Slow the f*ck down-how to look after yourself after the birth of your baby

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Looking after new mums recently, I’ve been reminded how the message we get from our culture is seriously wrong.

This emphasis on “getting back to normal” is bullshit

There is no “normal” just after you’ve had a baby.

This isn’t a bloody race.

Yet everything is geared towards you pretending that nothing has happened, and the most important thing is that you go back as fast as you can towards the pretence that everything is all right. Get dressed in pretty clothes, get your makeup on, get your “shape” back (don’t even get me started on that one).

All the focus is on the baby-nobody asks the mum how she is doing and how she feels and whether she looks after herself properly.

All the presents are for the baby.

It’s all WRONG!

The baby doesn’t give a fuck about the bloody stuffed bear or the endless bouquets of flowers!

Yes those flowers sure are pretty but you can’t eat them and there are no good when your fridge is empty and you have to survive on chocolate biscuits (not that there is anything wrong with chocolate biscuits by the way-I believe all new mums deserve them, but you can’t feel well for very long without proper nutritious meals).

I see new mums not having naps because they have too many visitors interrupting their days. New mums getting themselves overtired because they feel they have to keep going.

You know what the secret to postpartum recovery is?

Slow the fuck down!

sloth with baby

In a world that glorifies busy, it is a bit of revolutionary concept.

Did you know that all around the world (this used to include the Western world too-we just have lost the way), new mums don’t lift a finger during the first 40 days after birth? That relatives and friends rally round to cook gorgeous restorative foods? That women just lay in bed with their baby, and that they get massaged every day, complete with cloth wrapping of the abdomen and hips?

I’m not making it up-EVERY culture I have questioned about this has a form of that going. They haven’t lost their wisdom yet and they know that a woman who has singlehandedly grown and birthed a whole new human being needs to rest and recover from it.

I hear you saying “but my partner only gets 2 weeks’ paternity leave-how am I supposed to do that?”.

You need to plan for your recovery BEFORE the birth. Just like you have a birth plan, you need a postnatal recovery plan. I have already written about this here and here.

In the first 6 weeks postpartum, you need to prioritise good eating and resting over everything else.

If you can get help in the form of a friendly relative or two (emphasis on friendly here-you really don’t want a bossy and critical mother in law looking after you during that sensitive time), a gang of friends or a doula, great!

If you can’t, then depending what works for you/what you can afford, plan and batch freeze easily reheated food ahead of time. Have food delivered. Hire a cleaner/ a mother’s helper. Write down your list of daily/weekly chores prior to the birth, sit down with your partner and work out what you can afford to dump or outsource during those first few weeks. Anything and anybody who can help you prioritise eating well and resting over anything else.

Make sure you plan to have daily naps (that includes not having visitors around the time of said naps). Bring your baby to bed with you if she won’t sleep without you.

Tell all your friends and a family about your plans.

Tell them you intend to slow the fuck down and that you deserve it and expect them to support you.

Shout from the rooftop what you intend to do and what they can do to support you. Someone who delivers a casserole, tidies your kitchen, folds the laundry, and looks after your baby/other kids whilst you have a long shower or a nap-is a lot more valuable to you than one who comes in, expects to be given tea and entertained, and just wants to cuddle your baby instead of looking after you.

If you work with expectant and new mothers, please please please, spread this message around!

My hope is that as more and more new mums realise the value of this new way of applying ancient knowledge, it will help shift our culture and more mums will have heard about it and expect it to be normal.

If you are pregnant and feel drawn to work with me, head over here. If you are a birthworker and this resonates with you- look here.

 

  1. Jess on November 3, 2016 at 6:51 am

    Spreading the message far and wide! I felt very lucky to have my support network around me at that time, batch cooking with my mum and being gifted snacks when breastfeeding was a life saver! ??

  2. hayley on November 3, 2016 at 8:38 am

    well said!

  3. Janine King - calmer Birth And Beyond on November 3, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    You are speaking the truth Sophie – as always!

  4. Sue on November 3, 2016 at 8:02 pm

    How about a loving and supportive mother-in-law who thinks you are amazing?

  5. Katie on November 4, 2016 at 10:01 am

    Great article. We need more of this and not “oh look at this celeb mum who got her figure back in 12 hours”!!

  6. Talya on November 4, 2016 at 10:16 am

    Thank you Sophie I’ve subtly shared this on my FB ??

