Lying-in, the period of time for a postpartum mama to heal and bond with her newborn, has, sadly, become an antiquated notion, a practice predating current goals like “bouncing back” and “pre-pregnancy weight.” Traditional rites, ancient midwives and less hurried cultures all have healing, nurturing rituals, and these practices were created for a good reason. Earth Mama encourages a modern lying-in, one where we acknowledge the realities and expectations of a modern mama with the realities of a healing postpartum body and the expectations of a brand new baby!
Bringing baby home means more than just an adorable onesie and a perfectly accessorized nursery. It means taking care of the mama that made the miracle, and healing her body and soul while she gets to know every crease, dimple, and the sweet scent of her brand new baby. The bonding that occurs in those early minutes, hours, and days are more than magical wonder. Many traditional rituals have a basis in science. A fantastic article from Bear Mama Medicine has tips for postpartum healing and resting – even if you have other children - plus research and remedies for a beautiful babymoon, or Lying-in!
Bear Mama Medicine’s best advice for the first week postpartum? Stay in bed. Have everything within reach, and don’t bother with pants, or even a shirt. If you have pants on you’re more likely to get up and clear the table or do a dish or two. Not wearing pants reminds you that you’re already doing your one job – gazing at your baby. Prepare your laying-in like you’ve prepared for baby, and be sure to have someone who will support you, attend to you and bring you what you need. Lying-in is more than just a sweet-n-crunchy ideal, it’s an almost political act that models a shift in thinking for a more just, peaceful, and practical period of adjustment once a woman has done the amazing work of bringing another human being into the world.
By prioritizing the integration of a newborn into your life in slow and gentle ways, and by allowing yourself to be supported by your family, community, plant allies, and spirit guides, you are participating in a crucial culture shift that is essential in healing the planet and its future generations." ~ Bear Mama Medicine
While you had an intimate connection with this being that was so recently stretching, hiccupping, doing jumping jacks and high kicks inside you, it’s natural to need some time to get acquainted and bond. It’s not always an instant or instinctive process. A Lying-in sets aside time to discover the person that your baby is. When your focus is simply “getting to know you” you can be present to experience the sweet smell of the nape of a nuzzly neck, the magic (and medically proven) touch of nurturing skin-to-skin contact, the mesmerizing eye contact that will help you attune to your baby’s needs. There is a vital physical importance to saving your energy for making milk, and power in humbly giving over to healing.
During the first hours, days, and weeks after you give birth, your uterus does an enormous job to contract the open blood vessels that fed the placenta and to clot off and form a “scab” on the uterine wall. So every time you stand up, twist, and create internal pressure in your torso through exertion, you are causing disturbance to the wound healing process and bringing excess circulation to that area." ~ Bear Mama Medicine
Really stop and think about what your body has been through after giving birth. A mother has a placenta-sized internal wound and a newborn to take care of! Despite enormous blood loss and cramps as your body clamps down to heal, mamas make it look easy, so it’s easy to overlook the reality: that much physical work, blood loss, and body change take time to heal.
Hormonally, the first week postpartum has been likened to a drug withdrawal. Part of the placenta’s job is to produce a huge cocktail of hormones (which still isn’t totally understood), and as soon as it is expelled, those hormones drop. This explains why you might feel weepy or moody for the first several weeks, and why it’s normal to feel sad despite otherwise lovely circumstances." ~ Bear Mama Medicine
Postpartum is no small adjustment. Directly after birth a woman’s hormones go from 60-0 in no time. A mama’s body is depleted. She needs time, space, and the luxury of her ups and downs. Resting, bonding, and healing are all part of adjusting to that dramatic shift in your hormones. Stay in bed. Nourish yourself. Ask for what you need.
It will take up to a few days for your milk to come in. THIS IS NORMAL… This is the time for YOU to be hydrating and putting that baby on your chest to stimulate your pituitary into secreting oxytocin and prolactin, stimulating your nipples, and practicing a good latch so that when your milk does come in, they get the best of it." ~ Bear Mama Medicine
All the focus goes to baby once s/he’s here. Which is natural for a mama, but historically there has been someone mothering the mother as well. Now that families are far flung and communities are less close, it’s up to us as mothers to make sure we are set up with all the resources we need to be nurtured after we give birth. And to know that our instincts are growing as we learn who baby is, and well meaning outsiders can short circuit our bond. Being present with baby is the best way to learn all about what both of you need.
Just do what feels good and don’t freaking push it or put up with anything demanding besides your baby." ~ Bear Mama Medicine
Of course it’s important to make sure the crib matches the glider, if that’s what you want, but the mama part of your Fourth Trimester requires focused preparation too. You’re not a “lay about” if you choose a Lying-in, you are doing your job and getting what you need for glorious, peaceful bonding, and you’re being a mama.