Postpartum is 3 Years, Not 6 Weeks


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That’s a picture of Miss Penelope.  She is almost three-and-a-half. I don’t know where time goes!  Seems like just yesterday I was giving birth to her. It’s weird no longer being a postpartum mom and making the transition to having a kid and not a baby.

Did you know that postpartum is technically three years long?  I have no idea when, where, or why the world starting thinking it was only 6 weeks.

In other cultures, early postpartum is at least 40 days, so I am sure that is where is started. But the traditional view of what early postpartum is totally different than our interpretation of it.  In other traditional cultures, the mama does nothing except lay down and nurse her baby for the first 40 days. I mean nothing.

I don’t know how I will manage it if we are so blessed to have another child, but if we are, I want to really take it easy this time. With Penelope, I had no help at all except for the two weeks my husband was home and he wasn’t even doing everything. His parents came for a week, but even though they had good intentions, they were no help at all either. I am totally going to hire a postpartum doula next time.

But anyways, back to the point: postpartum is three years!

It takes three years for your body to get back to normal after giving birth.  It takes three years for your nutritional stores in your body to fill back up and be ready to create and feed another baby.

It takes two years just for your uterus to shrink, get back in place and recover from pregnancy and birth.  2 years!

The average age for potty training is three years, which to me is indicative of a huge shift of how much independence starts happening at age 3.  I am firm believer that God perfectly planned all of this so that by the time a child is age 3, Mama would be in a position to be able to focus on herself more during pregnancy and then on the new baby when the new baby arrives.

I personally think it takes 3 years to get your mind right after giving birth.  Each pregnancy and birth can throw you so far off balance, out of your comfort zone, and stretch your personal growth as far as it can be stretched that it takes 3 years to get back in balance and ready mentally and emotionally to handle getting back in line to do it all over again.

Now, if you are reading this and freaking out because your babies are spaced 2 years apart or even 12 months apart like my Goddaughter and her sister (also known as Irish Twins) then rest easy. It just means you will need to be a bit more cognizant about your health and healing your reproductive organs, taking care of your overall health and restoring your nutritional stores.  I would also spend some time making sure your child is getting adequate nutrition now, to make up for any lack of nutrition they may not have received because your body was not yet at peak performance to nourish and grow another human.

Last year when we got pregnant and then later miscarried, I do think part of it was because my body was simply not ready yet (Penelope had just turned two when we got pregnant).  And this time around, we have waited not only so I could get my mind right again, but also so my nutritional stores could get back up. Even though I was only pregnant 12 weeks, it was a huge drain on my body.

Nothing is a hard and fast rule, but this is ancient wisdom that somehow got lost and buried along the way for women and I wanted to share.  Mostly I want women to know how hard a pregnancy is on a woman’s body.  If you are going to have ten kids, or space them close together, just take care of yourself and your body.  And if you already had your kids close together, just take extra care of your body for a little bit.  Women’s bodies are amazing, just a little bit of care and healing goes a long way.


About the Author

Hiya! I'm Stephanie. Mama and Baby Love is all about helping mothers on their own personal health and healing journey and enjoying life along the way. You can learn more about me and what I'm all about. Sign up for my newsletter for more tips, info and inspiration!

Comments

  1. I’d love to hear more about your research to write this post. As a mother of 2, 17 months apart I find it super discouraging to read your words. We’ve had zero health problems and I wouldn’t have done it any other way. There are many children that are born several years apart of health issues or people that miscarry babies years apart. It doesn’t seem fair to categorize these things into having children close today. Do you think its possible that each person’s body is different? Of course I’d love to read more about this if it comes from good resources, thanks!

    • Hey Melissa, sorry you feel discouraged, but like I mentioned in the post, don’t fret if your kids are less than 3 years apart. It’s just some information to be mindful about in case some health issues come up later, or nutritional deficiencies are discovered, etc or just to simply know, since so many people have never heard this concept before. I do think every body is different and each person’s nutritional stores and general health are different, so one person may handle back to back pregnancies much better than the next. Women who did not eat well in childhood or teenage yearss (like me) are gonna have a harder time, because one pregnancy will suck what little good stuff they had in them. Does that make sense? As for research, some good books to check out would be Nourishing Traditions, the GAPS Diet and Beautiful Babies. But it’s also just commen sense, antidotal wisdom from ancient cultures too, for example ones that routinely do full term breastfeeding (ie nursing a child older that 2) for child spacing. In the end what I am trying to say is that even if a woman is healthy, pregnancy is very draining on a woman’s body and nutritional stores, and to make a priority to take care of yourself, so you can take care of your little ones.

