From nourishment to poos to functional exercise: Postpartum explained.
You’ve read the pregnancy books and done the birth classes. And that’s epic. But what about postpartum? Have you prepared for those first few weeks and months? What will your body go through? How can you aid your recovery? And what can you do to help you and your baby have a positive postpartum period together?
I’ve also teamed up with TEDx speaker and parenting expert Lael Stone to create the most beautiful postpartum support program “Holding the Mother”. In this we explore your birth recovery, initiation to motherhood, releasing tension and postpartum awareness. I cannot wait to share this program with you. Stay tuned to our socials and sign up to our email to be first in the know of its release date.
1. Nourish and hydrate your postpartum body
Your body has grown and birthed an entire human. You are epic! Now it’s time to recover and recuperate. Nourishment and hydration are vital.
Preparation is key. Before bub arrives, prepare nourishing, iron-rich meals to pop in the freezer. Meals that are loaded which vegetables, legumes, nuts and other nutrient dense foods. This will give you an energy boost and help you both physically and mentally. If you’re breastfeeding, get ready for some serious hunger. Don’t forget to prep quick grab-as-you-go snacks like bliss balls. Smoothies are great too.
Staying well hydrated helps with breastfeeding, soft stools and removing pregnancy fluid. Have a water bottle to keep sipping all day (and night!). Coconut water is an epic source of hydration if you’re after something a little less plain. Drink until your wee is clear.
An epic postpartum meal delivery service can bring the nourishment to your doorstep. Check out The Golden Month, The Whole Bowl Co, or a few others online. They’re worth every penny in those tiring first few weeks or can be a great baby shower gift from your friends.
Postpartum Doulas support you in your transition to motherhood. They can provide emotional and informational support in those early weeks and months. They also provide practical support by cooking for you and your family and helping with light housework. Postpartum doulas can provide you with newborn advice. You can ask your midwife or obstetrician for local recommendations or try out a doula directory.
The book “The First Forty Days” talks through different cultural confinement periods and the benefits of nutrient rich nourishment. In many non-Western cultures, a new mother must rest for weeks and is cared for by her family, community and village. They honour the new mother, and her rest and recovery. The book also provides nutritious recipes to make ahead of time (or to ask your friends/family/partner to make for you as part of a meal train).
2. Rest your postpartum body
Rest, rest and more rest. There is nothing more important than this. There’s no need to rush out to show your baby to the world – as tempting as is it is. Don’t feel pressured to accept guests in those early weeks. Protect your boundaries and your connection with your new baby. The only guests coming through your door should be those you’re so close with that they feel comfortable throwing on a load of washing for you and doing the dishes.
Organise extra childcare for older siblings and support from your partner, family and friends so you can stay in bed with baby. The first few weeks are messy. You’re bleeding, healing, leaking milk and exhausted. Your hormones are adjusting. Your body is recovering. You and your baby are there to bond.
Honour yourself, the birth of your baby and the rest you need for your recovery. And expect others to do the same. Postpartum is a state of healing, we seem to have lost this knowledge in our modern world. We would never expect a person with a broken leg to take on the responsibility (mentally and physically) that a new parent undertakes straight after birth. We allow people who are injured or sick to rest and recover yet we expect a person to grow and birth a human and have zero recovery time. We need to be a part of a huge cultural shift that brings back honouring postpartum recovery.
Your body needs to rest, and you and your baby deserve this time together with minimal interruption. A beautiful postnatal guide is to spend five days in bed, five days on your bed and five days around your bed. So, for two weeks you hardly leave your bedroom.
Again, I highly recommend The First Forty Days. It’s a modern take on traditional Chinese confinement and is a beautiful start to any postpartum period that will help you feel supported, connected and safe.
3. Toilet time - Postpartum poos
Oh, that first postpartum poo. It’s enough to have you shaking in your adult nappy. But as nerve racking as it can feel, your first poo doesn’t have to be traumatic and often isn’t! To be honest it's the poos that come around 2 to 3 weeks that can be troublesome. This is when you aren’t as onto your hydration and your milk making needs are increasing. Please keep up your hydration - I really can’t stress enough how important that is for our pelvic floor, soft stools and whole recovery.
You can also add psyllium husk and flaxseeds to porridge, smoothies and yoghurt. Honey and guar gum are also great dietary additions. Staying natural is epic, but if your poo is hard, it can lead to anal fissures and trust me, they’re no fun– I’ve had them twice (they feel like you are shitting glass!). Want to know more (of course you do!) – check out these two Instagram posts:
Constipation, hard stools and straining to poo wreak havoc on the pelvic floor (which may have been through the ringer during birth). Avoiding constipation is an absolute must. Drink water until your urine is clear. Avoid processed foods and have some Movicol or Osmalax on hand just in case. And here’s some handy poo tips to help you:
- No phones – this means out prefrontal cortex is off, and we can work better with our body.
- Go when you need to go. Stuff everything else and just go when you feel the urge. Your body has already worked an hour to get here, help a sister out!
- Assume the correct poo position – feet flat on stool, knees higher than hips, lean forward.
- Knees inwards to open the pelvic outlet and lengthen the pelvic floor.
- Use my OO-CHA technique.
Check out my handy how-to-poo video right here (who needs Netflix?).
4. Toilet time – Postpartum wees
If you’ve had a tear or graze, postpartum wees can sting. But as always, I’ve got you covered. If you’ve had a hospital birth, they’ll likely give you Ural to reduce the acidity in urine and help with the sting. You can pre-purchase some for home or make your own remedy with baking soda. Baking soda works just as well to reduce acidity in urine. Mix a teaspoon into a glass of water - it doesn’t taste great but works wonders.
Here are some other neat ways to wee postpartum:
- Sit on the toilet backwards (you can close the door, so your family doesn’t think you’ve completely lost it). It helps you relax, lengthen your pelvic floor (great for weeing) and reduces straining. It also redirects wee away from tears and grazes.
- Wee gently – don’t force it – it should be a passive experience. Blow as you flow! - aka simply breathe out and allow it to flow. Avoid straining to start weeing, avoid pushing to fully empty your bladder and don’t try to wee unless you need to (i.e. you’re up in the night so you go because you’re awake). This kind of straining creates further pressure on your pelvic floor. It can make an existing prolapse worse or cause further damage to a weak vaginal wall.
- Use a perineal wash bottle to clean your vulva, perineum, or anus without needing to wipe. Your vulva will feel a little uncomfortable and swollen, especially if you’ve torn or had an episiotomy. This wash bottle cleans the area and then you can gently pat dry. Keeping it in the fridge provides some extra refreshing coolness.
5. Your postpartum body – what’s normal and what’s not
You know your body better than any other person. If something doesn’t feel right, it isn’t right.
It’s normal for your vulva to be swollen after a vaginal birth or for some swelling and discomfort on your caesarean scar. Ice packs are great – cold to reduce swelling and then switch to heat to help the blood flow return once the swelling has resolved. You can use these epic undies that have a pouch and come with a cold/hot insert to make life a little more comfortable. You can also make your own postnatal padsicles – I show you how here. Or save the mess and buy some here.
For a caesarean section, you might find this video on how to do caesarean scar massage helps with your healing.
So yes, some symptoms are normal and manageable at home. But other symptoms, though common, aren’t normal and you don’t have to suffer through them:
- Urinary leaks or urgency
- Lots of constipation and straining to poo
- Pelvic pain during sex
- Joint pain in the hips, lower back or sacroiliac joint (which links your pelvic and lower spine)
- Pelvic pressure or it feels like something is falling out (can be a heavy, dragging feeling)
- Excessive dryness in either the vulva or vagina
If you’re experiencing any of these, you can book for a Core & Floor Chat to discuss with me or you can see a healthcare provider who specialises in pelvic floor and postpartum recovery. You can find a community recommended practitioner in our Core & Floor Directory.
Make sure you check out my list of questions to ask before booking a pelvic floor examination. That way, you’ll get the most out of your appointment. And have a read through the care provider red flags to help you find someone you trust. Most care providers will see you once you’ve stopped bleeding (around six weeks), but it’s always worth talking to them earlier if you need to.
