a village for mama guide to creating your fourth trimester nest
There is a beautiful book ‘Golden Month’ by Jenny Allison which writes about caring for the world’s mothers after childbirth. Jenny, an acupuncturist and teacher, explores postpartum practices from different cultures throughout the world.
‘Simply resting after childbirth is no longer given the importance that it had only a generation or two ago. We live in a modern society which operates on pressured time schedules and it is not easy to find space in this environment where we can quietly restore our health and energy.’ J.A
The traditional practice of bed rest after birth has been replaced with a notion of ‘bouncing back’, a parade of ‘well meaning’ visitors and an urge to show the world that this new mama can do anything. Whilst part of me can completely relate to those callings, there was a deeper part of me (and not just my heavy pelvic floor) calling me to resist temptation and adhere to these traditional words of wisdom.
Like all elements of life, balance, boundaries and a little preparation seem to work quite beautifully. There are, understandably, other factors which can affect a new mamas ability to surrender to treasured bed rest but with a few sacrifices, a little forward thinking and support, any mama can secure a little sacred bed rest.
Village for mama, beyond being a recipe book for new mamas, is a resource to help mamas gather their ‘modern village’. Their community and support network which will allow them to honour some of the practices which are so deeply important to a protected postpartum journey.
Setting an intention of early bed rest, whether it be 3 days, a week, 10 days or more… is a wonderful place to start. This time should be spent on your bed and with just a little preparation, this is absolutely possible. Explain this to your partner, friend, mother in law, or whoever else is closest to you during this time. Knowing your village is understanding of your intention to hibernate with your baby will help you let go of any mental ‘to do’ lists. Their knowledge will also allow them to absorb the tasks normally fulfilled by yourself.
Then mama, it’s time to prepare your nest. This can be in your room or your babies room, but this space is about you. We put so much thought and time into creating the perfect nursery for our baby, but we rarely stop and think about our own space ready for life as a mama.
Our tips for mamahood nesting
1. soft and natural
Your bed will be the foundation of your nest, it will hold you and your little one during these days of hibernation. Investing in some new organic and natural bedding is not only a treat but can be incredibly beneficial. You want your bed to be somewhere you don’t want to get up from and having the right environment is so important for the quality of your sleep too.
Natural materials, unlike synthetic materials regulate your body temperature. They keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter and can also work to wick moisture away from the body. After giving birth a new mama sweats away a lot of her water retention from pregnancy affectionately referred to as ‘the milk sweats’. You really don’t want synthetic sheets adding fuel to this hot sweaty fire.
Invest in a whole new bed set made from organic natural fabric – 100% linen, cotton or bamboo. Double up on the fitted bottom sheet and pillow cases so you can change these daily if need be and you don’t have to worry about remembering to put a load of washing on or waiting for sheets to dry. You can change the duvet cover less often and use blankets that can be thrown in the washing machine more frequently to keep you cosy and warm too.
Be mindful of synthetic or waterproof mattress protectors – the are often ‘non breathable’, slippy, thick and hard to wash and dry and can counteract the benefits of your beautiful natural bedding. It can be tempting to go for waterproof mattress protectors when you are welcoming a baby – think exploding nappies and milk coming in. A nice cotton padded protector will do the trick without making you feel hot and sweaty.
2. supportive and fresh
When was the last time you go a new pillow? The little cloud that supports your head and neck every single night. Sleep deprivation and new baby tend to fall hand in hand. It is so important to make sure you can facilitate a good sleep when the opportunity arises. Starting with where you rest your head is a great start.
There is no point listing all the ‘things’ that collect in your pillow over time, its not nice – just take our word for it – it’s about as pleasant as an explosive nappy! Treat you and your partner to a new pillow before babe arrives. Be sure to try before you buy (think new pair of shoes you will be running the marathon of mamahood in) there are so many shapes and sizes, you want one that supports you well and you find comfortable.
I also loved my breastfeeding pillow. They aren’t a necessity but you can buy really affordable ones. I found some beautiful organic fabric and made a new cover for mine. I used it occasionally for breastfeeding – it is really helpful for the early days when you are focusing on the latch and other logistics and feel as though you need 6 hands. It works as a back rest when you need to sit up to feed. Mine also became a little cocoon for my daughter when I went to the loo or had a quick shower.
3. warm and reassuring
Having a bedside lamp means you can control the lighting without having to get up. A salt lamp is my personal favourite for providing a warm glow. Good enough to read or write with but not too bright or stimulating. I loved being about to pop mine on for middle of the night feed. I could see what I was doing but it didn’t completely wake me or my husband up.
