As soon as you give birth, everyone’s attention has always been on the gorgeous new baby, and rightfully so, but now, there is beginning to be more and more of a focus on the person who has just given birth.
Postpartum recovery involves the whole body and mind and can be a taxing process, but we still need to boost more awareness about it. For example, according to the World Health Organization, 3 in 10 parents and babies don’t receive any postnatal care in the crucially important first days after birth. And 23 percent of women in the U.S. return to work within 10 days of giving birth.
Forget a babymoon during pregnancy – ideally, new parents need a full-on vacation after the birth that’ll help them rest, heal, nourish their bodies, and take care of their little ones with support and space to ask questions and have their concerns heard. That’s why postpartum retreats have taken off.
They were already common in some parts of Europe and Asia, and they’ve made their way to the U.S. with the opening of Boram Postnatal Retreat in 2022. And more similar retreats are opening up in 2023 on the east coast and the west coast alike.
While this setup is not accessible physically or financially for many people who have just given birth (some of whom are expected to return to work right after), there are some virtual postpartum support options, and Boram’s experts were kind enough to share some of their top postpartum recovery and mental health tips with SheKnows.
What happens during a postpartum retreat?
At Boram’s retreat center inside The Thompson Central Park Hotel in New York City, new parents can completely customize their postnatal retreat experience, and can even arrive straight from the hospital. They can do a three-day retreat (beginning at $900/night) or stay for seven-plus nights, all of which have 24/7 care for the mother and baby and round-the-clock lactation support.
Parents can bring a partner or support person if they choose and can outline whatever they want to get out of the retreat: That could be just lactation support, it could be just rest and nourishing the body with healthy meals, it could be education on feeding plans, or any of the above, explains Sarah Mallin, a nurse, lactation counselor, and Director of Operations at Boram. You can even get help with giving the baby a bath for the first time, which can be a slippery scenario without that support.
Boram also has a nursery that ensures babies are taken care of — the staff, which consists of nurses, postpartum doulas, and lactation counselors, all of whom are trained in mental health support, also makes sure parents are experts in knowing exactly how to soothe the baby.
If you’re not in the New York area and can’t make the trip, you still have options. One of those options is Boram Anywhere, a virtual postnatal coaching platform that ranges from $80 to $120 a session, depending on the package you choose.
It serves as a “psychological transition” for parents, explains program coordinator Kari Esh, who is a postpartum doula, mental health counselor, and lactation counselor. You can choose as little as one session or can pick out a package of 12 session, which can coach you through breastfeeding and any challenges with it, the process of going back to work, traveling with the baby, or any other emotional support you might need.
If you need additional support, such as someone to prescribe mental health medication for you, a nutritionist, or a pelvic floor physical therapist to help work through pelvic pain postpartum, Esh has put together a list of referrals you can contact.
It’s common to need extra mental health help at this time: About 85 percent of people who have just given birth have some sort of change in mood after birth. From there, 10 to 15 percent of postpartum people have persistent anxiety or depression. There are ways that you can get more support to feel more like your pre-pregnancy self as well as tools you can turn to at home.
How to feel like yourself again after birth
Remember to have a plan, but be flexible about your postpartum plan.
Many people have set goals, especially for feeding the baby, which is great — but you should be open to adapting those goals based on unpredictable circumstances. “Maybe you had a really rough delivery, and can’t even sit down to breastfeed. If breastfeeding is challenging and you can’t sit, maybe you consider a combo feeding or pumping individualized plan,” Mallin says. “Keep your goals in mind, but be open to prioritizing yourself, so you don’t get too bogged down by the plan.”
A lot of new parenthood is about managing your expectations and reevaluating the plans you originally had based on what works, Esh adds. As long as the baby is well-fed and taken care of, do what’s best for your mental health and try to let go of some of those expectations.
Pamper yourself as much as you can.
Your body has just gone through a life-changing event, and you need time to recuperate in between taking care of the baby. A postpartum massage would be ideal to work through any soreness you have, says Mallin, but if that’s not in your budget, that’s okay. A sitz bath, which you can purchase at a local pharmacy, can be soothing for either a vaginal or C-section delivery, Mallin says. Or, soaking your feet in a foot bath can also help reduce swelling post-pregnancy.
Identify your needs so people can step in and help.
You can’t do this all alone. It can be very difficult as an adult to reach out and ask family, friends, and loved ones for help, and to then accept that help, but if you start by making a list of what might help you be the best parent and version of yourself, that is a start. For example, it might start with a shower — you can then ask a friend or parent to come by and hold the baby while you take a shower, or to help prep or pick up a meal, Esh suggests. If you don’t have loved ones in your area, it might be the right time to join moms’ groups for additional support.
Have a list of tools that help you feel like yourself.
It might take some time before you feel like your “normal” again. Esh recommends making a “menu” of fun or self-care activities that you can do to get back. “One category is 5 to 15 minute activities, one is one-hour activities, and the other is three hour or longer activities,” says Esh. “What did you do before you were pregnant that made you feel most alive and most like yourself?” Some ideas include going on a quick walk, reading a few pages of a book, or grabbing a coffee, and working your way up to a longer outing, like going to see a movie or show or going out to dinner.
It can help to get into this groove before you give birth. Have go-to tools of things (as simple as going for a walk or laying down to meditate for a few minutes) that can help you calm and soothe yourself in moments of stress or anxiety, says Mallin, so that they are second nature by the time you enter into the postpartum phase.
Start working with a therapist or counselor before birth.
“I find it to be beneficial that if you are someone that you are at risk for postpartum anxiety or depression, even if you are a borderline anxious person, establish a relationship with a therapist or psychiatrist before you deliver,” says Mallin. You could even experience mental health challenges during pregnancy, she adds.
If you do feel any of that anxiety or depressive symptoms creeping up during pregnancy, connect with a therapist or mental health counselor (your OB/GYN may be able to give you a referral) so that you establish a relationship, they know your history, and you have a go-to person to turn to for mental health support during postpartum recovery.
Before you go, check out these pregnancy bedrest essentials: