Friday, October 31, 2014

mother letter: to a new mama {31 Days of Postpartum Health & Healing


Dearest New Mama,

The moment you gave birth, did you feel the change? Something amazing happened; a part of you died and a new part of you came alive. This little creation of part you - part man - part God - all love -  has taken over your world, and it's no longer about you.

This little human is the embodiment of your highest joys and your darkest fears. Things you never thought much about (poop, mainly, but also the state of the world and the price of a college education) will become daily concerns.

But YOU still matter. Your heart, your mind, your thoughts, your dreams and prayers...they may feel fuzzy and jumbled for now but you are still you, a woman made for a special and specific purpose. You might feel like that woman is lost or adrift (or asleep!), but don't worry, she'll return soon enough.

Guard your heart against comparison. You are the only mama your child needs, the wife your husband wants, the woman your friends adore and the daughter and sister your family loves. A break from blogs, websites, magazines, books, and television shows that lead to self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy is worth considering. Pursue only those things that inspire and encourage you.

Write your ideal expectations for yourself and your new baby on a sheet of paper, then crumple it up and throw it away. Or better yet, burn it.

Instead, pay attention and get caught up in the tiniest moments. A brush of baby eyelash, the smell of sweet milk-breath, a tiny earlobe, the rhythm of their heartbeat, and the skin between their toes. Their fingernails are so teeny, their hair so soft...how is it that you created this beautiful creature? Amidst the crying, the sleep deprivation, and the messes, these little observations will keep your spirits afloat. This is what matters.

Not laundry. Not dishes. Not being baby-crafty or having a trendy nursery. There is a time and a place for those activities, but now is definitely not the time.

Make cuddling a priority.

Rejoice when you take a shower, or put on something other than yoga pants.

Take a self portrait whenever you do your hair or put on makeup, because in the beginning, those days are few and far between.

In the hard moments it's okay to cry.

In the happy moments it's okay to cry.

In the random moments, it's also okay to cry.

When you wonder if your baby loves you, know that you are the definition of the word in her little world.

On the difficult days, abandon your routine. Get in the car and drive. Put on music and dance. Wrap them up and go for a walk. Get ice cream, sit in the park, and listen to the birds sing. Leave the house even if it's just to run to the store for eggs. On these days, the schedule becomes the enemy and fresh air does wonders.

Know that it's okay if you don't want to leave your baby right away for a "date-night" or just to "get away." You'll know when the time is right, and when it is, get gone!

Resist the pity party. This is so very hard, especially on those difficult days. Find inspiration and encouragement that speaks to your soul and cling to it fiercely. Find friends and mentors who build you up, not tear you or your kids down. Mothering requires sacrifice, yes, but it is not a terrible burden.

Remember that for as much parenting wisdom is out there, your mama-intuition trumps an expert's opinion.

Mothering will take all that you are and even more than you thought you had. Savor, wonder, laugh, snuggle, and store up special moments in your heart. This time is precious and will be forever imprinted on your heart.

You are Loved,  

Megan



This is part of the Mother Letters link-up to promote the inspiring Mother Letters ebook, curated by Amber and Seth Haines. Click here to view more details.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Natural Remedies for Mastitis {31 Days of Postpartum Health & Healing}

{This was first posted two years ago and thought it would be good to re-share during the postpartum series! Catching breastfeeding problems while still early can make all the difference. }

I remember my experience trying to ward off my first case of mastitis. I was clogged, inflamed, and in pain.

We were in the NICU about a week after the girls were born, and I asked to see the lactation consultant to see if she could help me. Two came in that day; one helped me get sized for new flanges for the breast pump (they were cushioned! Oh luxury!) and worked with me to try and unclog the duct using heat and massage. The other lactation consultant took one look at my sad, engorged breasts and said, "Call imaging, now! We have to get her in for ultrasound therapy, immediately!"

Well, it was Friday afternoon at 4pm. Let's just say that the imaging people were less than helpful. I didn't get in. So I went back to the properly-fitting pump flanges, hot compresses and massage for the next few days, trying to keep my breasts as empty as possible. Luckily, I was able to stay one step ahead of it before it turned into full-blown mastitis. Phew!

There are many causes of breast infection (mastitis is the clinical term), and can range from incorrect latch to restrictive clothing, or from engorgement due to oversupply or too long between feedings. Pumping moms need to be sure they have the correctly-sized pump flanges. For moms who struggle with recurrent infection, KellyMom suggests checking into potential food allergies.

Prevention is Key

The key is to catch it early. If you feel achy, feverish, and have a clogged milk duct (feels like a lump in your breast that will become tender to the touch, sometimes radiating heat or red streaks), get on top of it quickly. Untreated, it can lead to abscesses and that is a big problem.

