Mother’s today are often forced to return to work or other vigorous day-today tasks soon after birth. Focusing on a Lying-In period before returning to the rigors of every day life allows mom to have a chance to heal, learn her new baby’s particular personality and needs, as well as replenish her energy.
This tradition puts the focus on mothering-the-mother after birth, and can be adapted to fit your individual families needs. Even a brief lying in period can assist greatly with avoiding burn-out and even postpartum depression.
What is Lying-in?
A period of rest for mother and baby lasting 1 – 3 weeks but can last up to 6 weeks with proper support and care. This is a time for mother and baby to bond, establish nursing, and so much more!
‘Lying-In’ is an old childbirth practice involving a woman resting in bed for a period after giving birth. It previously referred to as a period of bed rest required even if there were no medical complications.[1 Lying-in times can range from 2 weeks to 2 months. Women received congratulatory visits from friends and family during this period.
What does Lying-in do for the Mother?
It enables the mother’s body to recover more efficiently and effectively as it allows the uterus to shrink back to regular size and get back into correct alignment and position. Postpartum bleeding can be made worse when the mother overexerts herself. The Perineum will need some extra time and attention as it recovers from stretching, pressure, and the possibly tearing or cut after a vaginal birth. If you needed a C-Section the healing time and needs are different too and this lying-in period will help the incision heal more quickly with mom limiting her movement. Legs and feet sometimes become swollen the days following the birth and being off her feet can dramatically help this. Lying in can help release any pressure felt in the bottom, vaginal area/perineum, and stomach area as these areas recover in a number of different ways. Other organs need time reposition and this lets her body do what it was made to do…repair itself with rest, good healthy food, and bonding with her baby which will also allow her hormones to realign. Emotionally, lying-in allows the mother to focus on her new infant and to establish the tone and routine the rest of the family will follow during the newborn phase.
What does Lying-in do for baby?
The baby will get a chance to become acclimated to life outside of the womb. Your Baby has never felt air on his or her skin. Noises are all new and unfiltered. Harsh lighting or a drastic changes from light to dark are all things your baby has never experienced. This one-on-one time gives your newborn a chance to slowly be introduced to experiences that are normal in our adult lives. Your new baby is just that…new…and a more gentle introduction is beneficial to your baby’s mind, body, and spirit. This lying-in time also gives your baby a chance to learn how to communicate with you by cries, coos, movement, and other signs individual to your infant. As your baby plays with sounds she learns that some of those sounds produce food. Some sounds produce a clean diaper, and other sounds produce the sweet feeling of touch your baby craves from being in 100% contact with you until the day she was born.
Skin-to-skin contact has many benefits to baby (and mom) these first few weeks too. Skin-to-skin regulates the baby’s temperature, eases postpartum depression,enhances bonding and helps to establish healthy feeding – skin to skin is one of the easiest things families can do to help their newborn. To read more about skin-to-skin, check out this link from Mommypotamus here.
One-on-one time also provides you with an opportunity to watch baby closely. This time lets you observe your newborn’s skin for things like jaundice, umbilical cord care, and any rashes that may arise. Diaper changes (or Elimination Communication, EC) become more routine when your focus is on baby’s cues and actions/reactions. You will be able to establish the diaper needs (or EC needs) of this particular child much easier when you and your child have some time to focus on this area without the distraction of every-day life. Feeding routines take time to establish. Breast or bottle are a personal choice, but both require a learning curve for baby to get the latch right, and for you to learn baby’s hunger cues before he/she reaches a level of distress. This can be done by spending time watching your baby play with her hands, turn her head, and look or “root” for a food source.
How does Lying-in work?
Before the birth of her child, the mother sets up a primary support person to take over all household chores and responsibilities including the major care of older children. The primary support person is usually the Mother or Mother-in-Law of the new mom. This task can be shared by a few or many friends and support people including but not limited to a Postpartum Doula. The role of this primary support person is to meet the needs of the mother and baby first and foremost. When mother and babys needs are fully met, this person may care for older children and the home.
What about visitors?
Primarily only immediate family visits during this time. Those wishing to give the family a meal may drop it off, but typically are not interacting with mother and baby. Extended family and friends wait to meet the new baby until this time-period is complete. The mother’s body is still recovering from her personal birth experience. Childbirth may be one of the biggest physical accomplishments she has experienced. She needs time to heal and recover properly. Many cultures around the world believe that if a mother does not rest properly after birth her recovery will last longer and that she will set up a cycle of not being at her physical best.
How do I set up my own lying-in?
- Set boundaries for family and friends: If your spouse/partner is able to take time off of work it is a good time for them to protect your lying-in space by keeping visitors away and by running the household.
- Follow the 5, 5, 5 rule: Plan to spend your days following the rule of 5 days in bed, 5 days on the bed, and 5 days around the bed. This will look different for each family, but as a general rule it is good to stay laying down the first 5 days focused on your new baby and family. The next five day period you focus on staying sitting, and doing a few things from your position on the bed. You may have things brought to you, but your focus is still bonding with the baby and as a new family. Older children may come and go, but as a general rule, they are not the focus this 5-10 days. Rest is of utmost importance. The third 5 days are spent working up to standing and eventually moving around the bed but staying in close proximity. Sometime toward the end of this 5 day period you may feel like slowly taking over your normal household responsibilities but it is advised by those who practice this regularly to remain focused on rest and bonding and not overdoing it. You have spent close to 15 days taking it easy. This is not the time to take over all previous responsibilities in the time frame of a day or two.
Including other children
Allowing older children to be around the baby and around you has its place and time. Older children need to feel like the baby is their baby too. Set up new baby boxes for toddlers with quiet things they can do with the baby; such as: reading a book, singing a song, choosing outfits, or soft toys the toddler can show the baby or play with while not disrupting the room.
Having a primary caretaker for toddlers will be a big help if even for just a few hours in the middle of the day.
Older kids and young teens can be a big help during this lying-in time. Getting mom items, getting baby items, holding and comforting baby while mom uses the restroom (with dads help getting up and down if needed) or eats can be a big help and a special time for the older child/younger teen. Teens can be a huge help in many different ways that look different for each teen and family.
Marking the end of your Lying-in
It can be fun to plan a “Welcome Baby” party at the end of the month to welcome and celebrate the new mother and new baby into your circle of family and friends.
Toward the end of your lying-in and before you start going out in town is a great time to learn how to baby wear if you are interested. There are a lot of great resources on babywearing. (*see my link below for a great local resource) Establishing a good babywearing system at home will ease some stress for you when you go out with your older children or family and friends.
Want to read more about Lying in? Mothering Magazine has an article: In the Arms of a Mother
Connected Birth can help you organize a lying-in period after birth. Please contact us!
*Quantico Area Babywears blog page: http://qabw.blogspot.com/