Postpartum

Postpartum Body Image and Why New Mom Bodies are Complicated

Forming a Healthy Postpartum Body Image

You look in the mirror and everything about your postpartum body looks different.

Boobs.

Butt.

Belly.

You walk and sit and lie in bed and it feels different. Things aren’t put together the way they were before.

Maybe you laugh about this or cry about this. Maybe you feel peace or you feel shame. You’re not sure how you’re “supposed to” feel and what your body is “supposed to” be like after having your child.

The is no RIGHT Postpartum Body

The truth is, there’s no “right” way but there are so many things to consider when we are forming and growing our body image after having a baby. If you identify as a woman, chances are your body has held a lot of meaning for you throughout your life. Our bodies are tied to our perceived worth.

We have been told to measure our value based on how much our body does (or does not) align with women in magazines, in movies and now even on social media. We have measured our social acceptance by how easily we can fit into a group based on the way we look. It is taught to us from a young age that our desirability as a woman, our sexuality and attraction, are dependent on if we look like “that woman.” Without a doubt this impacts our confidence as we form beliefs about ourselves and who we are and what we can do.

Related: Where do we learn about postpartum?

how to address body image after you have a baby

Should You “Bounce Back” Right After Baby?

Now, after having a baby, so much is different. Unfortunately, it’s easier to access messages that tell us “how to bounce back” or “how to lose the baby weight fast” than it is to learn about the changes that have happened in our bodies and the ways to nurture and heal them with intention and grace.

When it comes to our body image after giving birth, we are responsible for what we let in and out of our body and minds. 

Related: Committing to Authenticity

Inside Thoughts About Postpartum Body Image

Ask yourself the following questions
What self-criticizing thoughts do I have?
When do I have them?
How are they trigged?
What happens because of that thought?

It’s not realistic to expect ourselves to never have self-critical thoughts. Sure, it would be nice, but realistically we have to remember we are conditioned to criticize ourselves.

The goal here is to figure out when and where these thoughts are triggered and then to have a plan of action to shut them down so the thought does not have a domino effect.

Example: When I undress to get into the shower, I see my saggy breasts. Then I look all over my body and feel worthless because I should have lost the baby weight by now. I continue to look at all the areas of my body that I feel insecure about and that makes me feel like my partner shouldn’t be attracted to me. It makes me feel like other women are doing it better and I don’t want to go out in public because I’m ashamed.

The Domino Effect of Body Image

Maybe this isn’t your exact situation, but take time to identify what yours is. Now, how do we interrupt this thought pattern? In the example above we can stop at the breasts. When I undress to get into the shower, I see my saggy breasts. Sure, I wish they were perkier, but I remember that they changed because my body grew my baby. Remember that the body changes very naturally in response to pregnancy, birth, and postpartum and that it takes time for all of that to heal. I am thankful for what my body has done and I recognize that every mom heals differently- it looks different for each of us. I would never want a friend to criticize her own body and I won’t criticize mine.

Related: 5 tips for communicating with your partner

Outside Input Impacting Postpartum Body Image

Ask yourself the following questions:

What influences my understanding of my postpartum body?
Did I ever learn about all the changes that have happened inside of me?
What social messages are making me feel insecure about myself?

In Postpartum Together small groups I’ve learned that many women gain a healthier body image after understanding what happens to the body to prepare for birth, give birth, and recover from birth. There are many layers of changes and yet not many places to learn about them.

On top of that, our social media and other spaces are filled with invitations and messages centered around losing the baby weight- often led by those who don’t have a clear understanding of how to safely do that after baby. (Accountability or workout groups led by someone who is not trained in pre and postnatal care are not your friends after giving birth.) The ball is in your court to learn about the changes and to be selective about what messages you allow as input. It’s more than okay to unfollow an account, to stop watching a show, to throw away a magazine, etc.

taking control of your postpartum body image

Postpartum Body Image Goes Deeper: The Past

Postpartum is a wonderful time to heal your body image. It’s a time when it is doing so for ourselves, but also because our children will learn from us. When we start to heal body image, we must start by looking back.

Ask yourself:
How were you raised to think about your body?
How did your mother or other women talk about their bodies in front of you?
What was your experience in adolescence with a changing body?
What insecurities and thought patterns do you remember?

Many women identify patterns from their upbringing. Perhaps your mother was always dieting or talking about how her clothes looked. It could be that puberty was uncomfortable and you never found a safe space to talk about it. Maybe you grew up seeing a certain type of woman on TV and it led you to be self-critical. To more forward, we have to look back enough to see where our thoughts and beliefs were formed so that we can rewrite them. If this feels like a lot to do on your own, that is very understandable. A space like Postpartum Together may be beneficial for you, or it may be a topic to discuss with a therapist.

