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.

Postpartum

Understanding Postpartum in the Past and Present

WHAT POSTPARTUM USED TO MEAN

For centuries, women had a much different postpartum experience than what we now know in dominant American culture. Women before us knew that bodies, minds, and emotions needed time to heal and restore after giving birth. Understanding postpartum was both a secret from men and a collective journey for women. Women rallied together and lived the “village” way. (Learn more about the traditions of the First 40 Days in this eye-opening book.)

Women were given time to rest, connect, and not have to “keep up.” They were encouraged to prioritize healing, bonding and introspection over bounce back, productivity, and curated photo shoots. They lived in close proximity (or even with) family and friends who would help lift the load of a new mother and family. She wasn’t left alone. She was cooked for, cleaned for, and cared for. It seems as though honor was a big part of the narrative about a postpartum mom. She was honored. She was cared for. A new mom was encouraged to care for herself and her baby without other burdening expectations.

The narrative has changed over the years with the changes in our society, as all narratives do in an evolving society. Sometimes change is good, but change can also be harmful and we have to stand up against it and demand better for ourselves. No longer does the dominant message about postpartum include rest, staying home, being cared for and nourishing your body and soul.

When it comes to postpartum and motherhood, we’ve seen the harmful changes and it’s time we stand up against it and demand better for ourselves.

RELATED: How Long is Postpartum?

postpartum mom standing in mesh undies

There are things people just don’t talk about when it comes to postpartum. I talk about the Top 10 Things People Won’t Tell You About Postpartum in this free download. Check it out and let’s continue to dive into the taboo topics of postpartum.

Understanding Postpartum in Media, Social Media, and Google

Standing in line at the grocery store, I saw a tabloid. Tabloids are stupid, I know, but sadly they still exist and people still see them often. This tabloid had a picture of sweet Meghan Markle crying with a headline about postpartum depression. The text conveyed a clear message of shame and drama. The picture and text conveyed the messaged that Postpartum Depression is a terrible, abnormal, failure of a problem and no one that is happy and has a good life should struggle with it.

The truth is that Postpartum Depression is common (estimated 1 in 5 moms) and is not linked to decisions or failures on the mother’s part. Read more about the facts of PPD from the National Institute of Mental Health here. All types of women with all types of births and all types of babies can be affected by PPD. Five brave women shared their personal experiences on this previous blog post.

Understanding Postpartum on Social Media: Lose the Baby Weight

It doesn’t take but a quick search of the hashtag #postpartumgoals or #postpartumsupport or something similar to see a disturbing theme. Bodies. Bodies everywhere. Why is this an issue? Because it screams to us, as women, that postpartum goals= postpartum body = losing the baby weight (often referred to as the “bounce back.” Social media is full of before and afters. There is research that confirms that social media affects body image. Sometimes these images even use days post-birth as a “before” which is wildly deceiving.

Chances are if you use any hashtag about postpartum on a picture of you and your new babe, someone will ask you about joining a program to get your body back.

(Sidenote: You didn’t lose your damn body, momma. You birthed a child and had a natural experience of a body transition which is not shameful in the least.) Need postpartum support? Thankfully more and more doulas and coaches and restorative care-minded groups are emerging (check out my postpartum support program here if you’re interested .)

BUT the dominant message is still about fitness and nutrition “support” which again tells us the overarching message is that you’ve had the baby, now lose the weight. This. Is. Not. Acceptable.

Body image, overall, is an evolving topic. Our expectations of ourselves and others is constantly impacted by societal messages. Check out Body Image: 2021 Facts, Figures, and Statistics from a recent body image survey conducted in London.

Understanding Postpartum: Google, Pinterest, and Other Searches

pinterest how to lose the baby weight

We’re going to do a little experiment together. Follow along:
1. Open a new tab or browser

2. Navigate to Pinterest. I choose Pinterest because this is a hub of pictures, articles, infographic,s and more and the primary users of Pinterest are moms.

3. Type in the word “postpartum”

4. Look at the suggested keywords that pop up after the word “postpartum”

Here is a screenshot of what comes up for me. Pinterest suggests extended keywords based on popularity. This means that when women are searching for topics surrounding postpartum, this is what is most searched. Workout, weight loss, care, belly. I’m thankful care is in there.

Searching for Understanding Postpartum and “Fix”

Women search Pinterest for inspiration for how they want to live their lives. We use these images, articles, infographics, and more to guide our decisions in many ways. Women are seeking ways to lose weight or lose the belly because the dominant postpartum narrative in our society tells them that this is a top priority for the postpartum mom.