The ‘health benefits’ of Himalayan salt lamps are still up for debate. Regardless of their argued benefits – their beautiful calming and inviting glow make them a wonderful choice for your mamahood nest.
Fairy lights are another magical addition to your postpartum cocoon. Subtle sparkles with an easy to access switch. They invite you to curl up with a warm drink and a book… well a warm drink and a snuggly new baby. Be mindful that their positioning isn’t too stimulating for your little one.
4. purifying and positive
Adding a little greenery to your space is a beautiful touch – especially if they are easy to maintain. Plants can not only help clear the air but they actually make people feel better. They will add a touch of colour to your space, help remove airborne toxins and improve the air quality.
5. mama station
bed side table
Having a well stocked bedside table with all the bits and bobs you may need is another way to keep you where you are! Don’t let little things be the reason you need to pop out. Traditionally the time of bed rest was to include no distractions – books, phones movies etc. You were supposed to use this time to rest and rest only. I think a modern mama struggles enough as it is Not doing anything. I believe having a few activities and distractions can be another great way to encourage bed rest.
Tissues, baby wipes, breast pads and cloths…
There are lots of accidents and spillages from both you and your babe. Keeping a good stack of cleaning props at hand is always a good idea and will save you ‘jumping up’ in case of an emergency.
Journal & Pen
Journaling is a wonderful practice. It helps you reconcile your thoughts and feelings. The transition into mama hood is an emotional rollercoaster. You are processing a whole new scale of emotions. Keeping a diary and pen close by to jot down any thoughts, feelings and reflections. A beautiful practice and can help you navigate your new headspace. Use this time to write down your birth story. There will be details you may have forgotten. Moments that imprinted a little deeper than you realised. Journaling during this time can help you make sense of thought patterns you may not be used to. These can also be written treasures to reflect on later down the mamahood track.
A phone can keep you connected to your village. An easy way to request another cup of warming goodness. A way to connect with friends and family before you invite them in to visit. A wonderful resource to gain reassurance if something is worrying you. Try not to spend every second scrolling or texting, set personal boundaries and prioritise rest. I loved playing gentle classical music. I always made an effort to pop my phone on Aeroplane mode when I wasn’t using it.
6. growing family
Mum guilt can start to creep in when your new baby isn’t your first born. You want your room to be a comforting and relaxing sanctuary for you and your latest arrival. This doesn’t mean special visitors aren’t welcome.
Set up a little station for your other little one or ones. Include their favourite book or quiet activity so they can be part of this special time too.
village for mama recipes
breakfast…..lunch, dinner, snacks & drinks in bed…
All the beautiful nourishing village for mama recipes prepared by your village can be delivered to you in bed. This will help remind you to eat regularly and eat well. Get a special meal tray for your deliveries. So you can sit up comfortably and not worry about spilling anything on your lovely sheets!
Creating this special cocoon can really help you surrender during this time and have a wonderful impact on your fourth trimester. Time spent on your bed promotes regular skin to skin with your baby which encourages breastfeeding. It stabilises their temperature, breathing rate, heart rate and blood sugar. It allows you to learn your baby away from distractions and input from others. And to self reflect and be aware of your own body, feelings – able to identify anything that might be off. You can concentrate completely when navigating the uncharted territory of breastfeeding – latching, listening, connecting and learning their hunger cues.
‘We forget to listen to our needs and intuitions around the biological rhythms of birth and breastfeeding’ J.A
Having this time, tucked away with your baby, will allow your motherly instincts to fine tune. You will learn your baby and yourself as a mama.
Being sheltered in your room removes the visual temptation of household obligations. Dishes, washing, and anything else you will ‘just quickly do’ on your feet. Asking someone from your village to takeover these tasks for you so your mind is at ease. Removing all jobs from your to do list will allow you to sleep while your baby sleeps. One of the best things you can do to restore your energy.
Creating your own special nest for this time is a wonderful way to completely embrace this time. Remember, a little balance, preparation, setting an intention and boundaries will truely help you achieve your own personal ‘bed rest’ after you give birth. Which should be a right and not a privilege for all mamas.
love village for mama x
Liz MiLnes says
Such important advice so beautifully written.
We are taught to pack our bags ,prep the nursery ,buy a rocking chair and baby seat , but not prepare our nest.
thank you! it really isn’t something we think about but it can be so beneficial!