Ask the Expert: What's the best way to recover after giving birth?
Q: I’M GOING to have my first baby soon – how can I prepare to recover well after the birth if there are no complications?
A: Doula and perinatal educator Sophie Messager, author of Why Postnatal Recovery Matters, says: “The best way to ensure a positive postpartum recovery experience is to plan for it. You may have heard of making a birth plan, you can do the same for your postpartum. The plan isn’t so much about the resulting document – it’s about the process, finding out about the options available, and deciding what’s right for you.
“Traditionally, new mothers were given a period of at least a month during which they were relieved from household duties, and other people provided support so all the new mother had to do was rest, and get to know her new baby. The RECOVER acronym can be used to start designing your postnatal recovery plan.
“Rest. You need to recover from growing and birthing this baby. Use support from other adults (list everyone who can help, and get them on board with your plan), and take daytime naps, have early nights, listen to guided relaxations, or use any other sleep deprivation strategies that work for you.
“Eat. You need nutritious food. Fill your freezer in advance, ask friends and family to cook and deliver food (someone could organise a meal train for you), and have food delivery options handy (companies delivering frozen meals, local takeaways etc).
“Chores. Who can look after your household? Family members, a cleaner, friends, a postnatal doula, a mother’s help?
“Optional. You’re in the driving seat. Everything is optional, and others’ opinions and advice about what is right for you or not isn’t your concern.
“Visitors. People who arrive and expect to be waited upon can leave you feeling exhausted. Can you discuss this with friends and family ahead of time? A simple note on the door with ‘new mother and baby asleep’ can ward off unwanted visits.
“Emotional. Take it easy, this is a big change and the first few weeks can feel very chaotic. New parents need solid emotional support, Think ‘mothering the mother’. Find someone to talk to who can listen unconditionally.
“Receive. You’re supposed to receive support, and be treated like a queen. You could request nurturing presents for yourself, like a postnatal massage, or a few hours of doula support. People could give you vouchers or donations towards things that make you feel supported, rather than presents for the baby. Investing in yourself, so you feel rested and strong enough to look after your baby, is a wise choice.
“By preparing as much as you can in advance, you’re more likely to receive the support you need, and have an easier time recovering from the birth and finding your feet as a new mum.”
:: Why Postnatal Recovery Matters by Sophie Messager is published by Pinter & Martin, £8.99.