  2. I actually have quite a few friends with 5+ children and I hear a lot about how 3 years old is the best time to have another baby because the older sibling is more open emotionally to another child. They have not developed the jealousy and set-in-their-ways attitude that older kids have, but they’re more nurturing and gentle than younger kids. At least that’s what I hear.

    • So they mean baby arrives when older child is three or they get pregnant at 3? If we do get pregnant again, Penelope will probably be almost 5 by the time the baby comes, so it will be interesting to see what happens in that kind of age difference.

      • Stephanie, I know this is an old post, but I wanted to add a personal story. My niece was almost five when my nephew was born, and they are closer than any two children I have seen. My nephew unfortunately has some pretty serious food allergies, and my niece reads all the ingredients in any food he has before he puts it in his mouth. When he cries, he calls for sissy as much as momma or daddy. They hold hands in the car. They have such a loving relationship, and it’s really amazing to watch them interact.

  3. Victoria says:

    I got pregnant with my second just as my first turned two. I was just truly getting my body back at that point. My second pregnancy was much more difficult, physically. I am sure part of that was because I was chasing a two year old around. I also nursed him throughout and am just now weaning him. My second was born in December. Now that my first has turned 3, I wonder if it wouldn’t be easier…

    I want a third, badly, and I’d like for them to be close in age. But I am soooo not ready to be pregnant again! This post makes so much sense to me. I also read a lot about postpartum care in other cultures and am so envious of the true recovery time they are afforded. Such wisdom….thanks for sharing.

    • Yeah,there are so many factors that come into play. I think 3 or 4 years apart is still pretty close in age, they will still be able to play with each other. I mean really, any age difference is fine, since we are not in control and they are all a blessing. God picks when our babies will come to us and how far the spacing will be, but its something to think about, how physically taxing it is to grow a human being!

  4. I am so happy to have read this. My youngest is 2 1/2 and a few months ago I was wondering if I was ever going to start feeling normal again. I am just now starting to feel like my brain is working again and I’m starting to get back to my normal weight, and I am so happy to read that is does take a few years for this to happen. Thanks for the info, it at least made me feel better.

    • Glad it made you feel better! I think a big shift/healing happens at 18 months and 2 years, probably why most women do get pregnant around that time, but if we are talking 100% fully recovered, at least three years.

  5. Julianna says:

    Thank you for writing about this. I really never thought about things this way even though I do a great deal of effort into my families health. I am three weeks post cesarian with our fourth child and was feeling a bit discouraged that I’m not bouncing back as quickly as the others. ( I know, after reading this I realize how ridiculous that sounds!) I should also mention this is our fourth child in five years..My poor, over worked uterus! So again, thank you for the dose of perspective and I am really going to try and remind myself of this especially in the next few weeks.

    • Thanks for reading! Um, yes three weeks pp is no time for bouncing back! You need to bounce your butt in bed! And in a couple of months, give that uterus some love! And congrats on baby number 4, what a blessing!!

  6. I agree with Melanie. My husband and I have been talking about baby #2 since our DD turned 2 last August. I keep telling him that I still don’t feel like I’m ready physically, emotionally, and mentally. DD weaned herself about a month ago and I finally feel like I’m returning to my old self again. Baby #2 seems to be more feasible now that things are starting to return to normal with me and DD is becoming more independent (weaning, potty training, taking on small chores etc). For a while I began to feel a bit selfish for telling my husband that I simply wasn’t ready but your post made me feel much better about myself and our situation! Thank you!

  7. This post couldn’t have come at a better time. I have a just-turned 3 year old (in April) and a 14 month old and am feeling completely overwhelmed. I just was asking my husband if it was too late for postpartum because something just feels off. We aren’t sure if we are “done” however if we try for a third I will wait until the baby is about three so I can give my body and mind a reprieve.

