The postpartum period begins right after birth to when the body nearly resumes its pre-pregnancy state. The amount of time varies from woman to woman but naturally, during this period, much of your focus and energy will go towards the baby. For mothers who have given birth previously, there already may be systems put in place for a smooth transition post-delivery.
However, many new mums grapple with the realities of having a tiny human being depend solely on them. This causes exhaustion, feelings of resentment towards your partner and/or child and may even trigger postpartum depression. And while some of these changes and discomforts are normal, there are several things a first-time mother can do to help with the transition so that you are able to rebuild your strength and enjoy motherhood.
Focus on healing
Along with emotional changes during this period, your body is still trying to adjust from having carried the pregnancy and delivering your baby. For starters, there is definitely some soreness whether you had vaginal delivery or Caesarian section (CS). Even if you had a smooth delivery, your body has been stretched and stressed for the past 40 or so weeks and needs some time to recover.
There are also changes such as breast engorgement, uterine pain from the uterus shrinking back, haemorrhoids, nipple pain, sweating and pelvic changes. To be able to take care of the baby, focus on regaining your strength and health. Ensure that you also attend all postpartum checkups to rule out postpartum complications like excessive bleeding. Aside from taking pain medication, you can undertake certain measures to speed up healing such as soaking in a warm bath and doing Kegel exercises as they strengthen pelvic muscles. Exercises such as walking also help with gas and constipation and also boost your mood.
Get extra help
Surviving on few hours of sleep while also taking care of the home can take a mental and physical toll on even the strongest of people. Having a newborn will require you to adjust your lifestyle and may bring tension between you and your partner as you struggle to find some couple time together after the baby comes. However, things need not get out of hand. Seek help from a family member to assist with the baby, house chores and running errands. You can also enlist the services of a live-in nanny to offload some of the pressure. As mentioned above, you need to focus on healing before you can resume normal duties. Getting help also means having conversations with your partner or family about your wellbeing to ensure you receive the necessary help.
First-time mums soon realise that babies have a very different sleep pattern compared to adults. Typically, a newborn wakes up every three hours and needs to be fed, changed and comforted and you barely get enough time to sleep. In fact, for the first few months, mums barely get any sleep which can lead to extreme exhaustion. However, there are several ways you can get some much-needed rest such as sleeping when the baby sleeps, letting someone handle other responsibilities for the first few weeks, minimising visits from friends and family for a while and having your baby’s cot near your bed which saves you time at night.
Proper nutrition does not end once the baby is out. A healthy diet for postpartum should include complex carbs such as whole grains, proteins and lots of fibre to help with constipation. Just like during pregnancy, eat five small meals as opposed to three large ones and along with your meals, ensure to take lots of fluids, especially if breastfeeding. Furthermore, do not be in a hurry to lose weight as the weight gained during pregnancy provides the body with reserves for healing as well as lactation.
This article was first published in the April 2020 issue of Parents Magazine