Postpartum Recovery with Expert Taylor Kulik
One of the main reasons I started VIVAMA was to help bring better postpartum health resources to new moms. During my own postpartum experience, I felt that I was navigating completely uncharted territory. Sometimes the search was empowering (learning to take care of me!), sometimes frustrating and sometimes really scary. I was excited to meet Taylor Kulik, an Occupational Therapist and Postpartum Wellness Coach who has set out to make postpartum recovery easier to navigate for all moms. She has created an incredible resource: Prepared Postpartum, which is a comprehensive guide to postpartum healing that includes guidance on postpartum preparation, nutrition, sleep, physical recovery and more. Taylor has a wide breadth of expertise in postpartum wellness and I am happy to share some of her knowledge with you.
What inspired you to get into postpartum wellness?
After the birth of my daughter, I really struggled with the transition to motherhood. Even with a relatively "easy" birth, my physical recovery was painful and surprising. I struggled with external pressure to get my baby on ridiculous feeding and sleep schedules because I just thought that's what you were supposed to do, and I became obsessed with how my daughter was sleeping to the point of extreme anxiety and even depression. Without family nearby, I was pretty isolated and felt misunderstood by my husband, so our relationship suffered. Those factors along with nutritional deficiencies made me just not feel like myself. One day, I had this realization and moment of clarity that this is not how new motherhood is needs to be. I began researching postpartum recovery and realized how little comprehensive, easily digestible information there is out there for new moms. This information is just not really common or easily accessible, and it should be! So, I developed this passion to help moms with this transition and provide the information that I know so many new moms are out there looking for.
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Friday introduction for all my new followers! I’m Taylor! I’m an occupational therapist, and this photo captured a really beautiful moment during my first couple of weeks as a new mama. However, most of my 4th trimester was not so beautiful. As I realized how difficult and complex the transition to motherhood can be, I also begin to clearly see how occupational therapists could add so much value to maternal healthcare. I started immersing myself in all things pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum, and I was amazed at the information I was learning! Why isn’t this stuff covered during prenatal visits? Why don’t doctors know this stuff? ALL women should have access to this information! I believe women have been disempowered during pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood. We are no longer encouraged to believe in our bodies and trust our instincts. So that’s why I created an online, postpartum recovery course in the hopes that I can share this information with as many women as possible. I also offer a free guide to help you prepare for labor naturally. Check out the link in my bio for more info! 🤱 #occupationaltherapy #occupationaltherapist #naturalbirth #attachmentparenting #maternalhealth #preggolife #pregnantbelly #3rdtrimester #thirdtrimester #4thtrimester #fourthtrimester #2ndtrimester #secondtrimester #pelvicfloor #pelvichealth #empoweredwomenempowerwomen #mothercare #mindfulmama #postpartumjourney #postpartumanxiety #postpartumrecovery #birthmatters
How does your background as an Occupational Therapist (OT) inform your postpartum wellness practice?
My background as an OT has tremendously informed my practice! As an OT, we really learn to focus on the whole person from a very holistic lens. I have training in biomechanics & ergonomics, habits, roles, mental health, sleep hygiene, self-care, activity analysis, sexual function and infant development, all of which I use daily in working with families. The western medicine model is often very compartmentalized in that each profession focuses on very specific parts of the body. What this model fails to appreciate is how complex our well-being and health really are. All of these factors have the potential to impact one another! My background as an OT allows me to fully address how a person's environment, social support, nutrition, spiritual beliefs, and even how they were parented as a child affects them. Additionally, my approach isn't JUST about the mom or just about the baby. It's about both. It's about helping the entire family unit to thrive. When moms reach out to their healthcare provider for support, they are often told they need to wean or to sleep train and there are many mothers who don't want to do this. So offering this as the only option and solution is not helpful to many mothers and can even make it worse. My goal is to support moms through improved wellness while helping them to trust (and sometimes find) their own instincts.
In your opinion, how can we better prepare women for the tender postpartum period?
Information is empowering! We need more widely available information for expectant mothers about what to expect postpartum and how to optimize the postpartum recovery period. I think that we also need to do a much better job of helping moms to trust their bodies and their babies. We live in a society that is generally very dis-empowering for women. We are not taught body literacy, we are taught to fear childbirth and we are routinely conditioned to go against our instincts as new mothers. We are pulled in all different directions from "experts", but in general, moms aren't really advised to trust themselves and listen to their intuition. We aren't told that WE are the expert on our baby. (Of course, there is a time and a place for professional help.)
