My kids attend a Montessori school. My husband and I love Maria Montessori’s theories and approaches to education as children transition through the different developmental planes. At a recent parent-teacher conference last week, my daughter’s teacher spoke about the Montessori theory that external order creates internal order. This theory suggests that a child who is presented with an environment that is peaceful and which follows a routine will have a better chance at internal order; their behavior will also be peaceful and follow a routine as they can focus solely on their work. We have certainly seen this work for our young (2 years old and 5 years old) kiddos. When our household and life in general is chaotic, it is reflected back in our children's behavior. This immediately got me thinking. How might this theory also work in creating external order in the postpartum? How might this same concept apply to new mothers as they transition into motherhood and learn to breastfeed and care for their newborn? It was a total light bulb moment and I couldn't wait to share!
In many cultures around the world the new mother and baby are given 30-40 days of peace as they navigate their new relationship earthside. The community respects and protects the mother-baby dyad by providing food, a comfortable resting place and emotional support. In the Chinese postpartum tradition, mothers are provided with warm nutritious foods and are encouraged to stay in bed. In some Latin American countries the tradition, known as Cuarentena, requires that friends and family cook, clean and take of other children so the mother can heal and focus her efforts solely on tending to her new baby. All these cultural traditions create a postpartum environment that removes the worries of everyday life and allows for the mom and baby to bond and recover. It creates order and calm in the postpartum. This is in stark contrast to the American tradition of "getting back to the grind" sometimes as soon as one to two weeks postpartum! I believe we can do better.
At our prenatal consultation we give several printed materials in addition to our breastfeeding class presentation and demonstration with a baby doll and cloth breast. One of the materials we like to give in our take home packet is our “10 Tips to Successful Breastfeeding”. By reading the title, one might think it is strictly about comfortable nursing positions, or how to help your baby get a deeper latch. In fact, it is actually about creating a postpartum environment that supports the mother so she and baby can do the important work of breastfeeding. It is about creating that external order so mom and baby can have internal order. Just as a child transitions through the developmental planes of childhood into adulthood, so too do women transition into motherhood. The transition is both physical and emotional. In our modern society it can be difficult to slow down and be mindful in the postpartum. We believe that by taking certain steps, the postpartum period can be a time of real rest and bonding. And that quite naturally, breastfeeding can fall into place.
So, just how do we create a postpartum environment that lends itself to order and calm and ultimately attainment of breastfeeding goals? Here are a few of our top tips to creating a peaceful postpartum for mom and baby:
Limit visitors. We know this one is tough. This is a special time for you and your baby to nurse and bond. There will still be plenty of opportunity for visits with extended family.
Surround yourself with supportive people. Do you have friends or family members that have breastfed? Keep those people close. They are your cheerleaders. They will lift you up and encourage you when times get tough. And if you need professional help, you can always call the expert-an IBCLC.
Get comfy! Stay in your pajamas or even better stay in bed. Try laid-back breastfeeding or side-lying nursing to allow for some rest for you.
Housework can wait. Remember that support circle you’ve created? Use them! Allow others to help around the house with cleaning, cooking and watching your other children while you tend to your baby.
Be mindful. We know it's cliche, but it's true-your baby is only this little once. Soak in these moments. Breathe them in. This can be a wonderful time.
Set mini goals. Make short term breastfeeding goals for yourself-2 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, etc. It will keep you from getting overwhelmed and you’ll feel awesome once you make your goals because, spoiler alert, you will.
Thanks for reading. And here's to a peaceful and quite possibly orderly postpartum!
Mary and Trish