26 Nov Blossom again, post birth
Post birth, the natural instinct of a mother is to focus on their new baby, as well as any older siblings and their husband. Her own needs come at the very bottom of the food chain. However, it is vital for mothers to focus on themselves as a priority at this time. Recovering and restoring through nurturing, optimal nutrition and resting is essential, not only for them, but also for the entire family’s health. However hard it is to prioritize yourself as a new mother, the foundation of post birth recovery is self-care. Sofie Jacobs of Urban Hatch talks you through how to blossom post birth.
In an ideal world we should learn to look after ourselves from an early age, but we don’t. It is very difficult for modern women these days. We want to be able to do it all and do it perfectly. Life without a baby is already challenging, however. Add in that new little thing that appears in your life and you are learning a new 24-hour job without ever having studied for it whilst having gone through a big ordeal – birth. And this 24-hour job includes looking after a new-born while sleep deprived.
Sleeping, eating, exercise and socialising habits made pre-birth will all change. And if you’re a person who followed a strict routine before baby, that in itself will have to change. Babies aren’t born to follow a perfect routine.
Sleep deprivation is a form of torture. People don’t talk about it much but symptoms include disorientation, increased anxiety, loss of appetite and more. If they are not addressed, sleep deprivation can be one of the causes of PND (Post Natal Depression). For the first three weeks the new mother is running on adrenaline and the survival instinct, but at three weeks I often see a tipping point where exhaustion sets in and I try to prevent a situation where there will be a crash.
A new mother’s sleep patterns will have changed already from before the birth in the later stages of pregnancy because of the baby’s position – it can be uncomfortable to sleep with pressure on the bladder. Most women go into labour in the evening, and will be awake all night before giving birth. Then the crazy routine starts. Then the new mum is going to be breastfeeding every 2.5 to 3.5 hours, or bottle-feeding every 3 hours, and this doesn’t change during the night for the first few weeks.
Whenever I do post natal home visits, one of my clear and bossy instructions is to rest when baby is asleep. Especially now with social media and being available all the time it is difficult to switch off the phone and rest when baby is asleep. I teach a bit of mindfulness to women while still pregnant. Sit or lie down and turn your energy inwards and focus on your breathing. Just lying down for ten minutes, or even simply sitting in a quiet place and focusing on slow breathing. This way most women can get one or two catnaps or quiet moments a day and this can be enough to keep your head above the water.
Prioritise a nap over chores. Get your helper or enlist family support to take over some tasks. And make sure you work on an evening routine for the baby, with baby baths, a massage session and introducing a bottle to get the baby into a sleep routine.
First sleep goes, then often women forget to eat. Those first few weeks running on adrenaline and often they don’t realise they are hungry. But it is important to get optimal nutrition, and if breastfeeding new mothers need extra calories.
I suggest that instead of three meals a day, my clients go up to six meals but in smaller portions to help blood sugar levels remain stable and avoid highs and lows. If breastfeeding in particular, it is important to have a stable energy intake to help with energy output.
It is ideal to consume strategically at every meal. I’m a big fan of protein powders and bone broths, which contain collagen, which every woman needs post natal to help connective tissue restore following possible diastasis (separation of the abdominal muscles). Vitamin C and zinc are important, and top up with 1000 mg of good quality fish oil supplements. Increasing fiber via vegetables and fruit like bananas is a good idea. Add healthy fats like avocados, olive oil, coconut milk and oil, nuts, seeds, butters etc.
Usually there is no need to be too limiting with your diet when breastfeeding, for example garlic, spicy foods and coffee are fine in moderation, especially if you have been eating and drinking them during pregnancy.
It is very important to get back into an exercise routine to start working on rebuilding the foundation. Around seven to ten days after birth I start including basic core and pelvic floor exercises, based on Pilates, during my home visits. This starts to rebuild the foundation.
Then six weeks post-birth, or eight if it was a C-section, new mothers can crank up the exercise routine. Once clients’ brains have reconnected to the core, and their core strength is increasing I often suggest yoga as well as Pilates, as it teaches mothers to turn their energy inwards and gets them out of the pregnancy, post birth and breastfeeding posture.
