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postpartum planning

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Postpartum Doula Support: Filling the Gaps in Healing After Birth

In January I began studying for a postpartum doula certification with Birth Arts International. This would allow me to continue supporting my clients as they transition to the next part of their journey. As expecting parents we tend to focus our time and energy on the pregnancy and birth process.  As a result, postpartum plans often get the short end of the stick. After coming home with their babies, many parents may feel as though they don’t have the support or resources to feel confident in what they are doing. We are questioning ourselves while trying to learn how to make our newborns happy and healthy, all while sleep deprived and often times neglecting our own needs. Frequently too, we have older children at home that are adjusting to the new baby and the change in household. We still have laundry. We still have to eat. We desperately need sleep, a real shower, and maybe a moment or two just for ourselves.

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That's where I come in.

Postpartum doula support fills in the gaps of what the family might need. These services include light errands, light house cleaning, meal prep, infant and sibling care, breast feeding support, postpartum healing guidance, debriefing support of your birth experience, and connecting families to local resources. Best of all is the emotional and mental support of another person who understands exactly where you are and what you are going through. This is someone who listens, knows birth intimately, and can help you process your experience of birth and new motherhood. When we are able to feel whole and have the details of our home taken care of, we have opportunities to heal faster, have improved breastfeeding success rates, and decreased severity of postpartum mood disorders.

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1 in 5 mothers experience a postpartum mood disorder, including anxiety and depression. 1 in 10 fathers will experience anxiety and depression as well. These feelings not only impact the individuals health, but the health of the family and community. Currently suicide is the second leading cause of death in perinatal women, with a rate of 1 in 5 postpartum deaths being contributed to suicide. The risk is increased through the first postpartum year. These statistics are a heart wrenching wake up call in how we treat parents, our postpartum care, mental health support, and often the ability of our village to see a struggling parent and know what to do. Having a knowledgeable professional help take off the weight of some of the daily burdens can create space for that family to heal.

It’s not about luxury.

It’s not about being demanding.

Postpartum doula support is about giving families and communities what they need to feel like better confident versions of themselves.

To learn more about how postpartum doula support, please contact me for a consultation at Living Heart Doula.

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Postpartum planning: Updated

** This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase from one of these links I receive a small commission at no charge to you. It helps to support my doula work.

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The postpartum period is a subject close to my heart. It's such a crazy time. Mom is trying to heal and figure out nursing, while bonding with baby and trying to stay present for any older siblings. Dad is figuring out his role and is still reeling from the birth as well. All the while everyone is exhausted, but people want to visit the new baby and help out the family. While it feels like life should pause for a while it seems to do the opposite. 

One of the most visited posts I have here at the Living Heart Doula blog is A Postpartum Checklist, and dives in to some facets of planning for postpartum. It also includes some really great slides on new babies and their families. 

Having a few things prepared, friends signed up for meals, and extended family ready to serve can make a huge difference for a new family. I’m updating the list to share new products, as well as services that can help a postpartum family.

1) Postpartum Doula Services- Having a postpartum doula is indispensable. They can start as early as the day you get home from the hospital or birth center, or you can hold off until your partner has returned to work. A postpartum doula can also do an overnight shift, so mom and partner can sleep. She can bring baby to mom for feedings, or bottle feed based on your preferences. The doula also helps with house hold chores like laundry, dishes, vacuuming, and helping older siblings. Their knowledge of breastfeeding, newborn care, and postpartum healing can be a huge help. Service prices can vary, and may be billed as hourly or as packages. Add services to your registry and have friends and family chip in! Living Heart Doula will be adding postpartum services this spring. Be on the watch for more news!

2) Earth Mama Organics- I love their products, and their postpartum items saved me with my last birth. Some must haves include perineal spray, perineal herbal packs, and organic nipple butter. They also have their own Lying-In plan for postpartum families you can find here:

Earth Mama Organics Cyber Monday

3) Takethemameal.com - Free sign up service to organize having meals brought to the family. Super easy to use and share over email and social media. The service also has a function where friends can order a meal to be delivered if they are unable to cook. Having meals covered takes the burden and logistics of food preparation away from the recuperating family.

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4) Depends - An option aside from typical menstrual pads. Wearing Depends during the first heavy days of lochia can be helpful, because the whole thing acts as a pad. No more worrying about leaking on to undies or sheets.