It's also important to be extra diligent during the first three months after your baby is born and your body is working hard to produce and regulate your milk supply.

The ideal is to avoid it in the first place, by:
  • Allowing baby to empty the first breast before switching. This lessens your chances of having excess milk build up that can become a problem. 
  • Feed on demand, not by a rigid schedule. Your body will regulate your milk production to meet the exact needs of your baby. It's amazing!
  • Drink more water and nourish yourself with good food and rest. Stress and exhaustion can take a little case of inflammation into a full blown illness very quickly. According to Susun S. Weed, "Breast infections are almost always a sign of too little rest."
  • Wear nursing bras that fit properly without restriction and avoid clothing that puts too much pressure on your breasts. 
  • See a board-certified lactation consultant to check latch and positioning.
Natural Remedies

According to KellyMom, "these treatments should be used in addition to your efforts to find and remedy the source of the problem. Keep in mind that if the source of your recurrent plugged ducts or mastitis is something fixable (for example: oversupply, infrequent nursing, too tight bra, etc.), then solving the underlying problem is the most effective thing you can do."

Physical Treatments
  • DO NOT STOP NURSING! Try and nurse even more than usual to keep the milk flowing through. 
  • Heat or Cold Packs - Apply heat/cold before and after nursing baby. If there is redness or swelling, it's inflammation and you need COLD. Once the swelling goes down, you can use HEAT.
    • Take a hot shower, use washcloths, a towel-covered ice pack, or rice packs as compresses, or use these really cool things called Booby Tubes from Earth Mama Angel Baby. They can be used hot or cold.
  • Massage, while nursing or pumping. 
    • Find the lump with your fingertips, and while nursing baby on the side with the plugged duct, use your finger tips to massage gently but firmly from the plugged area toward the nipple. Massage in the shower for a double whammy!
  • Soak in a sink full of warm water. 
    • Fill the sink, lean over and immerse one or breasts. Do this for 5 minutes 5-7 times per day.
  • Rest! Nap while your baby naps, at least once a day. 
  • Sleep on your side or your back in a cotton nursing bra with no wires. Sleeping on your stomach can put pressure on your breasts and lead to clogged ducts.
  • Wear loose clothing during the day with a well-fitting bra to prevent restricted blood flow. 
  • If you have a breastpump, you can pump for just long enough to relieve pressure or engorgement.
  • If you're really uncomfortable, try nursing for a few sessions on your hands and knees with your baby underneath. It feels strange and awkward but it works to get the milk flowing.
Supplements & Foods:
  • Vitamin C 
    • 1000mg 4-5 times per day
  • Echinacea Tincture
    • Take 3 drops in a glass of water every 2 hours. You can also take it in tea form in addition to the tincture. Continue taking for at least a week after symptoms have resolved.
  • Raw Garlic
    • Eat a whole clove 3-5 times per day
  • Homeopathy 
    • Fever & Swelling: Belladonna 30C – 3 pellets 2-3 times per day.
    • Hepar Sulphur and Phytolacca
      •  Dosage (allow pellets to dissolve in mouth): first, take Hepar Sulphur 30C – 3 pellets; 3 hours later, take Phytolacca 30C – 3 pellets; 3 hours later, take Hepar Sulphur 30C – 3 pellets; 3 hours later, take Phytolacca 30C – 3 pellets. (Per KellyMom)
    • If neither remedies work in the first 24 hours, try another remedy from the list on the Little Mountain Homeopathy Blog.
  •  Propolis
  • Apple Cider Vinegar + raw honey
    • Mix 1 Tbsp. ACV with honey to taste in a small glass of water. Take 3 times per day.
  • Lecithin
    • Eggs are the best source: One mom I heard of swears by 2-3 raw pastured egg yolks per day (add to a smoothie!). If you can't get a hold of some pastured eggs, buy organic and cook the yolk gently. 
    • If you can't eat eggs, try a non-GMO Lecithin supplement
  • Cabbage leaves
    • Place a cool leaf inside your bra, directly against your breast. Leave it for 15-30 minutes, then remove. Do this once or twice per day (careful, it can negatively affect your supply!)  
  • Thieves Oil 
    • 1-2 drops diluted in 1 tsp. coconut oil, rub on affected area - a good friend swore by this!
  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic Care - read about Frugal Granola's experience.

