Postpartum Self-care: 11 Tips for Postpartum Mental and Physical Health
Postpartum self-care is an essential part of your post-pregnancy recovery. You have waited months for this little bundle of joy to come into your world. Now that they are here you just feel exhausted. It can feel selfish to take care of yourself when you have a newborn. But it is necessary in order to recover emotionally, mentally, and physically.
When is Postpartum?
The period after you give birth and before you have healed back to your pre-pregnancy self is known as the postpartum period. This period of time can be very tough on mothers. The change from pregnancy, to labor, to mother is a difficult transition and your body is filled with hormones, emotions, and pain.
While it can be difficult, it can also be a beautiful time too. Your baby is finally here, you are so excited and so in love with your new child, and all you want to do is stare at them and enjoy their presence. The overwhelming need to care for your new baby can override any inclination to care for yourself and before you know it - you haven’t showered in 4 days.
Making sure that you are staying healthy, both mentally and physically, is the key to an enjoyable postpartum journey.
Adjusting to Life After Birth
The first few days at home with your newborn are going to be a major adjustment. You will have to develop a sleep schedule, and eating/feeding schedule, and plan out time for your partner/other children. You can easily neglect your other duties because you are completely focused on your new baby, but sooner or later you have to face them. The dishes will pile up, the trash will have to be taken out, you won’t have any more clean underwear, and your body will physically ache from labor.
Not every mother’s postpartum journey is the same. Some women may get the “baby blues.” The "baby blues" cause crying, sadness, irritability, moodiness, restlessness, and insomnia. Often time this subsides after a couple of weeks when your hormones begin to balance back out again. If you are experiencing these things after a couple of weeks postpartum, you may have postpartum depression. If you think you may have postpartum depression talk to your doctor. It is going to take time and energy to develop a new routine, but you will eventually fall into one and be able to establish a new way of life.
Postpartum Self-Care (Mentally)
Postpartum self-care is so important in order to have a healthy postpartum recovery that we wanted to give you a few tools for success.
- Enlist some help. This could be your partner, your friend, your neighbor, your family, or hired help. Ensure that you have people you can rely on to help out. If you need to sleep in one day, have your partner give the baby and bottle and give you time to relax. Maybe you need to take a nice long bath, have a family member watch them while you do. Having someone to help around the house or do the grocery shopping can decrease your stress levels immensely.
- Find a Get-Away Space. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy. You don’t have to have a spa or a zen garden, but find a place where you can go and relax. It can be incredibly overwhelming to take care of a baby all day, make sure you have a place that calms you and resets your day. Maybe this is a chair by the fireplace, maybe it is the outside patio, perhaps it is just your bathroom. The only requirement for space is that it makes you feel calmer just by being there.
- Have an Activity. According to psychologists, there is power in relaxation activities. This means that having a hobby to partake in, at least once a day, helps to relax your brain and your body. It can be tempting to go and rush through the chores while your baby is sleeping, but what would make you feel relaxed during that time? Perhaps you just want to watch one episode of a show, or maybe you love to knit, or read a good book - find something that makes you happy and excited to do - it might even be sleeping.
- Spend Time with your Partner. With all of the stress that comes with a new baby, it can be easy to put your partner on the back burner. Healthy relationships require time and work and if you put those aside it can bring up feelings of resentment. Make sure your partner and you do things that you enjoy together. Spend a night in and watch a movie together, go out to a restaurant for a date night, or maybe cook a meal together - do something you both enjoy and have fun.
- Be Kind to Yourself. Being a new mother and having a baby is a full-time job, and it can sometimes feel like you are not getting anywhere. This can bring up feelings of anger, sadness, and frustration - but be kind to yourself. Celebrate small victories and set realistic goals. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t lose the baby weight or if you don’t have time to throw a party - your journey is not the same as anyone else’s.
Postpartum Self-Care (Physically)
While mental health is important in the postpartum period, physical health is just as important. We wanted to give you a few tips to ensure you take care of yourself physically after labor.
- Follow your Doctor’s Orders. Whether you give birth vaginally or through cesarean section your body will have to heal after labor. Some women may even have stitches they need to take care of. Make sure you are following the directions of your doctor or doula in order to properly care for your body after labor.
- Get Outside and Walk. Walking outside helps not only your physical health but it also helps your mental health. Walking will help keep you active during a time when you can’t do any vigorous exercise. You can go for a walk around your neighborhood, or go to the park, or visit with friends at a coffee shop. There is no limit to where you can go.
- Eat Wholesome Nutritious Foods. It can be tempting to cut back on calories, but you still need to eat - particularly if you are breastfeeding. No matter if you are breastfeeding or not, you need to make sure your body has all the proper nutrition. This will help it return to its healthy state.
- Drink Plenty of Water. I know that it seems obvious, but many new moms forget to drink water throughout the day. You need to stay hydrated in order to feel your best and stay healthy.
- Sleep. Sadly, getting enough sleep is a struggle for mothers with newborns. Their baby will cry to be fed throughout the night and it can be hard to get the recommended 8 hours of sleep a night. Make sure that you try your best - even if that means taking naps throughout the day. Similarly, try to get someone to take care of your baby while you sleep in one morning.
- Use a Postpartum Girdle. Postpartum girdles are garments that are designed to ensure your body heals properly after your labor. They are used after vaginal or c-section birth and help to keep your abdominal muscles in place as they heal back together. They can be worn during exercise or throughout the day to ensure you maintain proper posture and don’t strain yourself. This can help you heal faster and reduce your postpartum swelling. Try one from Bellefit today.
At the end of the day, postpartum self-care is a necessary part of the postpartum recovery journey. Your body, and your life, will be going through so many changes that it can cause whiplash. Make sure you are taking time for yourself in the midst of all this change. Ground yourself in activities you enjoy and make sure your body is healing properly. As long as you are doing these things - your postpartum journey should be a breeze.