5) Natracare Wipes and Pads- An all natural organic option, wipes can be used for both mom and baby. The organic pads are super absorbent and keep the skin feeling dry instead of sticky like with plastic pads. However, they are not especially large. Save them for when bleeding has become more manageable.

6) Boobytubes - Awesome product by Bamboobies, these beaded tubes can be put in the freezer to help with engorgement, or in the microwave to help with a clogged duct. Can also go along the neck and shoulders to help with aches and stiffness.

7.) Ecocentric Mom Box- You can check out all the goodies I got from my subscription box here. Receive a box full of natural goodies for mom and baby, ranging from snacks to awesome hair care products. Subscriptions can vary from one time to a full year, and make a great gift for new moms. Ecocentric Mom offers a nice self-care pick me up, and a way to find some new clean products.

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8.) Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy - This subject really needs its own post, but I’ll give you an introduction here. In other countries, especially Europe, women receive physical therapy after they have a baby. Your back, hips, pelvis, vagina, perineum, core and bladder can all be affected by pregnancy and birth. This includes both vaginal and cesarean births. Experiencing pain, incontinence (snissing, anyone?) or diastasis recti is common, but is NOT NORMAL, and can be corrected by physical therapy. What makes it different than just doing kegels until you’re cross eyed, is that the specific muscles and tendons that are strained, weakened, and overcompensating can be identified, and you are taught how to properly release and strengthen the affected areas. Body mechanics are applied to help correct diastasis recti and ease pain as muscles recover. It can be life changing. With 50% of women experiencing prolapse in their lifetime, it’s worth the investment.

9.) Get a baby carrier- Baby wearing was how I managed to do life with both my girls. Babies want to be held and snuggled. This allows you to keep baby close, get breakfast made, and the dog walked. Moby and Boba wraps are great for newborns, and as baby grows soft structured carriers like Boba are great for getting baby on and off easily, as well as place in a back carry. You can learn more about carriers here.

10.) Sitz Bath and accessories- I’m a little bitter no one taught how to do a sitz bath when I had my girls. Available at drug stores like Rite Aid or CVS, it’s essentially a large basin that fits in the toilet. Fill with warm water, Epsom salt, or herbs. Place in your toilet, and simply soak. It’s great for hemorrhoids and perineal tearing. It also relaxes the pelvic floor muscles so you can actually go #2. No one said postpartum was glamorous.

11.) K-Tape Services Frederick Birth Center- K-Tape is a cotton elastic adhesive, with therapeutic properties that can be applied to ligament function, muscle applications, corrective postures, and lymphatic drainage. During the postpartum period, K-tape can help with numerous issues, including swelling, engorgement, diastasis recti, and mastitis. Mom’s who have had a cesarean birth can benefit from lymphatic drainage. The scar tissue can disrupt neurological pathways and the drainage of lymph in the lower body. K-tape can support the return of menstruation, and can ease uterine cramping. Gynecological issues like prolapse and incontinence can benefit from K-Tape. While I’ve focused on the benefits of K-Taping for women, anyone can come and get taping at the Frederick Birth Center! Contact the staff at FBC for an appointment.

12.) Like Neighbors- This is a service that allows friends, families, and neighbors to help in your time of need while being across the country. Services like lawn mowing, house cleaning, dog walking, gift cards and meal delivery can all be added. It’s a great way to have support and let people know what your family’s needs are.

13.) Postpartum belly binding- Beng Kung belly wraps, Mama Strut, and Velcro girdles are all ways to support your core and back after birth. Your muscles have taken a vacation for at least six months, and having the support helps to engage them and maintain proper posture. This helps to prevent and correct diastasis recti, as well as the aches and pains we often feel while nursing for long periods and carrying carseats.

14.) Strong as a Mother: How to Stay Healthy, Happy, and (Most Importantly) Sane from Pregnancy to Parenthood: The Only Guide to Taking Care of YOU! by Katie Rope- This book breaks down all things postpartum, from healing, birth recovery, and mental health. Author Katie Rope shares stories from a wide variety of mothers, breaking down the mommy traps we can get sucked into. It’s one of the few books out there talking about postpartum in an open way, while not beating around the bush of how hard modern moms have it.

