5 Simple Ways to Reconnect with Your Postpartum Body
Open a Google search, type in "self-care for moms," and you’re bound to find a slew of advice ranging from “sleep when the baby sleeps” to “ask for help when you need it.” Excellent suggestions, no doubt, but something I find sorely missing from postpartum advice for moms is how to reconnect to your body after having a baby.
We all know that the body goes through extreme changes during pregnancy, but few women are prepared for what happens after the birth. It seems there’s an expectation that your body will feel “normal” again after six-to-eight weeks. This kind of narrative is not only false, but it's quite dangerous to women who don’t feel that way. Here’s my PSA to women everywhere: A lot of women feel awful in their body after having a baby, and it’s normal if you feel that way.
Discomfort in the postpartum body ranges from sore nipples, bleeding, hemorrhoids, muscle fatigue, swelling, engorgement, painful urination...shall I go on? Of course, there’s also the deeply painful body-image issues coupled with the feeling that your body is no longer your own.
I’ve worked with women for 15 years to help connect them to their bodies in a way that is safe and loving. What I know to be true is that, after having a baby, it’s essential to carve out time to take care of your body. I want you to think of your body as another child you must tend to. As fiercely as you love, nurture, and protect your baby, I want you to fiercely love, nurture, and protect the health of your body. I know that time to yourself is a luxury that a lot of mothers do not have. Here are five SIMPLE things you can do to reconnect to your body after having a baby.
1. Disconnect from Your Electronics
One of the first things you can do is shut off the distractions that keep you from listening to your body. The prime culprit for anyone living in this hyper-connected world: your phone. Wanting to disengage from mom life and zone out on the phone is a completely normal desire, especially when having to be “on” and alert all day for your baby. But take notice of when social media and endless scrolling are hindering your connection to your feelings and your body. Next time you’re nursing or feeding your baby, instead of reaching for the phone to kill time, see what it feels like to focus on your breath and to stay present in the experience. If the desire to flee to the safety of your phone comes up, focus on one thing only — perhaps all the different sounds you hear, the colors in the room, or the sensation of the chair on your back.
2. Five-to-10 Minutes of Nurturing Touch
There’s a reason babies need skin-to-skin contact upon birth. It is not only soothing and comforting, but incredibly healing. If you’re feeling dissatisfied with the way your body looks or feels after birth, loving touch may feel vulnerable, but it’s one of the best things you can offer your still-recovering body. If it helps, think of your body as an extension of your new baby. Just as your baby needs your touch, compassion, and love to make it through those fragile first months, your body needs it, too.
In a dimly lit room, lay out a cozy blanket and get comfortable, whether that’s lying down or sitting up. Close your eyes and allow your hands to slowly touch your skin, seeing where they intuitively want to go. Notice the textures, the temperature of your skin, the rhythm of your breath on the palm of your hand. If emotion comes up, give yourself full permission to experience it without needing to interpret or change it.
If the critical voice comes in to judge or demean your body, flip the script and instead say "thank you" and express gratitude to your body. You can say, “Thank you, belly, for breathing; thank you, body, for birthing my baby; thank you, arms, for holding my baby.” If your birth story was traumatic and you’re in the process of healing from it, take this gently and respect the boundaries of your body.
3. Sensually Eat a Meal
After you have a baby, eating becomes a utilitarian task to get done as quickly as possible before you’re needed again. I know. Savoring a delicious meal is high on the list of things I miss most from my pre-mom life. Yet bringing pleasure to your body through healthy food is one of the most nurturing and loving things you can do in the postpartum period. Even if you simply take five minutes to enjoy a cup of tea, find a moment to sit down at a table (preferably alone) and slowly eat your food. Some would call this eating mindfully, but I encourage you to think of it as eating sensually. Eating sensually is merely experiencing your meal through the heightened awareness of all five senses. Eating sensually will naturally slow you down and bring you into the presence of your body.
4. Move Your Body
Once your doctor clears you for physical activity, getting your body moving is a great way to clear out the stagnant energy that can build up from being housebound with your infant. I'm not talking about exercise that is goal-centered on losing weight, but rather physical activity that is solely for the delight of moving your body. Getting your body moving and your blood flowing will help you to release endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine — important chemicals that help to enhance your feeling of well-being. You can go to a restorative yoga class, dance around your room to cheesy ’80s music (my personal favorite), or take a free online class from the privacy of your own home.
5. Take a Walk
In those first few months of taking care of my son, I had little desire to do anything that required any bit of effort from me. My son was spirited from the get-go, and sleep was never high on his list of priorities. If I’m honest with you, most of my suggestions would have been hard for me to follow in those first weeks. The only way I could manage to care for my body was to take a walk around the block. I’d put him in the stroller and enjoy five sweet minutes of quiet time. Those walks outside were often the only thing that kept me sane. Just like with everything else, it’s how you do it that allows it to be so restorative. Try to stay off your phone and in the experience of walking outside. Focus on how the sun feels against your body or how the wind touches your face. If you have a public park or backyard, take a few extra minutes to take your shoes and socks off and relish in the grass against your feet.
You’ll notice the theme for all of these is about slowing down and experiencing your body through the senses. Committing to five minutes a day to reconnect to your body will do wonders toward tending to the self-care your body desperately needs after such a huge change. Your sweet baby needs you, but don’t forget that you need you, too.
If all else fails and you truly feel like you don’t have a minute to yourself, find a moment in the middle of the mayhem of new motherhood to take a nourishing breath, a deep, full-bodied breath, and remind yourself that you’re doing a great job. You are, Mama.