Throughout your pregnancy, you eat the right foods, drink plenty of fluids, rest, and try to keep stress to a minimum. You might think once your baby arrives that you can relax your self-care regimen, but caring for yourself should remain a top priority to ensure the health of both of you.
Drink Plenty of Water
“The key to optimal recovery after delivery is fluid hydration with water,” says Dr. Gina Petelin, an OB-GYN. “This is important for replenishing your body after significant fluid losses.”
Before the baby arrives, assemble healthy meals ahead of time to stash in your freezer. In the midst of caring for a newborn, you’ll be less likely to eat poorly when you can quickly pop a nutritious, ready-made meal into the oven or slow cooker.
Also, stock up on protein-packed snacks to keep your energy up, especially if you plan to breastfeed. Choose simple, healthy snacks like cheese sticks, almonds, rotisserie chicken, and yogurt.
Consult with your physician to determine how many extra calories you should be consuming each day according to your activity level, weight, and if you are nursing.
Sleep When the Baby Sleeps
“Those first days home from the hospital, rest, rest, rest, and spend as much time skin-to-skin with your baby as you can,” says Teresa Marshall, a birth and postpartum doula. “This will truly make for a smoother transition for baby from womb to room and for mama, as well.”
Tricia Walania, a postpartum emotional support program coordinator, says that rest is one of the best ways you can care for yourself. “Being rested helps you cope more effectively with both physical and emotional changes,” she says. Unable to catnap? Relax with your eyes closed.
Integrate Gentle Exercise
Many moms are surprised that they still look pregnant after delivery. Don’t panic; that’s normal, Petelin says. Although the uterus decreases in size right away, you will still appear to be about five months pregnant when leaving the hospital. By following a healthy diet and exercising according to your doctor’s instructions, in time, you’ll get back to your prepregnancy body.
Many moms enjoy group exercise activities like “mommy and me” yoga and Fit4Mom (formerly Stroller Strides) where you’ll also experience companionship with other moms. Walking is also beneficial. Not only will you get exercise, a stroll around the block on a sunny day will do wonders for your emotional well-being and give you a boost of vitamin D.
Take extra care if you’ve had a cesarean delivery and only gradually increase your activity level according to your doctor’s instructions. Current recommendations include no driving the first two weeks postpartum and no heavy lifting (anything over 15 pounds) for the first six weeks.
Gentle Exercise & Movement Offerings
- Belly Bliss Maternity has a full lineup of classes for pregnancy, postnatal, and mommy and me fitness at both their Cherry Creek North and Stapleton at Stanley Marketplace locations.
- FIT4MOM offers prenatal and postnatal fitness classes for every stage of motherhood, including Body Back, Stroller Strides, and Stroller Barre programs. Four groups in metro Denver area.
- Mama Love Boulder specializes in prenatal and postnatal yoga, movement, and mindfulness, and offers BYOBaby, Wobbler, and Toddler yoga classes within The Birth Center of Boulder.
Expect Hormonal Changes
Many new moms feel overwhelmed, tired, anxious, tearful, or mildly depressed. “Exhaustion, hormonal changes, and isolation after the birth of a baby may lead to what is referred to as ‘baby blues,’” Walania says. “To some degree this happens to everyone. It’s natural and not permanent.”
Talk to your doctor if symptoms persist for more than two weeks. Anxiety and depression can also be linked to thyroid issues and low levels of iron and vitamin D.
Tap Your Village
“I would recommend reaching out. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or just a visit,” Marshall says. Often friends and family members are eager to assist by holding the baby or watching siblings to give you a chance to nap, shower, go for a walk, or run an errand.
“You have to take care of yourself in order to be able to take care of your baby,” Walania says.
While social media can help you feel connected to the outside world, nothing can quite replace a deeply satisfying conversation with a friend or a warm hug. Get together for coffee, lunch, or a walk. If your network feels inadequate, or if it’s difficult to coordinate schedules with your pre-baby friends, join a mothers’ group or look for parent-child gatherings in your neighborhood through Meetup.com.
Isolation can aggravate symptoms of postpartum mood disorders, which affect nearly one quarter of new moms. Check with your doctor to find out if your hospital offers a postpartum emotional support group. These groups typically provide moms with information, resources, and compassionate support from other moms who are experiencing similar feelings. The sooner you seek support, the faster you can start feeling like yourself again.
“We don’t want anyone to miss out on the first months of their baby’s life because they don’t feel like themselves and aren’t able to enjoy it like they had hoped,” Walania says.
Build Your Village
- JCC Denver hosts classes and get-togethers for families in all stages from prenatal and new baby classes to parent and tot programs. Warm Welcome Playdates give new parents a chance to connect with other families, sample a Boogie Babies music class, and tour the JCC.
- MOPS International helps moms at all stages gather to support each other, share fears and insights, and connect, all while building friendships.
- MOD Moms North brings together moms for a variety of events, speakers, and meetups to support and empower each other and the local community.
- MOMS Club is a group for at-home mothers, connecting through activities, service projects, and support for each other.
- The Mama’hood offers a variety of classes for parents in the early stages of parenthood. Moms and dads alike can take a babywearing hike, learn about cloth diapering, explore yoga or peaceful parenting, and connect with other new parents.
Nurture your Spirit
You may be a mom now, but you aren’t only a mom. Take time to do the things that have always brought you personal fulfillment and joy, whether that’s crafting, relaxing in a warm bath, browsing at a boutique, or lunching with a friend. When you are happier and healthier, your baby will be too.
4 Simple Pleasures for the New Mama’s Soul
- Stroll Solo Around a Park. Nature has proven to be the great rejuvenator. Just google the benefits of nature and you’ll see hundreds of results singing the praises of a little fresh air and sunshine on both emotional and physical well-being.
- Meet a Friend for Coffee. No matter where you are along the Front Range, you can’t go far without passing a quaint café for a cuppa. Call a girlfriend and meet up for a good old-fashioned chat to reconnect.
- Create Something. Yes, you just created a human being, but if pre-baby you found joy in paper crafting, knitting, flower arranging, baking, or any other hands-on venture, it will likely give you a zing of energy to keep your hobby alive. Denver-based Craftsy is packed with online classes.
- Soak in a Warm Bath. Ask your partner, friend, or a relative to take over baby duty for a little while so you can soothe your body and soul in warm water. Just remember, a bath is fine, but hold off on the hot tubs until you are completely healed.
When You Need Extra Support
It is not uncommon to face struggles when adjusting to life with a new baby, and it’s OK to ask for help. A number of Denver metro resources focus on supporting moms postpartum.