The Importance of Postpartum Rest

For Mom and Baby

Major Benefits.

In the first weeks postpartum quiet and rest have major benefits. Although our culture does not support the idea of 'lying in' and many women feel well enough to be up and about soon after birth, there are many holistic reasons why going slow and doing less is well worth it.

For Mom.

Pregnancy and childbirth are taxing. Although bringing a new human being into the world is well worth it, it is a strain on the body. It is as though a new mom has just written out a check for a large expense - depending on the pregnancy and birth, the amount may vary, but even in the best circumstances it is a large sum.

In ideal situations a woman has enough in her body’s reserve to cover these expenses. They will still decrease her overall balance (or reserves), but will cause no immediate problems. These women will feel well after childbirth and could push themselves to keep up with high levels of activity. But resting, recovering, and only spending their body’s resources on what really needs to be done is still hugely important. This means the woman should limit her activities to taking care of herself, recovering, making milk and taking care of her baby. Doing so will help build the body’s balance back up faster, help their long-term health, and prevent her from going into deficit later. Continuing to spend resources on non-essentials (like running errands, playing hostess to guests, cooking and cleaning, going right back to work, etc) is the equivalent of spending extra money when you’ve just had a big expense. It all adds up and can cause small issues, and / or catch up with a person, eventually. It is holistically unhealthy.

In situations where a woman already is in deficit, either from a prior existing deficiency or as the result of an extra taxing pregnancy or childbirth (like with twins, cesarean birth, significant blood loss, etc) the importance of rest and building back up the body’s reserves is that much more important. These women not only run the risk of long term deficiencies, they are more in danger of immediate signs of deficit.

The most common signs of postpartum deficit include:
Insufficient lactation
Heart palpitations
Prolonged bleeding
Hot flashes
Night sweats
Sadness and tearfulness

By protecting and recovering your body’s resources you can avoid these issues, recover from them faster and avoid further deficiency symptoms down the road!

" The transition into even a quiet, restful world is a big adjustment from the dark, nurturing world of being in the womb. "

For Baby.

The transition into even a quiet, restful world is a big adjustment from the dark, nurturing world of being in the womb. Babies have spent the first 9 months of their lives in a custom cre- ated environment that keeps them warm, well fed, protected and soothed. Birth brings all sorts of wonders to behold, but also the challenges of adjust- ing to having to eat, breathe, stay comfortable, re- spond to different environmental factors and more. Allowing baby to make this transition slowly and without taxing him in additional ways helps him to conserve and build up his reserves too. This has pro- found and lifelong implications and effects on baby’s holistic health.

For the Family.

In addition to significant benefits to both mom and baby’s immediate and long term health, making the first weeks after baby arrives quiet and restful is good for the whole family. Whether it is a first baby or fifth, each baby is different and there is a learning curve as she and her family learn to navigate the changing world they are in. Taking time for self care is an important lesson for everyone. No time is more important than this. You do not need to do what is 'expected,' 'normal,' or 'right.' You need to do what is best for yourself, your baby, and your family by setting boundaries, having realistic expectations, and honoring limitations. This will benefit you for many years to come! 

And So, My Recommendations.

  • Rest in your bed or home at least 1 - 2 weeks after baby is born with limited activity

  • If possible avoid over-using your eyes - so try not to watch a lot of TV, read excessively, etc

  • Keep your environment quiet and comfortable - turn up the thermostat in the winter, don’t turn it too low in the summer, use a white noise machine, let the sunlight in

  • Limit outings for the first month to only essentials like doctor visits

  • Breastfeed your baby if at all possible, ask for help early and surround yourself with support

  • Prepare as much ahead of the birth as possible by stocking up on pantry and bathroom items, freezing food, asking others for help

  • Limit outside visitors to only those who want to help and have those visitors bring food, run an errand on their way, or fold some laundry

  • Do not feel obligated to stay up and visit if it is time for you and / or baby to nap

  • Do not feel obligated to nurse while visiting. While this may be an easy feat in not too long, early nursing requires quiet, calm and attention

  • Ask for help. Have a backup plan for extra help from family, a post partum doula, lactation consultant, etc

  • Set realistic expectations. Simply breastfeeding a newborn takes on average a total of 6 - 10 hours a day. Nursing alone can be the equivalent of working a full time job, not to mention your body needs to make the milk!

  • Trust your gut. There's a reason for the term mother’s intuition - you know when things are going well and when it is time to ask for help. No book, dvd, or class knows better than you!

  • Do not worry about 'spoiling' your baby. Newborns are not capable of being manipulative or becoming spoiled. They are simply expressing their needs. When they fuss they are uncomfortable.

  • Take care of you! If you are not well, then baby will not be well. You need to eat, sleep and do self care to be the best mom you can be!

If you like / want more info on the idea of resting after birth and nourishing the recovering mom you may love this book: