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5 Postpartum Self-Care Ideas: Nurturing Your Well-Being After Birth



Bringing a new life into this world is a momentous accomplishment. But with so many demands for your time, like caring for and feeding your baby, it’s easy to forget about your own recovery. In this article, we’ll explore five postpartum self-care ideas that will help you ease your way into motherhood.


Prepare for Some Changes

For the next 6 to 8 weeks after giving birth, your body will undergo a number of physical and hormonal changes. Here is what you can expect:

  • Headaches are common after giving birth. They can happen from fluid shifts and hormonal changes. You can consider taking Ibuprofen for temporary relief, but let your doctor know if your headaches persist.

  • Back pain can happen after laboring for a long time and from carrying heavier breasts that are full of milk. It can also happen as you are learning how to position yourself and your baby for breastfeeding. Make sure you wear a supportive but not constricting nursing bra. There are different nursing bras for daytime and nighttime use. Check out our article on newborn breastfeeding positions for more tips. 

  • Vaginal discharge or bleeding can occur 2 to 4 weeks after giving birth. Wearing sanitary napkins is helpful, but you should avoid using tampons or douching until you see your OB/Gyn.

  • Hormonal changes can also cause postpartum night sweats.


Get As Much Rest As You Can

Getting a full eight hours of sleep with a new baby can seem impossible. Still, there are plenty of ways to get more rest while you’re recovering and taking care of your newborn. These include:

  • Sleeping when your baby sleeps, even if it’s just for a few minutes at a time.

  • Keeping your baby nearby when you are asleep so you’ll be better prepared for nighttime feedings.

  • Asking family and friends to help care for the baby while you rest or asking them take on other, non-baby responsibilities, like cleaning, laundry, and groceries.

  • Allowing yourself 30 minutes a day just for you. You can take a bath, watch part of a movie, read a book, or just listen to music–anything that helps you center and relax.


Limit Exercise

You can do some light exercise in the weeks after giving birth, but it's best to take it easy until you've fully recovered. Calming walks or gentle postpartum yoga are good choices. Here are some other guidelines to think about:

  • Refrain from lifting anything heavy for the first six weeks, especially if you have stitches.

  • If you’ve had a C-section, limit climbing stairs to only a few times a day.

  • Avoid any heavy exercise until you see your doctor for your 6-week postpartum visit.


Adjust your Diet

What you may not realize is that your baby takes what they need from you first, then your body gets what is left. Proper nutrition and hydration can make a big difference to your recovery after giving birth. Your body needs to recover from blood and fluid loss and repair strained or damaged muscles as well as recoup lost vitamins and minerals. If you are breastfeeding, you need to add more calories and nutrients. 


For extra hydration, try adding natural electrolytes to your water, like sea salt or pink salt, as well as freshly squeezed lemon or orange juice.


For your diet, make sure to add foods rich in the following:

  • Iron. This helps replace blood lost during childbirth. Good sources include red meat, liver, clams, oysters, and green leafy vegetables. If you’re vegetarian, try taking iron supplements instead.

  • Vitamin B12. This helps your body make more red blood cells. The best sources include red meat, salmon, and clams, but some fortified dairy and cereals have it.

  • DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid). This omega-3 fatty acid helps with brain development and vision in your baby. It also helps to improve your mental focus and reduce inflammation. Good sources include salmon, sardines, fortified eggs, dairy products, and oral supplements.


Be Aware of Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is a serious mental health condition that happens to 10 to 15% of women who have recently given birth. It is different from the baby blues which can happen for a few days as your hormones shift. Postpartum depression can last for up to six months after you have your baby and make it hard to function.


Nutrient deficiencies can play a role in increasing your risk for PPD. So make sure you adjust your diet accordingly (see the suggested nutrients above).


It is normal to have mixed feelings about motherhood, so it’s helpful to share those feelings with someone you trust. Talk to your family and friends, especially those who have had similar experiences.  You can also try finding and joining support groups for moms. They’re a great source for other postpartum self-care ideas, too. Either way, don’t try to manage it alone.


If symptoms persist, visit your doctor or healthcare provider to make sure you get the help you need. You can also call Postpartum Support International at 1-800-944-4773.


Frequently Asked Questions


How can I take care of myself postpartum?

Some great postpartum self-care ideas include eating the right foods, staying well hydrated, getting as much sleep as you can, limiting your exercise, and being prepared for physical and hormonal changes. Consult your doctor for any feelings of postpartum depression, especially during the first 6 to 8 weeks postpartum.


What is the best advice for a postpartum mother?

If you recently gave birth, remember to take care of yourself as well as your baby. It’s easy to focus on the baby and forget about your own needs. Adjust your schedule so you can take time for your own recovery and don’t forget to ask for help.


How many days should a mother rest after giving birth?

Postpartum moms should take it easy for the first 6 to 8 weeks after giving birth. This will allow your body to recover, as well as help you make adjustments for the physical and hormonal changes that may come.


Summary

After giving birth, especially if you are breastfeeding your baby, you need to take it slow and allow your body to heal. By following the postpartum self-care ideas above, you ease your way into motherhood.


Reviewed by Linda Dahl, MD

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