As a brand new mom still basking in that “I just had a baby!” high, your body is in recovery-mode. You just did something incredible (not to mention exhausting)! But how do you heal while also caring for a newborn?
If taking things slowly after childbirth sounds appealing, you may be interested in the 555 postpartum rule—a rest-centered maternal health approach. This isn’t for everyone—some new moms may be raring to dive back into normal activity ASAP. But for those wanting to recover gradually, this 555 postpartum rule breaks postpartum into three five-day periods: five days in bed, five days on the bed, and five days near the bed. The goal? To give your body nurturing time to heal after the marathon of pregnancy and childbirth.
If you want to challenge cultural pressures to get out and about quickly after birth, read on to understand how the 555 postpartum rule supports new moms through every recovery stage.
Editor’s Note: Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical or mental health condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.
Understanding the 555 postpartum rule
So, what exactly does this look like?
5 days in bed
Think of this first phase as a reward for the hard work of birth. For five full days, your only job is resting and bonding with your baby. Chill in bed as much as possible, getting up just to use the bathroom or grab a snack (avoiding stairs where possible). Recruit your partner, family, and friends to handle everything else! This allows you to fully immerse in healing rest.
5 days on the bed
In the second five-day phase, you can start incorporating gentle movement when you feel up for it. Cuddle with your newborn while sitting up in bed, hang out on the couch, and shuffle around your home. The key here remains to take it easy and rest whenever possible. Be sure to listen to your body; don’t push yourself. Keep a focus on bonding with your baby above all else. But a slight change of scenery can feel nice after five days in bed!
5 days near the bed
By the last five days, you’ll likely start feeling a bit restless and ready to integrate light activity. Take short, slow walks around your house while holding your baby. Break out that baby carrier or sling for a couple of trial runs if you feel up to it and if your baby meets the minimum weight requirements! But set a timer for 30 minutes, and don’t overexert yourself! Continue resting often.
Benefits of the 555 postpartum rule for new moms
Dutch birth educator Suzanne Jager notes that new moms are often encouraged to immediately “get back on their feet,” but she finds that the 555 timeline better meets women’s needs after birth.
“I understand fresh air and some activity can be good, but I really believe the first weeks should be just for rest,” she explained. After applying it herself following her second delivery, she noticed a big improvement in her energy levels and healing.
There’s a good reason this postpartum blueprint has caught on. You just did something straight-up incredible. Every cell in your body supported the monumental feat of growing a human and then birthing them into the world.
Taking it slowly after delivery allows your body the space it truly needs to heal and recover. As Dr. Deborah Brunt, a New Zealand-based women’s doctor and mother of six, explained, “In my clinic, I often see new moms with postpartum depletion, who are nutritionally and emotionally depleted from the pregnancy and delivery. The 555 postpartum rule is a great concept that promotes rest and recovery.”
Dr. Brunt noted those first 15 days in the 555 rule help provide recovery time for physical healing and establishing breastfeeding.
Maternal mental health and emotional well-being
That precious time spent skin-to-skin, nursing, and bonding with your newborn fosters stress reduction and emotional stability.
OB-GYN Dr. Jorge Sanchez agrees, noting the approach can be especially valuable for mothers at risk of postpartum depression or anxiety. He stresses, “I recommend the 555 rule to moms because it is so valuable for moms to rest and recover after delivery.”
Giving your mind and body the break they deserve sets you up for success down the road, too. Preventing early burnout helps restore your energy and vitality for the exciting months ahead.
And carving out downtime focused solely on bonding and nurturing helps cement your relationship with your new baby. As Dr. Sanchez noted, the early postpartum period directly enables emotional closeness and breastfeeding success: ”There are some practitioners who report it can also reduce clogged milk ducts and mastitis and help with breastfeeding, too!”
Implementing the 555 postpartum rule
Here are some tips for preparing during pregnancy and practical steps to help follow the 555 postpartum guidelines.
Prep during pregnancy
The more you can set yourself up for success ahead of time, the easier sticking to rest will be after the baby comes. Educate yourself on the 555 rule and why healing matters.
Dr. Brunt advised to build your support network ahead of delivery. Lining up friends and family to handle household duties during your recovery period will prove invaluable. If you have older children, ensure your network can also help with childcare like school drop-offs and keeping siblings entertained. Your priority will be focusing solely on healing and bonding with your baby.
Here are some practical tips once your precious baby makes their long-awaited debut:
- Keep things ultra-simple and streamlined. Focus only on basics like feeding yourself and your baby, resting when possible, and staying hydrated. Let everything else slide.
- Outsource what you can to your village. Can someone walk the dog or do grocery shopping? Say yes to all offers of help!
Making such a major life adjustment is bound to have some hurdles. Here are common struggles new moms face with the 555 approach—and tactics to overcome them:
Cultural and societal expectations
Let’s be honest—many cultures don’t exactly promote postpartum rest and recovery (ahem, the U.S.). Many of us feel pressure to seamlessly and quickly “bounce back” after birth. Comparison and unrealistic ideals on social media can make taking it slow feel shameful. Also, with little universal paid leave in the U.S., taking adequate recovery time often poses difficulties. If your partner has limited parental leave, discuss needs and expectations early.
Having other children at home or a lack of community assistance can also make realizing the 555 postpartum rule tough. Don’t be afraid to explicitly communicate your postpartum recovery goal to follow the 555 method. Limit visitors in the first two weeks to only those able to lighten your load, not just visit the baby. Boundary setting allows space to heal. You just grew a human—you deserve the help!
Myths and misinformation
Some say rest prolongs postpartum recovery or causes increased pain or complications. However, research shows the opposite—that gentle movement and bonding time foster healing. This might mean short, slow walks or light stretching. C-section moms have unique restrictions but should also gradually increase activity in line with medical guidance.
Dr. Sanchez understands the complexity of the issue: “There is a trade-off between immobility that is important for postpartum recovery and other risks like venous clots as well as difficulty with digestion and constipation.” The answer is to keep in close contact with your health providers and learn the signs of postpartum complications.
Remember, it’s a guideline, not a hard and fast rule
My own experience trying to implement the 555 postpartum rule after having my firstborn wasn’t all smooth sailing. An extended stay in hospital plus latch issues that needed addressing at my local breastfeeding clinic meant I needed to be up and about more than I would have liked. But I used the 555 timeline as guidance—not an inflexible mandate. Do what you can, when you can. Every bit of rest matters.
I used the 555 timeline as guidance—not an inflexible mandate.
I encourage all expecting moms to redefine societal norms and honor the enormity of birth by prioritizing their healing in that pivotal postpartum window. So much focus gets placed on the baby (rightfully!), but remembering mom matters tremendously, too.
Give yourself full permission to rest, restore, and bond with your precious newborn. Recruit as much help as you can from loved ones so you can put self-care into practice. As the experts agree, dedicating yourself fully to rest and recovery sets positive physical, emotional, and relational health in motion. So, in a culture obsessed with postpartum bouncebacks, forge your own path. See the 555 postpartum rule as a compass, not a hard and fast rule. Here’s to recalibrating cultural expectations around postpartum care!