Lying In with Your Baby: The First Two Weeks – Fiona Judd
We’ve all seen her—the mom who has her baby and two days later is back in the grind of carpools, shopping, and even laundry. We wonder how she does it. We secretly hope it happens to us. Our culture seems to value women who can “bounce right back” after childbirth and leaves little time for rest and bonding. But is this realistic? Is it even healthy? As it turns out, many cultures throughout history have embraced a time of “lying in” for women after childbirth, and the benefits may surprise you. Lying in is the sacred time after childbirth that allows the new momma to rest, heal and bond with her new baby.
Mothers who observe a period of rest after childbirth will probably notice a faster physical recovery. Their bleeding will stop sooner, and they will experience less pain in their perineum. They will also notice a faster recovery emotionally, as sleep can help with the “baby blues” that are so common as the hormones adjust after giving birth.
For breastfeeding mothers, lying in is a great way to establish a healthy milk supply and ensure that baby is gaining weight. Babies who lie in with their mothers are healthier overall, as their little bodies can more easily regulate things like breathing and heart rate when in close proximity to their mother. Finally, mothers and babies are much more closely bonded when lying in occurs, as it makes it easier to read the baby’s cues and learn to soothe and care for her.
It’s true that lying in can be difficult in a more modern society. Life keeps going at an incredibly fast pace, even after you have a baby, and there are lots of things that can’t be put on hold. But with a little preparation and help from those closest to you, you can create your own period of lying in with your new baby that will provide lasting benefits. Here are some ways you—as a modern mother—can observe a two-week period of lying in with your newborn.
Set up Your Space
It’s much easier to rest and relax when your space is conducive to relaxation. The first few days after birth should be spent in bed with your baby—nursing, sleeping, and bonding. Have someone with you all day if possible to bring you meals and take care of immediate needs. This could be your spouse, parent, or other close family member or friend. If you have other children, make sure someone is available to care for their needs as well.
Place items next to your bed that you know you will need. This may include a good book, feeding supplies like bottles/formula or nipple cream and a nursing pillow, diapers and wipes, snacks, a water bottle, a thermos with warm tea, and anything else you may find yourself using frequently. You may want to set up a similar “resting station” in another area of the home such as a living room sofa. Make sure you are near a bathroom that is well-stocked with postpartum recovery supplies like pads, bottom spray, and a peri bottle.
Clear Your Schedule
As much as possible, clear your schedule for the first two weeks after birth. This includes things like social events, volunteering, carpool pickups, and even church. If you have daily or weekly responsibilities, ask others to fill in for you for a couple of weeks. People are usually more than willing to help out a new mother. If you have other children, ask another trusted adult—such as your partner or a neighbor—to help get them to school and extracurricular activities.
Don’t agree to attend any events the first several weeks after giving birth. It’s okay to respond with a “maybe.” Let people know that you will try to be there if you are feeling up to it, but that your healing and bonding take first priority.
Stock Your Freezer
One of the best things you can do to prepare for a “lying in” period is have a freezer stocked with meals that are easy to prepare. You can choose to make these meals from scratch and freeze them yourself, purchase frozen meals from the store, or a little of both.
Don’t be overwhelmed by the idea of making freezer meals all at once. One of the easiest ways to stock your freezer is to double your favorite recipes as you cook meals prior to the baby’s arrival and use half that night and freeze the rest. It doesn’t require much extra effort to double a recipe, and you end up with enough for another meal.
If cost is a concern, watch for sales on the frozen food items your family likes to eat, or ingredients for your favorite recipes, and stock up. Things that freeze well are soups, stews, chilis, casseroles, and slow cooker meals.
Another way to stock your freezer is to request meals from friends and family who attend your baby shower or ask what they can do to help after the baby comes. You can even request a “meal train” from friends and family. Someone close to you may be willing to arrange it, but you can also arrange it yourself by sending out a list of dates and having people sign up to provide a meal on each date.
It’s also a good idea to stock your pantry with dry goods you use often. This reduces the number of trips to the grocery store you will need to make after the baby is born. Make a list of your essentials and watch for a sale on those items so you can stock up without breaking the bank.
If your budget allows, consider hiring some extra help for the first few weeks after baby arrives. A postpartum doula is trained to work with women after giving birth. She can help with breastfeeding, errands, light housework, laundry, breastfeeding, caring for other children, and even meal preparation. Some postpartum doulas can come during the night and help care for your new baby so you can get extra sleep during that time. Postpartum doulas usually work on an hourly basis and cost anywhere from $20-$40 per hour.
You may also want to consider hiring a professional cleaning service for the first few weeks postpartum so you don’t have to worry about a messy house while you recover. Some women don’t mind a little extra clutter and disorganization, but some find that their physical and mental health are affected by the appearance of the home.
If you don’t have anyone that can come help you care for your other children, you may also want to hire a nanny or babysitter for a few hours each day so that you can have time to rest.
Enjoy Your Baby
Last of all, remember to relax and enjoy your tiny new baby! The newborn stage passes quickly—almost in the blink of an eye. Taking time to slow down and enjoy each moment will really make a difference in how you feel and your relationship with your baby. The first two weeks are critical to your baby’s development, both physical and mental. The more time you can devote to cuddling, fondling, singing, talking, and playing, the more your baby will make those important connections in the brain that lead to healthy growth.
It may seem difficult at first, but with a little extra planning and preparation, you can enjoy a two-week “lying in” period after your baby’s birth that will provide long-lasting benefits for years to come. Instead of focusing on “bouncing back” from childbirth as quickly as possible, do yourself a favor and use these tips to make your first few weeks after birth really count.