And if none of the above treatments work to completely resolve the problem, antibiotics might be necessary, although in my opinion (I'm not a Dr.!) and from many of the informed opinions of those I admire, that is the last resort, because of the damage it can do to your gut and the developing gut of your newborn, and because of the increased risk of a fungal infection like thrush. If you do have to take antibiotics, make sure you supplement with a very high quality probiotic and eat lots of yogurt and naturally fermented foods.


Sources & Resources:

Prevention and Treatment of Mastitis at Keeper of the Home
Homeopathic Treatment of Mastitis at Little Mountain Homeopathy Blog
Natural Cures for Mastitis at Naturally Knocked Up
Mastitis and Blocked Ducts at Holistic Kid

What's your go-to remedy for mastitis or clogged ducts? Have you tried any of those listed above?

I love sharing my experiences, but this site isn't meant to give medical advice, it's only for informational and educational purposes. Please discuss with your own qualified health care provider before adding in supplements or making any changes in your diet. Also, any links to sponsors or affiliates (including Amazon) may give me a percentage of the sale or a pay per click. Thank you so much for supporting this site! 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Postpartum Belly Binding {31 Days of Postpartum Health & Healing}


If you're like me, the after shock of what a baby-less belly looks like is a bit shocking. Like a deflated mushy balloon, only it's not air inside, it's your organs! Or it's a little bit like kneading a batch of bread dough...moving on...

A look at postpartum practices around the world will show us one thing they almost all have in common: abdominal binding after birth. Fortunately, postpartum belly binding is becoming more popular in the U.S. as more women are learning about the benefits.

As we discussed in the last post, during pregnancy, the connective tissue of the abdomens stretches incredibly thin, and sometimes has a difficult time coming back together correctly, especially if doing activities that stress the abdominal wall - like crunchies and plank - leading to the condition of diastasis recti. Splinting after birth can assist this healing process. According to Julie Tupler, inventor of the Tupler Technique and author of Lose Your Mummy Tummy"Wearing a splint can be compared to wearing a cast for a broken bone. You want to keep the two bones (like connective tissue) in the same position continuously so they will heal. 'Protecting' the connective tissue is about not doing activities that stretch or put intra-abdominal force or pressure on the weak tissue."


Photo from DiastasisRehab.com
Diastasis can lead to all sorts of uncomfortable problems for women that can last for many years: low back and hip pain, pelvic floor pressure and uterine prolapse, and stress incontinence, and looking like you have a "pooch" that won't go away no matter how many "ab" exercises you do.

While a splint by itself will not heal a diastasis and should not be used long term, it will aid your body and help as you re-learn proper realignment and re-stabilize the core through proper exercises that strengthen the natural corset of the body, the transverse abdominus.


The main goal is to strengthen your core in the appropriate way so that you no longer need the splint.

According to Kelly Dean, PT of the Tummy Team, "Proper positioning of an abdominal splint for belly binding helps approximate the 2 sides of the outer most abdominals...and provides your temporary transverse abdominis (corset) to help realign and support your back and organs and help increase blood supply to improve healing to the area."

If you do decide to splint, make sure you do it correctly - wearing it too tight is the #1 mistake that most women make and was a mistake I was making before being corrected by my chiropractor. Watch this video and read these instructions from the Tummy Team for detailed information.

There are several inexpensive splints available on Amazon (although the belly bandit certainly is cute!) or through the Tummy Team website.

Belly Bandit on Amazon

Resources & Learn More

The Splint is Temporary, Your Transverse is Forever from Kelly Dean, PT
Abdominal Splinting with Video Demo from Kelly Dean, PT / Tummy Team
Binding Your Belly After Birth from Fit2Be
Articles by Julie Tupler, RN or the Tupler Technique
The Tupler Technique book by Julie Tupler and the Tupler Technique web site
Diastasis Recti Test + Exercises: What Works and What Doesn't from Wendy Powell

(Disclaimer: I am not a Tummy Team affiliate, I just love the information they provide! I am however an Amazon affiliate and receive a small commission if you choose to shop through the links provided.) 


Friday, October 24, 2014

Do You Have Diastasis Recti? {31 Days of Postpartum Health & Healing}




Lower hip and back pain? Is your belly still pooching out even months/years after giving birth? There's an answer.

Diastasis recti is a common problem among women who have been pregnant and is when the right and left rectus abdominus muscles separate. This is a completely normal experience that happens in every pregnancy as our amazing bodies expand to make room for growing baby, but the problems come after pregnancy, when the abdominal wall is weak and the muscles do not come back together. In subsequent pregnancies, lower back pain can be more severe and can even lead to poor presentation of the baby.

Check Yourself for Diastasis recti

There's a self-test you can do to check for DR. Watch this video on Fit2Be from Kelly Dean of the Tummy Team (a local diastasis recti expert and physical therapist) to check yourself.




