As an expecting parent or postpartum caregiver, you may have heard the term “lying-in”or “lying in period.” This is the practice of giving mothers time to spend undisturbed with their newborn for anywhere between 2 weeks to 3 months. The purpose is to give mother time to heal physically and mentally from childbirth, encourage mother/baby bonding, allow a healthy breastfeeding relationship to develop and promote overall recuperation and postnatal wellness. Benefits to mom and baby are tremendous as Rachel Wolf, RN of Let Mommy Sleep notes: “Lying in means better sleep and higher immune systems for moms, and decreased exposure to germs and illnesses for infants.” Additionally the mental health benefits of allowing mom to recuperate properly have been demonstrated over and over.
If you haven’t heard of lying in, it’s probably because it’s not practiced much here in the US, where undisturbed time is becoming more and more rare. Families tend to be spread out and job and childcare responsibilities of parents, grandparents, neighbors and relatives tend to mean that postpartum moms (or any parent, really!) simply don't have an opportunity to get extended periods of rest. So how can we help mothers, babies and ultimately entire families stay healthy during this vulnerable perinatal time?
In addition to fair maternity leave practices and follow-up visits with the primary care physician, it’s vital that new mothers have a support network. “The most important thing we can do is ensure that every mom has the help and support she needs, should she end up struggling with postpartum depression or baby blues,” Wolf says. If new parents don’t have family support, they’ll need to get a little creative. Moms Clubs, church communities, neighbors and even local Facebook groups can organize meals and blocks of time to help with housework or allow mom to sleep.
Night Nannies or Registered Nurse visits can also be a great resource for new parents, especially during the first week after childbirth. This week is a critical time for assessing mental health of both parents, performing physical assessments of mother and baby and providing evidence-based education in newborn care. Evidence shows the benefits of postpartum visits are numerous and as Wolf notes, “mothers would not be readmitted to the hospital at the numbers they are, if someone was there in the family home early enough to identify those mothers who are either physical or psychological risk for postpartum complications.”
Whatever a new mother's situation, it's important to prepare for life after baby *before* baby arrives. Get those volunteers lined up, join a local support network, organize family members' time off and research professional caregivers just in case they might be needed. While we may not be able to have months of time off, parents can build their support network to maximize lying-in for a healthy mom, baby and family.