You’ve finally put 40 (or more!) weeks of pregnancy and long hours of childbirth behind you, and you’re officially a mother. Congratulations! Now comes the transition from pregnancy to motherhood, which brings a variety of new challenges and requires different care for you and your body.
No matter how you gave birth, the first six weeks after birth are considered a ‘recovery’ period. Even if you cruised through your pregnancy and had the easiest delivery on record, your body has been stretched and stressed to the max, and it needs a chance to recover.
R & R Sleep Baby Sleep!
After labour, you may feel exhausted, both physically and mentally. It is very important to remember the need for rest and sleep, which will give your body time to heal and, prepare for feeding and caring for your new baby. Here are some tips to help you through the first few days:
Whether you are birthing at hospital or home, ask visitors to wait until you have recovered from the birth and are settled at home, before visiting.
Sleep when the baby sleeps
It may seem odd (or even wrong) to sleep in the morning or afternoon, but now is the time to get as much sleep and rest as you can. Plus, in the early stages, a full night’s sleep is a fluid concept. Forget about the clock, and take any opportunity that comes your way to sleep and rest. Babies don’t consider what time it is when they are waking you for a feed, so for the first few days and weeks, day and night might start to merge into one very blurry cycle of time!
'Do Not Disturb'
If you are in hospital, put a note on the door saying, ‘Mum & baby(ies) sleeping - please do not disturb’. This will stop the cleaner coming in to empty your rubbish bin or unscheduled visitors popping in to say hi.
Ask for Help
When your baby(ies) doesn’t have a need that only you can meet, ask your partner, friend or family member to take the baby(ies) for a walk around the hospital corridors and into the hospital lounge, so you can have some uninterrupted rest.
Natural Solutions to Common Aches & Pains
If you've had a particularly difficult labour you may need pain killers to help you deal with pain and discomfort while you are healing, but do try the following natural remedies for:
- Perineum Soreness
- Pelvic Floor Muscles
- Breast Tenderness
Aftercare and proper recover is very important to relieve the pain and discomfort after a vaginal birth and an episiotomy. You want to avoid any risk of infection and complications. Try the following:
- Add salt to your bath water to ease pain and help heeling.
- Make sure that you cleanse the perineum area at all times, especially after using the toilet. Use a squirt bottle filled with lukewarm water to the vaginal and rectal areas, then pat dry with a clean soft towel.
- Apply cold packs or ice packs, wrapped in cloth, to the perineum area to reduce swelling.
- Change maternity pads regularly.
- Move around as often as possible, to increase blood circulation and speed the healing process.
- Keep the perineum area dry and wear cotton, breathable underwear.
- Avoid lifting heavy objects or strenuous activity as the strain may cause bleeding and break the stitches.
- Take Arnica tablets to help with the bruising. This is a natural remedy but ask your LMC or doctor before using it. Strengthen pelvic muscles by practicing Kegel exercises, after you have healed
A padsicle is essentially a homemade cold pack. It is a frozen maternity pad filled with healing goodness, that you put on your perineum after birth. If you had a vaginal delivery, it’s likely that your vulva and perineum will feel pretty swollen from the pushing. If you experienced grazing or tearing of any degree, it will definitely be very inflamed and sore, so this is basically the most cooling and soothing thing your vagina may encounter during the healing process. To make your own padsicle visit here.
Afterpains are the name given to contractions that occur after giving birth. These contractions signal involution; the process of your uterus shrinking back down to its pre-pregnancy size and shape. These pains are not generally a cause for concern but can be uncomfortable.
Your uterus has spent the last nine months of pregnancy growing nearly 25 times its original size. The contractions after the birth help it shrink back down in about four to six weeks.
You may notice these contractions most intensely in the first few days after giving birth. It’s also common to feel them more when you are breastfeeding. This happens because the uterus is sensitive to the oxytocin released while feeding.
Try these remedies for dealing with after pains:
- Apply warm heat to your abdomen or back.
- Drink chamomile tea. Chamomile is considered safe by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with no known adverse effects in lactation.
- This is a great remedy for afterbirth pain due to uterine involution. Mix one ounce carrier oil (olive oil, jojoba oil, coconut oil or sweet almond oil) with five drops lavender oil, 10 drops cypress oil, and 15 drops of peppermint oil. Gently massage a small portion over the affected area.
- Add Epsom and/or sea salt with one or more of the following essential oils to a warm bath: lavender, jasmine, chamomile, peppermint or rosemary.
- Some women find relief from afterbirth pain by lying on their stomach with a pillow placed underneath to apply abdominal pressure, or the motion of rocking in a rocking chair can help.
- TENS machines are often used by some women to cope with particularly painful afterpains.
This condition is very common after childbirth. Haemorrhoids result from increased pressure in the veins of the anus. The pressure causes the veins to bulge and expand, making them painful, particularly when you are sitting.
