Having a baby is a wonderful achievement and moment in life for women, but at the same time it can be extremely challenging.
The periods during pregnancy and giving birth itself are discussed often, so you can at least be prepared well. But the period after giving birth? Not so much.
“The postpartum period is the least talked about time during the pregnancy cycle, yet it’s the most challenging hormonally, physically, and emotionally,” says ob/gyn Dr Sherry Ross at Providence Saint John’s Health Center.
Truthfully it’s also when new mums, too absorbed in caring for their newborns, fail to take care of their own well-being. Remember, when you feel good, you will be able to become a better mum for your little one.
Below are 8 important things that new mums need to prioritise.
1. Eat sufficiently
When you’re all about making sure your baby is comfortable and growing healthily, it’s common and easy to forget about taking a break and putting some food in you. This is not good as you need the nutrition to run your body especially if you want to master motherhood.
An easy tip is to eat when you baby eats. Make sure you have snacks on hand so that you won’t have to prepare anything. Alternatively, freeze some meals that you can just reheat when you’re too tired to cook. Better yet, get your partner to do the cooking for the time being.
Meanwhile, if you’re breastfeeding, it’s also important to increase your fluid intake. Keep a water bottle ready.
2. Keep taking your prenatal vitamins
“Many women think that once they have the baby, they don’t need to continue taking prenatal vitamins,” says Dr Ross. “Your body requires more vitamins and minerals than during your pregnancy, if you’re breastfeeding.”
Consult your doctor about increasing your doses of vitamin D and omega 3 fish oil so that your baby gets the the vital nutrients it needs.
3. Limit visits in the beginning
Your family and friends would want to see your newborn ASAP but that doesn’t mean you’re obliged to tend to their wishes, especially if you’re still weak.
“Childbirth is a difficult process for your body,” says urogynecologist Betsy Greenleaf. “During this time, it’s challenging to keep your energy up, and visitors can further drain your (limited) resources.”
Instead of one big and long visit by the whole gang, consider having smaller groups come over a longer period of time to prevent isolation and postpartum depression.
4. Get more sleep
To recover from something, sleep is imperative but when you just had a baby, it seems impossible.
According to March of Dimes, newborns sleep for about 16 hours a day, but only three to four hours at a time. No wonder mums are so tired! When can they sleep?
Same like eating, the trick is to sleep whenever the baby is sleeping, even if it’s just for a short nap. Teach your little one day from night so that you can gradually get back to your routine of a good night’s sleep.
How, you ask? Try to leave the curtains open and don’t go out of your way to be quiet during daytime naps. At night, however, keep the nursery dark and extremely quiet.
5. Be patient with breastfeeding
Meh, it’s not the best part of being a new mum if it hurts and is hard to get used to.
“Between the blisters, nipple cream that doesn’t really help, and simultaneous pain from uterine cramping, the entire experience can be toe curling,” says Dr Ross.
On top of that, getting your baby to nurse isn’t always easy-peasy. It’s alright, it can happen to any new mum. If you’re one of them, there are lactation consultants that you can seek advice from.
6. Start exercising
A part of recuperating and getting your body back to its potential is to work out. But how soon you can do it depends on your current physical and mental status, how fit you were prior and during pregnancy, and what your delivery experience was like.
However, once your doctor says it’s okay, you shouldn’t go all out. Instead, take it easy. You can start by walking and strolling with your newborn 20 to 30 minutes a day, Dr Ross suggests. She also recommends starting Kegel exercises as soon after delivery as you remember to.
“Pregnancy and childbirth can weaken your pelvic floor muscles, resulting in uncomfortable pelvic pressure and unwanted leakage of urine,” she says. “Kegels are a simple and effective way to whip those muscles back into shape.”
7. Take care of your vagina
If you had gone through a normal delivery (meaning, not the C-section kind), most likely you’re feeling a lot of pain dan discomfort down there after. The best treatment for you is topical medicine to numb the affected areas; sitz baths and ibuprofen on the other hand will ease the swelling.
Using toilet paper can be harsh, so instead use a squirt water bottle and warm water to keep the area clean during and after peeing.
8. Seek help
It’s perfectly okay if you can’t go through this alone. In fact, you do need to make time for yourself so rein in help from someone to take care of your child while you shower, catch up on some z’s or handle some personal matters. You can also seek help to do house chores.
“Others want to help, so don’t be afraid to delegate,” says Greenleaf. “Ask for help and do it often.” Yep.