    Stephanie, my sister was almost six when I was born and I can’t imagine it any other way. Growing up it was a large age difference, but I always loved having an older sister. Heck, I got to visit her and spend the night in her college dorm from when I was in 7th grade… It was amazing! Now, at 35 and 40, we’re best friends and talk every single day.

    Thanks for your amazing posts. You’ve helped me be a better mama, although my husband still looks at my like I’m crazy when I put GOOT on our kids feet!

    • Jennie this post made my day! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment! So funny about your husband and GOOT. They get used to the shenaigans eventually, I promise.

      That is good to hear about you and your sister, what a fun thing to think about my future second baby visiting Big Sis Penelope at college one day. :)

  8. Someone showed me this “Make Room for Baby” graphic from the science museum in Chicago, and I watched it about once a week when I was pregnant. http://www.msichicago.org/whats-here/exhibits/you/the-exhibit/your-beginning/make-room-for-baby/

    It blows my mind what our bodies go through. My husband would watch it with me and notice something new and ask, “Wait, your LIVER is THERE now?!” It’s awe-inspiring and gave me lots of encouragement to take it easy after giving birth! You met my babe–he’s now six months. I still think it’s amazing that I’ve recovered so much in so short a time.

  9. Ah! Thank you! This makes perfect sense. A dose of encouraging reality for those of us who take longer to conceive again than others. I have to say it’s hard to be the only person you know who’s not having babies 1-2 years apart. That was the plan — God just had a different one. It took 18 months to conceive my now-7 month old son and it was a heart-wrenching process as I dealt with some mild depression (which didn’t help, I’m sure) on top of caring for a toddler. We did tests and everything came back normal — making it even more frustrating. But, that’s what led the Hubs and I to reevaluate our diet and nutritional needs. 3 months after a change in diet (we went gluten-free, sugar-free and dairy-free) and there were two pink lines on that pregnancy test (that took me days to finally get the guts to ask the Hubs to buy one — and some serious begging on my sister’s part)! So, it’s nice to know that our bodies DO need time to heal and prepare for another pregnancy — and that it’s normal if it takes some of us 3 years when everyone else we know is popping out the cuties without any speed bumps.
    Plus, now that my kids are 3 1/2 years apart (almost to the day) I am glad we have the age gap because kids really are babies for a lot longer than we think! I’m grateful for the time my daughter and I had ‘just the two of us’ — I’ll always treasure it. We hope to have one more, but we’ll going into it a lot more relaxed this time around because we know it’ll take time. And we’re okay with that. :)

    • Totally. I like the idea of having more indivualized attention to spend on each time. The first three years of their life, as far as emotional and mental developement is crucial, so the more you can focus on them the better those foundations will be for later life.

  10. Thanks for your post! I am very much interested in replenishing my body’s nutritional stores before we have another baby. I am planning to wait until my daughter weans, and then give my body a year long break before we try to conceive again. I think this is an important topic that isn’t discussed very often. Usually when someone mentions baby-spacing they are only taking into account how close they would prefer their children to be in age!

    • Good planning Sarah! Yes, that is a big part of why I wanted to publish this post was just to start planting some seeds and get the conversation going!

  11. This post is so reassuring to me! It makes me feel so much better! After having my daughter, soon to be 2, it took me about 20 months to feel normal again. However, I felt like everyone else had bounced back and I was the weird one who still felt, well, like I was in a postpartum haze!! Nobody seemed to understand when I said my daughter was 16 months and I still hadn’t gotten my mind back. I’m just now starting to feel better. I just wish I had been better prepared the first time around and not felt like I was so strange when at 6 weeks postpartum I didn’t feel completely back to normal. I’m pregnant again with my 2nd child (purely by accident-I guess what they say about getting pregnant while breastfeeding is true, ha!). I’m so scared to go through this all over again, and feel responsible for someone else (i.e. my daughter). Also, I totally agree about the nutrition and your body recovering. I feel completely drained being pregnant and still breastfeeding. I just hope I can rebuild my nutritional stores somewhat. Anyways, thanks for listening to my rambling and ultimately making me feel better and not so strange!

    • Glad it was reassuring to you! I bet the other moms who looked like they bounced back didn’t really. We have created such a culture of shame for mothers who are not perfect post baby, when it is all just an illusion! Best of luck and congratulations on your second baby, and remember to take care of yourself and make yourself a priority! What is best for mama, is best for baby.

