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.
Pregnancy is full of so many new and beautiful things (and let’s be real here… a few not so beautiful things.) With those things come questions. Oh, so very many questions. As doulas, we hear a lot of these and we have some incredible members of the Utah Doula Association here to answer a few for you.
But first: A disclaimer- We are not medical providers. Please talk to your doctor or midwife about any questions/concerns you have. After all, that’s one of the reasons you’ve hired them… They want you and your baby to stay happy and healthy!
Now onto the questions! We chose the questions we see and hear most often from our clients and community and collected answers from some of our local doulas.
What foods should I avoid?
”Eating well-balanced meals during pregnancy is very important for you and your developing baby. Most foods are safe; however, there are some foods that should be avoided. Here is a list of the top foods to avoid during pregnancy.
- Raw or undercooked meats, seafood, and shellfish
- Deli meats or refrigerated meat of any kind, unless heated until steaming (165° F)
- Fish containing high levels of mercury including: shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish. Canned, chunk light tuna usually contains less mercury than other tuna, but should be limited to less than 6 ounces per week.
- Organ meat more than once per week
- Raw eggs or any foods containing raw eggs
- Unpasteurized milk, cheeses, or fruit juice
- Salads from the deli containing eggs or meat
- More than 200 mg of caffeine per day
- Unwashed produce
- Raw or undercooked sprouts
- Junk foods
If you have questions about the safety of a certain food, be sure to speak with your care provider.”
– Karina Robinson, myutahdoulas.com
Can I still workout?
“I would say always check with a doctor before beginning a new exercise routine, if you have been
active before it is ok to continue being active, and be sure to talk to your instructors and ask them for modifications if you do any type of high impact workouts. Yoga, moderate cardio, and moderate weight training have shown to actually be beneficial in pregnancy.”
– Bonnie Baker, bellissimobirth.com
What should I put in my hospital bag?
“Of course some of the more obvious items come to mind: toothbrush, phone charger and hair brush. But maybe you have a comfort item such as a blanket or picture that relaxes you? Is your pillow amazing and you can’t sleep without it? Pajamas, slippers and a bathrobe can help you feel more comfortable in the sterile environment of a hospital. Bring whatever is that helps you feel like you. It could be mascara, lip gloss or a curling iron. Hospitals are dry so bring lotion and chapstick as well. And don’t forget the car seat!!”
– Melissa Olson, bundlesofjoy.biz
What is a birth plan and how do I write one?
“A birth plan is a tool for communicating your needs and desires for your birth experience to your doctor, nurses, midwife, and/or doula. When writing yours, consider how you want your birth to be. What would you like to have as part of it? What procedures would you like to avoid? If you aren’t sure, Google some examples of birth plans to see what’s included. A good rule of thumb is to keep it to one page with bulleted points. Clear and concise. Focus more on what you DO want than what you don’t. And make sure your doctor, spouse or partner, and anyone else supporting you reads it before you go into labor.”
– BreeAnn Moore, positivebodymindandbaby.com
How can I make sure I stay hydrated?
“Staying hydrated is so important for mother and baby. Get yourself a leak-proof water bottle that you LOVE (you’re more likely to use it if you love it!) Keep it with you at all times to sip throughout the day. Make a habit of taking a few swallows every time you use the bathroom, whenever you receive a text, when you feel your baby move, or whatever other small task will help you to remember. If plain water is hard to drink, consider adding a squeeze of lemon, a few muddled mint leaves, or a small handful of fresh or frozen berries. Try eating fruits and vegetables with a high water content too. Apples, oranges, melons, leafy greens, and celery are great options.”
– Melissa Nanes, honeybeebirth.com
What stretches can help relieve pregnancy aches and pains?
“Aches and pains are very common in pregnancy – specifically and especially in the low back. Before I get into some of the stretches that may help, I want to say that if you are having debilitating or persistent pain you should bring it up with your care provider who can work with you to set up an exercise plan specific to you and your needs. If you’re not worried about the pain and simply seeking some comfort, here are some ideas for you: pigeon pose, modified or not, is a great pose to both externally rotate the hip and get a nice stretch in the low back – two things that will help bring relief. Hamstring stretches, like a standing or seated forward fold, will also stretch the low back. Hugging the knees into the chest – as wide as you need your knees to accommodate your growing belly – or some gentle twists can also be helpful to the low back. Three great strengthening exercises for the low back are reverse plank or simple reverse table-top position, bridge pose, and staff pose – strengthening the area may be just what you need for some added support to hold up your growing uterus and the extra bit of weight that makes up your sweet baby – or babies!”
– Stephanie Baldi, bluelotusmama.com
How do I use a birthing ball/peanut ball?
“Birthing and peanut balls are amazing tools to use both during pregnancy and labor. Sitting on a birth ball can help you maintain good posture and keep your pelvis open so baby can more easily get into an optimal position for delivery. Many women find that during the early stages of labor they can help trigger contractions by bouncing on a birthing ball or doing hip circles while sitting on one. Peanut and birthing balls are also fabulous ways to be in a more resting position during labor, while also helping with maintaining good posture, positioning, and opening of the pelvis. Some great restful positions include: lying on your side with a peanut ball between your legs, sitting on a birth ball while lying/leaning over a bed or couch arm, and sitting in a reclined position with a peanut ball under one knee.”
– Charity Wheeler, purelovedoula.com
How do I write a postpartum plan?
