Updated January 2021 (originally published in March 2020)
The lockdown inspired me to write a mini emergency postnatal recovery plan, as for the foreseeing future, most new families in the UK (and in many other places in the world) are likely to be at home alone with their babies, with support from only a very limited number of persons (Doulas and certain therapists are still able to work during lockdown so do not hesitate to contact them for support).
Traditional postpartum recovery the world around includes a period of at least a month during which the mother does nothing but rest and get to know her baby, whilst other people look after her, cook her warming, nourishing foods, massage and wrap her, and provide essential social support.
After all, your body has done something truly amazing by growing and birthing a whole new person, so it makes sense that it needs some TLC to recover as well as possible. Even marathon runners take a couple of weeks off training after an event!
I wrote my book, Why Postnatal Recovery Matters, to encourage a return of these practises to the Western world.
But during lockdown I am aware that the full version of this isn’t going to be possible.
So when we boil it down to its bare bones, what does a DIY postnatal recovery plan look like?
The four pillars of postpartum recovery are social support, rest, food, and bodywork.
I hope you have a partner or another adult with you. It is unlikely you’ll have much direct support from people face to face, however you can get a lot of online/virtual/video support. Many doulas have switched to offering remote support via phone or video calls (doulas offer postnatal support as well as birth support). You can find a doula here .
There are online support groups, and you can find local or national ones on Facebook. If you search for something like mums in XXX (town’s name) or “XXX parents”, you’ll find groups, and from these groups and the people in them, you’ll be able to find out other sources of support. In fact the pandemic has seen the creation many new local support groups created to help support vulnerable people, so help is paradoxically easier to find than it was before. There are are also some apps such as Mush or Peanut which are designed to help mums to connect with other mums.
Aim to stay in bed for a few days, or if being in bed drives you crazy, or if this isn’t possible, around the bed or the sofa as much as you can. Try to take at least one nap a day (early afternoon is the time that most people find that comes naturally), or if you can, a couple of naps a day, sleeping when the baby is sleeping. Even a 20 min power nap can make a world of difference. Try to go to bed earlier than you normally would a few times a week. If you cannot sleep, try to lie down and rest (some mums find it easier to drop off if they listen to a guided meditation. There are plenty of free apps for that). If you’re alone and have other kids to look after, drop your standard for a while and have lazy days around the sofa, making free use of screen entertainment.
If you can, batch cook and freeze ahead of time before the birth. Ideally you’ll want to have a mix of sources for food, from self prep, to food prepped for you by friends and neighbours, to food deliveries. You could organise a meal train or better still ask a kindly neighbour or friend to organise one for you (or use this website https://www.mealtrain.com/). Since there are many free support groups online now, including street whasapp group (why not start one if there isn’t one in your street yet),it that it might be easier than before to get the support.
There are companies such as cook that deliver good quality frozen meals that you can just stick in the oven like lasagna (https://www.cookfood.net/). I am seeing more local delivery initiatives before so I’m hopeful that you’ll find them locally. Some local shops offering delivery services. As well as fresh food, get some easy to eat, stock on non perishable snacks if you can.
Another ubiquitous practise is to massage and wrap the abdomen and/or the pelvis of the new mother. It is trickier than before as access to massage therapists is limited, however, such therapists are still allowed to practise when the clinical need is deemed sufficient (see guidance here https://www.fht.org.uk/news-item/fht-statement-on-coronavirus-covid-19). Manual therapists such as osteopaths, chiropractors, and physiotherapists are still open. There are things you can do for yourself, such a giving your lower abdomen a gentle massage, and wrapping your pelvis and/or abdomen with a scarf or a velcro belt. I’ve written a blog about how to do this, complete with some tutorials.
Get yourself a sling or baby carrier. This will allow you to meet your baby’s needs for closeness whilst being able to relax and still have your arms available to fix yourself a snack or a meal. Carrying matters has just published a blog about babywearing during the pandemic, and they also run the sling pages directory (Babywearing consultants are able to support you remotely).
Try and plan as much as possible whilst pregnant so you have support in place after the birth.
I’ve made a free postnatal recovery plan PDF to download with prompts. You can find it here.
If this inspires you and you’d like to find out more, you can buy a signed copy of my book, Why postnatal recovery matters, here, or find out more about my online courses, or the one to one sessions I offer.