It takes six months to heal if you’ve had no injury during pregnancy or birth. Longer, around 6 months to two years if you have. And don’t forget that healing isn’t linear. There’ll be ups and downs. It can be frustrating but you will get there and you can improve and remove your symptoms. You can heal.
6. Functional movement and exercise postpartum
You spend around 42 weeks stretching your body in pregnancy. Then you stretch it further during birth. In postpartum, your body is vulnerable. You need to protect it. There’s a lot of healing to be done. No other time in our lives is our body under so much strain and stress. And then there’s the baby to look after.
During postpartum, we move a lot. Our body is tired from lack of sleep. And we carry our babies - who don’t stop growing - around for much of the day. Here’s some functional exercise tips and tricks:
- Not lifting is ideal – but impractical with a newborn who needs to be close. Try different positions that are comfortable like side lying or a laying on the floor with your hips and legs elevated. Setting healthy boundaries with older children who can walk, “no to the behaviour and yes to the feelings” is a boundary mantra I live by. But it’s not always possible, therefore it’s important to understand how to lift safely so as not to cause further damage.
- We’re often told short walks are great in those first 6 weeks but walking isn’t an ideal postpartum exercise. 10 minutes of core and floor related activity to rebuild foundational strength will aid your recovery.
- Start with connection - diaphragmatic breath and core and pelvic floor activation. Then you can build onto that. This is what my programs provide you. An understanding of when your muscles need to contract and when they need to lengthen. I teach you how and help you get back to doing what you love.
- Exercise helps you heal. I can help with my:
And make sure you check out these posts to help you with a safe, epic postpartum recovery:
- Avoiding coning in your abdomen and creating further strain on connective tissues.
- Safely picking up baby from the ground
- The safest posture for holding your babe
Pram pushing (don’t put your back into it!)
7. Emotional and mental health support during the postpartum period
Parenthood is a wild ride. Whether it’s your first babe or your fourth, emotional and mental health support is important. Mental health issues in the perinatal period are common. Up to 1 in 5 women experience anxiety and/or depression during pregnancy, and/or following birth. There’s multiple causes and triggers and it’s vital to have a support network in place if you’re struggling. It’s very common and there is support to help you through.
Talking through your birth experience can help. A birth debrief can unpack any trauma (1 in 3 Australian women report birth trauma, 1 in 10 obstetric violence). But even if you had the birth you wanted, it can help you understand the single most transformative time in your life. It’s an opportunity to honour your birth story.
If you’re struggling with motherhood, please know, you are not alone. It’s the hardest journey you’ll ever go on. I offer Postnatal Support in those early weeks and months. This can help with feelings of overwhelm. And, as a highly experienced midwife, I can answer any questions or concerns you may have.
When you’re a little further along, and looking for an epic modern mum village – you can join my Modern Mum Village Coaching to keep you motivated, accountable and meet other epic mums on the same journey as you.
I also run a Centering the Mother in person workshop with TEDx speaker and parenting expert Lael Stone. You can find a workshop near you to get the extra support you need and help you navigate the ups and downs of motherhood. Our Holding the Mother program is launching soon to support you through your initiation to motherhood.
8. Lactation and Breastfeeding Support
The early days of breastfeeding can be challenging. A lactation consultant is worth their weight in gold. They help you with positioning, latch and supply issues. Often your hospital or birth centre will have a lactation consultant attached.Many lactation consultants offer their services online via zoom, so if there isn’t one near you – still reach out.
9. Understanding the postpartum issues
Educating yourself on the common postpartum issues means you can spot them if they arise. Here’s some helpful links to get you learning:
- Prolapse – learn all about it!
- What is Diastasis Recti and how can you heal from it?
- How is your Diastasis Recti assessed?
- Pelvic Floor tension from emotion, scarring, tears, previous surgeries and birth injury can cause leakage and prolapse too. All my programs cover this is in detail but here are some handy links:
- What pelvic floor tension may look like
- What causes pelvic floor tension
- You can have a tight and weak pelvic floor
- Tips for an overactive pelvic floor
- Helpful pelvic floor lengthening exercises
- Tips for tailbone pain
- Managing mastitis – tips to heal.
