POSTPARTUM RECOVERY &TRANSITION
bleeding, perineum, body aches, digestive system, pelvic floor
emotions day by day, a new you, changing relationships
Breast changes and breastfeeding expectations
You've Just Supported Your Partner through Birth:
emotions, changing relationships
POSTPARTUM - FIRST WEEKS OVERVIEW
Babies shake up your routine.
It takes time to adjust, and like labour, life with a baby is all about being adaptable.
And don’t doubt that you will handle it brilliantly, in your own way.
Postpartum - You’ve just given birth
The body is exceedingly resilient in healing after birth.
Some people are surprised that they feel way stronger and more “back to normal” than they expect after a vaginal birth. But nonetheless, the body has undergone tremendous physical exertion and is in need of some tender loving care.
It is also unsurprising that there are some differences in how your new body will feel and function in this transitioning, recovery period.
Before anything else, give your body and yourself lots of love. This powerful vessel has nurtured and brought forth a beautiful creature that will bring you endless challenges, and endless joy.
1st day bleeding will be slightly more than a heavy period. This slows quickly to a light period by day 5 to 7. Keeping your bladder empty, particularly the first three days, is important to avoid increased bleeding, and for your pelvic floor.
Light spotting might persist on and off until four to six weeks after giving birth.
Sometimes heavy activity or sexual intercourse can increase bleeding. If this happens, simply take it as a note from your body and slow down. The general recommendation is to resume sexual intercourse after 6 weeks postpartum.
Your perineum will feel sore. Be mindful not to sit for prolonged periods and put too much pressure on the area. See postpartum self care - perineum.
Rest of Your Body
You will feel aches and pains all over! It will be like the day after going to the gym, except it is after the most intense workout of your life.
Note: Your ab muscles are not ready to be used yet. Take care to turn to your side and use your arms to push yourselves up when getting in and out of bed.
Your belly area might feel very empty and wobbly. Your uterus is about its size at 20 weeks of pregnancy, and your guts are all slowly shifting back to where they used to be. Hydration, fibre, and easy to digest foods will be gentle on your body.
You might feel like you have no pelvic floor. It’s there, just overworked. Avoid standing for long periods of time to let it heal. Especially keep this in mind if you’re feeling energetic and ready to move immediately.
You might experience some stress-incontinence the first few days (pee leaking when you laugh or sneeze). Don’t be alarmed. This is very common, and attentive pelvic floor physiotherapy after 6 weeks will help those muscles regain its strength.
You might be chuckling to yourself whenever we mention sleep. We tell mums they need to sleep, but there is no way for them to actually get sleep.
But sleep is crucial after birth.
Your body has just undergone tremendous physical work, a lack of sleep, you’ve experienced a major hormone shift from birth, and you are about to undergo yet even more physical changes with a hormonal shift from milk coming in. Sleep will help stabilize your mood and boost your mental health. Even just making sure you get solid rest the first few days after birth can influence your postpartum experience.
It’s expected that as a new mum you will find it difficult to make time for sleep. But it might come as a surprise that even when you find the time, it can be hard falling asleep.
A few reasons why you can’t fall asleep:
you might just not be a napper
All of a sudden you get the urge to just stare at your baby sleep - you can’t look away!
Adrenaline rush - particularly right after birth and the first few days, you might be too excited to sleep
Feeling restlessness and overwhelmed. You have a lot on your plate. It can feel like there is something else you should be doing.
EMOTIONS & MENTAL HEALTH
A healthy mind does wonders for physical healing, mood, and can shape your entire postpartum experience.
We really want to highlight taking care of parents’ mental health by fostering a place for open communication. Stigma-free, whole acceptance.
We have created a resource just on postpartum mental health here.
Day 1 - Adrenaline Rush.
The first day or two will feel like you’re on a high. All the hormone shifts and the new baby means you can feel restless, hyper-energetic, and on-alert.
Your baby will be sleepier the first day and give you a sense of peace and serenity. This extreme opposite to the high intensity atmosphere of birth can unleash an overflow of emotions. You may find it difficult to rest and sleep. You might find yourself unable to take your eyes off your new baby for even a second. They are changing with each tick of the clock and you want to see it all.
Remind yourself to sleep.
Day 2 - Depletion.
The adrenaline wears off, the lack of sleep catches up to you, and your baby becomes more demanding. The second day can be especially hard. You might have just come home from the hospital or birth center and are completely on your own for the first time.
Try hard to stick to simple goals and keep up with the self-care - nourish your body and be easy on yourself.
Day 3 - The Emotional Rollercoaster.
When the milk starts to come in, a whole different hormone comes into play. As we say, milk and tears come together.
The hormones changes from the milk coming in means you can expect some mood swings.
You might feel:
Sad for no particular reason
Let those tears flow, soon the milk will, too.
The first week - By the end of the first week you’ll begin to get a feel for the new normal. Expect yet some more emotional ups and downs, because the second week you discover there is no routine, and every day is a day on its own.
“With every birth, not just a baby is born but also a mother”.
A New You
Magically, you change after birth. Although we know it and hear about it, it somehow still happens unexpectedly.
