Whether you have a natural childbirth or a cesarean section, being kind to your body is the most important after giving birth. I’m going to share some practical tips to get through those first few weeks and share tips for healing your body after a baby.
As one of our dear friends told me after having Gunnar, “the first three weeks, you are in survival mode.” This was so true, and so comforting for me to hear after just giving birth to Gunnar. I wasn’t the only one feeling this way. We weren’t the only first-time parents. We could get through this with a strong support system, even though it seemed so overwhelming at first.
1. Be gentle on yourself
Most importantly, be gentle on yourself. You just had a baby and your body needs ample time to recover (at least 6-8 weeks, but maybe longer). Even when it feels overwhelming and you are sleep deprived, remember they are only little once so try to cherish those first few weeks. It will take your body time to physically heal, so give yourself grace during this time and be sure you follow the protocols provided by your healthcare provider for caring for yourself post-partum.
You aren’t going to heal overnight even if you had the most natural delivery possible. Allow your body ample time to recuperate physically, emotionally, and mentally by resting, and sleep when the baby sleeps. I underestimated that advice when Gunnar was first born. I eventually learned, and when I’m tired, I still sleep when he sleeps. A happy, rested mama is much more pleasant than a tired, grumpy mama.
2. Surround yourself with a positive support system
Notice I said a positive support system. Avoid inviting anyone over that is going to cause you more stress. Instead, invite people over that will provide a happy environment for you and baby. Of course everyone wants to hold the baby, which is great when you need some sleep, but make sure you have a support system that will help you wash the dishes, fold the laundry, and mop the floors too. Surround yourself with people that will help you with those chores. You can read more in this article about Tips for Breastfeeding.
3. Take a warm bath
Ask someone to watch the baby while you take a warm bath or shower. You will never appreciate feeling clean more than the first shower after having your baby. This will leave you feeling like a human again, I promise! Try to get a bath or shower in at least every other day, it’ll do wonders for your overall state.
4. Eat plenty of whole foods and drink lots of water
Eating to nourish your body in the recovery phase is as important as it was when you were pregnant with your baby. Eat whole foods containing lots of fiber, vitamins, and minerals that are mostly bio-available which make them the best source of nutrients. This will help keep you regular and prevent additional tearing in your perineum area. Be sure to drink plenty of water, especially if you are nursing. Water is an important and large component of breastmilk and is needed to produce enough for your baby.
5. Prepare meals and snacks ahead of time
Try to prepare meals and snacks before the baby is born if possible. This makes it easy for your partner to prepare for you. Also, ask your partner to make trips to the grocery store for you in your recovery phase. It’ll be nice to get out of the house eventually, but not until you are feeling ready. Having healthy snacks on hand is so helpful when the baby is first born because you’ll need the extra energy to care for yourself and baby.
6. Keep taking your prenatal vitamins
The sudden drop in hormones may leave you a little weepy. So even though your baby is born, you should continue taking your prenatal vitamins until you are done breastfeeding and fully recovered. Even after recovery, it’s a good idea to take a multivitamin if you aren’t able to eat enough nourishing foods on a daily basis.
7. Get plenty of sunshine
A few minutes of sunshine can do your body so much good. It needs Vitamin D, especially if you’ve had a hospital birth and you have been forced to stay inside for a few days. Try to get at least 15 minutes of sunshine every day. Vitamin D is good for your baby too, so dress baby appropriately and spend a few minutes outside. I often found that being outside with Gunnar would calm him down (this still works with him!).
8. Rest your eyes often
I mentioned it earlier (sleeping when the baby sleeps), but I’ll mention it again because it’s so important. If the baby is sleeping, and even if you don’t think you are tired, just close your eyes and rest them while the baby is sleeping. Make sure baby is in the care of someone else or in a safe sleeping location or position, bassinet or crib preferably. You’ll be surprised how tired you get without realizing it.
9. Wrap your baby
Our babies enter into the “fourth trimester” after they leave the womb and enter the world. This is a vulnerable time for them and you while you heal your body after a baby. I encourage you to read about this stage because it really helps shed light on our emotions and their ability to deal with a whole new world. In the meantime, you can keep your baby close to you using a carrier or wrap. They love being snuggled up and feeling your warmth and you can still get things done around the house. I’ve heard this really comes in handy when you have multiple children because you can carry your newborn around while still assisting or playing with an older child.
10. Keep moving
You won’t be able to exercise until you get the “okay” from your healthcare provider, but you can still slowly start moving again after the baby is born. You can walk around the house, and eventually take the baby on a walk in the stroller. Performing mild activity keeps your blood flowing and decreases inflammation. It will also enhance your mood and promote a positive mindset. Just be sure not to overdo it, if you experience unusual bleeding, be sure to consult your doctor and scale back on the physical exertion.
Your body is capable of amazing things (like birthing a child!) but it will be stretched and stressed beyond normal. Give yourself extra grace during this time and don’t be afraid to reach out and ask your support system for help! Happy mama and baby=happy home!