The weeks following childbirth represent a special time in your life and that of your brand new baby. While you may be tempted to focus all of your love and attention on your infant, it is also important to take care of yourself in the first few weeks of motherhood.
How many occasions can you think of in which a person is hospitalized and then sent home to take care of another person? Childbirth, needless to say, is a major physical event, whether you deliver vaginally or have a C-section. Self-care should be just as much of a priority as the care of your infant. After all, you will be much better equipped to take are of a new little one if your own needs are met first.
Get Your Rest
Your body needs to heal following childbirth and sleep is the most important restorative practice to focus on. Of course, sleeping with a newborn can be difficult, particularly if your baby wakes up every few hours to feed. Whenever possible, sleep when the baby sleeps. When your partner, family or hired help is available to take your baby for awhile, use this time to sleep first and to catch up on other tasks afterward.
Nourish Your Body
Of course you know that it is important to eat to maintain your energy, especially while breastfeeding. You can maximize your meals by making sure that you are eating the most nutrient-rich food possible. Focus on whole foods and fresh ingredients, such as whole grains, fruit, vegetables, pastured meat and eggs and organic cheese.
Keep plenty of healthy snacks on hand and have items pre-prepped as much as possible so that you can grab and go. Great examples are:
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Sliced carrots and celery with hummus
- Cheese slices or peanut butter with an apple
Make Time to Exercise
You should consult with your doctor to discover how much exertion you are ready for following childbirth, but all new moms can benefit from a movement practice. This not only helps to regain physical health, but can help with emotional health as hormone levels fluctuate and can also help with stress management.
Your new exercise routine after childbirth may consist of simple stretches and light walking at first. Then you can slowly work your way up to more strenuous workouts, eventually returning to pre-childbirth exercise routines and then pre-pregnancy routines.
Monitor Your Recovery
After childbirth, you may continue to bleed and discharge uterine tissue for several weeks. Remain aware of how much you are bleeding and report changes, especially heavy bleeding, to your doctor. Foul-smelling discharge accompanied by flu-like symptoms such as fever may indicate a uterine infection and should also be reported to your doctor.
You will also need to care for any incision sites or torn tissue carefully. Women who have undergone a C-section need to keep the incision site on their abdomen clean. Women who have had a vaginal delivery may be dealing with stitches from an episiotomy, or tender tissue in the perineum, and should monitor healing at this site. Any signs of infection should be shared with your doctor.
Be Gentle With Yourself
The postpartum period is the time for self-care and caring for your new infant. As best as you can, delegate all other activities, such as cooking, cleaning and care for other children. Acknowledge that, if the house is not as clean as it could be, that this is only temporary and simply not a priority.
It is also common to feel down and experience changes in mood in the first few weeks with a newborn. This is due to rapidly changing hormone levels and is completely normal. You may experience:
- Mood swings
If, in addition to these emotions you feel unable to connect with your child, an inclination to withdraw from others, coupled with feelings of guilt, shame and unworthiness, you may want to speak to your doctor about postpartum depression.
You may need to establish clear boundaries with friends and family in order to prioritize your self care. While friends and family may want to come over to see the baby, you should not feel that you need to entertain them. If anything, they should be there to help you. Enlist the help of the people you trust to help protect your recovery.
By setting firm boundaries with others and prioritizing your self-care, and the care of your child, you will set yourself up for a quick postpartum recovery.
Mohamed Taha is the Founder of FORM CLINIC, a group of specialist Osteopathy, Physiotherapy and Acupuncture clinics in central London.
Since qualifying from British College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2007, Mohamed has had a wealth of experience treating musculoskeletal conditions. with experience in treating patients across various clinics in Central and North West London. Mohamed took a very keen interest in sports injuries and rehabilitation from early on, as one of reasons he pursued a career in osteopathy was from his injuries in the rugby field.
With a holistic view in healthcare, Mohamed helps his patients achieve better health, with his skill and experience of hands-on treatment, as well as the combination of acupuncture, naturopathy, corrective exercise and postural re-education. When he is not getting people back on their feet, he is usually kept busy by his 3 year old son Yousuf and his 18 month old daughter Areen.