If you do find that you have it, don't worry! There are exercises you can do to bring your abs back together. But in the meantime, do NOT perform the exercises listed below.  You have been told these traditional core trainers lead to a flat tummy - nope! They make diastasis worse!
  • Crunches of ANY kind
  • Oblique twists 
  • Pilates 100s
  • Plank
  • Reverse leg lowers 
From my own experience, I ordered a prenatal yoga DVD off of Amazon and, after learning about diastasis after the birth of my twins, was somewhat shocked that the instructor recommended a plank position. So be aware that not all instructors know that the above exercises are not recommended.

Healing Diastasis recti

According to Fit2Be's informative diastasis handout, "The injury is improved by correcting alignment, strengthening the transverse, utilizing upright activities, and discontinuing any exercise or activity in which you cannot keep your transverse abdominus actively engaged (ribs down, navel in). For women, proper prenatal core training and postnatal rehabilitation of the abdominal wall can effectively and non-surgically correct this condition."

Download and print out these "Exercises for Everywhere" and check out Fit2Be for diastasis safe exercises - perhaps join their monthly membership program! I am currently participating in their 5x5 program.

Fit2Be is also offering readers a 30% discount on a year membership that ends July of 2015 using the code bohomama. 

Next up we'll talk belly binding!

Resources:

Diastasis recti printable from Fit2Be
Kelly Dean's the Tummy Team online course
Diastasis Recti Test + Exercises: What Works and What Doesn't from MuTu System





Monday, October 20, 2014

Gifts & Resources for the New Mama {31 Days of Postpartum Health & Healing}

Baby gets so many new gifts to celebrate his or her arrival into the world. But I remember at my shower one of the most thoughtful gifts I received was a gift certificate to Victoria's Secret. It was so nice to get some pretty new undies to wear even though I was milk soaked everywhere else! Maybe think about gifting something small but meaningful, like these ideas below:





Starting top left and clockwise:

Organic Body Scrub from JenSan Home and Body
Mama to Be gift set from Earth Mama Angel Baby
Mug from Printable Wisdom
Rooibos from Rooibos Rocks
Happy Mommy Box monthly subscription that brings it right to her doorstep!
Amazon gift card for Kindle purchases
Earrings from Larking Mercantile
Bring them a meal (or two) or set up a Meal Train schedule for the family

You could also gift the family with a gift card towards a restaurant, coffee shop, massage, or pedicure.

One of my very favorite brands is Earth Mama Angel Baby. They have thoughtful products and use herbal mixtures that really work. I'm a proud Earth Mama affiliate and have used/use many of their products. The links below take you to the Earth Mama Angel Baby Site and contain my unique affiliate I.D.




Earth Mama Angel Baby - Breastfeeding Bundle

They also put together a couple of amazing FREE resources: A Comprehensive Guide to Herbs & Breastfeeding and the Earth Mama Lying In Plan.

Send these links to a new mama, or download and print it out to give when you deliver your gift! Click through the photo to go to Earth Mama's site and download your free copies.

Earth Mama's Guide to Herbs and Breastfeeding eBook



Earth Mama® Postpartum Lying-in Plan


Share your favorite postpartum gift ideas below!







Sunday, October 19, 2014

the nursing basket {31 Days of Postpartum Health & Healing}

*This is a repost from two years ago but thought I would share it again, it's such a great idea!*

One of my favorite bloggers and friends IRL is Gretchen from That Mama Gretchen. She is mama to Jemma and Max, a savvy business woman and her blog is chock full of creative and practical content. Basically, she's awesome!

I asked her if I could share the contents of her nursing basket - it's organized and thorough, whereas mine was just a mishmash of things from room to room. Next time I'm sure I'll be much more organized...

Whether you are a new mama or a seasoned one, a nursing basket is an absolute must! Wouldn't you agree? Wait? You're wondering what a nursing basket is? Well, let me enlighten you :)

