be up to be tempted to do housework. You can devote your time to working on your nursing relationship and learning your baby's signals. Overall it's just a good time.
If you're worried about being bored get some books and magazines together. Bring your laptop in to chat with other ladies with new babies. Or stock up on DVD's to watch. Have a phone by your beside so you can make calls and chat. And of course… plan to sleep!!
Take some time while you're pregnant to freeze a week's worth of main dishes. Keep your fridge stocked with deli meats, cheeses, yogurt, etc. in your last few weeks of pregnancy. Have your cabinets stocked with canned meats, nut butters, nuts, dried fruits, etc. Keep bread and bagels on hand – you may want to freeze some too (if you're like my family and don't keep bread due to celiac disease keep rice in the cupboard and buy a rice cooker!)
Keeping things stocked up like this mean that even if you must do the cooking after your baby is born it will require minimal effort. Eat yogurt, bagels or scramble eggs for breakfasts, and eat sandwiches for lunches. Put your frozen meal in the oven in the late afternoon to have a hot casserole for supper in the evening. Plan now so you can relax then.
I highly recommend letting the cleaning go if there's no one to do it for you. That's right. Just forget about it. Let the house get dirty. Buy paper plates, plastic cups and utensils, and use those while you're in your first week postpartum. Just toss them. Save your sanity! Don't worry about dishes!
Try to do minimal laundry. I know babies use a lot of clothing up, but chances are you're going to get a lot of baby clothing as gifts. Or let people know while you're pregnant that you'd love hand-me-down baby clothes. Or go shop for baby gowns, onesies, and t-shirts at yard sales and the thrift store – stock up so you don't need to do much laundry. You can pass the clothing on to another baby after your baby has outgrown it. Again… plan and prep now!
If you have older children you will have to look after think of activities now. Coloring books, story tapes, videos (if your children watch them), new small toys, etc. are good for young children. A new book, audio books, videos/games (again if your child is allowed), a board game to do with you, legos, etc. may be good for older children. Stock up a special box for after the baby is born to help keep them occupied. Go to the library and check out lots of books just before your due date. My kids had a box full of a couple new coloring books each, a tape player and several story tapes, homemade playdough we made together, finger puppets, and a new toy Slinky for each child. I also cut them out some Berenstein Bear paper dolls and had a few other goodies in there.
If you have a toddler you may want to completely baby-proof the room you'll be in with you and baby so you can nap with your toddler in the room and know he or she is safe. If your older child is a young toddler you may consider setting up a playpen in the room to have him or her while you nap with the baby.
These tips will help you relax if you will still have to take care of your household during your first week or so postpartum. If you have someone else who will do it for you – let them!!! I had a real treat after Galen's birth because Scott took care of everything for us for my first week. And he took care of meals for two weeks, even after I was back downstairs with the family. It was really nice and I loved that time to bond with Galen.
One last tip is if you have visitors coming to see the baby ask them to do something while they're at your home – a load of laundry, sweeping or running the vacuum, etc. Or ask them to bring a meal with them. And if someone offers to help don't say no!
Enjoy your “lying in” period – let yourself be mothered. If you don't have anyone else to help, plan during pregnancy to make that period as easy for yourself as you can. You will be very grateful for your planning as you relax with your baby and enjoy those first precious days!