Contrary to popular belief your baby is not the only most important person to take care of once you’ve delivered – you’re important too. Postpartum recovery is not something to be ignored but it’s a necessity a lot of women overlook.
Technically speaking the postpartum period refers to the first 6 weeks after birth, but realistically it takes more like 9 months, if not more, to fully recover. During this time a new Muma has to put herself high on the priority list, which is not something easily done by a lot of women. If you don’t look after yourself, it will be very difficult to have enough strength and energy to look after someone else’s needs. It may go against our instincts to think about ourselves and our own needs, especially when you have a new baby, but it’s the biggest favour you can do yourself. Postpartum recovery doesn’t just happen but give it some time, some strategic self-care and you will get there. Anyone who knows me knows that nutrition, exercise, a healthy mind/body connection and support are the four pillars that underpin my midwifery care. Focusing on these pillars is key to avoiding post-partum depletion and exhaustion.
The thing that seems to evade us most, is actually the most essential – rest. Chances are your sleeping patterns are already a bit of a mess in the later stages of pregnancy. All that tossing and turning to accommodate your bump can lead to a lot of sleepless nights. Bringing home baby will naturally add to that exhaustion and you may not even be aware of it.
The first three weeks postpartum recovery, your adrenaline is high and keeps you in a post baby bubble. Three-four weeks after birth, your adrenaline will start to go down and you may go through a bit of a crash, which will cause your body to start digging into your energy reserves. Resting whenever you can is key. Try to nap or at least rest a few times a day when your baby is sleeping. Put the chores aside, focus on slow relaxing breathing and take time out. This will give you some much needed time to allow both you and your cells to regenerate.
Fueling your body for the job it’s doing is another key step to postnatal recovery. Again the adrenaline surge in your body may make you forget that you are hungry and in all the excitement you end up skipping meals. If you are breastfeeding you need the nutrients to make nutrient rich milk. Even if you are not, your body is in the rebuilding process and needs all the help it can get. I believe in eating strategically at every meal. Pack in the all the vitamins and nutrients you can when you can. Being a new parent takes a lot of energy, even Dads can benefit from a diet regime as well. Here are a few eating tips to keep your energy and nutrition levels at their peak:
1. Aim for 6 smaller meals rather than 3 larger meals per day.
2. Make sure to include protein in every meal. Protein powders and bone broths are both easy ways to sneak extra protein into your diet. Bone broths provide an excellent source of collagen which helps with tissue repair.
3. Supplement your diet- Add vitamin C, zinc and fish oils. All are super beneficial in postpartum recovery.
4. Fibre- Go for natural sources such as vegetables and fruits that are low in sugar
5. Healthy Fats- Avocadoes, olive oil, coconut milk/oil, nuts & seeds are excellent sources of healthy fats and will help keep you feeling full longer
6. Limit your intake of refined sugars. These bad boys sabotage healing and increase inflammation.
It’s important to start with gentle exercises that focus on rebuilding your core, which is essentially your foundation. Your body has been through a lot and helping it recover is key. About a week after birth you can start with basic core and pelvic floor exercises designed to reconnect your brain back to your body. After about 6-8 weeks you can start to crank up your routine. If your energy levels aren’t depleted and you can feel your core strength returning, cardio exercises can be gradually incorporated. The key is to rebuild, both mentally and physically and a regular exercise routine will get you there.
Life can be tough enough as a new Mum without the added pressures put on by society, ourselves and other Mums. For most of us this starts with the pressures we put on ourselves to be the “best” Mum. We shoot so high it’s inevitable that we may end up feeling “not good enough” from time to time. Add to that the fact that modern day society seems to have a rulebook Mothers must follow in order to be considered a good Mum and it all gets to be too much. The one group we should be able to look to for support- other Mums, can be the most daunting. Comparing and competing should not be part of Motherhood. But alas it exists. As modern women we need to start uniting instead of dividing. Supporting rather than judging. I often tell my clients in the later stages of pregnancy to make a list of who/what gives you energy, and who/what drains it. Post birth focus on those things and people that give you positive energy. Having a baby can be exhausting, lonely and this is the time you need support. Someone to call when you feel down, a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen a hand to hold. It’s a sisterhood that should build your confidence, lessen your anxiety and make you feel good. Knowing someone is there on a bad day can make all the difference. There is no one-stop recipe for being a good Mum. As women we need to stop criticizing one another and instead celebrate one another.
It’s an exciting time in your life and the best way to enjoy it fully is to stay healthy and feel supported.
For advice on how to prepare for parenthood and life with a baby, check out HATCH™ , Urban Hatch’s online prenatal education course.
Image kindly shared by www.kristaevans.com.
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