Well, It has been about two months since Baby Sweet Potato arrived… that is so hard to believe! So, I thought it was time to talk to you all about my postpartum experience so far. I have tried to break it up into the different phases of our experience, but as anyone with a new baby can attest time sort of runs together in those early days so bear with me if it’s a little scrambled.
The Hospital Stay
I told you all about my wonderful hospital water birth experience in my last post, but I didn’t go into any detail on my hospital stay following the delivery. I chose to give birth in a hospital as opposed to a birth center or at home, in part because I thought it would be nice to have the support of the nursing staff in those first 24 hours. I knew that we wouldn’t get much sleep and that people would be coming in and out of our room, but I still thought I would appreciate some support while dealing with bathroom issues, breastfeeding, and pain management.
Unfortunately, things did not go the way I had envisioned. I was transferred to my postpartum room about three hours after the birth, I was physically exhausted from standing, moving and laboring for 27 hours so I was having trouble walking and without the option of taking NSAIDs I was having some pain from the stitches that I needed following the delivery. I think because the nurses saw in my chart that I had an uncomplicated delivery with no medication they assumed I didn’t need much attention so after one assisted trip to the bathroom they said I should just do it on my own and even after my insistence that I wanted to take Tylenol every 4 hours they never brought it in without me reminding them. Suffice it to say that even though I am more than used to having to advocate for myself in medical settings I was overwhelmed and exhausted by how many things I had to remind them to do during our stay and the anxiety I felt surrounding the situation kept me from sleeping at all. Given that this was our experience we really pushed to get discharged ASAP and we were home within 36 hours of the birth. I have never been so happy to be in my own bed in my life.
A lot of people have asked how I handled the food situation while in the hospital. I had a lot of snacks packed in my labor bag like these paleo protein bars (Not AIP), some honey sticks, apple sauce packets, almond butter (not AIP), and some plantain chips. I also packed ginger tea, coconut water, mineral water and chamomile tea to drink. Outside of that I decided to buy two days worth of meals from Paleo on the Go, and this was by far one of the best decisions I made! I really wanted to have good, nourishing foods on hand but having to cook it all ahead of time and portion it out and bring it to the hospital was not something I felt like doing in the later days of my pregnancy so I ordered the food from Paleo on the Go ahead of time put it all together in my freezer. My mom threw it in a cooler as we left for the hospital and when we arrived in our postpartum room we labeled it and put it in the fridge at the nurse’s station. All we had to do was microwave it when I was ready to eat. For breakfast I had the Chicken Breakfast Sausage and plantain pancakes, for lunches I had the Bacon Apple Chicken Burgers with Maple Cranberry Sauce and the Loaded Baked Sweet Potato Soup and for dinners I had the Organic Shepherd’s Pie and the Vegetable Lasagna with Pork Sausage. I also ordered two containers of bone broth and drank that with meals. Having AIP friendly, nourishing food, that I was looking forward to eating, was so incredibly helpful and was a huge stress reliever. I have never had a single meal from Paleo On The Go that I didn’t love, so I highly recommend it to anyone else planning a hospital stay!
The First Month
As a birth doula I understood the importance of having adequate support in those first few weeks postpartum. I enlisted the help of my mother who came and stayed with us for about two weeks after the birth. She handled everything around our house like cooking, shopping, cleaning and laundry so that I could focus on learning to breastfeed, recovering and going to various appointments and my husband could focus on helping me during his two weeks of paternity leave. To help my physical recovery I took a lot of baths with Epsom salts and a postpartum herbal sitz bath mix, I used an herbal tincture called After Ease in place of an NSAID to help with afterbirth cramps, I drank a lot of bone broth and ate a lot of iron rich foods like grass fed ground beef, and dark leafy greens, I also visited the chiropractor often to help my body recover from birth and adjust back to its non-pregnant state. To help support my hormones and thyroid I stayed away from caffeine (I know, crazy), ate regular meals and snacks, and I encapsulated my placenta. Now, a lot of you may think that placenta encapsulation is super weird and gross and I don’t blame you, but trust me when I say that it really helps! The placenta contains small amounts of hormones, a lot of iron, and a lot of nutrients that help the body recover after birth. When you choose to encapsulate your placenta you hire someone who is trained to do it, give them the placenta soon after the delivery and they take it and dehydrate it, grind it up and put it in capsules for you to take like a pill. I had enough pills to last my first 6 weeks postpartum and I could tell a huge difference in my mood and my energy while I was taking them. While I had the occasional moment of baby blue’s I never had any major mood issues and my energy levels were great given the crazy new mom sleep schedule, I was never wandering around like a zombie like we often see people do on TV or in movies.
