Better Postpartum’s 5 secrets to getting through the postpartum haze

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Better Postpartum’s 5 secrets to getting through the postpartum haze

It’s no secret that having a baby will put a mother in need of some serious R&R. So here to help with tips on how we can best take care of ourselves after we have given birth is Better Postpartum Founder and #MINDRMAMA Natalie Telyatnikov. Natalie, a postpartum support specialist, shares her 5 secrets for making sure that every new mom is able to rest, recover and focus on her needs, all while staying focused on the needs of her newest addition. Say hey to Natalie at @betterpostpartum.

If you’ve just had, or are about to have a baby… congrats!

As a postpartum support specialist, what I want for you, and for every mom, is to be informed about what you will experience after you give birth; and to feel empowered to have the most successful, healthy and happy start to your life with your new baby. Which you may have already guessed: is no small task.

After all (and those of you who’ve already been on the other side of birth will nod) those early days and weeks of new motherhood often come with a whole host of fun little life-upheavals. Women who give birth undergo a series of serious biochemical, hormonal, and brain composition changes. They are thrust into ‘recovery mode’ after giving birth, often needing to heal physically from a wide range of postpartum conditions. Add to that the potential pain and discomfort of breastfeeding and you’ve got a complete recipe for slight-to-severe postpartum suffering.

Oops. Did I forget to mention that you will be doing all of this while functioning on a debilitating less-than-3-hours of sleep? Silly me! Sorry. Because: Yes. That too.

So please read on, as I share these 5 secrets to getting through the postpartum haze.

Secret # 1: Learn everything you can about the postpartum period. If you are educated, then you will be empowered to set yourself up for better success.

Your postpartum time with your new baby has the potential to be sweet, intimate, and special.

But, if we’re being completely honest—it seldom is described by women that way. This is in part due to the fact that this particular period of the “birthing continuum” is very often overlooked and tragically ill prepared for—especially when compared to how much prep time goes into learning about techniques to get through the labor and delivery phase.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) and HealthRight International have published studies showing that up to 80% of women report reduced symptoms of postpartum depression and other postpartum hardships, when given proper preparatory and educational guidance. With the right education, support, tools, resources, and advice and care from the right specialists and healthcare practitioners, mothers would be in a better position to avoid or alleviate many of the common, universal challenges that arise in the postpartum time.  A Better Postpartum class is a one-stop shop for the best postpartum care practices and advice from midwives, doulas, lactation consultants, nutritionists, therapists and sleep specialists.

Secret # 2: Follow this basic rule: Your job is to make sure that your (and baby’s) basic needs are met. No one else’s.

I can’t tell you how many moms I’ve worked with who are completely focused on their baby’s needs, but are dismally unaware of how badly they are ignoring, or voluntarily choosing to forgo, their own needs in those early days, weeks, and months after having a baby.

Your needs must come first. Then your baby’s—at a very close second. Remember: You have to secure your own oxygen mask, before assisting others. This is just as true in motherhood, as it is as a passenger on a Boeing 787. Every child deserves a well mother. So make sure your needs are getting met in a variety of ways every day, so that you are mothering from a place of wellness. This can mean doing anything from taking breaks to taking showers, from having tea to chatting with friends, putting your baby down, and generally letting others care for you and your baby. 

Don’t forget, this also may include, going to see specialists, joining support groups, fostering a sense of community, going to the right doctors/therapists, getting a massage, any thing that falls under the big, giant realm of “taking care of you. I’m talking about: Your needs. Your health. Your body. Your emotions. You, you, you.

Secret # 3: Nourish yourself with the right healing foods. Focus on your health and nutrition which will aid in your recovery.

Our postpartum physiology requires us to eat certain types of healthy, nourishing and healing postpartum foods in order to better recover from the act of giving birth. What we put in our bodies can assist in the repair of our body tissue, help replace lost blood supply, assist our organs in properly processing and eliminating toxins, and help to regulate our hormonal and nervous systems.

Generally, I recommend eating foods that are “warm in temperature, warm in nature”. These are foods that are warm/hot in temperature and are seasoned with warming spices. Think hot herbal teas, hot porridge with spices like ginger, cinnamon, molasses or cloves, with plenty of melty animal fats, like butter and/or ghee. Or for lunch/dinner, try slow-cooked meat stews—and plenty of bone broths. These are the rich healing foods that exist in the traditions of many cultures all over the world, and are also seen throughout history, as being given to postpartum women.