When we shift the narrative, we give women the freedom to seek out, expect, and accept different priorities for themselves. Understanding postpartum in a way that is honoring and growth-focused. Shifting the narrative can mean telling a mom that it’s okay to focus on recovery and rest before weight loss and body image. It can tell her that her body- her changed body- is incredible and valuable. Shifting the narrative gives us all a better foundation for which to be a postpartum mom.

THE MODERN MOM: DO IT ALL. BE IT ALL.

Supermom.

Mom Boss.

Side hustle mom.

Mom whose kid is in every imaginable activity.

Daily toddler craft mom.

The mom who does early language development programing with her newborn.

A working mom with a house so clean she can post pretty pictures on IG daily.

Children’s clothing is always coordinated by mom.

Sleep routine master.

Daily from-scratch meal creator.

My life is a musical I sing in sync with my kids mom.

harmful+mom+boss+movement.jpeg

Understanding Postpartum from Grandmas and Influencers

If you have a grandmother or another older female you are close to, go ahead and ask her how many of these descriptions she felt pressure to fill. Chances are, it wasn’t many. But today, thanks to a plethora of “how-to” articles and access to other people’s lives at a swipe of the finger, women put these layers on themselves. As soon as a woman isn’t pregnant anymore, she is internalizing the expectations she now has as a mom. (My goal as a content creator and postpartum coach is to call BS on the Pinterest Perfect mom and keep shit real about postpartum and beyond.)

Here’s how this can look:

Cindy follows Mom Influencers on Instagram. She keeps a close eye on 6 profiles:
1. Sara is always posting interactive activities she is doing with her toddler and her newborn.
2. Kelly is always posting tips for a clean home and organization skills- even with kids running around.
3. Vanessa is always posting the clean eating meals she has prepped for her whole family (and her kids LOVE them).
4. Becca is always posting about squeezing in her workout and flexing those post-baby abs.
5. Megan is always posting about “fool-proof” sleep routines and schedules for the family.
6. Erica is always posting about breastmilk, cloth diapers, and natural ways to heal any ailments.

So Cindy, after taking a few minutes to scroll her feed, feels like shit. THESE MOMS HAVE IT ALL TOGETHER. Or so it seems. Truth is 6 moms have 1 thing together- and we know nothing about the other areas of their lives. However, as the consumer, we internalize these messages and they mix into one “perfect” mom that we expect ourselves to be.

Moms can do anything. WE cannot do everything. Moms can be anything. We cannot be everything.

RELATED: Relationship After Baby (eCourse)

CHANGING THE POSTPARTUM NARRATIVE: WHY AND HOW

The narrative around postpartum has shifted with the generations. Years ago the message was that postpartum is a time when women need support, rest, and community to a current narrative that says women need to perform, prove, and jump back into things. If the narrative has changed in the past, it can change again. This time, though, we are battling the dominant narrative not just in the stories passed down from family and friends, we are now battling the dominant narrative that permeates our media and social media channels. This kind of battle requires collective uprising. It requires passion and compassion. It requires changing the stories we tell aloud and the stories we tell in intimate conversations. This requires demanding that media remove their filter of shame evoking clickbait headlines and misconstrued images. It requires shifting who we follow on social media to raise up the voices speaking truth and hope instead of images curated to show an untruthful perfection.

We deserve this emphasis on how to understand postpartum. Women deserve more honoring and empowering language around the needs of postpartum. We deserve more education about the changes we go through. Women deserve time and rest, recovery and bonding with our new family. We deserve acceptance around mental health struggles, body changes, emotional transitions, identity shifts, and every area of life those changes touch.

We Need to Understand Postpartum for a Functional Society

Women don’t just deserve this, we need this. We need this for a more functional society. We need this for healthier families. Our society need this for a better narrative about postpartum to pass on to our daughters and their families. We cannot settle.

Maybe you want to read and think and have this conversation in the safety of your home. Excellent. Or, maybe you want to connect and continue this conversation with me and with other women joining in- connect with me on IG. Maybe you have your own story to share- SHARE it. Speak your truth with confidence, mommas, because your truth and story matters and our stories move the collective story forward.

Tell me in the comments: How will YOU be part of changing the narrative of postpartum?

how we talk about postpartum .png

There are things people just don’t talk about when it comes to postpartum. I talk about the Top 10 Things People Won’t Tell You About Postpartum in this free download. Check it out and let’s continue to dive into the taboo topics of postpartum.

Postpartum

New Baby, Lost Identity

DEAR POSTPARTUM MOM: IT’S OKAY TO NOT KNOW YOUR IDENTITY RIGHT NOW.

Providing free content is a priority at Postpartum Together. This page may contain affiliate links which means, at no additional cost to you, we may receive a commission for your purchase. Don’t worry, we only promote things we believe in because we love you!

Hey momma- let’s take a walk together down memory lane.