I have been very blessed to have had a fairly smooth transition into breastfeeding. My milk came in on the third day, which is the average for most women, I had some pain on one side that was the result of one nursing session with a bad latch while we were in the hospital but it cleared up after a few days. My birth doula is also an IBCLC and came over and checked on our latch and gave me some tips on positioning in the beginning that helped get us started. Multiple people I have worked with have actually complimented me on how high in fat my milk is (weird right?) and I totally think (Just my opinion) that that is a result of my diet. Breastmilks is great for all babies if they can get it, but paleo babies get some super good stuff! In fact, the only issue I have had is an oversupply, which, while annoying sometimes, is not too bad in the big scheme of things! I will say that breastfeeding has made me much hungrier than being pregnant ever did so I have had to add in a few more snacks to me regular routine.
I want to say that while I consider my transition into breastfeeding to have gone smoothly, I still required a ton of support in the first few weeks as we were figuring things out and having that support is what made it go smoothly. If you plan to breastfeed make sure that you have a lactation consultant lined up before giving birth so that you can get help when you need it!
The second half of our first month was spent adjusting to life as a family of three and celebrating Christmas. I still continued drinking bone broth daily, taking Epsom salt baths daily and resting to help my healing continue.
The Second Month
This past month has been spent gradually increasing my activity level and getting back into a more normal routine. Around three weeks I started taking some short walks with Baby Sweet Potato in the Moby Wrap or the Ergo Carrier. Around week 4 I started including some gentle yoga and some basic exercises like squats and glute bridges to help start to regain some strength in my pelvic floor and my core. Right now I am aiming to do either a 2-3 mile babywearing walk or 20-30 minutes of yoga 4-5 days a week to help support my hormones and regain strength but I am not doing any intense of strenuous exercise because I do not want to tax my adrenals any more than they are already being taxed and risk increasing my inflammation.
At 6 weeks I followed up with my midwife and my ND and had my thyroid, iron, vitamin d and vitamin b-12 levels checked and made the necessary adjustments. I shifted from being hypothyroid to being hyperthyroid after birth so that has resulted in some ups and downs in mood and energy as I have had to adjust my medication. My primary focus at the moment is to support my hormones and adrenals as much as possible by resting, eating regular meals and snacks, minimizing my sugar and caffeine intake and supplementing as needed so that I can try to keep my inflammation levels low and avoid a flare.
Helping Baby Adjust
I think people often forget that babies are little humans who’s bodies and brains need help adjusting to life after birth. I have implemented a few of the things that have helped me into her routine and it has been so fun to see how they have effected her. Following her birth we took her to the chiropractor to help her body recover physically from birth and to help her latch
more effectively while breastfeeding. She continues to get adjusted about once a month for maintenance and it always produces a noticeable difference. In regards to her sleep we started right away with trying to help her establish a strong circadian rhythm. During the day we keep the lights bright, she sleeps in the baby carrier while I work around the house, in the car seat while running errands or in the rock and play in the living room and we don’t make any attempt to keep things quiet. However, at night we turn the amber lights on after the sun goes down, use the white noise machine, and swaddle her comfortably. It was amazing to see how quickly she adjusted. After just a few weeks she developed a regular sleeping pattern that included a longer stretch of sleep at night. Most breastfed babies do not sleep fully through the night for a long time so I had no expectation of that, but most nights she does at least a five hour stretch sometimes more. When she wakes up over night I only use the amber lights and I keep things very quiet and un-stimulating and she is usually back asleep in under an hour. The only potential downside to this approach is that you don’t get the regular nap schedule with long stretches of sleep during the day, she just sleeps when she is tired for varying lengths of time. Every baby is different when it comes to sleep so I am not delusional enough to think that what works for one baby will work for them all but I knew how important developing my circadian rhythm has been for my health so I felt that it was something that would be helpful to implement with her right from the start. Finally, to help all of those little skin issues that baby’s tend to have we have steered clear of the typical Johnson & Johnson products and used coconut oil for basically everything and it has worked great.
It is amazing how many ways the autoimmune protocol has helped me outside of just the management of my autoimmune symptoms. The practice of advocating for myself was vital during my hospital stay, already being in the practice of self care helped tremendously in the healing process and already eating a diet and living a lifestyle that supports hormone regulation has minimized a lot of the “typical” postpartum issues that many women experience. While I was not a huge fan of being pregnant I can honestly say that these first two months postpartum have gone much better than I anticipated and I have genuinely enjoyed them.