- Reducing excessive wiping of your anus postpartum (yep – I cover it all!)
- Anal fissures – part one and part two
- Vaginal bubbles and vaginal farts - yep they’re both a thing that you should know about!
- Vaginismus – never heard of it? Time to get reading!
10. Baby sleep
Every baby sleeps differently. And every mother copes differently with sleep deprivation.
Babies are not meant to sleep for long periods. They wake frequently at night, and they often catnap in the day. Much of their napping will be done on you (known as contact napping) in the early weeks and months. This is very normal and makes sense in terms of their survival. It can also be hard, because you don’t get much done and you start to worry whether your dining table can support that many loads of unfolded washing.
This is where you need help. From your partner (if you have one), a postpartum doula, a mothers help service (if you have one in your neighbourhood), your family, your neighbours and your friends. People want to help, and you need to learn to say yes (I know that’s not easy for most!). It’ll make the world of difference in those exhausting first few months. And always remember, you are never alone.
When it comes to baby sleep, I’ve always found bed-sharing an epic way to minimise disruption to my own sleep. Not getting up in the night means I don’t fully wake and find it easier to get back to sleep once baby finishes feeding. A lot of parents bed-share and you can learn more about how to do it safely in the following posts:
Lael Stone and Marion Rose also discuss baby sleep on Episode 59 of the Aware Parenting Podcast which is well worth a listen.
11. Ditch the postpartum myths
You don’t have to wait 6 weeks to exercise. You just need to rethink what exercise is. Exercise isn’t pushing yourself to the limit. It can be five minutes of breathing and core and floor activation, breath connection or gentle stretching. Soft, calm movement is key. Check out this series of gentle stretches to relieve upper back, neck, shoulder or wrist pain.
There are also key, foundational ways to move our bodies in postpartum that protect our pelvic floor. You can read a little about it here, or check out my programs for a more in depth understanding of how to best support your body during postpartum.
12. Free videos for a sore postpartum body
- Sore neck and shoulders https://www.instagram.com/p/CLbXVn2Dx93/ and https://www.instagram.com/p/B2L5I-yA74h/
- Wrist pain from holding and feeding babe https://www.instagram.com/p/B1iXDE6AYDh/
- Hip pain and sciatica https://www.instagram.com/p/CHzvtPvAAuB/
- Sore back https://www.instagram.com/p/CDOQuqBAD0E/ and https://www.instagram.com/reel/CcsDF5FDK90/
- Bum clenching https://www.instagram.com/reel/CcuvHBljIiJ/
- Waking with hip pain https://www.instagram.com/p/CZwA2myjpTu/
13. Bodyworkers for postpartum and beyond
Exercise is epic but I also love the support of bodyworkers to assist in your recovery. Osteopaths and chiropractors bring your body back into alignment whilst acupuncture can help to increase blood flow and aid healing. These practitioners can help you better support your body through the postpartum recovery period.
I am trained in Pelvic Floor Internal Release that helps release, reconnect and interpret your body’s unspoken story.
14. A few of my favourite postpartum items
You’ve probably got a checklist of all the things you need for babe, but what about you? Here’s a few of my favourite postpartum items to make those first few months a little smoother:
- The ultimate postpartum undies with a unique design to hold a warm and cool insert.
- Postpartum Care Duo - includes bare mum undies and ice/heat pack
- Silverettes to heal sore, cracked nipples (I cannot recommend these enough for almost instant soothing for your nips especially in those early days and weeks).
- Collagen Protein - do support your Collagen needs through postpartum
- Foraged for you - a unqiue blend to support postpartum and breastfeeding women
- Postpartum panties - adult nappies - perfect for your pregnant & postpartum tummy.
- Mama mantra cards by Seasons of Mama
- The Cork Ball to aid in body recovery and massage
- Made to milk cookies and lactation smoothies to support you in breastfeeding
- Or check out my fav combos here