A nursing basket is a nook of must-have breastfeeding supplies. You see, when a nursing mama snuggles in to feed her baby she will inevitable need a few things within arms reach. Here's a peak at my own nursing basket ...
  1. Disposable nursing pads - You leak, you spray, you need to keep your bra dry. Enough said. 
  2. Burp clothes - I like to keep at least 2 close by. One to layer under baby's chin to catch dribbles and another to lay over my shoulder for actual burping. 
  3. Reusable nursing pads - When I'm having a home day I much prefer to use a wool/bamboo reusable nursing pad. It isn't leak proof (at least not for me), but it does help me to save money and be a bit more green so I use them as often as I can.
  4. Lanolin or nipple cream - Talk about a must! Nip ouches are no fun and must be remedied ASAP. Sample sizes are perfect for nursing baskets, Motherlove is the best in my opinion :)
  5. Reading material - When baby drifts off to sleep I often take advantage of the quiet. Sometimes I stock my basket with a novel or devotional, but with this baby I'll be starting off with house research and Tribes.
  6. A chic basket, tub, or other container - My basket is from Michaels and it perfectly fits a sideways box of nursing pads.
  7. Water - Drinking lots of water is crucial to keeping up milk supply, plus, as soon as I let down I immediately get thirsty. Hence the whopping 24 ounce cup. Just don't forget to refill it before you sit down! Been there, done that, no bueno.
  8. Coconut oil - You know those little make-up sample containers? Once mine are done I fill them up with coconut oil and tuck them everywhere! My nursing basket is no exception. Coconut oil can be used for everything ... nipples, cradle cap, and more. Stock up!
  9. Lotion - I need lotion like I need water. Nursing makes my hands feel super dry so I usually lotion up at some point during nursing snuggles.
  10. Chapstick - Yep, just like water and lotion, I gotta keep my lips hydrated. The pomegranate scent from Yes to Carrots is my new obsession. 
  11. Hair accessories - I've made it a habit to pull my hair back while nursing. I don't like it falling in my face and when baby gets older I don't like it being pulled!
  12. Snacks - Nursing mamas need to eat 300-500 more calories/day in order to maintain a healthy milk supply. Unfortunately this doesn't mean extra cookies (well, unless they are lactation cookies). I usually opt for a high-protein granola bar as my nursing basket snack.
And, a few other tips ... 
  • I highly recommend having a basket on each floor of your house or in every room you frequently nurse in. I have two - one near the couch and one next to my bed. All these supplies are also stocked in my diaper bag so I'm ready to feed the little one when I'm on the go.
  • Restocking your nursing basket is a perfect activity for older children or sweet husbands :) Print up a little checklist and allow your family to take an active role in taking care of you and baby.
  • Nursing baskets make a lovely and personal gift for all the sweet mamas in your life. Talk about a memorable baby shower gift! Even better, after baby is born, why not deliver a nursing basket when you pop in the visit mama and baby?

Thanks for sharing, Gretchen! Be sure to visit her blog and admire her sweet littles!



Saturday, October 18, 2014

the first week after birth {31 Days of Postpartum Health and Healing}





The nursery is ready, baby clothes are sorted and washed, meals are stocked in the freezer and your birth bag is waiting by the door. So much of the last nine months has been spent wondering over this little human growing inside of you - what they'll be like, what sort of mother you'll be, how your life will change. There's a blank spot, though - what of the moments right after the birth? The days to come? Those blurry nights and hazy days that are spent in joy but that can also be really tough. Sometimes we skip over the logistics of those first days (I'm guilty of it!) and it can come as an overwhelming surprise if not prepared for the reality of body after birth.

Here's a brief timeline of what you can reasonably expect the first week or so after a vaginal birth. Of course, every mother and baby are different, so don't hold yourself too strictly to this, okay? For a more in-depth timeline that includes Cesarean info, check out Alpha Parent's Timeline of Postpartum Recovery. And more importantly, check with your doctor or midwife if anything feels amiss or you have questions. This is not medical advice! Your healthcare provider will give you things to be on the look out for to signal problems and please take those recommendations seriously.

Day 1

Did you just run a marathon or climb a mountain? No, you've only just given birth to your baby! You're completely elated yet sore and probably very tired. You're lighter, and probably look about 6 months pregnant as you're now missing the baby, placenta...and amniotic fluid, blood, and all that was keeping your baby alive. You will feel cramping as your uterus begins the slow process of shrinking down to its normal size, and breastfeeding stimulates this action so you may feel cramps come on when the baby suckles. If this is not your first child, the cramping may also be painful, sometimes just as painful as birth contractions. This is where the crampbark tincture comes in very handy! Your breasts are producing colostrum which is all your baby needs right now, so don't worry that they're not getting enough. They are. It takes a few days for your milk to come in.

Vaginal bleeding - lochia - is like a heavy period at this point and the whole area is probably pretty damn sore. Padsicles to the rescue! It's important to remember that you have an open internal wound inside of you after giving birth at the site where the placenta was attached to the uterine wall and requires delicate care. It's also very important to empty your bladder regularly right after birth to avoid a UTI (speaking from experience!).  Use your peri bottle to gently cleanse the area after peeing. A nice warm sitz bath with some healing herbs will be soothing to the area, too.