  12. This information makes me feel better! I have a 17 month old and still don’t feel totally ‘back to normal,’ but thought I should have been by this point. So, thanks! Also, I noticed your daughter is wearing an amber teething necklace, right? Can you tell me where you purchased it and what kind it is? (Locally? I live in Tallahassee) I have read a bit about them and wonder if it would be worth buying for my son. He is currently getting his ‘first molars’ and I can tell some days he is truly in pain. We were lucky and his front top and bottom teeth came in without incident really, but these bigger teeth are a different story! I have also heard there is a difference between the polished amber, unpolished amber, and the different light to dark shades of the amber. Any information you could give me on these would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    • Hey Ali! I did get it locally! Ecological Babies carries them. She has had one on since she was 5 months old! I was just thinking yesterday, I wonder at what age she will want to take it off.

  13. Stephanie says:

    Reading this couldn’t have come at a better time. I always wanted my kids to be 2 years apart so when my son turned one we started trying. He will be turning 3 soon and I have experienced 4 (possibly 5) miscarriages. I had never heard of this concept before but it sure makes a lot of sense! Now I’m wondering if we should wait awhile before trying to conceive again. All of the losses were within the 1st trimester but I have felt really depleted after each one. Anyway, thanks for the insight! I found it really encouraging!

    • So sorry to hear about your losses. If it were me, I would try to spend some time healing and getting your body ready before trying again. Eat lots of nourishing and healing foods and maybe check to see if there is a mayan massage practitioner in your area to help you heal your uterus and reproductive organs.

  14. This is very interesting! Living in Finland, I have never heard about. Even the doctor who made my getting home chech up after giving birth tp myn second said that wellcome back soon :)

    This 3 years postpartum, really makes sense. I have had my kids 20 months apart and being in a great shape physically has helped me a great deal. But now, I wouldn’t be ready for a third mentally. And I totally agree with the replenishing of nautittiin storages.

    On the other hand I also think that your body knows, if it’s well enough for the new pregnancy it will be able to carry on with the pregnancy or selfabort if not. Also having periods is a sign of being ready for a new pregnancy, I think. Or at least a sign your body can tolerate the next pregnancy.

    Very interesting!

  15. Jennifer says:

    Six (6) weeks is the amount of time short-term disability insurance is required to pay you benefits as being ‘medically unable to work’ after giving birth. Federal law requires (most) employers to hold your job for 12 weeks of unpaid leave, but I have seen women come back to work before the 12 weeks is up. So I believe the idea that ‘postpartum=6 weeks’ is perpetuated by, if not created by, maternity leave laws. (The USA has the worst maternity leave laws and customs of any ‘developed’ county.) These are minimum requirements imposed by legislators not recommendations for optimum health of moms and babies.

  16. Crystal Deskins says:

    Hi Stephanie, I read your post Postpartum is 3 Years, Not 6 Weeks and am hoping I can do it when I have a baby.But what are you suposed to wear and do while breastfeeding for 40 days? Also what do you do after that?
    Crystal

  17. christiane says:

    Hi Stephanie. I totally agree with what you said, even if it doesnt have any scientific proof… well i’m a living proof lol
    Im 26 yrs old and mama of 2 kiddos. boy 3 and girls 19months. i do feel like having babies so closed in age has taken a toll in my body. I lost so much weight and its being so had to gain any weight, I feel anemic and tired ( not necessarily from the kids) but my body is different. I am doing my best to regain all the lost nutrients but taking multivitamin eating healthy organic food. I do plan to have a 3rd child, but this time around Im waiting the whole 3 years !
    thanks for the Post.
    keep up with the good stuff

    • Thanks for your comment Christiane! I am so glad to hear you are taking good care of yourself! You are and your future child’s health are worth it!

  18. Thank you for this! I have a 3.5 year old and 16 month old and I thought I was just going crazy! Due to our age, I wouldn’t have waited longer to have baby 2, but man sometimes I wonder how parents “do it”. Now I know, we’re not alone. I too had a miscarriage in between kids. I know many women who have healthy babies close in age, but for those of us who have a little bit harder pregnancy each time etc. it’s so nice to hear there’s a “reason” for our struggle and we are NOT alone!