“Expectant couples can spend months researching their perfect birth, but many fail to consider the postpartum period and it can take mothers by surprise. Because the postpartum period inhabits so much and lasts for months, if not years, it’s essential to plan accordingly. A postpartum plan is similar to your birth plan. Here are a few things to consider…
- Who can offer assistance by rallying family and friends or choosing a postpartum doula to support you?
- How long will your partner be off work to bond with baby and help mom?
- Who can help schedule the delivery of meals?
- Who can transport older children to and from school?
- Plan ahead for dates and travel arrangements for out of town family visits.
- Who can come pick up toddlers and have playdates while you rest?
- Can you pay for a housecleaning service?
- How long will your maternity leave be?
- Do you need to pump extra while on maternity leave to have a milk storage?
- Do you need to start interviewing nannies or daycare providers?
Things to be done at home before your baby is here…
- Prepare a bunch of freezer meals. Fill your freezer!
- Buy a lot of healthy snacks to keep on hand when mom isn’t able to cook.
- Wash and organize all baby’s laundry.
- Create a feeding area with a water bottle, snacks, magazines, etc.
- Talk to older siblings about your new addition.
- Enjoy the everyday moments!”
– Tobie Spears, peacefuldoulaservices.net
What if I am not sure about the care provider that I have chosen… especially late in my pregnancy?
“Trust your gut feeling. If you are questioning things about your care provider, look into other options. It’s not too late, even near the end of pregnancy, to change your mind. You might find that it’s the best decision that you’ve ever made. It certainly does not hurt to look into your options. There are usually red flags during the pregnancy if your care provider is not supportive of your birthing choices. Don’t ignore those. It is one of the most important choices that you can make in your whole birthing experience. Even if you are in labor at a hospital and you don’t like your nurse don’t feel bad about asking for a new one.”
– Joleen Cullens, thehealingtreemassage.com
When will I go into labor and what happens if I go over my due date?
“These may feel like the most pertinent questions as you near your birthing time. We are so used to planning and knowing what happens next and when. Being used to scheduling everything can make the unknown of the birthing time seem elusive and perhaps always on the horizon. You may not find it comforting to be told things like, ‘Baby will come when they are ready.’ Or even, ‘It will happen when it happens.’ It won’t take away the guesswork of the unknown, but it may help you breath easier knowing that the time frame during which baby can arrive really is not easily written down to a certain day.
So what do you do if you go over your due date? This is a perfect question to ask your care provider. His/her answer will give you a good idea about their policies regarding ‘over term’ births and if their policies match how you would handle the situation. Some providers may begin suggesting induction as early as 39 weeks. Others will follow your lead to wait for baby to come on their own as long as everyone is looking healthy and strong. When making a decision between induction and waiting for labor to occur spontaneously, it is important that you gather all the information necessary to make a decision for you and your baby. ACOG’s (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) current recommendation is that induction based on due dates is not recommended before 39 weeks, nor 39-41 weeks unless the cervix is deemed favorable. Ultimately, choosing to wait for baby to come on their own is the safest option for both mother and baby, as it lowers the chance of birthing by cesarean section, and shows improved outcomes for both mother and baby. Since there is no magical number for knowing when your baby is fully developed and ready to be born, leaving it up to him or her to choose their birthing time, when possible, is ideal.”
– Raquel Alfaro, starlightdoulaservices.com
How can I prepare for my VBAC?
“Read pregnancy and vaginal birth after cesarean books. I think some really good ones are The VBAC Companion by Diana Korte, Open Season by Nancy Wainer Cohen, Birthing From Within by Pam England, and Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth. Consider registering for VBAC specific courses in an independent prenatal program. These can be refresher courses if you have taken courses before. I’d also recommend participating in ICAN. It is a support group for women that have had a previous cesarean. They are amazing, and a wonderful free resource!
Enlist the encouragement of a supportive care provider. Find a caregiver/hospital who already provides the options you want, and doesn’t need to be convinced. Find someone who believes in you and your body’s capability to birth your baby, in VBACs, has a VBAC success rate over 75%, and a cesarean rate that is lower than the community average. If possible, consider having a midwife as your primary caregiver. Midwives have a very low rate of cesarean birth. If you are unsure about anything, get a second opinion. Trust your inner strength and knowledge.
Hire a doula/labor assistant/support person. It is worth every penny to be reassured during labor by someone who believes birth is a natural function. This person will have supportive non-medical skills to help you through labor for the birth you want. This person will assist you from the day you hire her right through postpartum, and provide in person support from the onset of labor until you have settled in to cuddle with your baby.
Throughout pregnancy, practice relaxation. Your body has muscle memory and the more you practice releasing the muscles in your pelvic floor, legs, and buttocks the less you will have to ‘convince’ your body to do while in labor. Use affirmations such as ‘each contraction strengthens my baby and me.’ Or ‘I will birth my baby vaginally, naturally, and joyfully.’ Discuss everything that is important to you with your care provider, putting it all into your birth plan. Make extra copies to be put in your chart. Know your hospital’s VBAC policies and negotiate well before the birth for anything different. Your doula will happily discuss with you what to put in the plan if you have any trouble at all writing it. Research your options. Talk with your birth partner.
You can do this!”
– Rachel Winsley, mindfulbirthllc.com
We hope some of your questions have been answered here and that the UDA will continue to be a useful reference and resource to you. Stay tuned for future posts!