Rest, rest, rest and more rest. Take a warm shower and get into a clean, fresh pair of jammies. Have someone bring you a hot meal, and take a nap or two in between nursing this new little one.

Day 2-4

Continue the regimen of rest, shower, fresh jammies, hot meal and naps. Arrange childcare for your other children and do not even THINK about starting a load of laundry. Move AWAY from the dishwasher!

You have a lot of excess fluids from pregnancy so you're probably peeing quite a bit. Keep it up. You may have to go poop, which can be a little traumatic. I mean, everything - the bowels, bladder - is just so close down there so yeah, it's scary. And hemorrhoids. Have some natural cream on hand. Avoid straining, try using a squatty potty or propping your legs up on a wastebasket or stool to get to a squatting position. Taking some magnesium powder will help the elimination process go much more smoothly, this is something I will not be without after any subsequent births! (check with your doc/midwife though, I'm not a doctor). Your uterus is continuing to shrink and will continue to cramp during this process. Continue the Crampbark tincture. Some warm sitz baths will be soothing and can be done every day.

You're producing the liquid gold colostrum during this time, but at any point your milk will be coming in. Make sure you stay well hydrated and well nourished to support this process. After it comes, you'll most likely be heavily engorged for the first few days. Honestly, it is not an altogether pleasant experience. Standing in a warm shower and allowing a little milk to self-express can be soothing. Do not express too much milk, as your body works on supply and demand and will take that as a message to make more. Breast pads are helpful to soak up excess leaky milk. And you may leak a lot of not at all - it's no indication of milk supply. The best way to reduce engorgement is to feed when the baby is hungry. Avoid schedules or anything of the sort - it will lead to misery for all.

Check to make sure baby's latch is deep and correct to avoid any excess pain. Your nipples may be a bit sore, and some coconut oil or nipple cream can help. This is now a time to watch for tongue or lip tie too, as that can dramatically and negatively affect your breastfeeding relationship. If you suspect a tie, find a lactation consultant who is qualified to confirm the diagnosis.

You're also probably more sore today than yesterday! The adrenaline rush is decreasing and yep, you can feel it. Padsicles, Crampbark tincture, Arnica every few hours for soreness and Tylenol as needed.

Your hormone levels are fluctuating and can make you feel weepy, anxious, and tired. Basically, you'll be feeling ALL THE FEELINGS. This is normal! Make sure you have a good support network around you or a friend you can call. And nothing is EVER wrong with a good cry.

Day 5-7

You're still in recovery so I repeat: rest, rest, rest. The more you can give yourself the space to rest and heal in the early days means a swifter recovery time overall. The majority of your day should still be spent on your comfy couch or bed, and hopefully you still have some help around the house.

You're still bleeding and your lochia may be changing colors to a darker red or a light brown. A good indication of slowing down or overdoing it is your bleeding level. If you notice an increase in bleeding or it turning red after it has been brown, you've probably overdone it and need to take that as a cue to rest. Bleeding may subside entirely in the next week or continue for a bit longer.

You should also be getting less sore in that lower area and find it easier to move about and get comfortable. If you've had stitches, they'll start to get itchy as the tissue heals. Your peri bottle for gentle cleansing after going to the bathroom should still be used. Pelvic floor exercises will be helpful in bringing everything back together and will help you avoid incontinence and any risk of uterine prolapse.

The uterus now weighs half of what it did right after birth but you still look pregnant and your belly is jiggly, because there is no baby in there any more! Binding with a postpartum binder or a wrap can help your abdominal muscles to not only heal but to help you feel more self-confident, too. Afterpains should be subsiding at this point.

Your breast engorgement should be subsiding as your body learns to produce just the right amount for your baby, although you'll still get engorged if baby sleeps longer than normal without feeding. Milk leakage is just a part of breastfeeding (although some leak more than others and is no indication of milk supply!) so your breast pads will be used often.

Now is a good time to go for a gentle walk. My midwife told me to walk around the block for my first outing and see how I felt. Besides gentle stretching, walking, and some deep breathing and pelvic floor routines, this is ALL the exercise you should be doing for the next 4-6 weeks.

Slowly from here you'll return to your normal self. A good thing to remember is that it took your body nine months to grow this precious baby, so it WILL TAKE TIME to return to normal, in all aspects. Be so, so gentle with yourself. Rest and enjoy these days. They can be stressful and uncomfortable but they really are golden!

Resources:

The Alpha Parent Timeline of Postpartum Recovery (She also included C-Section in her timeline!)
Postpartum Timeline from Pregnancy & Newborn magazine
After the Baby's Birth...A Woman's Way to Wellness by Robin Lim

What would you add to this timeline - anything that caught you off guard in those first few days that you wish you could share with another expecting mother? Let us know in the comments! 



