I did this thing after birthing our second baby where I didn’t do anything but focus on healing and feeding our baby for 40 days. Did you have to reread that 3 times? You read it right! Um… so who did all of the things that I usually do? My husband. My husband took on cooking, (light) cleaning, and taking care of our older child for 40 days! Ok, so he had to go back to work after his 21 day leave was up, but even still, he was taking on those major responsibilities while I took the time we all should be able to take and recover post-birth.
Why 40 days?
There is a book, The First Forty Days by Heng Ou with Amely Green and Marisa Belger, and it laid it out so perfectly that I suddenly understood the importance even more than before. This book discusses the Chinese culture of laying in and puts a bit of a modern spin on things when it comes to recipes. Of course being a doula, I understand the importance of respecting your postpartum healing period and recommend to clients to take it easy for at least 15 days, which usually seems a bit more realistic than 40 days – but anything is possible!
What Inspired the Change?
My first postpartum journey left me feeling lonely, but also like supermom. I’m positive I was strolling the aisles of Target within the first week with my son. People would stop by the house to hold the baby, and they would even ask if I needed help to which I would promptly respond, “No.” I was doing it all, but forgetting to nourish my own body. When I remembered I needed to eat or my husband asked if I had eaten I would grab a Cliff bar or some other “easy to eat with one hand” item. My husband would cook for me when he could, but I was often trapped under my baby trying to figure out breastfeeding or being nap trapped. I also had a strong desire to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight because it didn’t melt off like I had expected after giving birth.
My postpartum story after my first pregnancy is not unique. I’ve watched clients and friends return to their daily activities within days or a week of birthing their babies. In the photos I see exhaustion, and in the messages I read I can feel their exhaustion. I feel society has us putting too much pressure on ourselves to get back to the normal day to day when we are still bleeding on dinosaur sized maternity pads and leaking milk through every bra and t-shirt we own. It’s no surprise that in the United States the art of healing, honoring, and supporting a mother in the postpartum period is lost… or perhaps has never been found, but it is very common in other cultures around the world.
How can I take 40 days to myself?
Here are my biggest takeaways from The First Forty Days and my own experience in those forty days:
- Get your pantry stocked with quality snacks and items that will leave you feeling nourished and support your healing process like: figs, dates, Aussie bites (Costco find), trail mix, nuts, dried fruit, etc.
- Get your freezer stocked with meals you, your partner, or visitors can pop in the oven for you. Request a Meal Train and have someone alert the masses on social media after baby has arrived, so they can sign up to bring a meal and leave it on your front porch. Some ideas include: soups, baked oatmeal, enchiladas, chicken and rice variations, etc.
- Get your bedroom setup to be a little sanctuary, you will be focusing on rest, healing, and feeding baby here for a while so you want to be comfortable and have things you need close by.
- Make a list of your postpartum support community, those people you can count on to do some light cleaning, cooking, or who can entertain other children that may be at home.
- Stay warm! Yes, this includes the summer time. This means limiting outdoor time and doing light physical activity like a short walk or some yoga after 15 days. For me, during this Minnesota winter, it has been fuzzy socks and lots of sweaters. Limiting your physical activity will help your healing process, so you will notice if you did too much because you will likely experience more bleeding than you had the day prior. If it happens, just listen to your body and take some extra time to rest.
- Eat/drink warm or room temperature foods and consider ditching the caffeine for at least 40 days because baby cannot metabolize it like we can. I ditched caffeine at 2 weeks due to a fussy baby, she started doing much better with her gas after that. I have had a few decaf lattes and cups of coffee, but all seems well!
Benefits I Have Noticed
- Less anxious about all things parenting related including breastfeeding, sleep, poop, tummy time, reading, etc. This very well could be because it’s my second baby, but knowledge in any capacity is key here!
- Breastfeeding got off to a much better start, I still experienced sore nipples and a small blister on one side, but was able to concentrate on feeding sessions to perfect her latch and both of our positions.
- Less tired; however, I will say I wouldn’t have ever said I was tired with my first postpartum experience. This time I am feeling more well rested because I wasn’t worried about doing all of the things around the house while figuring out my new baby. I am never one to take naps, so I hate hearing “nap when baby naps” because it isn’t always realistic. I rested while baby napped. I didn’t clean, cook, or start running around with my older child. I sat and healed or took a sitz bath.
- My husband has gotten really good at cooking, like really good at cooking. He is still continuing on making a majority of our dinners and I like the balance of chores it’s starting in our household.
- I’ve gotten really good at asking for what I need. If my mom comes over and asks if I need anything, I tell her what I need. Sometimes that is dishes and sometimes it’s holding the baby so I can eat, or most recently she cooked us some pizzas. It’s also been great having her take our son for a night every week or every other. It allows him to have some one on one time where no one is worried about a baby and allows us some time to just relax with the newest baby.
As I write this, I’m on day 40 (this came as a shock to me) and I have not left the house except to attend pediatrician appointments and chiropractic visits for myself. I have not gone on any Target runs or ventured outside to make any snowmen. I have only cooked two dinners which required me to dump items into the instant pot. Most importantly, I have been very vocal about wanting to do this with my partner and myself. This was my non-negotiable this time, I was not ready to go through another postpartum period feeling less than cared for, because the truth is someone has to hold the mother when everyone else wants to hold the baby.