I was invited by PAM (Pregnancy Awareness Month) to participate in a Twitter party centered on the theme of “nesting” for moms-to-be. It got me thinking about the issue and how important it is for us to not only prepare for the arrival of another being but to prepare ourselves for the larger transition, those first 40 days after baby is born.
Pregnancy itself is a form of nesting. Baby is nourished in the womb as it grows, preparing it to survive the outside world. Childbirth is the first transition from the inner world to the outer with exchanges of hormones, mother’s immune protection, probiotic bacteria and a full blood supply to help baby thrive in the first few days. Allowing cord blood to continue pumping for up to 20 minutes is important, but parents who wish to bank cord blood can ask doctor to divide that time between baby and deposit.
Once baby is born, it’s best not to wash off vernix, just wipe excess and put baby skin to skin on momma’s tummy before tying off the chord. Baby will root out breast through scent. There are so many valuable pheromones that can be disrupted through bathing and the vernix maintains proper pH levels so healthy probiotic colonies can be maintained. This is babies first defense.
I followed the traditional path of remaining home, cuddled in bed, skin-to-skin, breastfeeding on demand for the first 40 days. Except for doctor’s visits we did not leave the house together. I didn’t bathe either of my babies during this time, opting instead to allow their skin to make the transition from womb to outer world as nature intended armed with the knowledge that skin regenerates every 30 days.
Their first bath was more of a celebratory ablution than a true bath, using a diluted, unscented pure castille soap and warm water. I followed with a gentle baby massage using pure, unscented organic jojoba oil. Jojoba is actually a liquid wax and not subject to rancidity. It’s also very emollient and gentle. I used the same unscented products for myself when I bathed and moisturized so I wouldn’t mask my body odor. I also wore loose, comfortable organic cotton loungewear.
For diaper changes I used only pure orange blossom water sprayed onto their bottoms and wiped with homemade organic flannel towelettes, cut to size using pinking shears (no need to sew). They were very sweet smelling babies! As newborns I used homemade diapers made with the same flannel cloth as the wipes. My mother showed me how to sew them. Poopy diapers were soaked in a bucket before laundering with homemade soapnut detergent. See my post on “Single Ingredient Products” for easy directions on how to make soapnut detergent (https://lalunnaturals.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/single-ingredient-products).
I was lucky to have my mother cooking for me and my friend Heng Ou of Motherbees provide me with the most delicious and nourishing soups and nut milks I could imagine. I also drank plenty of raspberry leaf tea to help tone my uterus and fenugreek to promote lactation. The best way to prepare these infusions is in a large jar, 1/4 herb covered with boiling water up to the brim, capped and allowed to sit for a few hours.
When baby was sleeping and not nursing skin-to-skin, she was swaddled. This helped provide the boundary she needed to remain comforted. Swaddling simulates the womb and helps maintain even body temperature since babies cannot adequately regulate their own body temperatures.
After those first 40 days, my babies were worn in a sling until they were large enough to be in an Ergo carrier. My babies were always on me, even while they were napping. I would do light housework while “wearing” them. If I took them off, they were placed on a sheepskin fleece nearby or handed to dad.
At night, both babies co-slept in our bed until they were ready for their own toddler cot around 3 years old. All animals sleep with their young, and we were no exception. It was especially handy for nighttime feedings. No crying jags, getting up, staggering about, fumbling, just rolling onto my side and latching baby on. I often fell asleep while baby nursed. Our bed was our first nest!
I really loved those first 40 days with my both of my babies. I rested a lot, focused on their presence in our lives, watching them quietly, meditatively. I also focused on nourishing and rebuilding my own strength and making the transition from pregnant mom to lactating mother. There are a lot of physiological changes that take place in those first 40 days post partum that we often ignore or fail to honor. Taking the time to consciously rest and rebuild really helps set the stage for the next step.
Trust me, it goes by quickly!