And one more time: I'm not a doctor and this is not medical advice. Please be in constant communication with your healthcare provider to know the signs of infection or other problems. 

{disclosure} This post also contains affiliate links to the death star (amazon) which means I get Amazon credits from anything your purchase through the links above. I really appreciate your support! 












Thursday, October 16, 2014

quick coconut chicken soup {31 Days of Postpartum Health & Healing}

One of my favorite nourishing meals is coconut chicken soup - tom kha. It is so soothing and perfect for a new mom (and her family!). It's a wonderful post-birth meal, too!

You can find complicated recipes around the web but really, there are only a few crucial ingredients that are needed to get some great flavors. My recipe is a combination of the Nourishing Traditions recipe and instructions from a Thai cooking class we we gifted as a wedding present.


Quick Coconut Chicken Soup

Ingredients:

1 can (14 oz) full-fat coconut milk
2 cups chicken stock
1 inch piece of lemongrass (optional, found in produce section near the chilis and ginger)
1 inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced
1 pound boneless chicken thighs
1 cup sliced crimini mushrooms
2 Tbsp. lime juice
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
Sea Salt to taste
Sriracha (to taste, optional)
Chopped cilantro (garnish, optional)

Instructions:

- Cut chicken into chunks
- Combine the chicken stock, coconut milk, ginger and lemongrass. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and add the rest of the ingredients.
- Cook until chicken is cooked through, approx. 15 minutes.
- Garnish with cilantro, sea salt and sriracha to taste.





Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The first days after birth {31 Days of Postpartum Health & Healing}



"In the first days after birth your every move is guided by what many call instinct, which some women feel is a part of their ancient heritage. Your emotions will have an intensity you may have never felt before. All that you see, taste, touch, hear, smell, and feel will seem exaggerated. Some days will be too much. One moment you may feel deeply saddened by the profound emptiness of your womb. The next moment your heart will soar with joy at the fullness of your arms as you hold your child. These days are a time of healing and recovery. Soon, you'll be remembering this time of your life tenderly, holding it in your heart forever."

- Robin Lim
After the Baby's Birth...A Woman's Way to Wellness

Reading Ms. Lim's book has been a breath of fresh air and put into perspective the gentle way we must pursue postpartum healing. There is so much more at play than what appears on the surface. So mama, be gentle on yourself. Give yourself and your family grace as your navigate this time. It can be a time of beauty or a time of misery. Stress you can't avoid, but do not expect too much from yourself after everything you have just accomplished {birth, no matter how the baby came into this world}. You're doing wonderfully.

Monday, October 6, 2014

my postpartum must haves {31 Days of Postpartum Health & Healing}


There are a lot of wonderfully supportive "postpartum must have" lists out there, and each varies in its own way. These are mine!

{Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links through Amazon and Earth Mama Angel Baby. Each link contains my unique affiliate ID. Thanks for supporting this site! :)}

 Postpartum Bath Herbs {Sitz Bath}

For soaking and soothing the "scary area" after birth. Also helpful is a sitz bath that sits on top of your toilet if you don't have a bathtub like I do!

Natural Nipple Butter

Enough said. Latch isn't always perfect at first and SHEESH it can hurt! You can use one from a company like Earth Mama Angel Baby or use some coconut oil.

New Mama Bottom Spray

I've used this in both recoveries. It has soothing cucumber and healing witch hazel and comes premixed in a spray bottle - one less thing for me to make! Spray each time you go to the bathroom after rinsing with your peri bottle.

Peri Bottle

Most hospitals or birth centers will provide you one of these. If they don't, be sure to get one! Filled with warm water when toilet paper WON'T be touching your "scary area". Follow up with some soothing bottom spray!

Arnica 

For after birth aches and pains. You can take them every 15 minutes after birth for the first hour, then every few hours after for the first few days. It works on a deep level in your body (not like Tylenol or NSAIDS) so consistency is important. I also took some Tylenol the day after birth but relied on Arnica solely after that.

CrampBark Tincture

For after birth pains. It really works! As cramps can get progressively worse after each birth, this is something I won't be without and highly recommend it. I used the whole bottle over the first few days.

Organic Cotton nursing pads

Soft and the particular brand pictured and linked to holds up really well in the wash. Put them in a mesh lingerie bag to avoid the sock/nursing pad dryer monster.

Padsicles

Ahh. Ice on the "scary area." Felt so good! You can make your own easily by spraying pads with the Soothing Bottom Spray (above), wrapping up in parchment paper or plastic and popping in the freezing. Find recipes on my Pregnancy, Birth & Postpartum Pinterest board or try this recipe!

