A woman and child napping on a couch.

Photo courtesy of @brybree/Twenty20

There’s a lot of self-care and wellness information out there for expectant mothers and women preparing to conceive but what about post-pregnancy? For newly minted parents adjusting to a radical new way of life — from sleepless nights and feeding to postpartum hormone surges and a massive shift in responsibilities — the idea of self-care can feel overwhelming and, perhaps, even a guilty indulgence. But as a new parent, it’s more important than ever to arm yourself with simple, self-sustaining tools that will bolster you for one of life’s most demanding roles. We chatted with Samantha Huggins, Certified Birth Doula (CBD), childbirth educator and co-founder of Carriage House Birth, about her tips and tricks.

But First, Why a Doula?

Birth doulas are there to help you prepare for giving birth and the immediate postpartum. We help with choosing your clinical support, where to give birth, and identify realistic expectations around birth preferences based on the birthing person’s medical history, the health of the pregnancy, who their clinical support system is and more,” says Huggins. We can help to prepare homes for baby by reviewing registries, going through what items a family might already have, giving tips on how to lay out their home, and the basics on what to expect during the postpartum period and how to prepare for it.”

    A baby resting its feet in its mother’s hands.

    Photo courtesy of Alex Pasarelu/​Unsplash

    In addition to a birth doula, some parents also opt to work with a postpartum doula. A postpartum doula is more focused on the other side. In a perfect world, a postpartum doula would begin working with a family prenatally to identify reasonable parenting goals and more deeply support preparing the home. But most post doulas come in the thick of things on the other side. We are trying to change that. After the baby is born, a postpartum doula helps the family to reach their goals by supporting them so they can rest, heal and figure out the whole parenting things.”

    At all stages, planning is key. The most valuable thing you can do to prepare for the postpartum period is to plan for it prenatally as best you can,” says Huggins. Not just the birth part and not just the baby part but who is taking care of you? For example, if you have a history of depression, sleep is going to be a critical part of your early postpartum period. Who can come hold the baby for a couple of hours so you can do that?”

    Samantha’s Tips For New Mothers

    1. Know that getting your body back” is a myth. Every single day of our lives is an evolution. We are always changing. There is and never was a back”. You are fluid. You are live. We want you to feel your best, but you should not feel pressured to recreate something that you cannot. You are magic right now, in this body, in this moment. 
    2. Educate yourself on all things early postpartum. This is the only way you can set realistic parenting goals. For example, if you plan to breastfeed but offer bottles at night, it would be wise to learn about the mechanics of your body and how lactation works. We don’t just put a gallon of milk in the fridge and let our babies drink from it all day. Our bodies learn to produce milk based on cues from our babies and we can’t just casually skip feeds whenever we feel like it! Books, websites, classes (there are free ones out there, too), hiring a postpartum doula prenatally or a birth doula who has experience with the postpartum period, and other families that seem to be holding it down in a way you admire are all resources. 
    3. Pause. A mind that is constantly running is never happy. So pause. Take one deep breath. Blow it out. Pay attention to it. And then do it again. And again. It’s awesome and it’s free! 
    4. Forgive yourself. You are learning right along side your babe. It’s ok to not know. 
    5. Build a resource list. Find local support groups in your area or online. Parenting groups with people who have babies around the same age; infant feeding groups like La Leche League, family yoga, WIC office, social workers, lawyers, doulas — whatever your flavor or needs are. Find it prenatally, write it down, and tape it to your fridge. Add to it as needed. 

    Articles from The Natural should not be considered medical advice. If you have any questions about your health, please consult a medical professional.