Your Maternity Journey Vol. 9

Healthy Momma, Healthy Baby: Taking Care of Yourself After Baby Arrives

Someday you will look back on those first weeks home with your newborn and just remember the joy and wonder of caring for a brand new, tiny human. But those early weeks and months can be tough on new moms—physically, mentally, and emotionally. That’s why taking good care of your little one requires taking good care of yourself, too.

Get the help you need. Newborns are demanding! Don’t turn down help if you need it. Having someone clean, shop, make dinner, or do the laundry is a great relief, whether you’re recovering from a vaginal delivery or a C-section. That way, you can focus on caring for and getting to know your new baby.

Learn to say no. All kinds of well-meaning folks may call with the intention of dropping by to see the baby. If you’re feeling tired and overwhelmed and your place is a mess, you have every right to say no! Explain that you are exhausted and set up a time for a future visit when you can be rested and ready for company. Moreover, as long as we are in the COVID era, it’s best to keep visitors to a minimum and make sure they are vaccinated.

Don’t obsess about your weight. It’s normal to notice changes in your body. Your breast shape, hip width, clothing, and even shoe size may have changed. You will likely shed a few pounds by your first postpartum checkup. After that, most women still have some weight to go before returning to their pre-pregnancy weight. Be patient. Rapid weight loss can interfere with breastfeeding and chances are you will lose those extra pounds over time. Instead of dieting, focus on eating healthy and walking, and get back to exercising once your provider clears you to do so.

Focus on nutrition. The CDC recommends that breastfeeding moms consume 330-400 extra calories each day. Make sure you get plenty of protein from eggs, lean meats, dairy, beans, and lentils, as well as seafood that’s low in mercury (see below). Choose foods rich in iron and calcium and be sure to get your vitamin C to help you absorb the iron. Drink when you’re thirsty and stay hydrated; if your urine is a dark yellow that’s a sign you need to drink more water. Stay away from diet soda and sweetened iced tea and soda. Choose healthy, nutrient rich snacks, such as yogurt, whole grain bread, peanut butter, fresh fruit, or raisins and nuts. Don’t toss out your prenatal vitamins just yet­. Keep taking them while you are breastfeeding. If you are a vegan or vegetarian, ask your healthcare provider about taking B-12 supplements.

Prioritize Self-Care

There may be days when it feels impossible to even fit in a shower, let alone style your hair, but try to carve out a few minutes each day just for yourself. Make the time to focus on something you love—spend time in your garden with baby in a carrier, fit in a yoga class during a nap, or watch your favorite guilty-pleasure show while breastfeeding—anything you can look forward to counts. Simple acts of self-care can feel indulgent, but nurturing your soul will ultimately help you nurture your new baby.

Do your Kegels! Your pelvic floor is the muscle that connects to and supports your bladder, urethra, vagina, anus, and rectum, and controls the opening and closing of your urethra, vagina, and anus. Pregnancy stretches the ligaments and weakens the pelvic floor, which is why many new mothers experience some urine leakage. Kegel exercises strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and help you regain better bladder control. Post-pregnancy incontinence often resolves itself after a few weeks. Talk to your doctor if you are still having problems six or more weeks after your baby’s birth.

What about sex? At first, sex may be the last thing on your mind. You and your partner are exhausted from middle of the night feedings. And your pelvic area still has some healing to do. You can resume having sex once your provider gives you the okay, usually six weeks after delivery, but there’s no rush—wait until you feel comfortable. Breastfeeding can affect lubrication because your body is producing less estrogen. If you feel any discomfort, consider using a vaginal lubricant.


You Snooze, You Win! Sleep Tips for New Parents

You’ve probably heard the expression, “Sleeping like a baby.” But there’s a reason nobody says, “Sleeping like a new parent.” Let’s face it, a degree of sleep deprivation is inevitable when you’re caring for a demanding tiny human who needs to be fed every three hours around the clock! Still, there are a few things new parents can do to sneak in a little more shut eye.

  • Sleep when your baby does. Many new parents go into high gear when baby is snoozing, catching up on chores, phone calls, bills etc. rather than taking a nap. It won’t take long before you feel like you’re running on empty. If your house is a mess in these early weeks, folks will understand!
  • Accept help. If a friend or family member offers to watch the baby for a few hours, accept their kind offer and go take a nap. (Just need to make sure anyone who is around your baby is vaccinated.)
  • Team up. Consider pumping your breast milk so your partner can take the 3 am shift. There’s no reason mom should handle all the feedings!
  • Go to bed! Break the late-night TV habit, at least for now. Practice good sleep hygiene, and make sure you avoid all screens (TV, phone, computer, or tablet) for at least an hour before bed.
  • Place the bassinet by your bed. You can move baby into that cute nursery in a few months, but right now it’s safest and easiest for you to share the same room.
  • Consider your mood. Are you staying awake because of the baby or are you worried, stressed out, and maybe even depressed? Postpartum depression and anxiety can create a vicious cycle because lack of sleep has a negative effect on your mood. If this sounds like you, talk to your healthcare provider.
  • Remember, this is temporary. All babies are different, but most go longer between feedings as they grow. Your newborn will need to eat every 2-3 hours, but as long as they’re gaining weight successfully, the time between feedings will stretch to 3-4 hours around two months of age, and 4-5 hours around four months, so rest assured that your sleep stretches will get longer and longer. Before you know it, your little one will be sleeping through the night.