Should new mothers spend ten days in bed after giving birth?
Former president of the Royal College of Midwifes, Caroline Flint, has suggested that new mothers should have ten days bed rest after giving birth to their baby.
By Judith Woods
Last Updated: 1:29PM GMT 19 Dec 2008
Pity poor Mary. No sooner had she given birth in a stable than any chance of quiet recuperation was thwarted by having to entertain some shepherds and those wise men from the east. Not to mention the flight into Egypt soon afterwards. It makes the pressure on the modern mother – these days you're considered a bit of a slacker if you're not firing off emails on your BlackBerry from the labour ward – seem rather mild in comparison.
But neither option is recommended, according to Caroline Flint, a past president of the Royal College of Midwives. She believes that mothers should stay in bed for 10 days after giving birth. Her theory – outlined in a new DVD – runs contrary to usual medical advice that says mothers should aim to be as mobile as possible after birth to prevent complications such as deep-vein thrombosis (DVT).
In fact, the idea of resting up is a throwback to the Victorian era. But high-profile mothers including Thandie Newton and Davina McCall are among those who have taken up Flint's advice. "As a society, we're desperately cruel to women with new babies," Flint says. "They are expected to be up and about immediately, as though nothing major has happened. A baby needs to be cuddled and fed constantly and what better way to get to know your child than by lying in bed together?"
Bafta-winning actress Newton, 35, who has two daughters, Ripley, eight, and three-year-old Nico, cherished the experience. "Life changed profoundly after the birth of my children," she says. "If I hadn't been there to sense it in those tiny movements, noises and touch of my baby, perhaps I wouldn't have adapted. Those 10 days allowed for another gestation – from woman to mother."
Mother-of-two Shirley McAlpine, a management consultant from London, is another convert. "With Ethan [now eight months], I had an unplanned Caesarean section, which made 10 days in bed necessary," she says. "Given that I had an older child [Honor, four], my husband Dan took five days off work, my mum stayed for four days and my cousin also came for a day. Critically, as well as looking after me, they also took care of Honor and made her feel loved and secure, so I could concentrate all my attention on Ethan."
It's an approach that has its critics, however. Sue Jacob, of the Royal College of Midwives, says while the college supports the idea of a mother having a private room, "women should move about [post- birth] to prevent complications, infection and bleeding".
And Prof Lesley Regan, head of obstetrics and gynaecology at St Mary's, Paddington, adds: "I don't think lying in bed is the answer. We want to get women mobile, to reduce the risk of DVT, particularly now more of the population is obese."
But Flint says the risk of DVT is unfounded. Even if women stayed in bed, they would get up to shower daily, go to the loo and change nappies. Nor should mothers worry that 10 days of feeding and sleeping will hamper later attempts to ease the baby into a routine.
"There is no point even trying to get the baby into a routine before six weeks," she says. "Taking time out will leave you rested and in tune with your baby, which is a fabulous start for any new mother and child."
Caroline Flint: www.birthcentre.com Buy a copy of her 'Birthwise' DVD from www.birthwisedvd.com before January 10 (using the discount code Telegraph5) and you will receive £5 off the price of £29.99
Practical Parenting December 2008
Babyworld.com September 2008
Get back into your bed!
Why new mums should stay in bed for 10 days after giving birth
Mums today feel obliged to be up and about within hours of giving birth, slipping back into their pre-pregnancy jeans, starting up their own business and bashing out a book while still presenting a spotless house and serving home cooked meals. It's not too surprising that mums feel exhausted with many suffering from post-natal depression.
According to one expert midwife, Caroline Flint, pictured right, (past President of the Royal College of Midwives and has been a midwife for 28 years) the solution for mums is simple: stay in bed. In a new DVD 'Birthwise - Your Creation, Your Choice', Caroline recommends that all mothers should stay in bed for ten days after giving birth. She recommends that expectant mums should plan ahead, creating a sanctuary in their bedroom that will allow them to spend the first 10 days of their baby's life isolated from the demands of everyday living.
"Many mums underestimate just what an impact having a baby will have on their mental and physical well-being. Becoming a parent is an enormous adjustment and women need to give themselves time to fully recover after birth before trying to take on too much," says Caroline."
