Learning this simple self-massage technique can help you better navigate your postpartum healing and feel more cared for almost instantly.
The day I met my son is a day burned into my memory—equal parts joy and pain, riding the rollercoaster of postpartum hormones. Birth left me feeling disconnected from my body; holding this new baby, I was trying to get to know and navigating pumping and going in and out of the NICU, coming to terms with the reality of recovery after an emergency cesarean.
There’s a how-to video on postpartum self-massage at the end of this post. Check it out!
My postpartum healing journey with massage
Upon returning home a week later, I still felt disconnected from my body; my belly felt like jello. Where my baby lived for nine months felt suddenly empty, and it was quite a strange sensation.
I wanted to love my postpartum body for the life it had created but settled for semi-acceptance. As I survived those first few months, I felt the need to hide my body away and not embrace myself for all I was becoming. This was a direct product of our society; everything I had seen and heard, or not heard, discussed after my peers and family had their babies.
Nobody talked about the nitty-gritty of postpartum; nobody told me what to expect; even my birth class didn’t. I had no idea how to navigate this new version of myself mentally and physically.
I did find glimpses of hope and a stronger sense of self in postpartum massages. I didn’t get any many as I wanted; I only went twice. Even those couple hours of intentional stillness and rest set the stage for me to come back into my body.
Today, as a perinatal massage therapist, I see parents in similar shoes that I was just a few years ago, yearning for deep rest and connecting back to their bodies. Raw, vulnerable, empowered, and unsure in their 4th trimester, Relaxin still in their bodies from pregnancy, milk stains, and baby spit-up on their shirts.
How postpartum massage can help
Marketing and media are typically so focused on the pregnancy; showering the parent with love and attention only to drop them off at the curb and send them home with some extra stretchy mesh underwear and a peri bottle.
Then comes a six-week checkup where they might be prescribed birth control and inundated with unrealistic expectations of bouncing back and fitting into pre-pregnancy clothing within a couple of weeks postpartum on social media.
It is the system we live in, but not the care you deserve to have in postpartum. You deserve to be honored, held, and nourished as you heal and make the transition to being a parent.
While helpful during pregnancy to connect to your baby, self-massage of your abdomen can also be performed postpartum to aid in digestion and create some space for you to care for yourself, even a few minutes. It can also help with blood flow to aid in healing and swelling reduction.
If you had a belly birth (also known as a cesarean), you might start by holding your hands gently on your abdomen and taking 3-5 deep breaths. Notice what feelings or memories come up. It is common to have intense sensations as our minds and bodies are so intertwined.
Even something as simple as breathing can help with connection to yourself. Learning to breathe with your diaphragm rather than your upper body, which is so common during pregnancy, can help stabilize your deep core and promote mind-body connection.