Postpartum Survival

The word ‘postpartum’ seems to have a negative connotation these days.  If you google ‘postpartum’ the first few pages are all about postpartum depression and other health-related issues. It’s wonderful that these issues are being talked about but postpartum is so much more than depression and anxiety.  The word ‘postpartum’ means the time period just after birth. That time period where baby is freshly born and mom is recovering from one of the most intense physical experiences on earth.

Traditionally the postpartum period involved long bed rest after giving birth known as ‘confinement’ or ‘lying-in’.  Historically it was considered an essential component of the postpartum period. Many cultures today still practice this lying-in period.  After a woman gives birth, both she and her baby are nurtured and she’s gently initiated into her new role as a mother. She’s allowed to do nothing but rest and bond with her baby for at least the first 40 days. In our culture, motherhood is very much child-first, mother-second.  Our postpartum period is giving way to modern goals like “bouncing back” and “pre-pregnancy weight.”

Immediately after birth, a woman’s body experiences a rapid flux. The hormonal balance is disrupted, there is significant blood and fluid loss, and milk production begins, all within 24 hours. Plus you now have a lovely new baby to attend to, so it makes perfect sense that these ancient traditions were created solely to help make that transition easier. It’s time that we reintroduce this ‘lying-in’ period to our modern lives.  It’s the ultimate bonding experience for baby and the ultimate act of self-care for you.

The healing time for a new mom should be holistic, addressing both body and spirit.  Be encouraged to process the birth experience, rest, and have access to healthful foods that will help replenish the body. Eating well during the early postpartum period can speed up and smooth the recovery process, which in turn will help be prepared to exercise when the time is right, which is typically around six to eight weeks after birth.

Create a postpartum survival plan, take it slow, be gentle on yourself and cherish the time you have at home with your loved ones no matter how long it is.



Prepare your postpartum survival plan like you’ve prepared for baby.  You won’t regret it!


Step One: Set up your support system
Make a comprehensive list of every possible need you will have in the first few weeks post-delivery. Do you need/want…

  • Groceries delivered
  • Meals prepared
  • Someone to do laundry and scrub the bathrooms
  • Babysit your toddler
  • Someone to hold the baby while you shower or sleep

Next, prioritize what’s most important to you.  Then have a very honest conversation with your partner and loved ones.  Show them your list and let them choose something to help you with. You may be surprised to find out that they’ve just been waiting for you to ask.

Make sure all your priority needs are met and be willing to just let go of anything else that you can’t find someone to help with.

Bonus tip: In order for a support system to actually work, it’s crucial for you to allow yourself to be helped. Moms often succumb to the fallacy that they “should be able to handle it” and that they are weak, incapable, or “not good enough” if they accept help. This is so far from the truth. So banish those thoughts and get to making your list.

Step Two: Plan for healthy meals
This may sound like a no-brainer for you, but for many new moms self-nourishment is often the last on their list – first is to just make it through the day.  They don’t realize that those two things go hand in hand.

What you put in your body has a HUGE impact on energy, moods and overall health.  During that postpartum time, women are particularly vulnerable to the extreme bodily stresses of labour, breastfeeding, and very little sleep. In fact, consuming a diet of real food can help mitigate some of this stress, and can also help your postpartum body to heal faster.

Give your food preferences to whichever friends or family members have chosen to organize your postpartum meals. Ask them to help you eat well so that you can heal well.

Step Three: Create a personal postpartum sanctuary
The idea is simple: during your postpartum time, your home, or even just your bedroom if that’s more realistic, should be like a little sanctuary where peace and rest abound.

It’s kind of like the modern version of lying-in.

Your only job is to rest and bond with your delicious baby, and then to rest some more.

This sanctuary should be respected by all who come to snuggle your baby. Ideally, your support system should be your gatekeepers protecting your privacy and seclusion. This is the place where your needs are the priority, and your body and emotions are nurtured — so that you can nurture your baby.

Bonus tip:  Have everything within reach, and don’t bother with pants, or even a shirt. Because if you have pants on, you’re more likely to get up and answer the door. But here’s the thing: not wearing pants reminds you that you’re already doing your one job – adoring and bonding with your baby.

Step Four: Find a postpartum BFF
It’s natural, as the endorphins and adrenalin of childbirth begin to wear off that we feel a sense of anticlimax, a bit like a let-down.   Your partner will provide some support, but there is a good chance they may not fully comprehend your range of emotions or appreciate how you could not feel anything but overjoyed by your new baby.   You need another woman who has had children, who is emotionally sensitive and whom you feel you can be honest and open with.

Another mother can understand how you can feel deep love and anguish at the same time.  How you can be completely grateful and disappointed about the amazing miracle of childbirth.  It can be profoundly comforting and affirming to have a friend and confidante who understands what postpartum really feels like.