RELATED: How to find a Therapist

How Body Image Impacts Other Things

When thinking about healing your body image, realize it goes beyond the self-talk you experience about your body.
Body image impacts the risks we take with meeting new people and going new places.
It impacts how we feel confident in ourselves which can impact things like work.
Body image has a big impact on our relationships too. We talk about this a lot in the Back in the Sack eCourse, but here are a few things for you to consider when it comes to body image after baby and how it impacts your marriage/relationship.

What role has your body played in your relationship?
Have you held a lot of value in being “sexy”?
Does your partner comment on your changed body?
Have you had an honest conversation about how you’re feeling about your body?

Layers of Postpartum Body Image

There are many layers to body image in all part of our lives, but even moreso after having a baby. It’s okay to have complex feelings about this. Know that taking the time to address and heal your body image right now will have an impact on your life forever. You can set an example for your kids, improve communication with your partner, gain confidence, and take pride in your changing body, but it takes work.

Related: Sex After Baby, Am I Ready?

woman looking in mirror.jpg

Connect with Other Moms and Get Empowering Coaching for a Healthy Postpartum Body Image

We want you to have a season of growth and healing of your body image as a new mom. We invite you to find the next Health Body Image After Baby small group. In this group we address the things that impact our body image, how our postpartum body changes, and how to develop a healthier relationship with our bodies after baby. Find the info on our new mom group page.

marriage, Postpartum

Setting Healthy Boundaries After Having Your Baby

How to Set Boundaries After Baby for You and Your Family

Often I hear from clients and moms on social media that after their baby was born, they felt out of control. People wanted to visit. There were so many opinions. There was so little sleep and time to connect as a new family.

Whether you’re the kind who wants space after baby or wants visitors waiting at the door, it’s important to be on the same page with your partner and support people and to have boundaries in place that help you have what you need (because believe it or not, momma, YOU and YOUR NEEDS are really important). struggling to set boundaries with family after having my baby

Boundaries are How We Communicate Our Values to the World

Have you ever felt mean or even “bitchy” for needing and setting boundaries? Especially as women, we are often raised to be people pleasers. And yet, this is exhausting and doesn’t take our needs and desires into consideration. It is important to be a kind and giving person, but in order to truly do that, you need to establish boundaries.

Finding our values

When we set boundaries, we are challenged to identify and communicate our values. We must look at what we have the time, energy, space, resources for and what we do not. Boundaries communicate what we believe as a family and how our values reflect that. Setting boundaries leaves less room for confusion and resentment. Boundaries Can be Hard to Set For many, setting boundaries is very difficult. It can create a pit in the stomach and a fear of offending someone else.

Confidence in boundaries

While asking for and accepting help is vital for new families, so is having boundaries around what is helpful and what is not. While boundaries may feel uncomfortable at first, they can help you avoid even more discomfort doing the road. Without boundaries, you may have difficult and tense conversations and interactions in the heat of the moment. Without boundaries, you will likely experience your own resentment and feelings that interfere with your needs and emotions.

Related: How to find a therapist

Set Boundaries After Baby Inside and Outside of the Home

Inside the Home

When it comes to setting boundaries as a new family, you want to consider what you need inside your home and outside of your home. Boundaries inside the home include boundaries with your partner, with your time and with who comes in and out of the home.

These boundaries directly impact your “safe space.” For new moms this might mean setting boundaries that ensure that you have time to sleep and not host visitors. This might mean that anyone who wants to see the baby can also help with something around the house. This might mean being on the same page with your partner about the time you each need to yourself. It also includes setting boundaries around how you make decisions for things like sleeping and eating for your baby.

Outside of the Home

When it comes to setting boundaries outside of the home, this may be where you are willing to take baby. This could be deciding when you’re ready to attend a big family function or what kind of social events you want to be apart of. This means learning to say “no” to things that aren’t fully in line with your values so that you can say “yes” to the things most important to you.

In the current midst of COVID-19, setting boundaries both inside and outside of the home include being on the same page with your partner about the kind of restrictions you want in place as far as visitors, leaving the home, childcare, work, etc. Boundaries may mean that you are finding creative ways for family to get to know your baby. Boundaries may mean that you are doing things like grocery delivery to avoid the stores. There is no “right way” to approach this, except for being on the same page after conversation and research. (We will look at how to do this below.)

Related: Postpartum During COVID

Deciding on And Holding to Boundaries

1. Prioritize: Decide what is most important for you- for your time, your energy, your presence. Think about what you can let go of and what you feel firmly about.

2. Communicate: Use verbal and non-verbal tools for communicating with your partner and/or support team.

3. Examine Mind and Body: Know the implications of boundaries- what feels mentally taxing? What takes an emotional toll? Approach your boundaries out of these root needs/effects. Adjust as needed.

4. Define Circles: You likely have different levels of intimacy with different circles in your life. Define these circles and who is in each of them. Who is part of decision making? Who gets more intimate parts of your family?

5. Define Activities: What activities are you comfortable with? Specifically with COVID, what approach does your family take and why? How can you communicate these to others outside of your home?

