Support new mothers with a massage
As Mother’s Day is nearing, I am thinking about my own mother and motherhood as a roll. I am a dog-mom and have never had a human child. The closest experience I have to relate to having children was caring for my parents in their end of life process. It is amazing how we really changed roles, I became the parent and they became the children. Most things I did were with their welfare in mind. This went on for a year. Nothing I had done before could have prepared me for what was to come. In hindsight, there were many things I could have put in place to support the process.
In my massage practice I have worked with many pregnant clients all through and up close to delivery time. I have even been in a few delivery rooms to help reduce the discomfort and pain of delivery. What screams to me is that after the baby is born all self-care and support seems to stop, understandably, there is a new life and a small helpless being whose every need depends on Mom. It’s like a woman goes into the hospital to have her baby and the doctors and nurse help with the birthing process and when that is over, in some cases a day or two later, the baby is handed over to the new parents and it like here you go, good luck… and then life begins!
I have gotten panicked calls from friends who are 3 months post delivery and up to their eyeballs in child care, in tears, stating “can I give him back”, “I didn’t sign-up for this”. As the supportive friend I have talked them down from the preverbal ledge, however, what postpartum Mom’s need is help and a break! Self-care goes out the window and there is very little support for her. In this day and age, we as women are expected to take care of everyone including ourselves at the expense of ourselves. Where does this leave a new Mom who is doing some of the most important work there is to do, raise a child which is our future as a human race, when she is physically, emotionally and spiritually depleted?
As a massage therapist wanting to learn how to support women with massage, I have researched about other cultures and how they care for women after delivering a baby. In Asia and India women are actually cared for by family and friends. Granted their lifestyles are also very different from the American lifestyle. New Moms are supported by their own mothers as well as extended family and friends. They are allowed to rest and massage is very much a part of the healing process. If there is not family or even if there is, they can hire what is called (I’m loosely translating) an actual ‘nurse maid’ whose job it is assist the new Mom.
All this being said, postpartum massage can be an important, effective and holistic approach for the healing process and the many adjustment of being a new mother.
Massage is well-known for its health benefits; such as relaxation and pain relief. However, specific support for a new Mom includes: hormone regulation, better sleep, improved breast feeding, recovery from giving birth, reduces swelling, increased healing.
Relaxation, Stress Reduction
Massage can help relax muscles, improve circulation, and decrease stress hormones. After nine months of creating, carrying and delivering one of the greatest miracles of life, a new Moms’ body would certainly benefit from a little pampering and perhaps a little deeper work to get some of the knots out. Improved Circulation moves metabolic waste products out and bring fresh blood, oxygen and nutrients to tissue for improved healing.
Postpartum Depression and Anxiety
Depression, anxiety and “the mommy blues” respond well to skilled massage therapy. It is not uncommon for new moms to experience postpartum depression, anxiety or the blues due to hormonal changes, new responsibilities and adjustments to a new normal. Postpartum depression is a longer lasting condition that affects 10-15% of new mothers. You may need to enlist the assistance of a health car practitioner as well for postpartum depression. Research as shown massage to be very beneficial in treating all these conditions.
After child birth there can be residual pain, discomfort and body aches, which are all normal. Add in breastfeeding and childcare and shoulder, back, neck, arm and hand pain can increase substantially. Massage can relieve these issues without medication as not to interfere with breastfeeding.
Massage can greatly improve postpartum hormone regulation. Estrogen and progesterone levels drop after delivery, prolactin and oxytocin rise to facilitate breastfeeding, cortisol levels rise due to stress, all can be helped with massage. Massage can also affect the hormones that contribute to depression and the “mommy blues”.
During pregnancy often times there is a great deal of fluid retention and weight gain. The body fluids need to find a balance after delivery. Massage can improve circulation and lymphatic flow which will help the body to decrease swelling and rebalance hormone which also affect fluid retention. Good hydration is necessary for the healing process and breastfeeding however massage can assist the body with rebalancing.
After delivery and with new responsibilities of child care, new moms are exhausted. Quality sleep is important. Massage can increase the brainwaves that promote quality sleep. This is why it is not uncommon to fall asleep during massage. Quality sleep is important for recovery, hormone balancing, returning to pre-pregnancy weight and having a better mental state for handling new responsibilities.
Studies show that massage increases prolactin levels, prolactin is a hormone that stimulates lactation. Additionally, relaxes the body, relieves shoulder, arm and neck pain. New research as shown that breast massage can decrease breast pain and tenderness associated with breastfeeding; as well; reduces sodium content of breast milk which can improve newborn suckling. You will need to talk to your licensed massage therapist about receiving this work.
When can a new Mom Start Massage?
You may start receiving massage as soon as you feel comfortable to get massage. Any position on the massage table should be comfortable for you, but if not discuss it with your therapist and they will be able to reposition you or use pillows or towels to create a comfortable and relaxing experience.
Can I bring my Baby?
It is ideal to find someone you trust to leave your baby with. It's important to get some "me time", difficult though it may seem. Here are some things you could try.
Ask for help. Ask your husband, mother, mother-in-law, or any other trusted family member to look after your little one while you get a massage. Knowing that someone responsible is looking after your little one will help you relax. The last thing you want to do while getting a massage is worry!
Schedule ahead and Pick the right time. Try to have your massage just after you have fed and changed your little one. If all his needs are met, you are more likely to find an hour or two in which your baby does not ask for you. It will then also be easier to leave him with another family member or trusted caregiver a while.
Talk to you practitioner. If all the above suggestions fail, talk to your therapist about bring your baby. Some practitioner will support a little visitor to your session. Adjustments can be made to your session to accommodate your newborns needs. Again, extremely important to have this discussion with your practitioner before your appointment, extra time maybe needed in order to support your needs.
Postpartum after care and massage therapy
Massage can not only improve the recovery time but the quality of recovery for many women. Together with the solid guidance of your health care provider and a qualified massage practitioner you can enter into the new role of motherhood with as much ease and grace as possible.