Your priority suddenly shifts to this new human. An extra load is added to your responsibilities. Your decisions carry more weight. You take up more space. It all occurs in the best ways possible as you find renewed strength and purpose.
It is normal to feel sad during this change. Some people embrace it, but others grieve the loss of their old self. There are drastic changes in your lifestyle. You are unable to do past activities you enjoyed. Your routines are different. Your goals have changed. This can make you feel like you don’t know yourself. This can feel isolating and odd. Give space for this emptiness.
While you will be busy taking care of the needs of your baby, remember to leave time and love for yourself through this transition.
Changing Relationships - Partner, Family, Friends
A new you means you might need to reacquaint yourself with old relationships.
Don’t put too much pressure on needing to mediate all these new dynamics right away.
When interactions or incidents occur, remind your friends, family, and partner to be patient as your relationship evolves.
BREASTS & BREASTFEEDING
Day 1 - Your breasts will feel pretty much the same.
BUT there is colostrum already, that has been there for the last few months of pregnancy. This first food for the baby is also called liquid gold - because it is golden yellow in colour, and packed full of nutrients.
Not too much breastfeeding goes on the first day, usually every 3-4 hours for 15-20 minutes. It is a practice run. Don’t feel like you need to have everything down. Each feed is a new feed and you and your baby will get better and better at working together.
A few drops of colostrum is already invaluable for your baby.
Day 2 - Your breasts will still feel similar.
They might begin to feel fuller. Your nipples might start to feel sore. Your baby is about to feed even more. Your baby feeds more to help bring your milk in. The milk supply is established based on demand.
It is important to have good teamwork and support for the second day to get through the frequent feeds and adrenaline drop. You want to balance feeding the baby as often as they ask for it with sleep and rest for yourself.
Key Tips for Nipple Care:
Use lanolin or a protective cream on the nipples after feeding
Squeezing a bit of colostrum or breast milk onto the nipple post feeds and also help heal and protect against infections
Wear a comfortable, preferably wire-free nursing bra (or no bra at all!)
Make sure baby has a deep latch
Day 3 - The milk comes in.
Your breasts feel heavier, bigger, fuller, and more tender as the milk comes in. Some people experience engorgement. This DOESN’T mean you have too much milk for the baby. It is a natural physiological response from the milk coming in. It’s a combination of some swelling and the milk.
Key Tips for Engorgement:
Place a cold compress (ice pack wrapped in a towel) onto the breast in between feeds to help the swelling
Use a warm compress or cloth on the breast while the baby is feeding to help the milk flow
Gentle hand compressions or massage in a circular motion during a feed
Frequent feeding to empty the breasts and help establish milk supply.
First week - Engorgement from the milk passes in a day or two.
As the milk supply establishes, you’ll feel your breasts empty and fill as your baby nurses and sleeps. These signs from your body serve as helpful reminders and cues to whether your baby is drinking effectively at the breast.
Postpartum - You’ve just Supported your Partner through Birth
You will probably be achy all over from supporting your partner through labour and birth. It is highly recommended that partners also take a week or two off work. At least a few days.
You might also find the load of housework fall onto your shoulders. Take care to not over-exert. Lack of sleep and physically intensive work makes you more susceptible to injury. The last thing you want is a new baby and a pulled back.
Your sleep patterns will also change.
You can expect broken sleep at night. It is very difficult to manage a newborn at night and continue with the same day time routines. This is where the time off from work is helpful again. If you’d like to be an involved partner during night-time care then consider modified work schedules during the day.
Managing your sleep, your partner’s sleep, and newborn care takes a lot of communication and being honest about expectations.
Is your partner in agreement to take on the majority of night-time care?
Do you want to be more involved or less involved through the nights?
Will you be continuing your day-time work schedule as usual? How will this impact your partner and baby care?
We describe options for sleeping arrangements in preparing for postpartum self-care.
EMOTIONS & MENTAL HEALTH
Your emotions and mental health will also be impacted. You might not have given birth, but you have become a father. It can feel difficult to connect or feel acknowledged in this transition as newborn care in the first feel months depend so heavily on the mother.
Your transition into a parent is no less than the birther. Try to be vocal in communicating your experience with friends, family, and your partner.
We also listed some helpful tips to enjoy quality time with your newborn here.
Changing Relationships - Partner, Family, Friends
Your life has just changed dramatically so your relationships will also need to take on new appearances. The best thing to do is give yourself time to adapt to these changes as partners and as individuals.
Partners can feel disconnected from each other especially if the mother is the main caregiver (usually the case during breastfeeding) and the partner is maintaining the same work schedule. It is important to have these conversations beforehand and establish expectations.
Also remind yourself that as your partner takes care of the baby, your biggest contribution is to take care of your partner. In the first few weeks you can transfer the care you’d like to give to your baby to your partner. This can help strengthen your relationship, build intimacy, understanding, and respect.
You are both feeling extra emotions during this time, take the extra time to communicate clearly. You may need to give more positive encouragement that you are used to. You may need to explain yourself more than you’d like. But open dialogue will help you be a more cohesive team.
A Friendly Note:
This is especially for anyone who feels that they have a had a traumatic experience, would like to debrief with a clarity of mind to gain more insight on their birth management, and to find closure and strength in their experience.