There is a lot to go through with a newborn and recovering from major abdominal surgery on top of that takes some extra care.
Your doctor should have provided you with very specific care information about your healing process, but there isn’t really a handbook on how to make it all work with getting enough rest and taking care of your baby while you take care of yourself. Keep in mind this is just a small part of your journey with your new baby, and the better you take care of yourself the faster your recovery can happen.
Plan on Getting Enough Rest
It’s so easy to stare at those precious little details and count the fingers and toes all day, but as you have probably heard over and over again at this point: Rest when your baby rests. This is so important for sleep-deprived new moms in general, but as your body recovers from the C-section you need even more rest than usual. If you have a partner at home to help you try and plan a little additional time to stretch the breaks you get by getting help with diaper changes or meal preparation so you can rest. Making a conscious effort to take care of yourself and prioritize your recovery along with the care and bonding with your newborn will help to ease the exhaustion and help to keep you in a healthier mindset.
If you are alone with your baby or struggling to find time to rest. Ask friends, family for assistance, or consider hiring a postpartum doula to spend time with you and your baby in the early stages. If you begin to feel depressed, negative emotional changes, or feel in a constant state of fatigue beyond the first couple of weeks you may be experiencing postpartum depression. Reach out to your health care professionals for help and an assessment of your situation.
Find a Comfortable Position
There is not one single answer for what this position might be. It may take some trial and error (and some pillows) to find the position where you can relax without pain. Take your time and try out different arrangements to see what works. Make sure you carefully move between positions and ensure you’re not straining or overexerting yourself getting into or out of your bed or a recliner. Your main goal is to rest comfortably and reduce any stress on the incision site.
Keeping your sleeping baby nearby in a bassinet can help ease your worries early on and allow them to sleep safely at an arms reach. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the safest place for an infant to sleep is on a separate sleep surface designed for infants close to the parents’ bed. Read more about safe sleeping spaces on the Safe to Sleep website.
On Your Back
According to Specialty Surgery Center, the best sleeping position after C-section and most surgeries is on your back. Many times sleeping on your back may be the best option to relieve any pressure on your incision. Try placing a pillow under your knees or sometimes a smaller pillow for your neck to find a balance that works for you. If you’re sleeping on your back, it is very important not to sit up directly from this position. First rolling to your side and using your arms to help you sit up will protect your recovering abdominal muscles. University of Washington Medical Center recommends the “logroll” method to get yourself out of bed.
- Before you move your feet off the bed, roll onto your side, with your knees bent
- Move your feet off the bed. Use your arms to push your body up to a sitting position. Try to keep your abdomen relaxed.
- Sit on the side of the bed before you stand up.
In a Recliner
Similar to on your back in bed, resting in a recliner can be an option to try out. If you’re breastfeeding you may already be spending a lot of time in the recliner. Depending on the style of your chair you may have a footrest attached or a separate ottoman. Try out different adjustments or supplementing the cushions with small pillows or a rolled-up blanket to get things just right. Not quite the same quality as sleeping in your bed, but for an afternoon nap or just a few minutes of closed eyes to recharge this can be a great option.
On Your Side
Sleeping on your left side aids in optimum blood flow which is great for your recovering body. You may still need that full-body pregnancy pillow around to support your belly and hips. This position also makes it easier to get into and out of bed and may just be a transition for you as you get into and out of bed. Many new moms find the side-lying position is the most comfortable breastfeeding position for new moms who are recovering from a C-section. If you do decide to breastfeed with your baby in this position, make sure to keep your baby safe and move them out of your bed before you fall asleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) doesn’t recommend bed-sharing with your newborn. A bedside bassinet can create a safe and separate space for your baby.
Elevated Upper Body
If you have a wedge pillow this can be very helpful since it will elevate the entire upper body. If not, you can still get the same benefits with a carefully arranged pile of pillows. This also goes well with the pillows under your knees for a fully supported position. Reference back to the “logroll” method mentioned above to get into and out of this position. If you’ve been told you could be at risk for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), this may have been recommended by your Dr. Moms who have had C-Sections may be at a higher risk for this condition, but a study published in the journal CHEST, found sleeping at a 45-degree angle helps to breathe easier and didn’t seem to interfere with sleep quality or duration.
Block out Distractions
As you rest at the same time as your baby, you may find the time goes very quickly for a nap. Just as you start to doze off that’s when you hear the baby waking up… Getting into a restful mindset and asleep as quickly as possible can be a struggle and the stress of limited time can sometimes make it even more difficult to get to sleep! Consider keeping an eye mask nearby to block out some light as you rest during the day. It’s tempting to unwind with time on your phone or other electronics once the baby is sleeping, but these will not allow you to sleep and get the rest you need. Planning some unplugged rest time will help to disconnect and mentally recharge. Turn off your notifications if possible or set your device away from you so you’re not tempted to pick it up during your dedicated rest time.
On the other hand, your phone or a tablet might still come in handy. Many apps have nature sounds and white noise options to help block out distractions. The sound of the ocean or a forest could be helpful to ease you into sleep. One study suggests a white noise machine can reduce sleep onset for patients, or the time it takes to fall asleep, by nearly 40% compared to patients who don’t use these devices. There are also many YouTube channels, podcasts, and music channels dedicated to guided sleep and relaxation which can help guide you into a comfortable and restful mental space. Turn on some relaxation sounds, white noise, or soft music, lay back, and relax.
Take Care of Yourself
These first 6 weeks are a very important time for your newborn, but also for yourself as you recover from your C-section. Making your own health and recovery a priority is a very important part of taking care of your family. Your body has gone through some amazing changes in the last 9 months, and there are more changes ahead as your hormones and body recover from giving birth. You may experience a roller coaster of emotions during this time which is absolutely normal, but if you feel yourself becoming more anxious, worried, or depressed after the first couple of weeks, contact your health care professionals to talk about how you’re feeling.
Enjoy this new and exciting time with your newborn and your growing family!
A new baby is like the beginning of all things — wonder, hope, a dream of possibilities. -Eda Leshan
Written by contributing writer Amber Mauriello