The New Mother: Taking Care of Yourself After Birth

By: Neeti Misra, M.D., FACOGDr. Neeti Misra

The postpartum period begins after the delivery of your baby and ends when your body has nearly returned to its pre-pregnant state and usually lasts 6 to 8 weeks. It involves many changes, both emotional and physical. During this period it is important 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.

A typical newborn wakes up about every three hours and needs to be fed, changed, and comforted. New parents often can become overwhelmed by exhaustion. Although you may not get a solid eight hours of sleep for several months, the following suggestions may be helpful in finding ways to get more rest and sleep in the first few weeks.

  • In the first few weeks, allow someone else to take care of all responsibilities other than feeding your baby and self-care.
  • 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 begin walking and doing postpartum exercises, as advised by your healthcare provider.

Your body has undergone many changes during pregnancy and birth. You need time to recover. In addition to rest, you need to maintain a healthy diet to assist in recovery. Most lactation experts recommend that you should eat when you are hungry. However, many mothers may become so tired or busy that food gets forgotten. Thus, it is important to plan simple, healthy meals that include choices from all of the recommended food groups. Recommended food groups include grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, and protein. Although most mothers want to lose their pregnancy weight, extreme dieting and rapid weight loss can be hazardous to your health and to your baby’s 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 and focusing on a diet with plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, balanced with proteins and carbohydrates. Along with balanced meals, you should increase fluids if you are breastfeeding. You may find that you become very thirsty while the baby is nursing. Try keeping a pitcher of water and even some healthy snacks beside your bed or breastfeeding chair. Talk with your health care 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.

Meeting the constant needs of a newborn involves time and energy and often takes you away from other responsibilities in the home. Although you and your partner probably will do fine on your own, having someone else helping with the household responsibilities usually 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. Whoever you decide to have as helpers, be sure to 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.  

Be on the lookout for signs and symptoms of postpartum blues and depression. It is important to reach out to the provider if you have crying spells, feelings of being overwhelmed or mood swings. Remember to take care of your emotional and physical self!

Board certified Obstetrician and Gynecologist Neeti Misra, M.D., is director of the Women’s Health Center at Hackensack Meridian Health Raritan Bay Medical Center.  Dr. Misra provides comprehensive health care services for women of all ages and accepts all insurances. The center is located at 466 New Brunswick Ave., Perth Amboy, NJ.

To learn about and enroll in programs and services promoting good health for expectant parents and babies, stop by “Baby Fest,” October 13, 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., in Raritan Rooms C&D, Raritan Bay–Perth Amboy. The event includes education, maternity unit tours, giveaways, refreshments, raffle and more.  To make an appointment with Dr. Misra or to register for Baby Fest, call 1-800-DOCTORS.

 

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