Once the core and pelvic floor strength is recovering, and if energy levels aren’t too depleted, other exercise like running and higher impact options can be gradually included.
After birth, it is important women see other people, but at the same time they must learn to be selfish with their time. I tell them, on days they are exhausted, climb into bed with the baby and cancel everything you had planned.
After the first few days, it is a good idea to tie socialising in with your exercise routine. Go out for a walk once a day with a friend to lift the spirits.
During the later stages of pregnancy I suggest my clients make a list of what gives you energy and what drains you. And this goes for who in your life are energy givers and who are energy leachers. It is important to spend time with those who give you energy post birth. I learned this myself when I got burnt out. People forget that having a baby is truly exhausting and can really burn you out.
Getting support from outside is very important. It helps with confidence, reduces anxiety and on days when it all goes a bit pear-shaped, you can call someone up and ask for help.
Women, especially in urban environments, are used to thinking they need to do it all ourselves. And often they don’t have easy access to family support when living away from the family home. It is very important to get a helper, for example, or call on friends to help you get your head around caring for your new born when first getting into a routine. There are so many new things happening all at once and external support can help by bringing a different perspective.
Most postnatal women go through rollercoasters of emotions, sometimes even within a few hours. Moods can go from being blissfully happy to looking at the baby and wondering, “Why on earth did we decide to have a child?”. It’s important to know this is normal.
There will be lots of smiles and lots of screams. The trick is to be ok with both. The more you try to turn the screams into smiles the more unhappy you’ll become.
What isn’t normal is if two weeks go by and every day you wake up and think you’re miserable and you don’t feel like getting out of bed. It is ok for new parents, and that includes the partner, to feel challenged, and admit you’re feeling challenged. Social media, where all you see is beautiful babies and smiling mums, is not real life.
So, to all new mums out there, don’t forget to prioritize yourself. Spend time looking after your needs so that you are better able to pass that caring on to the rest of your family, as well as your beautiful new baby!
Recovery After Birth
Join Sofie’s Recovery After Birth workshop at Flex Central Studio on 5 December from 2.45pm to 4.45pm. She will cover nutrition, establishing baby’s routine and finding your rhythm as a new parent among other subjects, as well as key exercises for post-natal recovery. Read more here.
About Sofie And Urban Hatch
Sofie Jacobs graduated in Midwifery in Belgium in 1998, before moving to London and then in 2012 her current home, Hong Kong. Between working in the NHS and private healthcare, her work has included hospital labour wards, high-risk units, antenatal clinics and birthing centres, as well as home births, breastfeeding and postnatal home visits, leading to a uniquely intuitive capacity for care.
A practical thinker and emotionally perceptive ‘people person’, Sofie is the ideal midwife. She has had the privilege of working with thousands of mothers, fathers and families for over 20 years, providing anxious, question-filled mothers with individual attention to support and educate them earning the reputation as “the non-judgmental living guidebook everyone should have access to”.
Sofie has completed the Exercise in Pregnancy course created by leading women’s wellness and fitness expert Jenny Burrell, later co-lecturing with Burrell. She is also a qualified Polestar Pilates Instructor and a strong believer in exercise pre and postnatal.
THE URBAN HATCH APPROACH
Urban Hatch is a midwifery service based on Head Midwife, Sofie Jacobs’ philosophy to support, prepare, and teach, adapting to the unique needs and lifestyle choices of any family.
By choosing Urban Hatch, you will be supported by Sofie, who is tirelessly passionate about helping you during pregnancy, birth, and until the first 12 months of life. In any situation, you will be provided with a range of options, weighing up the pros and cons according to personality type and individual lifestyle, to find the best way forward for baby, mother and partner.
Our experience and support ranges from first time parents to single mothers, IVF babies, same sex parents, higher risk pregnancies and adoption as well as lifestyle challenges including stressful work environments, partners who travel, anxiety and practically everything in between!