The New Mother: Taking Care of Yourself After Birth

The New Mother: Taking Care of Yourself After Birth

The postpartum period begins after the delivery of your baby and ends when your body
has nearly returned to its pre-pregnant state. This period often lasts 6 to 8 weeks.

During the postpartum period you will
move through many changes, both emotionally and physically. You are learning how to
deal
with all the changes needed with becoming a new mother. You and your partner are also
learning how to care for your newborn and how to function as a changed family unit.

You need to take good care of yourself to rebuild your strength. You will need plenty
of rest, good nutrition, and help during the first few weeks.

Rest

Every new parent soon learns that babies have different time clocks than adults. A
typical newborn wakes up about every 3 hours and needs to be fed, changed, and comforted.
Especially if this is your first baby, you and your partner can become overwhelmed
by exhaustion. You may not get a solid 8 hours of sleep for several months. Here are
ideas to help you get more rest:

  • In the first few weeks, you need to let someone else take care of all responsibilities
    other than feeding your baby and taking care of yourself.

  • Sleep when the baby sleeps. This may be only a few minutes of rest several times a
    day, but these minutes can add up.

  • Save steps and time. Have your baby’s bed near yours for feedings at night.

  • It’s nice to have visits from friends and family, but don’t feel that you need to
    entertain guests. Feel free to excuse yourself for a nap or to feed your baby.

  • Get outside for a few minutes each day. You can start walking and doing postpartum
    exercises, as advised by your healthcare provider.

Nutrition

Your body has undergone many changes during pregnancy and birth. You need time to
recover. In addition to rest, you need to eat a healthy diet to help you do that.

The weight gained in pregnancy helps build stores for your recovery and for breastfeeding.
After delivery, you need to eat a healthy and balanced diet so you can be active and
able to care for your baby.

Most lactation experts advise you
to eat when you are hungry. But many mothers may be so tired or busy that food gets
forgotten. So it’s important to plan simple, healthy meals that include choices from
all
of the recommended groups from
MyPlate.

MyPlate is a guideline to help you eat a healthy diet. MyPlate can help you eat a
variety of foods and also get the right amount of calories and fat. The USDA and the
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have prepared the following guide to
help.

MyPlate is divided into 5 food group categories:

  • Grains. Foods that are made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or
    another cereal grain are grain products. Examples include whole wheat, brown rice,
    and oatmeal.

  • Vegetables. Vary your vegetables. Choose a variety of vegetables,
    including dark green, red, and orange vegetables, legumes (peas and beans), and
    starchy vegetables.

  • Fruits. Any fruit or 100% fruit juice counts as part of the fruit group.
    Fruits may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, and may be whole, cut-up, or
    pureed.

  • Dairy.

    Milk products and many foods made from milk are considered part of this food
    group. Focus on fat-free or low-fat products, as well as those that are high in
    calcium.

  • Protein. Go lean on protein. Choose low-fat or lean meats and poultry.
    Vary your protein routine. Choose more fish, nuts, seeds, peas, and beans.

Oils are not a food group, but some
oils such as nut oils have important nutrients. Include these in your diet. Other
oils
such as animal fats are solid. Don’t include these in your diet.

You should include exercise and everyday physical activity in your dietary plan.

Visit MyPlate to find more
information about the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020. The site can also
give
you the right dietary advice for your age, sex, and physical activity level.

Most mothers want to lose their
pregnancy weight. But extreme dieting and rapid weight loss can harm you and your
baby
if you are breastfeeding. It can take several months for you to lose the weight you
gained during pregnancy. You can reach this goal by cutting out high-fat snacks. Focus
on a diet with plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, balanced with proteins and
carbohydrates. Exercise also helps burn calories and tone muscles and limbs.

Along with balanced meals, you should drink more fluids if you are breastfeeding.
You may find that you become very thirsty while the baby is nursing. Water and milk
are good choices. Try keeping a pitcher of water and even some healthy snacks beside
your bed or breastfeeding chair.

Talk with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian if you want to learn
more about postpartum nutrition. Certified lactation consultants can also help with
advice about nutrition while breastfeeding.

Help for new parents

New as well as experienced parents soon realize that babies need a lot of work. Meeting
the constant needs of a newborn involves time and energy. It often takes you away
from other responsibilities in the home.

You and your partner likely will do
fine on your own. But having someone else helping with household tasks often makes
the
adjustment to a new baby easier. You and your partner can focus on your needs and
the
needs of your baby, rather than on the laundry or dirty dishes.

Helpers can be family, friends, or
a paid home care provider. A family member such as the new baby’s grandmother or aunt
may be able to come for a few days or longer. Home care providers offer a variety
of
services. These include nursing care of the new mother and baby, housekeeping, and
care
of other children.

Whoever you decide to have as helpers, make clear all the things you expect them to
do. Communication is important in preventing hurt feelings or misunderstandings when
emotions are fragile these first few weeks. Have your helpers take over chores such
as cooking, cleaning, laundry, and grocery shopping. This will help you take care
of yourself, and keep you from limiting time with your baby.