While this is a time of letting go of what we thought our “fourth trimesters” after baby would be, there is still so much space to create something special and possibly even more beautiful and healing than you had planned. The key? Trust that this postpartum experience is exactly the experience you were always meant to have and that it will be for your ultimate good. Whether you are one week postpartum or twenty-one, jump in and find areas where you could incorporate some care.
Note: This guide is rooted in the 5 universal postpartum needs that Kimberly Ann Johnson lays out in her book The Fourth Trimester, but has been adapted for more realistic ways to meet these needs in wake of the Coronavirus.
Most cultures outside the U.S. take at least a full 40 days to heal postpartum. This time is set aside as an almost sacred time to let our bodies and minds recover, as well as to provide space for new rhythms and transitions. While this may feel like a fantasy to some of us, especially in the days of the Coronavirus where outside help is limited, finding some semblance of a first 40 days is still absolutely possible.
Rest is paradoxically the most important thing and the absolute most challenging thing to get after having a baby. For some of us, the stay-at-home orders make life simpler and maybe even a little easier for receiving rest if your partner is now home. But for most of us, it’s more challenging without outside help and with the addition of homeschooling older children, more economic stressors, and anxiety about health and safety.
I’ve broken this part into two sections: how to get rest with an infant and how to get rest with and infant when you have older children.
WAYS TO HELP YOU GET REST WITH AN INFANT:
+ Have your partner wrap your little one. Our wraps are made for extended wear, so if you want your baby to be content for more than half an hour, it’s so worth taking a few minutes to help your partner learn to use the wrap. Or let us do the work.
+ While I avoided rigid schedules for my babies, I found it helpful to start getting some flow to our day so I could begin to recognize general windows of time that I could count on as downtime.
+ A few websites (recommended by our Solly community!) offer help with early no-cry methods to help create healthy sleep habits and routine:
+ Turn out the lights by 9pm. Our little ones often have a good stretch of sleep early in the night from 8pm-1am but that’s often when we’re awake or just falling asleep. As hard as it is to give up that time, if you’re really struggling to rest, it’s worth calling it a night early to give yourself a 10-12 hour window to get 5-8 hours of sleep with interruptions.
+ Plan your day with intention. Create a loose list of just a few things (no more than 5) that you’d like to get done each day. At least two of these items should involve self-care. It could be getting a shower and dressed, a walk, or reading a book to your older children, but I have always found that my rest periods feel a lot more like rest when I put some intention behind part of my day (but not too much right after baby is born!).
WAYS TO ENTERTAIN YOUR OLDER CHILDREN SO YOU CAN GET REST (OR AT LEAST SOME DOWNTINE):
+ Institute “quiet time” every afternoon. When my youngest would nap later in the day, I instituted “quiet time” for my older children by putting out art supplies or building materials, a snack, and turning on an audiobook. I would then lay down on the sofa or even in my bed as they got accustomed to the rhythm.
+ Schedule daily Zoom calls for your kids with grandparents or other family. Are your parents lamenting that they aren’t there to help you with the baby? Sign them up for a daily “meeting” on Zoom with your little ones. Grandparents can read them a book, do show and tell, teach them a skill, or just hang out, keeping the children entertained while you get a break.
+ Raising Wonder art classes. Textile designer & children’s book illustrator Sarah Jane Studios teaches the most incredible daily drawing classes online for free! My kids look forward to them every day.
+ Wonder School. An art therapist and homeschool mama who is offering a customizable homeschool guide for your little ones, made especially for the quarantined family. To get the free guide, simply follow and DM Sam and she’ll send you the link!
+ Cincinnati Zoo Home Safari. This zoo is offering a live tour of their zoo daily, introducing you to a different animal every day.
+ Give them 10 minutes per day of dedicated time. I know that sounds like the opposite of rest, but in my positive parenting certification, I learned about this principle and it has always worked like a charm for me! You give each of your older children just 10 minutes of child-led, undivided attention (yes, baby can be in the wrap sleeping while you do this!) by asking them what they’d like do, and then you will see their “love bucket” fill up and you will be able to have more time to yourself. I’m not sure why it works so well, but it’s my favorite parenting hack.
+ Make screen time a big deal! It’s so easy right now to have screens going nonstop to fill the time—especially with what can feel like even more limited options with a baby—but it will quickly become an adversary if not used with intention. Create a list of the things they need to accomplish each day before screen time, plan out what they will watch, and make it an event (make it a pajama party with snacks, have them build a fort to watch it in, etc.)! They will be so much more engaged when it is time to watch and enjoy it more, and you will get more downtime when it happens.
+ Utilize your older children to help. This is the perfect opportunity for us to empower our older children to contribute by helping with the baby or other children, meals, and cleaning. Every child (and human being!) needs two things: to feel a sense of belonging and contribution. The more you can help feed those two needs, the more they will grow during this time, and the more help they’ll be able to offer you.
For centuries cultures around the world and postpartum care providers have recommended “warming, easy to digest, mineral rich, and collagen dense” (The Fourth Trimester) foods to help replenish lost nutrients and blood as well as to heal tissue that’s been torn or stretched from delivery. I read similar suggestions in other maternal health books before I had my fourth baby, but honestly, with three other children and running Solly Baby, the thought of making homemade bone broths and finding kombu seaweed and cow liver to put in my lasagna felt more than a little overwhelming. While it would’ve been a dream to have a postpartum doula or an experienced friend making those meals for me, it wasn’t a reality for our family and I was just grateful to have friends and family bring any food at all. I did want to incorporate the basic principle the best I could, however, so I focused on these three things daily:
- Eat one “warm meal” and one “protein meal” each day. Think easily digestible, broth-based soups and veggie- and herb-based stews for your warm meal and nutrient-rich (colorful fruits and veggies), protein-packed (meat, fish, eggs, nuts, beans, seeds), good fats (avocados, coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil) for your other meal.