Secret # 4: Be the boss. Use managerial skills to delegate and outsource.

As the mother hen, you are now the Queen of the house. And like any successful boss: you must learn to delegate. You must learn to outsource.

What does ‘being the boss’ look like in practice? It looks like hiring help. Or getting your partner, your mother, your neighbor, your aunt, your anyone… to do things for you. It is imperative to understand that no matter who helps you—you will need help with all the things: cleaning, cooking, laundering, and with baby care. You will need meals, showers, phone calls, and breaks. Maybe you register for a meal train, a postpartum doula, a night nanny, or a babysitter. I’m telling you: whatever you can get, get that. The general rule of thumb here? Get more than you think you need. (Trust me on that one).

The old “It Takes a Village” adage sometimes feels a bit cliche—so—okay—let’s say something different. How about: “It Takes a Whole Staff of People?”  Or: “It Takes a Football Team?” Okay—maybe we’re not ready just yet to entrust our babies to a football team. Bad example. But, you get the point.

Secret # 5: Make your bed your “best friend” and your “home base.”

You need to recoup, recover, and conserve energy. You need to nap whenever you can, if you can. Or just zombie out, and lay like a corpse—you’re still recharging your batteries that way, just at a slower ‘charge’ level. The fact of the matter is: You will need lots of time in the supine position. Rest helps you heal, helps you lose less blood, helps your internal anatomy reset properly, and helps you to conserve your mood and energy levels.

Plus, loads of cuddles and skin-to-skin time will supply you with the oxytocin (love hormone) you need to feel over-the-moon in love, and could help you with breastfeeding attempts as well.

So stay in bed. Read and watch movies there. Decorate your room with flowers. Eat your meals on trays.

Time spent like this is often at the very heart—it is the foundational root—of what it takes to regain your strength, and to feel good, in your new life as a new mother.

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Friday Five

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Friday Five

We've reached the end of the week and, thanks in part to the efforts of Mindr speaker, Nobel laureate and antinuclear activist Beatrice Fihn, the world is still predominantly in tact. Win! Here are our five fave links to send you into the weekend.

  1. New Federal Trade Commissioner Rebecca Slaughter is bringing her baby to work with her until she is ready to transition to daycare. "I am tired," she said (PS we are too). "I don't feel superhuman. I feel like a mom who has a career... and I'm trying to navigate the two."
  2. Following the recent incident of racial profiling in a Philadelphia store, Starbucks shut down for four hours all around the nation to deliver unconscious bias training to its employees (apparently narrated by the rapper Common).
  3. Serena Williams is back in the game 8 months after the birth of baby Olympia, backing up epic mic-drop moments with some real talk about postpartum depression.
  4. This Wednesday marked Moms' Equal Pay Day, because it takes roughly five months — or 150 days — into the year for the average working mother to earn what a father had made in 2017. 
  5. NPR research finds that dads like their sons better and moms prefer their daughters.

That's a wrap on the week, Mindr fam. Miss us IRL? Come hang out at our upcoming event with the United Nations World Food Programme, Celebrity Chef Pasquale Cozzolino and some other superstar guests, when we talk about the fight to end hunger and how each of us can be the change.

Cover photo by Stylish & Hip Kids photography.

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Changing the world, one diaper at a time.

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Changing the world, one diaper at a time.

At Mindr, we believe every parent is a changemaker. And #MINDRMAMA Audrey Symes is an inspiring example. A real estate economist turned stay-at-home mom, Audrey found out that when families can't afford diapers, this unleashes all sorts of problems - from diaper rash through to flow-on impacts on childcare and the parents' work. So she decided to do something about it, one spare diaper at a time. Here, she shares her story of becoming an accidental advocate from her local playgroup all the way to the Hill.

In June 2016, just after my daughter’s second birthday, I entered a new era.

After two years of adjustment to motherhood, having conquered the feed/change/repeat routine, I finally felt like I had the time and mental bandwidth to do more. I was working from home on a project basis in my field of investment research, but I wanted to find another way to engage the intellectual and creative skills that had been somewhat mothballed during my daughter's infancy.

