Why is rest so crucial during the first few weeks of motherhood?

 In Birth, Motherhood, Postpartum, Pregnancy

The early days and weeks after giving birth are a time to rest. They’re a time to feed you, feed your baby and then rest some more. 

Growing a whole human, albeit a tiny human, all by yourself is a really big deal for your body. Growing a baby drains your nutrient stores, challenges your physical structure and completely alters your brain. Then you give birth too! 

Giving birth can be empowering, and can still be traumatic on the tissues of the body. Especially on the tissues of the pelvis, pelvic floor, and the abdomen. Giving birth can also be exhausting and disturbing. It challenges us to our core. 

Mama, I’d like you to know that you do not have to bounce back after giving birth. Especially if the birth of your baby has left you feeling broken, then in fact, you mustn’t try to bounce back. Instead, the postpartum period is a time to restore, recover and recuperate. It’s the time to learn how to breastfeed, and to fall deeply in love with your baby.

The first forty days after birth are a time of rest. It’s a great time to get extra help, and to eat nutritious and delicious food. It’s the ideal time to relax, cuddle, and be in a bubble of babylove. The first six weeks after giving birth is the time when you begin finding your way as a mother. 

In the time after giving birth you may be learning to breastfeed, or perhaps expressing milk, you might be in pain, you could be in shock, you may be in bliss. It takes at least six weeks for the initial healing of tissues after any injury, including if the injury was sustained during birth.

Healing takes time, and after pregnancy and birth you need to heal a lot of things. Your body needs to heal lax ligaments, stretched abdominals, squished organs and lengthened pelvic floor muscles, the placental wound, any tears in your perineum, perhaps an episiotomy or a cesarean wound. All whilst providing your baby with nourishing milky goodness.

After giving birth your belly might feel mushy and your pelvic floor may be sore. This is normal and OK. Its means you’re a brand new mother with a brand new baby and you need and deserve some serious nurturing and cherishing.

In early motherhood, you may well be sleep deprived from a long birth; if not you will be soon as your baby wakes throughout the night to feed (which is normal baby behaviour!) Did you know sleep deprivation switches off your core muscles? If your core muscles aren’t working well then you have very little support for your pelvis and pelvic organs.

Resting by lying down a lot for the first two or three weeks after giving birth allows the pelvic floor and abdominals the best chance of recovering to their previous length and tone. During the early weeks after birth you need to be wary of pelvic organ prolapse symptoms which may feel like a heavy, aching, dragging feeling in the perineum. If you feel any of these symptoms, then rest. Immediately. Get off your feet and lie down at once. At the very least sit down. Some women find that kneeling on all fours, on hands and knees helps to relieve symptoms of prolapse.

Resting well during the early postpartum weeks will help your body heal better, and may prevent ongoing pelvic floor issues from developing in the first place.

Resting also helps to down regulate your nervous system so you are in ‘rest and digest’ mode rather than in ‘fight or flight’, which will eat up your energy reserves much faster than you can change a nappy. Getting stuck in ‘fight or flight’ mode during this postpartum period can set your body up for anxiety, exhaustion and even postnatal depletion.

Being and feeling rested will also help you to bond with and feed your beautiful baby. It’s really hard for the ‘letdown’ milk reflex to happen if you’re feeling stressed. For some mothers breastfeeding can be really tricky to get the hang of and feeling ‘tired and wired’ will only make it more difficult.

So, at this time in your life when you’ve reached into the edges of your heart and body to birth your baby, consider rest as your full time job. Rest, feed (both you and your baby), and sleep. Resting now is really smart. It will help your body to heal.

If you have trouble resting and relaxing then perhaps consider rest as an activity, not as something boring or lazy.

Here are some ‘active rest’ suggestions, try to think of things that make you feel good such as: 

  • reading a book
  • snoozing
  • listening to audio books or podcasts
  • watching Netflix
  • writing or journaling
  • drawing or colouring in
  • crocheting, knitting
  • listening to music
  • daydreaming, meditating, yoga Nidra
  • cuddling and gazing at your beautiful baby! 

The early weeks of motherhood are a time for not doing very much at all except for snuggling and feeding your newborn baby. For many women it’s a really challenging rhythm shift, time to slow down, and a time to restore and recuperate.

Rest. Feed. Sleep. That’s all you need to do.

So why don’t you consider now, what things do you know make you feel happy and relaxed?

Write them down and put them on the fridge so you remember to do them. It’s really easy to forget what soothes you when you’re in a milky sleep-deprived haze!

Would you like more tips on recovering from birth? 

Here’s a free guide to the fundamentals of postpartum body recovery, you can get it right here. ox

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