Don’t underestimate the power of friendship to see you through the craziness of postpartum life.

Final thoughts…
If we reflect on our very real postpartum needs and are intentional about meeting them, we can eliminate a huge amount of stress and tears, and maybe even experience some peace during the postpartum period.

A birth plan can mean a better birth experience.  Giving birth is one of life’s most exciting events.  Having a game-plan for baby’s arrival can help make your experience more positive.  This game-plan is what’s called your ‘birth plan’.

You can never be completely in control of your labour and delivery (childbirth is generally a pretty out-of-control thing), but it’s still good to feel prepared. Having a birth plan ensures that you and your partner are on the same page as your doctors and nurses when it comes to things like pain management, people allowed in the delivery room, episiotomies and cord-cutting.

How it works: Document your wishes, talk them over with your doctor, make sure they fit within the hospital policies.  If there are some things on the plan that the doctor doesn’t quite agree with you’re better off just taking them out of your plan before giving birth.  Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your plan on the big day.

If you are too tired, excited or overwhelmed to even think about all the questions you should ask for your birth plan don’t worry Earth Mama’s free birth plan questionnaire will get you through the process quite seamlessly.


Remember that no one knows how your labour will unfold so we encourage you to give yourself the flexibility to change your mind.

You’ll be surprised at how many things you need to take with you to the hospital. Our handy checklist for your hospital bag will ensure you arrive prepared for everything and anything, with a few pampering extras too…

Hospital Bag for Mom: Labour and Delivery

  • Medical notes and birth plan (if you have one)
  • Bathrobe for walking around during labour if it’s a long one
  • Socks for cold feet
  • Hard candy during labour you usually aren’t allowed to eat anything but sometimes they allow hard candy and ice
  • Slippers that are comfortable for that labour walk
  • Lip balm for those poor lips that dry out
  • Body lotion or massage oil, some find a little massage during labour relaxing
  • Water spray if you start to feel hot
  • Hair clips or elastic to keep annoying wisps of hair from landing on your face
  • Eye mask and earplugs for that bright and busy maternity ward when you need some rest
  • Relaxing entertainment to help you pass the time like a book, tablet with movies downloaded, or music

Hospital Bag for Mom: After Delivery

  • Nursing top and or nursing gown if you plan to breastfeed
  • Underwear that is large enough to wear with heavy-duty maternity pads
  • Heavy duty maternity pads, it’s normal to bleed a lot after birth
  • Bras that are comfortable and well-fitting
  • Nursing pads
  • Nursing pillow to make feeding time a little easier
  • Extra long phone charger
  • Toiletries like tissues, hairbrush, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, and hairdryer
  • Pack a plastic bag to pop dirty clothes in
  • Make-up for those pics of baby and you
  • Moisturizer as your skin may feel drier than usual
  • Comfy clothes that are loose-fitting to wear during your stay and your trip home
  • Snacks and drinks. Labour can sometimes be very long, so consider packing light snacks and drinks for afterwards
  • Perineal mist (bottom spray) for postpartum haemorrhoids, episiotomies and swollen or bruised perineal tissues
  • Nursing balm that will safely hydrate dry, cracked, sore skin for better breastfeeding

Hospital Bag Essentials for the Birth Partner

  • Snacks and drinks. Labour can be thirsty work, even for supportive partners
  • Change for vending machines and parking
  • Phone and/or camera plus chargers and batteries
  • A small pillow and blanket to get a bit of rest during downtime
  • Entertainment like book, table and music
  • Clothes because labour is unpredictable, you never know how long the stay will be
  • List of people to contact with your baby news
  • Car seat to bring home your new bundle of joy

Hospital Bag for Your Baby

  • 3-6 one-piece PJs (newborn/0-3 months)
  • Soft baby hat in newborn size
  • Pair of baby socks in newborn size
  • Pair of scratch mitts
  • Swaddle blanket
  • Diapers and wipes
  • Soother in case your baby wants one
  • Bibs
  • Soft baby towel
  • Coming home outfit

Have Ready at Home

It’s important to have these things ready to go when you get home from the hospital as it is to have your hospital bag on the ready.

  • Heavy duty extra absorbent pads – you will bleed for quite a while still
  • Ice packs to soothe those parts that just worked so hard
  • Basket of nursing stuff – nipple balm, breast pads, hand lotion, hand sanitizer, snacks for you for late night feedings
  • Stool softener, trust us you’ll need this
  • The Belly Bandit Wrap that helps support your belly, waist and hips post-pregnancy
  • Diffuser and oils to have around for emotional wellness
  • A peri bottle in every bathroom in the house.  If you don’t know what a peri bottle is it’s what you will use to clean your down there parts every time you use the washroom for a few weeks after you deliver.