There are plenty of helpful experts advising soon-to-be moms about how to stay healthy or what to eat during pregnancy — but what about right after the baby arrives?
Perhaps we don’t hear too much about that topic because, frankly, many new moms don’t have time to care for themselves. And if they do have a few free minutes when they’re not soothing, changing or feeding their newborns, they’re probably too exhausted to tend to their own general well-being.
Top 8 things every brand new mom needs to know
New moms quickly realize that caring for themselves after one of the most stressful and simultaneously blissful events of their lives can be a challenge.
Kaiser Permanente obstetrics and gynecology expert Dr Amanda Williams has a bassinette-full of tips and suggestions that will help new moms feel healthy and stay healthy in the days and weeks after they arrive back home with their new bundle of joy.
1. Accept the shift to the new normal
Having a baby has turned your life upside down. Understand that it’s especially hard for women who are used to being competent and capable to be in this unknown space. It’s incredibly challenging, but if you have the capacity to make that shift from anxiety to possibility, it’s tremendously helpful.
2. Remember that sleep is not optional
As soon as the baby is fed, give that baby to someone else for burping, diapering, swaddling, etc. so you can get some rest.
And, if you or your loved ones think you may be getting depressed, consider trading a feeding for quick pumping every once in a while. Sleeping for 5 to 6 hours more or less straight brings remarkable clarity.
3. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Bleeding — which you will be doing for at least the first four weeks — and breastfeeding are tremendously dehydrating. Do not go anywhere without a water bottle. Add little squeezes of your favorite citrus fruit or ice or fizzy water to jazz it up.
4. Snack time all the time
For the new mom, there is no day, no night, no three square meals a day. Stock your refrigerator full of nutritious snacks — almonds, dried and fresh fruit, yogurts, half sandwiches. Having them all visible and available for grazing is very helpful.
5. Put family, friends to work
Everybody wants to see you and the baby, but the last thing you want to do is entertain.
But what can you do? First off, know that you get to make the rules.
You can start by making a visitation schedule. In the first few weeks, think about limiting the people who visit to those who will actually help you — cook a meal, take the baby for a stroll — and not people who are there for a fun visit. They can come by once you get this new mom thing down a little bit more.
6. Know that breastfeeding isn’t always easy
Once you get the hang of it, it is most often wonderful, but breastfeeding requires a front end investment.
Take advantage of lactation services and doulas, and be patient with yourself (and your wee one). Many nursing issues can be worked through, or will resolve with some time.
After 3 or 4 weeks, new moms are often encouraged to start pumping at least one bottle a day, so you can build up an emergency supply, or just to give yourself a little break and get family involved.
7. The baby blues (and more) are real
Hormone shifts. The loss of feeling special. The sleeplessness. The breastfeeding frustrations. These can lead to postpartum depression.
Counseling, medication, and support groups are all available and can help moms get the support they need. You can also reach out to friends via social media posts, emails, or the phone.
Don’t feel weird about asking for an assist. You’re not alone. More to the point, you absolutely deserve to feel good — and to not let this time be a barely-memorable haze.
8. Your baby is more resilient than you think
It’s hard to make yourself believe that you have 15 minutes to take a shower and wash your hair while your baby is in its co-sleeper or bouncy seat, but they really will be okay.
People think babies need a quiet, still environment, but when they were in the uterus, the rushing of blood was very noisy. Put that baby in a sling or carrier and get outside. You are actually recreating their uterine life, which is what new babies like best.
“Sometimes moms are so preoccupied with their new baby that they lose track of themselves,” Dr Calhoun says. “But remember, you are more than an incubator.
“Everyone is thinking about the baby, but you matter! You may be a new mom, but you are also a person who needs love and support, too.”