15) Placenta Encapsulation - Encapsulation is the process of steaming, dehydrating, grinding, and putting a placenta into pill form. Benefits include a boost in hormones, increased milk production, and faster recovery. The evidence is still anecdotal at this point, but you only have one shot at preserving the placenta to try. If you plan on having your placenta encapsulated, please use a professional encapsulator that is blood borne pathogen certified. I recommend Deborah Bailey of Doulas of Central Maryland.



What have I missed? What really helped your family in the postpartum period?







 

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Digging through the literature: Best New Baby Books (and available at your library!)

When I first thought about getting pregnant, I did what my nerd brain naturally gravitated toward: I went to the library and checked out a pile of books on every aspect of the topic.

Your local library can be a wealth of resources for your family. Plus, who doesn't love the smell of a good book?

Your local library can be a wealth of resources for your family. Plus, who doesn't love the smell of a good book?

 

I sifted through the old standby classics like What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff, some humorous ones like Belly Laughs by Jenny McCarthy or Girlfriends Guide to Pregnancy. Some I found really informative, others super dry, and a few became favorites.

 

As the years have passed, I was turned on to some great books by my doula while I was preparing for birth. Others I have come across during my training with Birth Arts International. I’m always dissecting birth and pregnancy books.

Is the language accessible and not just medical jargon? Is it up to date with evidence based practices? Which clients or friends will appreciate this particular book?

 

Know better, do better. 

Know better, do better. 

I’ve gathered my top 3 favorite birth and pregnancy books. The bonus: they are available for free at your local library! If it’s not available for some reason, ask your librarian. Often a book title can be requested from another library or they’ll purchase it for you. If you have a favorite birth book, consider donating a copy to your local library. It’s great to have a collection of birth literature available in your community.

1)The Mama Natural Week by Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth by Genevieve Howland

Written by YouTuber and natural parenting blogger,  Genevieve Howland, this comprehensive book covers all aspects of fertility, pregnancy, and birth. It covers all the options with prenatal testing, providers, birthing locations, etc. Having these options laid out is the definition of informed consent, and can help with decision making. It offers great natural options and nutrition options without seeming too far out there. (I can honestly say that on a personal level, I laugh when I see tofu in a pregnancy nutrition book. Not happening. Pass me that giant bowl of pasta please.) 

This is my favorite new pregnancy book. It's modern, it's accessible, and it gives a fresh take on birth. Have your support, know your options, and have the best birth you can that day. 

2) nurture: A Modern Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, Early Motherhood- and Trusting Yourself and Your Body by Erica Chidi Cohen. 

Author Erica Chidi Cohen brings a new voice to the pregnancy and birth literature choir. Writing from the perspective of a birth and postpartum doula, she brings a compassionate conversation to the reader instead of the usual lecture you feel like you're getting (eat right, get your finances and all the things done, be happy, etc.). 

The book takes a deep dive into the emotions surrounding pregnancy and birth, and offers beautifully realistic ways of handling them. She has a strong focus on self care and mindfulness that often gets overlooked. It hits the full spectrum of care that's needed for mamas and families right on the head. 

Best part of this book: more than a third of nurture is dedicated to postpartum care of mom. Postpartum care often gets the short end of the stick. The focus is on labor and newborn care, often not bringing attention to the fact that moms get put through the ringer with birth. Moms need more than just a primer on how to use a peri bottle and nursing. Cohen helps to plan your household, and gives tips for healing and bonding with baby without chaos, but with a lot more grace. 

3) The Whole 9 Months: A Week-by-Week Pregnancy Nutrition Guide with Recipes for a Healthy Start by Jennifer Lang, MD. 

If you were like me during pregnancy, you spent the first several months trying decide what would stay down, or at least not be brutal if it came back up. It's survival mode. This title tackles the nutrition behind feeling better during those early weeks, and how to eat for wellness for the remainder of your pregnancy. 

Lang breaks down what to look for in a prenatal vitamin, as well as eating to tackle pregnancy issues (hello constipation) and alternatives for crazy pregnancy cravings. 

The best part are the recipes included in the book. They're easy, delicious and healthy, and several can be made while having a screaming toddler at your feet. I love a realistic take on nutrition! 

What was your favorite book when you were preparing for pregnancy and birth? Share with us below! 

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A Postpartum Checklist: Planning Ahead for a Better Recovery

There's a thing about birth that other moms don't tell you about. Recovery can be hard. You're sore and possibly torn in your most sensitive spots, your organs are rearranging themselves after pregnancy, and odds are pretty good that you haven't had more than a few hours sleep at a time for days. Not to mention nursing, trying to maintain your household and take care of any older siblings too. This period can be really hard, and we don't always have family and friends around to help out.