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#healthyladyhappybabychallenge: So happy to be an Ambassador for this challenge with @hellomytribe ⠀ 👉🏼Follow the hashtag to follow along or participate with your own post.⠀ ⠀ 🤰🏻My journey to motherhood was: challenging and brought up many confusing and conflicting emotions.⠀ 😳I was most surprised by: the lack of information surrounding postpartum and newborn behavior that moms receive. ⠀ 😴The biggest challenge I experienced: learning to tune out the noise & misinformation and trust my instincts. ⠀ 🤸🏻♂️The most helpful piece of advice I’ve been given: Trust your gut & don’t be afraid go against the grain. ⠀ 👭What got me through the hardest times: support from my husband & my new knowledge of what is “normal”⠀ 👉🏼What I want other mothers to know: Don’t do anything that goes against your instincts! You know best. Also, you are not alone & mothering is really that hard. Be easy on yourself. You can’t do it all. ⠀ 🤱🏻I wish mothers had more: Support and education about normal infant behavior⠀ 🗝Habits I practice to be a healthy and happy mom: time to exercise, eating nutritious food, and unplugging at night ⠀ 🐶My favorite self-care tools: Walks & frequent movement, magnesium baths, prayer, exercise, reading, family time⠀ 💪🏼My most proud moment as a mom: Everyday when I overcome the way I was raised and practice conscious parenting- by not reacting to my daughter’s emotions but instead empathizing and supporting her. (And then I mess up everyday, and react... progress, not perfection) ⠀ ⠀ I now challenge @mothercarejourney @maraboupostpartum and @we.are.mamakind to participate (visit @hellomytribe to get the motherhood or fertility questions):
What are 3-5 things that we should make sure that new moms know about postpartum before having a baby?
Having support will really make postpartum so much manageable! Find your village before having a baby! Reach out to family members and friends. As a society, we get very caught up in independence and being able to do it all, but we need to accept that we really can't, and that postpartum is definitely a time where mothers cannot be expected to do everything.
Many women face nutritional deficiencies in the postpartum period. Your body has been working really hard to grow this beautiful baby for 9 months, and your placenta has been nourishing the baby! That means baby gets everything it needs from your body, which is amazing, but also often leaves mom with significant deficiencies postpartum that need to be addressed. Many postpartum symptoms can be related to these deficiencies.
New moms need to be given realistic and biologically informed information about newborn behavior prior to having a newborn to care for. Babies have very broken sleep patterns. Night feeds are normal and night waking is actually beneficial. Babies are designed to wake often in the early days as a protective mechanism. Breastfed newborns don't often adhere to a schedule well. They often need to feed more than every 3 hours. Young babies rely on a caregiver to self-regulate; they are not capable of self-soothing. Unfortunately, many new moms are not being given this information. Instead, they are given misinformation that puts a lot of emphasis on getting baby to sleep through the night or feed on a schedule or fall asleep independently and this can be really harmful to vulnerable new moms who just want to do what is best for their baby and can't understand why they are failing. It's hard! New parents need to be informed so that they can have realistic expectations and set up the support they will need in those early postpartum days.
Know that if you are struggling, you are not alone. So many new mothers struggle, and it's largely a result of societal shift and not an issue with YOU.
What are some of the common concerns you see in new moms? How can we address them individually and also on a broader scale?
Common concerns I see include fatigue, energy depletion, difficulty coping to this new lifestyle, loss of identity, dealing with birth trauma, difficulty connecting with her partner, depression, anxiety, and stress. Physical concerns include weakness and pain. The list goes on and on! Motherhood is absolutely one of the most transformative periods of a person's life in which every system of the body is affected. On an individual level, we can work with women to find root causes. Where are the nutritional deficiencies/hormonal imbalances? Let's evaluate routines and habits. What can we implement to promote health and wellness? Let's look at environmental supports. Where can we add support and make things easier on mom? It's also really important to evaluate mom's expectations. As I discussed earlier, are her expectations appropriate? If not, how is this impacting her mental health? There is a lot we can do to shift perceptions and expectations in a way that supports mental health.
On a broader scale, we need to be creating more environmental supports and policies that support new parents. We need access to paid maternity leave, extensive breastfeeding support, paid paternity leave and more affordable childcare options. Unfortunately, right now our society is not conducive to becoming a mother or having a baby. We need big changes. As a society, we need to step up and take care of moms. We all individually need to be doing more where we can to support the new moms in our lives: check in on her, bring her a meal, set up meal trains, offer childcare, offer to clean her house! There are registries out there that allow people to purchase new parents service-based gifts (cooking services, cleaning services, doula support, etc.) Let's utilize these! Instead of telling new parents, "Let me know if I can help", tell them you are going to help them in specific ways. "What is one day this week I can bring you dinner? Is there a good time for me to come help you with some chores? Can I watch baby for a couple of hours while you sleep (if mom is comfortable with this)?" Making tangible and specific offers to mom will make her more likely to accept the help.
