Postpartum Mommy Care
Settling back at home from the hospital, you quickly realize that your sweet newborn requires a lot of your time and energy. It’s easy to lose sight of your own needs in between late-night feedings, sleep deprivation and taking care of a new life, but it’s important that you take care of yourself.
The first step in feeling empowered during this critical time is awareness of physical, emotional and psychological postpartum changes, as well as acceptance of the new routine that is now your life.
Baby Sets Your Schedule
Your world has just flipped. Simplify your life where you can. Throw away all of your to-do lists, and just focus on you and the baby. Forget about the piling laundry, cooking and other chores. Don’t feel guilty about staying in your pajamas for a large part of the day, asking for help, ordering food or accepting prepared dishes from friends and family. If you’re a working mom, make the most of your maternity leave.
Try to sleep when you can by taking advantage of when the baby sleeps. Don’t feel guilty about limiting visitors or enlisting help from others, or even asking your partner or other family members for help with feedings.
If you have the energy, get out of the house for walks and see the outside world. Limit your social outings to places where and people with whom you feel most comfortable, and keep the duration of your outings reasonable.
Body Bounce Back
Though you’re no longer pregnant, it takes awhile for your body to return to what you remember as normal. During the first two weeks, you will experience uterine contractions, as well as bleeding or possibly passing small blood clots. Bleeding usually goes from bright red at the beginning to a brownish discharge toward the end of week two. Take ibuprofen for the uterine cramps, and also try warm showers and lower back massages to alleviate the pain.
Breast engorgement is also common. Frequent nursing and warm compresses help with milk letdown. Give yourself and your baby time to learn how to breast-feed. It’s not as easy as it looks. Take advantage of a lactation consultant’s expertise. It’s very common for many new moms to need practice with correct latching to the nipple.
Soreness from delivery, especially if you tore or had an episiotomy, as well as hemorrhoids and constipation are common aftereffects of birth. Alleviate the pain with sitz baths to treat your vaginal area, and use hemorrhoid wipes and cream to sooth the bottom. Drink lots of water, and eat fruits and vegetables to avoid constipation and to keep up your energy.
If at any time you experience unexplained swelling in any of your extremities, fever, severe vomiting, deep chest pains, vaginal bleeding that gets heavier, foul-smelling discharge from your vagina or cesarean-section incision or hot or red breasts, call your doctor. The latter symptom, especially if you have a fever or accompanying chills, can be a sign of mastitis, which is a bacterial infection of the breasts that needs to be treated.
After your body heals from delivery, you still may feel strange about your body, especially your breasts and belly. Be kind and patient with your new body. After all, it took nine months to make your beautiful baby, so it may take at least that to get back to your old self.
Start working out gently, continue to eat healthy, stretch, and learn about Kegel exercises, which are important not only for potential incontinence, but also for your sexual recovery.
The Emotional Roller Coaster
Tiredness, grumpiness and moodiness are perfectly normal, given hormonal rebalancing. Be sure to understand the difference between what is termed “baby blues” – which is temporary and usually caused by exhaustion and hormones – and postpartum depression, which is more serious and characterized by extreme sadness, depression, anxiety or thoughts of harming you or your baby. Talk to your doctor as soon as possible if you think you may be experiencing postpartum depression.
To stay positive and relaxed, practice breathing exercises and visualization, and remember the mantra: “This stage is temporary. He/she will eventually sleep through the night, and so will I!”
Nurturing starts with yourself, as only then can you feel strong, happy and healthy enough to nurture your new baby the best you can.
Ivanna Campbell is the founder of Empoweredmommies.com, and mom to four children, ages 5, 4, 2.5 and 1.