I am writing a book on postnatal recovery.
The pandemic lockdown inspired me to write a mini emergency postnatal recovery plan, as for the foreseeing future, most women 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.
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!
My book’s goal is to encourage a return of these practises to the Western world.
But right now I am aware this isn’t going to be possible.
So when we boil it down to its bare bones, what would a DIY postnatal recovery plan look like?
The four tenets of postpartum recovery are rest, food, bodywork, and social support.
Aim to stay in bed for a few days, or if being in bed drives you crazy, around the bed as much as you can. Aim to take at least one nap a day (early afternoon is the time that most people find that comes naturally), or better still, several naps a day, sleeping when the baby is asleep. Even a 20 min power nap can make a world of difference. Go to bed earlier than you normally would. If you cannot sleep, 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 use of screen entertainment.
If you can, batch cook and freeze ahead of time before the birth. Ideally you’ll want a mix of sources of food, ie self prep, but also food delivered by others. 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/). Weirdly, since there are many free support groups online at the moment for COVID support, it seems that it might be easier than before to get the support. So you could ask on a social media group (for example, search for Covid-19 mutual aid UK local groups on Facebook).
There are companies such as cook that deliver good quality frozen meals (https://www.cookfood.net/). I know most online delivery services are overwhelmed right now but I am seeing local delivery initiatives appear already so I’m hopeful that new options will be available soon. I am already seeing local shops offering delivery services for example. As well as fresh food, get some easy to eat, non perishable snacks if you can.
Another ubiquitous practise is to massage and wrap the abdomen and/or the pelvis of the new mother. That’s going to be a trickier one because I don’t think we’re going to be able to get much access to massage therapists in the near future. However, 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.
I hope you have a partner or another adult with you. But it’s unlikely you’ll have much support from lots of people face to face, however you can get a lot of online/virtual/video support. Many doulas have switched to offering remote support via skype or other video apps (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. In fact the pandemic has seen many new local support groups created to help support vulnerable people, so help is paradoxically easier to find than it was last week. You could try the new Covid-19 mutual aid groups on Facebook. There are are also some apps such as Mush or Peanut which are designed to help mums to connect with other mums.
Get a sling. This will allow you to meet your baby’s needs for closeness whilst being able to relax and get your arms back 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.