  7. shannon Borg on November 4, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    I wish!! I asked for help from my baby’s daddy and he was useless. I told him far in advance what I needed. He got sick and slept on the couch for three days just prior to the birth of our 3rd (my 6th) child. Then when I got home he proceeded to tell me he could take one day off. He finally stayed home for 4 days but basically I did everything anyways. So I sent him home. I have a couple friends who have offerred to help but with a 1.5, 3.5 and 14 year old and the newborn I am having a hard time. Not sure who to ask for help. But I love your advice. Just wish I could get it myself.

  8. ROC on November 4, 2016 at 7:33 pm

    Hi Sophie, I agree with what you said, however having just experienced 9 months of severe hyperemesis where I relied solely on my wonderful husband and family to support me through this, it is a bit unrealistic to expect them to continue this high level of support while I now feel a million times better within a week of having my baby than I did. I think there has to be a level of common sense applied, to ensure you pace you sensibly at this delicate time.

  9. Ayelet on November 4, 2016 at 11:31 pm

    Absolutely agree! So much planning often goes into birth prep or imagining what life with a toddler might be like, but reality for new mums is often difficult to imagine… lovely to hear it out plainly.
    – Ayelet from Strength In Words

    • Olga on November 5, 2016 at 6:21 pm

      My second baby is 4 weeks old, and while I completely agree with this sentiment, placing the onus on the mother is just not going to work. I can count on two fingers the number of friends who have called to me and offered any practical support, cooking a dinner or doing laundry or helping to mind my eldest child. I’m lucky, I can afford to send my eldest to the minders 3 days a week, but many new mums can’t. My family don’t live nearby and my mum is the only one I can count on to help. But this is only when we really need it. I would love to focus on my recovery and for that matter, my newborn, but our culture completely undermines my ability to do so. We are too busy, too polite, too engrossed in our own families to be able to help out other families when they need it. Unless we start encouraging others to help as a society new mums will continue to struggle through the first months of their child’s life trying to do everything themselves, with the extra pressure of having to do it all perfectly. Well done on raising the issue but it’s not always possible to just slow the fuck down. We need proper support!

      • sophie on November 8, 2016 at 8:58 pm

        Olga, I agree the onus shouldn’t be placed only on the mum, and it is certainly a complex issue, with every family having different circumstances and needs. I just hope to raise awareness so society as a whole rallies up and offer more nurturing support to new families 🙂

      • Laura on November 22, 2016 at 6:18 am

        Completely agree!

      • Cassie on June 27, 2017 at 7:27 pm

        I agree Olga. My Mum lives six hours drive away so she can’t exactly pop round to help out, and we have no other friends or family nearby. While someone bringing a meal would be totally amazing I would have also loved a visit or a bunch of flowers, at least I would have felt like someone cared. Instead I felt isolated, alone and unloved (except by my husband). Second pregnancy now and I can’t go to hypnobirthing classes due to no babysitter, I won’t be getting that much rest after baby arrives!

        It’s complex, mums shouldn’t push themselves when they don’t need to, and they can set the tone. But it’s not easy.

  10. Ahava on November 6, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    Wow. I will forever shout this from the rooftops. I am a new mum and because of the horrible nightmare that was the presence of my inlaws after I gave birth last December ( they came to stay because after all, so what if I’d just had a baby, they had a Christmas to celebrate), I’m still emotionally recovering 11 months on. It’s really the essential things that count- like feeding the new mum. They bought a roast beef ( I’m vegetarian) and my father in law irritatedly told me to “eat around it”, 10 days postpartum. I’m still sad, angry and bereaved for the sensitivity I never got.

    • sophie on November 8, 2016 at 9:00 pm

      Ahava, so sorry to hear that the “support” you received was so insensitive and uncaring 🙁

  11. Sarah on November 19, 2016 at 7:29 am

    This is bang on Sophie, well said. As a first time mum to a now 9 week old, I completely advocate this – shouting it from the roof tops in fact! A societal shift in attitude is needed. Will share!

  12. Jane on May 10, 2017 at 9:56 pm

    Right in! The sentiments of many a midwife! Xx

  13. Katesurfs on June 26, 2017 at 11:04 am

    Yes! YES!!! A thousand times! I spent six weeks at home with my third baby. Yes, I had older kids who wanted to do stuff… but like you said, I shouted from the rooftop what I was doing. Nine months later, I can still feel the deep rest and recovery I got from SLOWING THE FUCK DOWN 😂 Spread the word, sistah!

    • sophie on June 26, 2017 at 11:48 am

      thank you 😀

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