Nursing Bra

Avoid underwires for those sensitive milk ducts. It's worth investing a little more into a bra you will be wearing constantly for the next year or so!

Belly Binder

Yes, the Belly Bandit is super cute. But it's also really expensive. You can definitely get away with a cheaper one! But the benefits of belly binding go back centuries and it's a great way to support the repair of your abdominal muscles and diastasis recti. Be sure to read the sizing info before ordering online.


Natural Calm Magnesium Powder

OK, so the first time you have to go #2 after birth can be terrifying. But guess what!? Take magnesium powder daily (as you should be doing during pregnancy anyway, right?) and your first time will not be traumatic, take my word for it. I was even able to completely avoid hemorrhoids after this birth by taking magnesium powder consistently so as to avoid any straining.

Meals from friends and family

This was huge. Set up through Meal Baby or Meal Train, or a well-organized friend. Request nourishing soups, casseroles without a ton of dairy (lots of babies are sensitive to it, including mine) or a taco or burrito bar.

Other must haves include a giant water bottle, a Kindle/new book/iPad, easy to grab snacks, comfy jammies, and lots of help around the house. 

Did I miss anything? Share below! 


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Postpartum Reality {31 Days of Postpartum Health & Healing}

Day 2 of Postpartum Health and Healing.



Let's set the stage and break it down by talking about my own experience, because writing our own stories is cathartic and therapeutic. 

So far my adjustment to Baby #3 has been way more difficult than I ever anticipated.

There seems to be some unspoken pressure coming from somewhere that we need to bounce back from childbirth and resume our former productiveness as quickly as possible. I'm here to be an example of how NOT to bounce back.

I had a great pregnancy and an amazing birth. It was such a beautiful experience. Cue about two weeks in and I was struggling to reconcile how a beautiful, easy birth could still mean I have a high-need baby who has tummy and sleep struggles. First lesson: perfect birth does not equal perfect baby.

My first postpartum experience was taking care of twins and about two weeks of NICU time. Never mind that I had never even taken care of one newborn baby before! So "bouncing back" wasn't even an option - this was a LIFE CHANGE that altered my reality forever. You know how when we're pre-children and we declare, "oh, I'm just going to fit the baby into my schedule and my life. I would never give up the things I love to do just because I have a baby!" {Insert hysterical laugh here} Twins make that statement completely ridiculous and unrealistic, and I got that dialed in pretty quickly.

This second postpartum experience has been extremely humbling in a different way. For some absolutely insane reason, I thought that having only one baby would give me more free time. I mean, what was I thinking? Delusions much? Did I REALIZE that I would have three children three and under? So my expectations for baby #3 already started out way too high, even if it was a subconscious expectation.

I actually told my group of lady friends, "this baby is going to be so easy! It's practically going to raise itself!" I cringe. Bless their hearts for not rubbing it in my face.

I believe this high expectation has contributed significantly to the postpartum depression and anxiety I have been struggling with. I figured that Dylan would be content to be worn in a wrap all day (nope), would nurse like a champ and would pacified easily by the breast (nu-uh) and would nap well (not). For all her sweetness, I feel helpless and I hate to feel that way. She is stretching me to my limits through no fault of her own and while everything looks fine on the outside, I do battle against frustration, anxiety, and panic on a daily basis.

That's why I'm embarking on this series, because I have a ways to go before I feel healed and healthy. Writing helps. Exercise and social outings with girlfriends help. And I need to be OK that I need those things, and be continually thankful that I have a partner who will take hold of the reigns to make sure I'm getting what I need to remain a whole person.

Are you struggling in the postpartum period? Grab a journal or open a Word document and just write. Start a blog called "Why is This So Hard". Pouring it out on paper may not solve any immediate problems but I promise it will help. Bonus points if you get in a good cry, too. 

31 Days of Postpartum Health & Healing

Once again it is October and time for the #31days series, hosted by the Nester! Now given that I a) just had a baby eight weeks ago b) work best under pressure, this 31 Days series is starting one day late, but it is a topic that I'm dealing with every single day: the postpartum stage.

It is a hard place to be. Achy, hurting from birth, feeling so many emotions - or ALL the emotions in a 20 minute period - and adjusting every single part of your being to having brought this new human into the world. In my opinion, pregnancy and birth is sheer joy compared to the fourth trimester!

Over the next month-ish (I can't promise I'll post every day because: three children three and under) I'm excited to delve more deeply into this topic and explore ways to heal after birth physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. If you have an idea for a topic to discuss, just leave a note in the comments below. Hope you'll join me!


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