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Importance of Bodywork & Postpartum Massage ~Julia Donaldson Full Interview

Receiving healing touch is one of the five universal postpartum needs. The body of a new mother is simultaneously strong and vulnerable - we need grounding touch to bring us around to our center again. We (postpartum mothers) need to receive this help.

Here is the full interview with Julia Donaldson, a licensed massage therapist since 2014 that owns Portland Prenatal Massage in Maine. She is extensively trained and certified in prenatal and postpartum massage. Her practice revolves solely, and completely around women before, during, and after the childbearing year. 

On how Julia came to do this work....

First and foremost, I’m a mom of two young beautiful kids. I’m also a prenatal and postpartum massage specialist, and my aim in my work is to make women more comfortable in their bodies, relieve aches/pains/tension and stress, and help them sleep better. For a number of years, I worked as a graphic designer, but felt my work was unfulfilling. Massage therapy kind of found ME, and after training, I made the switch in 2014. Having my kids changed my life, in every sense of word. It spurred me on to want to work and help women through their pregnancies, and into motherhood. My work differs from a lot of other LMTs who do “prenatal massage” because I use special orthopedic cushions that allow pregnant women to lie face down through every stage of pregnancy. Most standard pregnancy massages are done side-lying, are cautious of low back work, don’t do deep work, don’t massage feet and ankles, and only work in 2nd and 3rd trimesters etc. I’m not afraid of pregnant woman, nor do I feel like I must tip toe around them, and all the myths that are perpetuated about massage and pregnancy. I’m also a SPECIALIST (pregnancy is kind of my thing), so this is where I focus all my time and energy, versus just offering it as another service.

On why this is important...

This work is sooooooo important for a lot of reasons. Self care during pregnancy is essential. A woman’s body undergoes a great many changes physically, emotionally, and mentally. Taking the time to just “be”, and check in with your body, and what needs attention etc., is really important. Along with those physical changes, can come a lot of aches and pains. Whether you’re experiencing a healthy pregnancy with little symptoms, or you’ve had some complications – every pregnant mother can stand to get some relief from all the hard work her body is doing. Low back and hips are often the most common complaint. In getting regular bodywork, stress hormones are lowered, sleep is improved, aches and pains are alleviated, and mom is happier – which is good for everyone. 

Self care AFTER pregnancy, is just as, if not more important. Once baby arrives, mothers tend to focus all their efforts towards caring and nurturing their little ones, which is innate, and necessary. But just as necessary, is taking care of mom herself. Birth is a wonderful, and challenging experience – in every way. Our bodies go through some incredible changes while pregnant, and it does not all go back to normal immediately after birth. It takes time. Moms need to prioritize themselves, and put themselves at the top of the list sometimes, and getting regular massage while pregnant helps moms get into a groove, and they are more likely to follow up with self care after the little one has arrived. Again, happy mom = a much happier everyone else!

I wish all new moms would consider setting up a self care schedule of sorts. New moms are used to going to many prenatal care appts, some to massage, yoga, chiropractic, osteopathic, acupuncture etc. But for many, once baby arrives this stops. Some see just leaving the house as a BIG event, which in those first few weeks and months – lets be honest, it is. But having some appointments already set up, having someone come watch the baby (or bring the baby with you) makes them more likely to motivate to leave, and take that time for self care. I always encourage my moms to come back within 10 days after birth, and every other week up to 16 weeks, and tell them to bring their baby with them if they don’t have child care. The same cushions that support her through pregnancy, are used postpartum, and make ample room for a new mom who is lactating etc. I want my new moms to feel right at home here, leaky boobs, and diaper sized pads are welcome.

Julia Donaldson, LMT

On Nutrition...

I love the idea of a Postpartum Nutritionist, and honestly wish I had known there was such a thing after my kids were born! The postpartum period can be such a whirlwind for some, whether its your first baby or 5th. Having the tools to fuel your body properly and efficiently would makes a BIG difference in ANYONE’s life and daily routine, but especially a new mom who’s focus is often not on herself, or may not have the time to cook. Knowing the right foods to help a mama heal, help boost her milk supply, and help her baby grow are invaluable.

On the right tools for healing...

I think having the right tools to heal are so important. It’s really easy to become overwhelmed after birth, and lose focus on self care. I think this is why postpartum depression can sneak in for a lot of people. Moms are busy caring for the baby, and maybe siblings, and lose sight of the importance of taking care of herself. I know I did. Baby comes first – that’s how my postpartum journey went. I wasn’t, and sometimes now, am still not great at taking the time for myself. I feel guilty, and I shouldn’t. Bodywork and nutrition and two big components that can aid in a moms recovery. I see it as working from the outside in, and vice versa. I consider both massage, and nutrition to be two very big coping and healing mechanisms.


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