A baby with its mother, father and nurse
By Salam Chalouhi, MD

9 Tips for Taking Care of Yourself After Birth

Adjusting to life with a new baby has its challenges. Between sleepless nights, endless diaper changing and frequent feedings, it can feel like there aren’t enough minutes in the day to do everything—especially when it comes to your own needs.

But taking care of yourself isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. The good news is you don’t—and shouldn’t—have to do everything on your own.

Let’s talk about a few steps you can follow to take care for yourself as you adjust to life with a new baby.

1. Get a Few Things Done in Advance

Doing a little extra work before giving birth can go a long way to relieving some stress after baby gets home. Make a few of your favorite go-to dishes and freeze them for use the first few days or weeks.

Catch up on chores and give the house a deep clean so you don’t have to worry about tidying up for a bit. Stock up on supplies—kitchen, bathroom and baby—to reduce emergency trips to the store. Make sure you have all your medications refilled including common medications used after the birth (Ibuprofen – Tylenol – Stool softeners – Prenatal vitamins – Iron).

If you have a pet, ask your partner, family member, or friend to bring home a blanket or clothing item with the baby’s scent on it before you leave the hospital. This will help your furry friend to become somewhat familiar with the baby. However, never leave your pet alone with a newborn, even if you’re sure they are friendly.

2. Assemble Your Support Team

The saying “It takes a village to raise a child” is never truer than in the weeks and months after bringing a baby home. Make a list of people who volunteered to help if need be. This might include family members, friends, neighbors, and coworkers.

3. Ask for Help, and Accept It

Once you have your support team in place, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Most of your loved ones will be happy to donate time and resources to help—especially in return for a few baby snuggles.

If a coworker offers to organize a meal train, don’t turn it down. Ask a neighbor to mow the lawn or shovel the driveway. Accept a friend’s offer to do a few loads of laundry or some light housekeeping. Call a loved one to watch the baby or your older children while you shower or run to the store.

4. Consider Hiring a Postpartum Doula

If it’s in your budget, working with a postpartum doula can be a great help. Unlike a birth doula who provides support for labor and birth, postpartum doulas can help you physically and emotionally in the weeks after giving birth. Along with helping you navigate the transition into parenthood, they can address breastfeeding issues, promote self-care and help with meals and light housekeeping.

5. Join a Moms Support Group

Connecting with other moms can provide much-needed support and make you aware of tips and tricks that worked for newborn care and parenting. It’s also a chance to socialize and build new friendships. Your little one may also get to meet and grow up with their children, who will be around the same age!

6. Appoint a Gatekeeper for Visitors

While you may be excited to show off your new baby, you’ll may want a little peace and quiet when you get home from the hospital. Ask your partner or someone close to you to help limit guests until you have time to rest and become more comfortable at home.

A newborn’s immune system is not fully developed, so don’t be shy about telling anyone who is ill to wait until they are well before visiting. Don’t be afraid to ask visitors to wash their hands and/or wear a mask before holding your baby.

7. Help Older Children Adjust

Getting a new baby sister or brother can be exciting for a child, but a little jealousy is to be expected. Try to spend a little one-on-one time each day with your older children. Recruit family and friends to take them to do “big kid” activities, such as going to the park or the movies. You also can find age-appropriate tasks to let older children help take care of the new baby. Remember to praise and thank them for helping out.

8. Care for Your Body, Safely

Pregnancy, labor, and delivery is hard on the body. It may be easier said than done, but getting enough sleep is important in helping your body recover. Get some shut eye while your baby sleeps, or ask a family member or friend to help while you take a nap. Even if you don’t sleep while your baby naps, use the time to relax.

While you may want to get your pre-baby body back right away, take it slow. Avoid crash dieting—especially if you are breastfeeding as you need the extra calories and nutrients. Physical activity after giving birth is important, but talk to your doctor before resuming any exercise more strenuous than walking. Make sure you have a healthy diet consisting of fruits, vegetables and Iron containing foods like meat and eggs.

If you have any diet restrictions, talk to your doctor about whether any supplements would be required since this could affect your milk supply or vitamin content.

Related reading: Exercise after pregnancy: When to start and what to do

Whatever you do, don’t skip postpartum appointments with your health care provider. And although you can expect some discomfort after giving birth, if something doesn’t feel right, call your doctor right away.

Related reading: 6 health problems new moms should watch for after giving birth

9. Do Something Just for You

Your priorities may change with parenthood, but make sure YOU are still one of them. With support from a partner, family member or friend, schedule “me time” once a month, if possible. Enjoy coffee with a friend, get a pedicure, read a book, take a walk—and don’t feel guilty about it. When you are healthy and happy, it will be easier and more fun to take care of your baby.

Moms are known for putting the needs of others before themselves, but even the best moms need a break sometimes. Be kind to yourself, and don’t hesitate to ask for or accept help. And if you need further resources to help in your adjustment to parenthood, ask your health care provider. We are always here to help.

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Categories: Women's Health