My mother was a dedicated community volunteer during my childhood, and I have always gotten great joy and satisfaction out of volunteer work. However, finding something that fit my schedule was tricky. Most volunteer events are held at night and on the weekends, and I was looking for something I could do either with my daughter as part of our day together or at home during her naps. I contacted the GOOD+ Foundation in New York City and asked if there was any need I could fill, thinking maybe I could help them with paperwork or spreadsheets from home, but the answer came back loud and clear: DIAPERS.

For the first time, I learned about the staggering problem of diaper need in the United States. The National Diaper Bank Network, working with Yale School of Medicine and Huggies, has confirmed in multiple studies that one in three American families lacks enough diapers to keep their babies clean and healthy. Diapers are expensive, roughly $80/month, and there is no federal, state, or city aid for their purchase.

In the immediate term, as you can imagine, diaper need leads to rashes, infections, and sometimes lasting urological problems for the babies. This is bad enough, but diaper need can also create a wide range of lasting problems for the entire family. Families have to provide diapers for their children to attend daycare or early childhood education, so a lack of diapers means that children can’t attend these programs - and parents can’t work, reducing the family’s resources. Diaper need has also been identified as a primary trigger for maternal depression among low-income mothers. In fact, it is even more highly correlated to maternal mental health disorders than food insecurity - and maternal depression can in turn cast a long shadow over the entire family’s physical and mental well-being. Diaper banks across the country heroically meet this need by distributing donated diapers to families through social service agencies. Donations from individuals are the fuel that keeps these banks going.

In the immediate term, diaper need leads to rashes, infections, and sometimes lasting urological problems for the babies. This is bad enough, but diaper need can also create a wide range of lasting problems for the entire family.

This issue really hit home for me, not only because I knew how essential a clean diaper is to a happy, healthy child (and mom!), but also because I knew from my diaper-changing career that people often end up with leftovers - from sizing up, trying a brand that didn’t work, toilet training, even accidentally buying the wrong size. I just knew that there was no reason that leftover diapers sitting in people’s apartments couldn’t be put to good use with a little legwork. Posting to my Facebook moms group, I announced a month-long diaper drive, offering to come pick up diapers of any size and amount from donors’ buildings. I hoped to collect 500 diapers.

Within a few days, I was getting round-the-clock messages from moms eager to give back. Like me, they could see how easy and efficient it was to give back through donating diapers. My daughter and I started stopping by their buildings on the way to the park and the grocery store, festooning her stroller with bags of diapers of all sizes, brands and types. Within days I had hit 1,000, touched by the overwhelming generosity of moms across the city eager to give back. I knew I had identified something great, and was encouraged to keep going. I asked at my church; I asked at my daughter’s preschool; I talked about it to anyone and everyone. My husband did too, and soon diapers started appearing at his office as his co-workers were inspired to join in.

All in all, I have had the privilege of helping to collect close to 25,000 diapers for families in need across both New York City and my home state of Connecticut. My grassroots work has inspired me to get involved on the policy level. I have lobbied my local, state and federal representatives to recognize and reduce diaper need in New York and beyond, helping to gather bipartisan support to recognize a National Diaper Need Awareness Week. This project has taken on wings beyond what I ever could have imagined with that first Facebook post, and I can’t wait to see what its future brings.

All in all, I have had the privilege of helping to collect close to 25,000 diapers for families in need. My grassroots work has inspired me to get involved on the policy level.

And I have received so very much more than I have given. My diaper advocacy work is an extension of what it means to me to be a mother. My daughter, now turning four, is an expert at fitting diapers into the nooks and crannies of the stroller and bundling them for collection. She likes to talk about how diapers help our neighbors. I hope she can look back and be proud - of her own role, of mine, and of the fact that we did it together.

Want to help? Audrey will be speaking for Mindr in August about her advocacy work and how each of us is empowered to become a changemaker, and you can donate your leftover diapers to her cause at the event. Sign up to our newsletter and join us on Instagram and Facebook to stay in the know.

Cover photo by Elizabeth Pfaff, made available by Creative Commons license via Flickr. Subsequent photos courtesy of Audrey Symes.

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