To relieve pain and help healing, apply warm and cold compresses alternately on the affected area. This will help in easing the painful and burning sensation caused by the condition. Soaking yourself in a warm bath will bring effective relief from the pain and discomfort. You can also apply aloe vera gel on the affected area, which soothes the inflamed veins. A salt bath is another good option. In the first chapter of this E-book, you;ll find more ways to soothe haemorrhoids.
After giving birth, the perineum area can be extremely sore and some women have a very real fear of passing a bowel motion.
In the first couple of days after giving birth, drink lots of water and try eating kiwifruit and high fibre foods such as leafy green vegetables.
Some maternity hospitals have a drink called ‘Kiwi Crush’ or you can purchase this yourself from the freezer section in supermarkets.
Health food stores and pharmacies generally stock good quality natural laxatives. You may wish to add this to your ‘Hospital Bag’ list.
Pelvic Floor Muscles
Pregnancy and childbirth can weaken your pelvic floor muscles. Luckily, you can help make them strong again. Pelvic floor muscles are just like other muscles. Exercise can make them stronger. Women with bladder control problems can regain control through pelvic muscle exercises, also called Kegel exercises.
Kegel exercises have been proven effective in treating urinary incontinence, as these strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. You can begin doing Kegel exercises a couple of days after childbirth.
You can identify your pelvic floor muscles by observing the muscles you use to stop the flow of your urine in midstream or with the help of your health professional. Kegel exercises are done by contracting and releasing the pelvic floor muscles several times in a movement, similar to stopping the flow of urine.
For more information on how to do Kegal exercises download our free e-book here.
After giving birth, for the first few days, a new mother’s breasts remain soft. They will produce colostrum which is rich in immune factors helping protect your newborn and providing nourishment. During the next few days, the breasts will become full, firm and often tender. This is called having your ‘milk come in’ or engorgement. Some women experience only a day or so of mild, easy-to-manage engorgement. For other women, engorgement may be more intense, and can last from several days to a few weeks. Over time your breasts will adjust and eventually make exactly the right amount of milk for your baby.
It is the baby’s job to help the mother through engorgement by removing milk. If the baby is not latching properly or feeding frequently enough, the breasts may become overly full. This reduces the elasticity of the breasts and nipples. When the breasts are too firm, some babies cannot grasp enough tissue to latch on well. They may suck overly hard trying to pull in the breast tissue. This can lead to sore nipples. A poor latch may result in poor emptying of the milk and the build-up can cause breast engorgement to become severe. The breasts may redden and become painful.
Helping you through engorgement:
- Begin breastfeeding as soon as possible after the birth, to give your baby time to learn to breastfeed before the breasts become full and firm.
- Once your milk comes in, breastfeed at least 8 times in 24 hours to prevent over fullness. Use moist heat on the breasts for a few minutes, or take a brief hot shower before breastfeeding. This may help the milk begin to flow.
- Use cold compresses for 10 minutes after feedings to reduce swelling. Gently massage and compress the breast when the baby pauses between sucks. This may help drain the breast, leaving less milk behind.
- A well-fitted, supportive nursing bra makes some women feel better. Others prefer to go bra-less during engorgement. Gentle breast massage and relaxation techniques may help improve milk ow and reduce engorgement. Ask for help from the hospital lactation consultant so that latch-on problems are solved as soon as possible.
Often at the beginning of breastfeeding it is common for women to experience sore and dry nipples. Try these natural remedies to soothe and heal sore nipples:
Apply freshly expressed breast milk: Smoothing freshly expressed breast milk onto cracked nipples may help them heal by offering antibacterial protection. Make sure to wash your hands before gently applying a few drops of breast milk to your nipples. Allow the milk to air-dry before covering up. Note: If you have thrush, this remedy should be avoided. Any breast milk should be rinsed o the nipple after feeding your baby. Yeast grows quickly in human milk.
Damp Compress: You may find using warm, damp compresses after breast-feeding to be soothing on sore, cracked nipples.
Try a salt rinse: Mix 1/2 teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of warm water. Soak the nipples in a small bowl of this warm saline solution for about one minute after breast-feeding.
Apply medical grade lanolin ointment: Using a lanolin ointment specifically designed for breast-feeding mothers will help promote moist wound healing. Apply to nipples after breast-feeding. It doesn’t need to be removed before nursing your baby.
Change breast-pads frequently: Change nursing pads as soon as they become damp. Leaving the moisture against your nipples can delay healing. Also avoid nursing pads made with plastic linings. They can obstruct airflow. Look for pads made from 100 percent cotton.
Fresh air: As much as possible, expose the nipples to the air so they will stay dry and heal.
Seek out help: If you are having difficulties or experiencing pain or discomfort during breastfeeding, then don’t delay seeking out help from your midwife, Plunket Nurse or a Lactation Consultant.