Planning and preparing for post postpartum in the last months of pregnancy can make a huge difference in the time spent resting and healing versus stressing over the to do list.

Here are my favorite tips:

Food:

  • Stock your freezer with extra meals that can be thrown in the crock pot or oven. (Ask friends to set up a meal train or have people bring freezer meals as a part of your baby shower!)
  • Stock snacks that are shelf stable and nutritious. (Trail mix, protein bars, granola bars, muffins.) Bonus points if it can be eaten with one hand.
  • Bottles of water or good cups with straws for easy access during nursing. Keep them stashed around the house!

Healing items for mama:

  •  Rice bag or heating pad for after pains. (And its true what they say, after pains get stronger after each baby!)
  • Witch hazel (Add to your Peri bottle to soothe angry tissue and stitches. You can use to make your own cooling pads, or you can purchase Tucks.)
  • Lavender essential oil. Add to the Peri bottle when you rinse, and the oil will help to heal any tears and help prevent infection.
  • Aloe, straight from an aloe plant! Will help sooth stitches. (Can you tell I've dealt with some nasty tearing?)
  • A boppy  pillow or hemorrhoid ring, because sitting on your sore bottom can be torture. As often as you can, lay down. Nurse on your side lying down or reclined. If you need to sit up for visits, don't be afraid to keep them short.
  • Earth Mama Angel Baby has a great line of products, including Happy Bottom spray, Postpartum Bath Herbs, and nipple cream. I loved them with my second baby! The bottom spray was heaven on stitches, and  the bath herbs can pull double duty. Save the liquid for your Peri bottle and use the herbal pack as a warm or cold compress, or use as a typical sitz bath.
  •  Padsicles! Ice packs feel awesome in those first swollen days and a padsicle can help with both swelling and irritation. Check out this recipe here: http://just-making-noise.com/pregnancy-notes-soothing-postpartum-pads-recipe/
  • If you had your placenta encapsulated, break those babies out! They'll start to help with healing and replacing lost nutrients.
  • Have extra large granny panties, in dark colors, because leaks are bound to happen. I suggest having a larger size to accommodate the large pads and ice packs in the early days after birth.
  • Have super comfy jammies. I had no shame and bought extra large sweat pants. I just needed comfort and room to heal; I really didn't care about being cute. (I may still have some of these in my drawer. A girl has to hold on to some things for a Maryland winter.)

Nursing:

  • Have some nursing tanks on hand, but in my humble opinion hold off on buying nursing bras until baby is born and nursing is established. I was shocked by how much my breasts changed. We are talking three cup sizes! Wait and see what your milk does before you go to the trouble of buying bras.
  • Have a good breast pump and parts ready to roll. You don't want to be sterilizing parts while engorged. (Ask me how I know.) if you're using a pump from a previous baby, ask for new parts from your hospital. My lactation consultant gave me a bag with new tubing, flanges, etc. for free! This is also a good time to make sure bottles, nipples and pacifiers are cleaned and ready for use.
  • This is where all the food prep will come in handy! Eat and a drink a ton, more than you think you might need to. Your body is doing a lot of work in repairing and also making milk for baby.

For Baby:

  • Besides all the usual items for baby, I suggest having a carrier or wrap for those newborn days. I love the maya wrap or a ring sling to help keep them snuggled while you keep your hands free.
  • Sleeping arrangements for baby to be close by, whether in a co-sleeper, bassinet, or pack n play, keep baby in the room with you. Everyone will sleep easier.

For the home:

  • Netflix. If you don't have it already, do it. There will be days where you will be nursing the baby non-stop on the couch. Binge watch and rest!
  •  Set up baby station baskets around the house. Any where you'll be spending time with baby, but also in places like your bedroom. Include a change of clothes, diapers, wipes, easy open  snacks, bottle of water, breast pads, toy/book to entertain an older sibling, and a magazine or book for you. I often found myself, “stuck”, under a nursing and napping baby while starving and thirsty. Having these in reach made things very easy. I felt like I had anything I could need within easy reach, without having to go up and down stairs for items. I seriously just used whatever baskets I had on hand around the house.

What was helpful for your family in the weeks following birth?

 

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