According to Caroline, the benefits of staying in bed include:
- Physical recovery: Even an easy birth without any intervention is exhausting. Mothers need to give their bodies time to heal and re-energise, particularly if they've had c-sections or other medical involvement.
- Mental and emotional adjustment: Becoming a mother is a life-changing experience. It takes time to discover who you are in this new role. It's also a tremendously emotional time, with hormone surges to deal with. Mothers who stay in bed have the privacy of their rooms to feel the range of emotions and have a good cry if they want to!
- Bonding with baby: Your baby is a brand new little human being with its own emotions and personality. It's important for a mother to spend time examining her baby, getting to know every bit of him - particularly if they had a difficult birth and are battling to bond. The bedroom sanctuary invites skin to skin contact, so critical in the early days.
- Establishing breastfeeding: Breastfeeding can take time to master. With no other jobs to do other than be in bed, mums have the chance to get to grips with breastfeeding, without interruption.
- Catch up on sleep: If you're up and about, it's very tempting to put a load of laundry on or make a call while your baby has a nap. In those early days, mothers need to sleep when their babies sleep. It makes the night waking far more manageable. It's far easier to do this when you're in bed.
For many busy mums, the thought of staying in bed for ten days seems either like punishment or an impossible dream. But these three women who watched the Birthwise DVD, all wanted to give it a try. Here are their stories:
Profile 1: Melanie Brown from Norfolk, aged 36, married to Will and mum to Sophia (1 month old)
Profile 2: First time mum, natural birth Rebecca Collins of Richmond, aged 33, married to David and mum to 8 month old Cameron
Profile 3:Second time mum, C-section birth Shirley McAlpine of London, married to Dan and mum to Honor (4) and Ethan (7 months)
Melanie Brown from Norfolk, aged 36, married to Will and mum to Sophia (1 month old)
During my pregnancy, my husband Will was working away from home. This meant it was impossible for us to attend any ante-natal classes together. I got the Birthwise DVD and watched it, while Will listened in via webcam. When he returned (I was about 8 months pregnant), we watched it together and agreed that we wanted to try the 10 days in bed post birth.
I'm really glad we did because I ended up having a 72 hour long labour, which ended in an emergency c-section. I spent the first 4 days of my time in bed in hospital, but then transferred back home and stayed in bed for a further 7 days, so a total of 11! After the trauma of the birth, I can honestly only describe my time in bed with Sophia as the most exquisite experience of my life. We spent almost all of our time having skin to skin contact. I literally spent hours just staring adoringly into her eyes, marvelling at her and examining every part of her.
Sophia took to the breast very naturally, probably helped by the fact that it was readily available whenever she wanted it. She slept (and still does sleep) in the same bed as us, which meant that except for the occasional nappy that needed to be changed, I never have to spend hours awake at night. She simply latches on when she's hungry and we both drift back to sleep.
It took my body a long time to heal physically after the birth, so staying in bed was a must. But one of the key benefits staying in bed gave me was the ability to identify Sophia's cues. I can tell just by looking at her or listening to her whether she's hungry or tired or in need of a nappy change. I think I know her so well because of the time we had alone together. As a result, she's a very calm, settled, alert and secure baby who never really cries because I know what she needs when she needs it.
Logistically, we didn't do much different to our bedroom. We have a music system in it so I played some of the music that I had recorded for the birth. I didn't take any calls for the first 4 or 5 days and visitors were very limited. Those who did come and visit, came to my room and didn't stay long.
Will loved it too and was fully supportive of it. He would make us meals, but otherwise would try to join us in bed when he could. He spent most of our first three days at home in bed with us, so that we could bond as a family. When he had to return to work, my mum took over the role of providing meals and doing chores. She also enjoyed the quiet time we had together.
We will absolutely be doing this again when we have another child. It was just really fun and I'd recommend to every new mum.
First time mum, natural birth Rebecca Collins of Richmond, aged 33, married to David and mum to 8 month old Cameron
As a first time mum, I wanted to be as informed as possible about what would happen during and after the birth. I attended antenatal classes for the practical basics, but also watched the Birthwise DVD which gave me more inside information so that I felt more in control. I was intrigued by the idea presented in the DVD to stay in bed for 10 days.
