Having a newborn baby is one of the greatest experiences of a woman’s life but also one of the most stressful. Many women expect that immediately their life will bounce back to normal. While having a new addition to the family is fun and exciting, it adds some stress and strain. Below are some tips that you can use to help get the best out of your postpartum experience.
1- Lower expectations
New mothers should not expect too much from themselves. Giving birth can be a traumatic experience, and your body needs time to recover. Immediately after pregnancy, you should spend the majority of your time resting. Do not and you should not expect yourself to have the energy to run errands, take care of your family, and also look after the baby. In reality, most new mothers feel quite tired for a few weeks. Keeping personal (and familial) expectations of new mothers low is perfectly alright. The most important thing is for you to only do what you feel your body can handle.
2 – Develop a healthy diet
The basic postpartum diet is simple but healthy, including plenty of
- carbohydrates, and
- healthy fats.
Diet plays an especially important role for women that are breastfeeding. Since your baby will receive all their nutrition from you, a healthy diet with foods rich in iron, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and calcium is essential. Below is a general guide for healthy eating.
- Eat good sources of iron like lentils, enriched cereals, whole-grain products, peas, dark leafy green vegetables, and dried fruit1.
- For protein, consider eggs and dairy products or plant sources such as soy products, meat substitutes, legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds, and whole grains1.
- Good sources of calcium include dairy products and dark green vegetables. Other options include calcium-enriched products such as juices, cereals, soy milk, soy yogurt, and tofu1.
- Seafood can be a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. However, some seafood contains mercury or other contaminants. Exposure to excessive amounts of mercury through breast milk can pose a risk to your baby’s developing nervous system1. To limit exposure, avoid seafood that is high in mercury, including swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish1.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables because they are a good source of many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
High impact activities are not recommended during the first few weeks following labor. The body needs to recover before beginning intense exercise, which can take anywhere from 8-12 weeks or longer in some cases. Consult with your doctor if you want to participate in any form of strenuous activity.
Going for light walks is a good way to start and a good excuse to get out of the house for a minute.
In general, you should gradually return to light exercise only when you feel ready to do so and not before. If in doubt, visiting the doctor for advice can help.
4 – Rest
Sleep deprivation with a newborn is a real thing. All parents deal with it. Those who typically get a solid eight hours of sleep may find adjusting to life with a lot less sleep difficult. Lack of sleep can lead to fatigue, one of the leading indicators for postpartum depression development2. So it is important to catch up on sleep whenever possible. This may involve taking naps throughout the day, sleeping at the same time as your baby, or taking turns watching the baby with your partner. Adequate rest is an absolute necessity.
5 – Family and friend support
Support is an incredibly important part of postpartum recovery. When possible, it is helpful to recruit some help from family and friends, which may include
- asking for help with chores,
- grocery shopping, or
Any help new mothers can get is invaluable. The more time you can spend on you and your baby without worry, the better. Quality time or little acts of service can go a long way and make a big difference after childbirth.
Women should ideally receive all their nutrients from a healthy and well-balanced diet. However, more often than not, diet is not sufficient. Supplements are a good way to bridge the gaps created by nutritional deficiencies. Check with your doctor before starting any supplements if you have concerns. You need to make sure the supplements you use provide the needed nutrition that will help your body recover. Especially if you are breastfeeding, you will need extra nutritional support to ensure you and your baby get everything you need.
Motherhood is an amazing time in your life but is a major transition and can be stressful. A good postnatal experience means different things to different women, but the tips above can help create a healthier and happier transition for you and your baby.
1) Mayo Clinic. Breast-feeding nutrition: Tips for moms. May 2015
2) Corwin, E. J., Brownstead, J., Barton, N., Heckard, S., & Morin, K. (2005). The impact of fatigue on the development of postpartum depression. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing, 34(5), 577-586.