4 Gold Rules for Lying-In
What is lying-in?
It is an old fashioned expression for a place where postpartum women and their babies are given special consideration, special food and special care. To be treated with respect and honor. It is a time for your body to be treated gently and with compassion. A time for healing and adjusting to the rigors of motherhood and breastfeeding.
Many cultures have a 40-ish day lying-in, a care ritual for post-partum women.
In Latin American countries many women observe “la cuarentena,” which literally translates to “quarantine.” La cuarentena is the 40 days believed necessary for the uterus to return to normal. Mothers, relatives and the community step in to cook, clean and take care of the older children. Sex and spicy foods, as well as hair-washing, are forbidden. Many Latinas, as well as women in many other world cultures, believe that strictly following postpartum rituals, guarantees good health in old age and guards against future ailments.
Here are 4 golden rules to set yourself up for your best possible lying-in period:
1. I will stay in bed and remember my #1 job is to rest, heal and bond. I will only leave the house if I am going to a doctor appointment in the first 3-4 days.
When you are able to rest your body is able to heal completely. As your uterine lining heals, your blood flow will diminish. You'll have bleeding after birth, which tends to be heavier at first, (expect a gush of blood after a successful breastfeeding session) but quickly becomes much lighter and tapers off completely in a matter of weeks. Excessive bleeding, renewed bright red bleeding or clots, after the flow has tapered off, are signals that you are doing too much. Call your obstetrician or midwife immediately to be sure you don’t need to be seen sooner than your 2, 3 or even 6 week follow-up.
2. I will eat nourishing, healthy, easily accessible foods. Meals in the freezer, enough for you and the people coming to help you, can be prepared in the 2-4 weeks before you give birth.
Baking lactation cookies, preparing high protein entrees in 2 person portions to freeze, setting up food deliveries to arrive every 3-4 days, especially fresh fruits and vegetables. If you are unable to do this for yourself, don’t hesitate to ask for assistance from family and friends to ease you through your lying-in period. I have found that there are usually more than enough people eager to help...if they are asked.
3. I will have support. Breastfeeding Support – Establish a relationship with a lactation consultant before you give birth. She will visit you in the hospital on Day 1or on Days 2-3 once you are home. Don’t wait until you are suffering from nipple pain or your baby loses too much weight before you get the help you and your baby need.
Infant care support – Surround yourself with experienced mothers who are raising healthy children. For many, giving the first bath and shampoo, determining urine and poop output or simple skin care can be frightening. Having a pair of experienced hands to show you the way takes the worry out of a tasks that you will do a thousand more times as a mother.
Medical Support - A medical team for postpartum care beyond your hospital discharge. Your midwife or obstetrician is your support well into your 4th trimester, your lying-in. Call them with any questions or concerns: Headache, backache, shortness of breath, pain that isn’t relieved by the medications prescribed, or simply “ I don’t feel well.” All of these are warning signs of potential postpartum complications, don’t wait to call.
Rather than an arbitrary 6-week check, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that the timing of the comprehensive postpartum visit be individualized and woman centered.
4. If I have family or if I am able to hire a postpartum doula...I will be sure that there is someone to:
- Set up my nursery with my baby and breastfeeding supplies near my bed for easy access.
- Provide meals
- Do laundry
- Go shopping and make pharmacy runs
- General household help
- Help with car seat carrier as I will lift nothing heavier than my baby
- Care for older siblings .
The weeks following your baby’s birth are a critical period for you and your newborn, setting the stage for long-term health and well-being. Recovering from childbirth, adjusting to changing hormones, and learning to feed and care for your newborn is no easy task. This 4th trimester can present considerable challenges; lack of sleep, fatigue, pain, breastfeeding difficulties, stress, and perhaps a new onset or exacerbation of mental health disorders.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines recommend screening all women for resolution of the “Baby Blues” at 10–14 days after birth, keeping close tabs on early identification of and treatment for postpartum depression. Resting, bonding, and healing are all part of adjusting to new motherhood.
Lying-in means; Stay in bed. Nourish yourself. Ask for what you need. 40 days is a luxury, get it if you can.
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