One of the saddest things that I see as I scroll IG these days is the way our culture worships the "never-had-a-baby-body". Beautiful moms in high-dollar athletic wear are holding their weeks-old babies as they do crunches to trendy songs or show off their colorful salads and hashtag about "getting their body back" or "getting strong" again, as if they aren't strong now. Our culture is so uncomfortable with anything considered soft or weak that we have trained a generation of moms to immediately begin getting back to "normal" after having a baby.
And, I get this. I have had two babies and one is coming any day now and I find myself frustrated in the early weeks about everything that I can't do. I can't put my old pants on. I can't speed walk through Target. I can't get on the floor and wrestle my older kids because I'm going to have some serious trouble getting up. It is a unique kind of discipline to learn to sit with the differences and changes in the early weeks and months.
Science has shown that after giving birth our bodies are never the same, even if we manage to get them looking the same. We have gone through a metamorphosis of sorts and we are different at a cellular level. This is something that I believe traditional societies recognized and were comfortable with in a way that is hard for us to understand today. Traditional cultures understood that rebuilding the body, rather than returning it to some form of normal was the goal in the first months postpartum. This is a subtle mindset shift, but one that honors the incredible work of the mother, rather than brushing past it as something to now "get over".
Today, I want to discuss 3 traditional practices that have proven benefits for postpartum women today whether you are 3 weeks postpartum or 3 years postpartum! (Side note: Once postpartum, you are forever postpartum, so even if your baby is 15 years old, you can still implement some of these techniques as you reconnect to your body!)
One of my favorite parts about having homebirth's is being able to climb into my own bed and get all cozied up after the marathon of labor and being brought a big bowl of homemade soup made by my mom or my mother in law! The base of the soup is always a hearty, homemade chicken stock and it is loaded with veggies, chicken, and rice or whole grain noodles. It has everything I need to replenish after not eating for several hours (eating is allowed, I just never feel hungry!) and it is easy to digest.
Unfortunately part of the trend of getting body back after baby includes an abundance of raw smoothies and salads, both of which require a great deal of digestive energy and enzymes. After giving birth, our digestive systems which have been slowly displaced over the last several months, need lots of extra TLC. Warm, cooked foods, as opposed to raw, cold foods, are easier to digest, and provide more readily available nutrients without requiring the same level of enzymes. In fact, eating predominantly warm meals, and/or adding warming herbs such as cinnamon and ginger can help to stoke that digestive "fire" which helps to decrease some of those crazy digestive symptoms (like gas!) that happens postpartum.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has an ancient tradition called "mother roasting" that calls for placing new mothers on a board very near or even over a fire to keep her extra toasty during the early postpartum days! While this exact practice is not something that I am suggesting we take up, it does point to broader principle that I think we would do well bring back. I already mentioned the importance of warming foods, but keeping up that theme across the board throughout the recovery period!
One of the best ways to do this is by utilizing sitz baths. Sitz baths are essentially baths that are concentrated just on your pelvic region. Some hospitals send specially made little tubs home with you after birth, but you can also find wide, shallow rubber buckets at feed stores that work just as well, or in a pinch, running a shallow bath that only covers up to your hips. If there is any tearing or trauma to the vaginal and perineal tissues postpartum, this is a wonderful time to add in healing herbs that are able to both disinfect any stitches and accelerate healing of the tissues.
To make an herbal sitz bath, simply make up two cups of very strong tea and add it to the sitz bath water before sitting down. And of course, while we want the water to be toasty warm, we don't want to burn any of those sensitive tissues, so be sure to do a temp check before getting all the way in! Some healing herbs to consider for your bath are: calendula flowers, lavender buds, yarrow flowers, and rosemary leaf.
This is also a healing modality that is fabulous at any stage of a woman's life! Warm, moist heat like that found in a sitz bath is amazing for bringing healing blood flow to congested pelvic organs. If you are dealing with cramping during your period, or scanty, infrequent periods, then adding regular sitz baths, with or without herbs, to your hormone balancing protocol could add a valuable layer of healing!
Core & Floor Connection
Circling back to those smiling influencers doing crunches with their fresh babies, one of the top things that always comes to mind is the health of all of those muscles that just went through the process of pregnancy and childbirth! In my experience, the majority of women who have been through pregnancy and childbirth (vaginal or cesarean) have lasting damage to their core muscles and/or their pelvic floor muscles. (Peeing when sneezing or laughing is common but NOT normal!) This damage can be healed by doing the right exercises and connecting with a great pelvic floor PT, but unfortunately the plank and crunch heavy workouts that these influencers are peddling are exactly what NOT to do to heal these crucial muscles.
Reconnecting to your core and floor is something that you can start just a few days postpartum or even decades later! I love Fit2B Studio exercises that are created to be core and floor safe, even in the early postpartum time, and I will absolutely be using their postpartum pathway after my newest arrival to gently start rebuilding my body in a way that honors the work I have done and am continuing to do!
I hope that this list inspires you to take action to heal your body in a way that honors the transformation that you have been through, whether recently or not. Our bodies were never made to fit into a mold created by other people, but to be unique to us as we do the work we were each called to do!