Becoming a new parent is an exciting, yet challenging experience. The physical and emotional demands of postpartum recovery can be overwhelming, leaving new mothers feeling stressed and exhausted. During the first 6 weeks and beyond, pay close attention to the physical and mental changes in your body. This is a time to focus on healing as you allow your body to rest and recharge.
Postpartum recovery can be a smooth experience with the right preparation. Here are 5 tips to help you navigate this transition and make your postpartum recovery a positive and fulfilling experience.
In This Article
1. Prioritize Self Care
While you’ll likely be focused on your tiny human that you need to take care of, it’s important for you to take time for yourself to rest, relax and recuperate after birth.
Self-care can look different for everyone. It might be lingering in a hot shower, taking a nap, reading your favorite book, or getting a bit of exercise. Lean on your support system, like family and friends, to help you find some time to recharge your batteries.
Don’t feel guilty about carving out a little alone time. By taking the time to focus on your needs, you’ll be able to support the needs of your growing family. After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup!
2. Stay Hydrated
Hydration is key to physical and mental well-being, especially during postpartum recovery and if you’re breastfeeding. Keeping hydrated will help support your milk production, boost your metabolism, and support your digestive system. Furthermore, drinking enough water will help decrease swelling, flush excess sodium from the body, and help your body absorb and transport vitamins, minerals and hormones to the blood.
Always keep a water bottle with you to combat fatigue and boost energy levels. Try to skip alcohol and caffeine, which can not only affect your moods, but be incredibly dehydrating. Finally, make it a goal to drink around 96 ounces of fluid – that’s about 10 or 12 eight-ounce cups a day.
3. Focus on Proper Nutrition
While comfort food can be appealing when you’re tired and stressed, it’s important to remember food can be a powerful form of medicine and help aid you during your postpartum recovery. Nutrient-dense foods are crucial for healing, hormonal balance, and breast milk production, and proper nutrition can help ease fatigue and fight constipation. Stick with natural, whole foods to get the vitamins, minerals, and fiber you need to sustain your energy throughout the day.
If you are breastfeeding, keep in mind you’ll likely need to up your caloric intake – about 500 extra calories a day. Focus on incorporating a variety of lean proteins, high-fiber foods, and whole foods to get as many types of nutrients as possible.
Here are five food group categories to focus on during postpartum recovery:
- Whole Grains: Whole grains food that are made from wheat, rice, oats, can help fight constipation, improve overall digestive, and support immune health. By focusing on whole grains, you’ll also reap the benefits of fiber, B vitamins and minerals such as iron that come with bran and germ.
- Vegetables: Instead of focusing on a restrictive diet, focus on how to add a variety of colorful vegetables to your diet like dark leafy greens, red and orange vegetables, beans, and starchy vegetables like potatoes and cauliflower. They will fill you up and provide you with important nutrients for recovery.
- Fruits: Bananas, apples, melon, mangos, berries, and citrus can provide you with a healthy dose of vitamins and nutrients.
Protein: Opt for lean or low-fat protein sources including fish, poultry, edamame, lean beef, nuts, and lentils to sustain your iron levels.
- Dairy: Focus on yogurt, milk, cheese, and eggs to get enough vitamin D and calcium.
Finally, keep taking your prenatal vitamins. They’ll help restore nutrients you lost during pregnancy and support your body as it heals. Ask your doctor if you need any other supplemental vitamins like iron and vitamin C to support your postpartum recovery, too.
4. Exercise Regularly
While you won’t be back to your hard-core pregnancy workout routines after birth it’s important to stay active, but don’t push it. Talk to your doctor about what a realistic exercise plan looks like for your recovery journey. Remember, it will look different for everyone!
Prioritizing exercise after pregnancy can help you feel more energized, sleep better, manage stress, lose weight, and regain strength in your abdominal muscles. Opt for gentle exercises such as yoga, walking, or prenatal Pilates to help you get moving and boost your mood.
Walking is a great place to start your postpartum exercise journey. Take a stroll around the neighborhood to boost circulation and muscle tone, ease depression-like symptoms, and boost your mood.
Try gentle exercises that help repair your abdominal muscles in your torso. For example, pelvic tilts, kegels, belly breathing, and walking can help strengthen weakened abdominal and pelvic floor muscles and support your stability and balance during everyday activities.
5. Focus on Connection & Ask for Help
Postpartum and bringing a new baby into life can be challenging — don’t try to do it all alone. Lean on your existing support network to support your mental and physical health after childbirth. When friends and family members ask, “how can I help?” take them up on your needs. Ask family and friends to help with daily tasks, such as cooking, cleaning, or taking care of the baby.
Look for ways to connect with other moms. Joining a support group or connecting with other moms can help you feel less isolated and provide you with a source of emotional support. Talking to someone who understands what you’re going through can be extremely helpful during postpartum recovery.
Feeling emotional after baby is normal, but postpartum depression is not. As soon as you realize you’re not thinking clearly, ask for help. Lean on your support system and doctor if you think something is wrong.
Remember, postpartum recovery is a unique experience for every mother, and what works for one may not work for another. Don’t compare yourself to the images you see on social media. Much of what you see isn’t realistic.
Give yourself grace throughout your postpartum journey and allow yourself time to heal and adjust to your new role. Bringing a new child into the world is life-changing and it’s important to take care of your physical self, as well as your mental health. Remember, there is no shame in asking for help.
Whether you are a first-time mom or a seasoned parent, these tips will help you take care of yourself, stay healthy, and enjoy your new role as a parent.
Amanda Venditti is a mother, wife, and freelance writer for health, wellness, and family topics.