LIFE AS AN ADOLESCENCE

Let’s go back a bit and revisit one of those times in life where things felt out of whack.

Ah, adolescence. “The process of developing from a child to an adult.” I’m sure there are many stories you could tell me about this time. Stories about your body changing. Stories about your emotions changing. Stories about your friendships and interests changing. You probably have something really embarrassing that happened during this time (and most likely it was in front of that first real crush and you wrote about it in your secret diary.)

don’t feel like myself anymore after baby

Our society has accepted this adolescence as a normal part of growth. Something to not only acknowledge but also, in the midst of all of its’ awkwardness, to celebrate. It’s important for us to take a minute to experience laughter and tears as we look back and see that, even when we thought that time would never end, it did. Even when we thought we were going to crumble away in a corner somewhere after our 7th-period class, we didn’t. You’re here and you aren’t the same woman you were before the hormones and mental shifts and expectations changed around you.

So here we stand today, in the present moment. You have entered this realm of motherhood and I bet if you really think hard about it, a lot of things feel similar to those distant years of transitioning from a child to an adult.
Hormones.
Emotions.
Friends.
Expectations.
Interests.

(Did I already say emotions? It’s worth saying twice.) So many things are changing and it feels outright confusing sometimes. In contrast to your teenage years, though, now you feel the pressure to keep it together. You feel the pressure to innately know how to accomplish these new tasks and expectations. You feel pressure for all of the change to come ‘naturally’ and you’re feeling down on yourself when it doesn’t. Here’s the truth, momma, just like taking care of new breasts, starting to date, having more responsibilities and handling your roller coaster emotions didn’t come without difficulties the first time, this second major transition isn’t without its’ own set of new and unique struggles. Just because society doesn’t give you as much grace doesn’t mean you don’t deserve it.

MATRESCENCE

matrescence changing me as a new mom

In her anthropological studies of mothers across the world, postpartum advocate Dana Raphael coined the term “matrescence.” This term and study has been on the rise as others like reproductive psychiatrist Alexandra Sacks bring it into the light (watch her awesome Ted Talk). Sacks defines matrescence as “the developmental phase of new motherhood, (it) is like adolescence — a transition when hormones surge, bodies morph, and identity and relationships shift.”

Does that sound familiar? Hormones? Bodies? Identity? Relationships? Matrescence makes so much sense, even if t it is still not a widely adopted and acknowledge part of our society.

RELATED: Emotions of Postpartum

FINDING YOURSELF AS A NEW MOM

Momma, today you are in the midst of your matrescence. Whether you became a mother a day, a week, a month or a year ago, you are in your transition. You look different. You feel different. You think differently (both intentionally and unintentionally.) The things that once defined you may or may not be relevant right now.

  • Sometimes it feels like you swapped bodies with a stranger.

  • Sometimes your hormones cause you to think and feel and act differently than you intend to.

  • The top things that make you YOU may be shifting.

  • You have probably lost some friendships, gained some friendships, and seen dynamic changes across relationships.

  • Sometimes you wonder what happened to the doting and attention you were getting as a pregnant woman and how it so fleetingly disappeared as the baby took the whole stage. (Yes, we love the baby too, but momma is still here and still needs help!)

trying to find myself after baby

When you sit down at the end of a long day, you may feel like you just don’t know who you are. In the midst of taking on new roles and putting aside old roles, you might feel lost in a shuffle. A shuffle that is your life and yet sometimes it feels like it is operating outside of you and you are just an onlooker. You might have an argument with a loved one and afterward think “Who am I? Why did I say that?” You might try to keep work or social things in order only to find them jumbled. You might look day after day at your postpartum body and wonder if it’s ever going to be “back to normal.” Maybe you flip flop back and forth in thinking about who you want to be known as and what would make you feel “accomplished” day after day. Maybe you know you love your kids, but you also miss the things that gave you life before you were a mother.

You will probably think and feel variations of these things, and you should. It can be uncomfortable. The growing pains- they still suck sometimes. For some women, their experience includes postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, or postpartum psychosis (click here to see the warning signs of these very valid and treatable conditions). May you don’t qualify with something diagnosable, and so your feelings in this transition are often dismissed.

But you need not be dismissed, you still need space to grow and learn and process. You are still in the midst of something that needs to be recognized, validated and dare I say- celebrated even when it feels like a mess. You need spaces to grieve and celebrate because your life, it has changed in one of the biggest ways possible. It is not silly for you to struggle. It is not dramatic for you to feel so intensely. It is not wrong for you to not know your identity in this time. It is a normal part of the transition, but as we know, normal does not equal easy and just because we all go through it doesn’t mean any of us should go through it alone.

RELATED: Relationships After Baby (eCourse)

Postpartum mom- it’s okay to not know your identity right now.

finding myself again after having a baby