6. Listen, Learn, Respond: Set an intention for listening without emotional charge. Learn from those you trust. Respond with firm kindness.

How to Prioritize Your Family Boundaries

making boundaries for your family with values
  • List top 5 values of your family and put them somewhere you both/all can see

  • Check with these values when you need to make a decision

  • In a new situation, schedule a “meeting” and commit to both doing prior research so you can make educated decisions together

  • Unite in your front of communicating boundaries as a team

RELATED: Marriage, Teamwork and New Parenthood

How to Communicate Boundaries After Baby with Your Partner

communicating with your partner about boundaries
  • Shared google document

  • Shared calendar

  • Physical whiteboard/journal

  • Weekly meeting (different from date night)

  • Deciding what you each can and cannot negotiate on

If boundaries feel like a big and difficult topic, you are not alone. We aren’t always taught to set healthy boundaries for ourselves and it’s not often we are given tools and tips for communicating our needs. It’s my hope that some of these points and tips resonate with you, normalize your experience, and give you the tools you need for boundaries that feel empowering for you.

Help with Setting Boundaries After Baby

If you want to set health boundaries and you are currently expecting, check out our next Postpartum Planning Small Group. If you are a new mom and want help setting boundaries after baby, check out one of our New to the Mom Crew or After the 4th Trimester small groups. There is a small group to support you in all your needs!

We talk about boundaries as a conversation to have with your partner during pregnancy in the Creating Your Postpartum Plan eCourse. This comprehensive eCourse helps you to prepare for postpartum by working through the changes you may face and how you want to lay the foundation for your family. You get a 10 page download to complete your own personalized plan while working through the instructional videos. In this course we talk a lot about boundaries because it can be hard to anticipate what your needs will be and what the reaction from others will be, but by proactively working with your partner and support team, you can ensure that you find and use your voice and set healthy boundaries.

Birth, Postpartum

C-Section Massage: Healing After Your Belly Birth

C-Section Scars and Why We Call it Belly Birth

Here at Postpartum Together, we have chosen to refer to vaginal birth and belly birth. Your C-Section Scar is a testament of your beautiful belly birth. Cesarean is a common name for the operation of birthing via incision in the abdomen and uterus. But, we find that referring to this as a c-section dilutes the majesty of any and all birthing. By saying “Belly Birth” we honor that you DID birth a child and you DID do a miraculous thing and celebrate it as it is- a birth.

Disclaimer: (I am not a medical provider. I am a mom, a researcher, a coach. My goal is to help you have the information so you can seek your medical provider if needed.) Disclaimer #2 This post may include affiliate links which means, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission on sales made through links on this page.


csection scar massage taking care of your cesarean scar

What Happens After Belly Birth?

Following a belly birth, most women are instructed on how to watch for infection. We You are taught to ease back into activity, and what to do in those early days. However, many women have shared that they were not instructed to perform c-section scar massages on their belly incisions. I attended a postpartum class with Julie of Strong Body Strong Mama and noticed as she instructed a new mom who had delivered via belly birth on how to massage her scar. From that point, I did some research of my own. I talked with my own clients and audience, and have learned that many women are not instructed on how to care for their scar after birth.

Why Do you Need to Massage Your C-Section Scar?

Scars heal by new scar tissue developing and replacing the tissue that was there. When this new tissue develops, it does not grow in the same direction as the original. This means it needs to be retrained and moved to better align. Another issue that can happen with tissue regrowth is adhesions (scar tissue binding to the organs). These issues can cause problems and pain for moms months or years following birth. Some problems women may experience include, but are not limited to:

  • Back Pain

  • Limited mobility

  • Frequent urination

  • Painful Intercourse

RELATED: Sex After Baby: Am I Ready?

When and How to Massage Your C-Section Scar

You should wait until your doctor is able to confirm that your belly scar is healing properly before starting to massage. Oftentimes women get this clearance at their postpartum follow up appointment.

You will see in the video below, you want to start gently with your scar. Start around the scar and then make your way towards the incision scar as you are more comfortable. Massage it a few minutes each day. Your scar has a skin, muscle and organ layer and you will learn different levels of massage and techniques to work each level and help your tissue move freely in all directions.

As you watch below, will see different techniques in the video to show you how to massage and how to lift and roll your scar. Listen to how Sarah of Pelvic Floor and More explains each step, when and how to use the technique and tips for taking care of your scar after a belly birth.

RELATED: Constipation After Birth

Postpartum Recovery: C-Section Scars & The Pelvic Floor

When it comes to postpartum recovery, no matter how you birthed, women often are unsure of how to take care of their bodies. With so much attention on the baby, many women feel like there aren’t enough resources and checkups on her (I will ALWAYS say the one 6-week-check up is NOT enough!) Thankfully,there are resources available to you like Strong Body Strong Mama and Pelvic Floor and More. If there are other topics regarding postpartum that no one prepared you for or go unspoken, comment below or send me an email so we can get it on the blog!