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The language we are exposed to and use has a really powerful impact on how we perceive our circumstances. If everyone asks a new mom how her baby is sleeping, of course she is going to be hyper-focused on the baby's sleep. Telling her that all that matters is her and baby are healthy is dismissive of her potential birth trauma. The words you use matter. The things you focus on with a new mom often become her focus. ⠀ ⠀ Here are some common phrases that new moms hear (and I've been guilty of saying some of these!) with my ideas for how we can reframe these ideas and support moms with our words. Do you have any other ideas? Comment & add to the list. Tag a new mama who needs to see this!
In your opinion, what is the most important thing that new moms can do to support their postpartum healing?
This is such a tough question because there's so many important pieces that I think all work together really cohesively! I'm going to go with having support and having adequate nutrition. Support and nutrition are absolutely key for healing. To heal, mamas need rest, which means they need help because they can't do it all. Mamas also need really good, nourishing food (preferably that someone else has cooked) to support their body in healing and also to support mental health.
How do you usually work with one-on-one clients?
I have a variety of different package options for new moms depending on how intensive of support they need. I always have clients fill out a pretty in-depth intake form and I review this before our initial consultation. This allows me to make the most of our time together and determine where we can make some changes. During our initial consultation, we will collaborate to determine goals and strategies for meeting those goals. I will provide education and strategies as appropriate, but it is always up to the client what they want to do with that information and which strategies they choose to implement. From there, if they've selected a more intensive support package, we would meet periodically (often once a week, but this is flexible based on the client's needs) to work towards the client's goals. Meetings are done remotely, either on the phone, Facetime, or Skype, so I work with families around the world.
What this process actually looks like is really variable because this is a holistic approach, and every client has such diverse needs. Some examples of what we can work on include: practicing assertiveness training and asking for help, working on coping and stress management skills, incorporating more self-care, guidance in incorporating exercise and strengthening into routines, assistance with health eating habits & meal preparation, mindfulness activities, breathing exercises to support pelvic health and mental health, helping clients to change patterns/habits to get more restful sleep, assisting clients to set up ergonomic baby-care stations for pain prevention, and so much more!
Tell us about your Prepared Postpartum digital program.
There's a really big gap in the way routine prenatal care is typically set up: we have lots of emphasis on childbirth education, but hardly any at all on what to expect postpartum. Through the Empowered Mama platform, I created an online program called Prepared Postpartum. This is an self-paced program that takes you through all of the basic, foundational knowledge that I believe every expectant and new mother should know about. It covers: basics of pelvic health, ergonomics of parenting tasks, planning for postpartum, physical recovery, nutrition, mental health, and holistic stress & anxiety relief strategies. It's all of the information I really wish I had before having a baby!
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I’ve had an influx of new followers, so allow me to introduce myself! Welcome! I’m so glad you’re here. I’m Taylor. I rarely appear by myself in photos because I feel awkward in front of the camera (I’m working on it). I’m an occupational therapist turned Postpartum & Family Wellness Coach, and soon-to-be Baby-led Sleep & Wellness Specialist.⠀ ⠀ My mission is to change the way we look and talk about postpartum, motherhood, and our children. I believe there is room for both mothers & babies to thrive, and not at the expense of each other. I believe this can happen when mothers are empowered with knowledge about normal infant patterns. Through this knowledge, they can learn to tune out the outside noise and tune into their instincts. ⠀ ⠀ How can I help you? ⠀ ⠀ 🤱Work with me! I offer individualized Postpartum & Family Wellness Coaching services & consultations. You can see more about that and book with me via the link in my bio. ⠀ ⠀ 🤱I also offer an online postpartum recovery program called, Prepared Postpartum. This is great for expectant and new moms to provide the info that’s not talked about much like: what to expect postpartum, how to create your postpartum plan, how to optimize physical recovery, scar massage, nutrition for healing, ergonomics, pelvic health, kegels, returning to exercise, maternal mental health, stress & anxiety relief strategies, holistic mental health support, & more! Check it out via the link in my bio!⠀ ⠀ 🤱I am also so excited to be able to offer holistic baby-led sleep support soon! This is perfect for families who do not want to sleep train, but instead, want to explore the root of WHY their child may be having difficulty sleeping. Through this coaching, you will learn the importance of attachment & connection with your child and how it relates to sleep, as well the importance of supporting emotion. Eventually, I hope to offer sleep & emotion online courses available. Are you excited for this? I am! I think this work is revolutionary! Let me know what services you are interested in below! ⠀ ⠀ If you want to get updates on new services as they come available, sign up for my mailing list via the link in my bio!
Where can we find you online?
You can find me at www.taylorkulik.com. Here, you can find information about me & my background, the services I provide, package options, and a link to the Prepared Postpartum program. You can also follow me on social media and subscribe to my mailing list to stay up to date on all new offerings and specials. Stay tuned for the launch of my Baby-Led Sleep support services!