  19. Erin Zemaitis says:

    This could not have come at a better time! Although I had read this in one of the bazillion pamphlets I got along my baby journey (I think I read 2 years though…) and my traumatizing birth experience ensured that I was DEFINITELY not going to have #2 any less than 2 years apart (if ever); my “mom-nesia” is starting to kick in, and it seems like everybody around me is pregnant so I have a bad case of baby fever even though my lo is only 18 mo and my rational, logical side is saying “not yet”! Thank you for reminding me why I should wait!

  20. Nicole Marville says:

    This is such a great article, I have 4 kids, 11, 8, 4, and 20 months. The first 2 and the last 2 are both 2 years and 8 months apart and in between a 4 year and 2 months. I definitely was in better shape with the longer gap! I also think women need to realize all that their bodies go through. I work in a fitness industry that caters to moms and there is always this need to get back so soon. I am going through hormonal imbalance and it’s hard to explain to people yes I am a personal trainer, yes I am over weight, but it’s because I was more concerned about healing with foods and not a prescription. I don’t want to being skinny if I am tired and can’t play with my kids! Women need to support other women and tell them it’s ok to not be back in a bikini right after having a baby, instead ask how are you feeling? How are you sleeping? How is your skin? I plan on helping moms with more then just burning calories!!

  21. Stephanie, thanks for sharing your experience and writing about post-partum. This is so true that pregnancy and giving birth takes a lot out of woman and most men don’t realize how much work it is. I have Irish twins 18 months boy and 30 months girl. I am a handful because I also work full-time and run a photography business in the weekend. I did breastfed each baby for a year. That’s another part heavy on women. I am originally from China and the traditions there is that we do post-partum confinement for at least a month after giving birth to a baby. During the first month after having a baby, the mother of the mom or a postpartum doula stay in your house to take care everything for you, including cooking, cleaning, laundry, and anything the new mom asks. The new mom just relax and enjoy the time with her new baby. The doula also wakes up at night to feed the baby and rock the baby to sleep, so the mom can get more sleep. There’re also believes that a women right after giving birth should not eat or drink ice cold drinks or food. A woman’s ovaries need to be warmed all the time, especially during postpartum period. There’re lots of other traditions and secret remedies. Email me and I will be happy to share with you!

    • Thanks for sharing! I know all about the no cold food and drinks and keeping warm, so true! Would love to hear more of your traditions and remedies.

  22. I loved this post and shared it on my Facebook page. I think in our modern, busy, fast paced culture we have lost sight of a lot of things. In native cultures babies are spaced 3-4 years due to breastfeeding/cosleeping. My kids are almost exactly 3 years apart but I think my daughter could have used more time before becoming a big sister. I’m in not rush to have a third – still think I might like to, but a bigger gap makes so much more sense to me after having 2 babies. I definitely felt a lot more mental clarity after my son turned 2 (about the time I started blogging actually!) I’ve had a post brewing for a while now about spacing of kids – I think I will be including a link back to this post. It’s stuck in my mind since you wrote it.

  23. Liz J. says:

    So my son is 15 months old and I just got my period back. I’d like to get pregnant again in about 5 months or so, and not wait until he is 3 before trying again. I’m 32 and he is our first so I really can’t wait too long if we want to have more kids. What are some things I should do to help my body be ready again?

  24. Thanks for your post, it is very enlightening! Mother’s intuition is never wrong…I dont plan to have a second child, my son is almost 3 yrs old and im still suffering from pelvic floor dyssenergia, fissures, prolapsing rectum/hemms & a rectocele..so i dont think any mother in my situation would even consider putting herself though delivery not only that but getting pregnant itself terrifies me because of the pressure of the baby inside. Some might call me selfish but im dealing with symptoms and discomfort almost all the time and it effects my daily life..thank god i have an understanding husband, he has seen me suffer enough, even tho i am doing physio and on pain meds i can see it will take time for my perineum to heal…i had a traumatic delivery, i was told to have a c-section next time round and that terrifies me to. I wonder if any woman dare to bare another child with any of these post partum issues…would be nice to know im not alone.

    • So sorry to hear you are struggling. I will be praying for your healing! Let me know if I can help in anyway.

      • Thank you so much, One day Gods willing I may have a second child but in the mean time I need to concentrate on myself and getting rid of all these issues that have been hanging for way too long. I really enjoyed your article.

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