During the first weeks and months after baby arrives I encourage moms to enter a season of mindful nurturing, a slowing of pace. I struggle with the expectation that so many have that they will “bounce back” after baby, and that their life and body will stay exactly the same.
I think this sets many women up to feel they have “failed”, and I invite women to re-imagine what the first weeks and months after baby arrives might look like.Mama needs time to heal and recover, by resting, sleeping, eating nutritious food, and it is a special opportunity for bonding and attachment between baby, Mama and other family members.Unfortunately, our American society doesn’t do a good job of modeling or providing this for mamas.
Many other cultures do! And what a gift it would be if mama had a natural gathering of women and supporters that come to her and care for her and baby during this time. If you have nurturing friends of family members who can help provide this, invite them in! If not, consider working with a postpartum doula, or finding other creative ways to utilize your support system. (If you have an awesome postpartum doula to recommend, please send me a quick email, I’m compiling a list for my MotherWise Text & Email Readers)Here are a few facts that might help you imagine what this first 3 months after birth might include:
- Skin to skin contact with baby. Being skin to skin with baby releases oxytocin (the feel-good, bonding hormone) for mom and baby! Mom, it will decrease your blood pressure and lower the creation of stress hormone in your body.
- Face to face interaction with baby during feeding, diaper changes, bathing and holding, where you repeat noises or facial expressions lead to healthy bonding and attachment between you and baby. These simple interactions are actually wiring baby’s brain in a healthy way and will influence the way he/she interacts in relationships long term. WOW!
- Mom, you need to feel safe, calm, and relaxed. Dr. Kerstin Moberg writes in “Oxytocin: The Biological Guide to Motherhood”: “The parasympathetic nervous system is activated during feeding, breastfeeding, close contact and situations of relaxation. It stimulates digestion, storage of nutrients, healing and growth.” Mom that means when you feel relaxed you’ll be better able to digest and get good nutrition from the food you eat, more able to heal from pregnancy and delivery! What is getting in the way of you feeling relaxed?
Mom, do you have a safe, calm, relaxing environment? How can you create more of that for yourself? Pile pillows on your bed and turn on some relaxing music? Turn off your phone for an hour? When someone asks “What can i do?” ask them to pick up your favorite hot drink and deliver it? Creating a space where you can take care of yourself and interact with baby is important for your healing, baby’s growth, and the nurturing of the relationship between the two of you.This isn’t to say that you need to feel that every minute is spent staring into baby’s face. Interacting while doing some of the daily (hourly!) baby care tasks is excellent! I know that many of you go back to work and are not at home for chunks of the day. That’s OK. Work with what you have, use baby care tasks to interact with baby and most importantly find ways to relax and nurture yourself. You’ll both benefit when you do.
Warmly,Jenny Schermerhorn, Licensed Mental Health Therapist Associate, Specializing in the Journey and Transition to Motherhood.