- Hydration! I love the simple formula of taking your weight, cutting in half and drinking that many ounces of water each day. If you are breastfeeding, replenishing those fluids often is key. Investing in a good water bottle is worth it. (This one is my go-to.)
- Take a collagen supplement and prenatal vitamin. It’s hard to get all the collagen and vitamins needed during this time so pack them in with high-quality, food-based supplements.
I know many of you are in a similar situation but with even fewer options as meals from family and friends are rare or nonexistent in the wake of Covid, so I found the best and simplest resources for incorporating as many soups, stews and nutrient-rich simple foods into your diet—hopefully foods that your partner can make, you can order from a local restaurant, or make quickly on your own.
+ Soup to-go from a local restaurant. Couldn’t be easier and it makes for perfect leftovers. Opt for the herb-infused, veggie, and broth-based soups over cream-based.
+ Takeout curries from local Thai and Indian restaurants. Gets you the warmth, the protein, and the veggies if you choose a veggie-heavy curry.
+ Meal train. If your friends are starting a meal train for you, but you’re worried about getting too specific in your requests, simply suggest “soups, stews, cooked veggies, protein-rich foods and curries”.
ALMOST AS EASY:
+ Low-sodium boxed soup from the grocery store is another great budget- and time-friendly option. The brand Pacific Organic is my favorite and they have an entire line of bone broth-based soups that are delicious.
+ Easy oatmeal (here’s the motherlode of yummy add-ins)
+ Most delicious, easiest protein balls
MINIMAL WORK BUT EASY:
+ Simple homemade bone broth. It’s inexpensive and simple and something the whole family will eat.
+ Sheet pan dinners. I’ve never met a sheet pan dinner I didn’t like + these can be prepped ahead of time.
+ Fresh Tomato Soup by Ina Garten. This is my all-time favorite soup recipe. I simplify the ingredient list and time by using 3 cans of diced tomatoes instead of fresh and I honestly think it tastes even better.
+ Chicken Taco Chili. Crockpot-friendly, and the tastiest and easiest chili ever. It’s been my go-to for years.
+ Make ahead meals. Lily Nichols has the ultimate make-ahead postpartum meal list if you’re still in that third trimester with some time on your hands.
+ Grocery List. I love this detailed grocery list for the postpartum mom. Take it with a grain of salt and just choose the foods you know you’ll eat, but I found it helpful to see it laid out.
Receiving loving touch from others and yourself in the fourth trimester in a myriad of ways can have huge healing benefits. If you’re stuck at home with your partner and little one, take advantage of more time for some TLC. While you may feel “touched out” by the end of the day, intentional, thoughtful touch can be incredibly healing and enjoyable throughout this time, whether it’s with your partner or by yourself!
+ Postpartum Self Massage. I am obsessed with this tutorial! **C-section mamas will want to wait two weeks or until your doctor gives the green light for a massage postpartum.
+ Postpartum Essentials Pilates. Pilates instructor Jenny Redford was my private instructor during my pregnancy with Hazel and I cannot recommend this video program more for reconnecting with your body, helping with diastasis recti, and daily exercise. You can rent the whole series for 30 days for just $38.
+ I’m a big believer in even the simplest forms of physical connection with your partner during this time. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with all the touch with baby, especially if breastfeeding or if you’re feeling less connected to your postpartum body, but a little touch can go a long way. You can maintain that connection by a quick (or long) kiss, hugs, a shoulder rub or just holding hands while you watch a show together.
You may have been expecting to be surrounded by the women in your life to show you the way through this transition but now find yourself alone. While you may lack that physical companionship, creating a virtual community can go much further than you may think (and may even have its own benefits of more time with you and your partner).
Set up daily calls and video chats (have you seen Facebook Portal? It’s basically as close as you can get to having them there IRL) with your mother, grandmother, your doula, friends, whoever it is you would want to be with you in person right now. Set a recurring time and don’t just small talk. Bring your questions, your concerns, ask for their best advice, their stories, their experiences. Get a group text going with all of your veteran mom friends or your favorite aunts and don’t be shy! Never been a better time to send them a pic of your boobs to see if that latch is right!
It is really easy to withdraw and go inward, especially when everyone else is going through their own Covid experience, but don’t. Commit to being an extrovert with the women in your life who provide spiritual or physical guidance.
In a time of quarantine, this one cannot be emphasized enough. As soon as you are cleared to be up and moving, wrap your baby and go for a walk. Every day. Even if it’s just down the driveway and back. The fresh air, the hints of spring, breathing deeply, hearing the birds chirping, feeling the sun on your face will be like a healing balm. And I don’t use the word “healing balm” very often, so you know I mean it.
Open the windows when you can, set up a chair by a window to relax and get as much vitamin D as you possible, take an herbal sitz bath, drink your favorite herbal tea, pick a few flowers from your walk and put them in a vase. All of those natural touch points will help you begin to feel a new rhythm, ground you, and create some really beautiful postpartum memories. And, no matter what is happening in the world, you deserve all of the most beautiful postpartum memories, I promise.