After discussing it, David and I thought it would be manageable so before Cameron arrived, I turned our spare bedroom into my little post birth sanctuary. We put a TV in the room, magazines, a telephone and all the baby kit so that it was ready for me to move into as soon as we got back from the hospital.
I was lucky enough to have an easy, natural birth but I was still exhausted, particularly as I couldn't sleep for three days after giving birth, a combination of adrenalin and fear that something would happen to Cameron. It was fabulous having the luxury to sleep when I wanted to during the day so that I could catch up. The only time I left the room (besides bathroom visits) was occasional half hour sessions in the living room when guests came to visit. But David always encouraged me to go back to bed after 30 minutes.
I spent most of my 10 days sleeping, watching TV, eating lots of energy giving snacks, chatting to friends on the phone and bonding with Cameron. It also gave me the chance to really get the hang of breastfeeding. It took me a while to get it right, I found it quite difficult. But with no other distractions, I persevered and did it! I ended up breastfeeding Cameron for six months and I don't think I would have if I'd not had the chance to concentrate on getting it right.
My husband David was a star and did all the cooking, running of the house and managing visitors. He found it pretty hard going, but I know he felt that he played an active role in enabling me to recover and learn how to breastfeed.
Cameron is now a very contented baby and I firmly believe that this is partly due to the relaxed start he had in the first ten days of his life. After 7 days, I finally felt strong enough to leave my room but I simply moved to the living areas and didn't do anything more than look after Cameron. After ten days I finally left the house feel physically and emotionally much stronger and ready to share my baby with the world.
I will definitely do it again with our second child. I've already thought about how I would manage the logistics of it given we'll have two children to take care of, but my mum will come and stay to help look after Cameron so that I can get to know our new baby.
Second time mum, C-section birth Shirley McAlpine of London, married to Dan and mum to Honor (4) and Ethan (7 months)
As one of the producers of the Birthwise DVD, I wanted to put some of its suggestions into practice when I gave birth to my second child. My husband Dan and I discussed what we'd need before the baby arrived so that everything was in place the minute we got home from the hospital. We simply used our bedroom as the sanctuary, which has music, aromatherapy and lights that can be dimmed. I decided against having a TV in the room so that I wouldn't get distracted and so that when Ethan slept, I'd sleep too.
As I already had a child, there were some logistical hurdles we had to overcome. But we arranged that Dan would be off for five days and that my mum would also be there when I came out of hospital. She stayed for a couple of days initially and also came back for another couple once Dan had gone to work. Then my cousin also came to for a day. Their role was to look after me with anything that I needed, which they happily agreed to. Critically, they also had to take care of Honor as it was a difficult period of adjustment for her. Knowing that she was well-loved and looked after by people she is familiar with allowed me to concentrate all of my attention on Ethan.
I ended up having an unplanned c-section, which made the ten days in bed even more necessary as I was barely able to move. During the ten days, I simply spent time with Ethan and slept. I had all my meals in bed and sometimes Dan and Honor would join me for them. Visitors were limited and even the midwife and health visitors came to see me in bed.
The special time spent with Ethan was really invaluable. It allowed me to get to know him - I spent ages just staring at him. We got plenty of skin to skin contact. He is truly a settled baby and although I can't say with certainly what the source of it is, these early days created a strong foundation for our relationship.
The time in bed also gave me the time and space I needed to establish breastfeeding. Even though I had breastfed Honor, I had found it difficult. I felt more confident allowing myself time to learn how to do it with Ethan. The rest also help me to heal as the caesarean had taken a real toll on my body and it was great not having to force my body to do anything prematurely. And then there was the ability to sleep and sleep and sleep. This was so crucial given how little sleep I got in the night.
I think for the 10 days in bed to work, you need a supportive partner. Dan was brilliant doing the shopping, cleaning and looking after Honor. He'd regularly check in on me and tell me how great I was doing. Dan says the big benefit for him was knowing that he was supporting me with what I wanted and what would make a difference in me providing for Ethan.
I am so glad that I had it set up beforehand having not anticipated a caesarean I am not sure how I would have coped otherwise. These were very special days with Ethan that I will cherish and am grateful for. I did not have to be a 'superwoman', I could just be. I remember the early days as quite vulnerable days and this gave me space to heal from the birth, talk about it and process it also.