Preparing for a new baby can be overwhelming. Often, when thinking about your new bundle of joy, your needs can become an afterthought. Therefore, we recommend setting yourself up for postpartum and building a support system before baby arrives.
Postpartum nutrition, mental health, lactation, exercise, and physical therapy are all things that may need to be taken into consideration. Below are a few things to think about as you prepare for life after giving birth.
Many new moms struggle with the baby blues after giving birth, and 1 in 8 moms will suffer from postpartum depression.
Sometimes getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, exercising, and drinking water isn’t enough. Don’t feel bad if you need a bit of a break. Find a relative, babysitter, or friend to watch the baby while you get some much needed rest.
Remember to be kind to yourself and never compare your journey to what you see on social media. What you see is not realistic, and taking a social break may be helpful. Do the best you can and give yourself time to adjust to a new baby.
Feeling emotional after a baby is normal, but postpartum depression is not. As soon as you realize you’re not thinking clearly, ask for help. Don’t wait until it’s an emergency. Postpartum Support International will call you back within 24 hours to help connect you with resources in your area. There is also a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 9-8-8
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression:
- Feelings of anger or irritability
- Lack of interest in the baby
- Appetite and sleep disturbance (more than expected with new baby; sometimes manifests as insomnia even when baby sleeps)
- Crying and sadness
- Feelings of guilt, shame, or hopelessness
- Loss of interest, joy, or pleasure in things you used to enjoy
- Thoughts of harming the baby or yourself
- Contact your healthcare provider (e.g. OB-GYN, pediatrician, therapist) and get connected with a therapist who specializes in PMADs. Discuss the necessity of breastfeeding-safe medication (if you are feeding your baby from your body).
- Bolster your support system. Reach out to trusted friends and family, and/or if resources allow, hire someone to help with the baby and/or housekeeping.
- Find a group for new moms (such as Life After Birth®) for connection, community, and support.
- Prioritize sleep and rest.
- Go outside and get fresh air and sunlight daily, even if it’s just to get the mail.
- Keep a bottle of water near you and drink from it all day and night; refill when empty.
- Eat every few hours.
- Keep taking your prenatal vitamins.
- Go for daily walks (if your recovery allows).
- Seek out mind-body practice like yoga, meditation, and/or breathwork to help manage stress.
- Contact Postpartum Support International or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 9-8-8
Nutrition is an extremely important part of your postpartum wellbeing, especially if you are breastfeeding.
Here are the top five best foods for breastfeeding mothers:
1. Water The recommended fluid intake for nursing moms is around 16 cups/day. Keeping a reusable water bottle with you that has measurements on it is a great way to keep track of your water consumption. You can also have a big glass of water next to you while you nurse or pump.
2. Salmon Salmon is one of the most nutritious proteins for breastfeeding mommas. It is full of DHA, EPA, omega-3s, vitamin B12 and vitamin D. These vitamins and minerals support both you and your baby's brain health and nervous system. If you eat fish, it is recommended to stick to about 12 oz of salmon a week, or about two filets.
3. Lentils Lentils are loaded with potassium, folate, B-vitamins, protein, and fiber. Together, these nutrients keep you full and provide much needed energy.
4. Oatmeal Oatmeal is great for breastfeeding moms because it can increase milk production. It is also full of fiber, iron, and folate, crucial nutrients during the postpartum period.
5. Bell Peppers Bell peppers are loaded with vitamin C, vitamin A, and antioxidants - all of which are in high demand during nursing. These nutrients also protect your immune system.
Other Great Options:
- Fennel or fennel seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Sweet Potatoes
- Leafy greens
- Lactation cookies
While the breastfeeding diet isn’t nearly as strict as the pregnant one, you should still avoid high mercury fish, alcohol, caffeine, certain herbs (comfrey, coltsfoot, borage, aloe, black cohosh, feverfew, ginseng, licorice root, kava kava) and highly processed foods.
Breastfeeding your newborn can be an exciting, stressful, painful, and anxiety inducing experience. We recommended speaking to a lactation specialist to get all the tips and tricks needed to make the process go as smoothly as possible. Most often, it is not as easy as popping your baby onto your chest.
A prenatal chestfeeding class can also be extremely helpful.
Pregnancy and birth is extremely tough on your body. Almost every woman you speak to will say their body was never the same - and why should it be? You grew a human inside of you!
Growing and birthing a child (whether through vaginal delivery or Cesarean section) comes with its own physical challenges - stretch marks, an enlarged uterus, feet swelling, swollen breasts, hair loss, incontinence, the “mask of pregnancy” (brown marks on the face), back pain, wider hips, and vaginal pain. Any painful symptoms should resolve within a couple months of giving birth.
While most of the focus is on your newborn after birth, your body just experienced something major. This is why postpartum physical therapy is important. Treatment can help to restore musculoskeletal function to the core and pelvic floor.
During birth, your baby can apply pressure to your urethra, causing you to temporarily lose some bladder control. Most women regain full control within a year, but some women need physical therapy to aid in their recovery (especially if they had a bigger baby).
“When we become parents, many of us are told: “Sleep when the baby sleeps, because rest is important postpartum.” It certainly is, but sleeping when the baby sleeps can feel nearly impossible,” says Elyse Kupperman Chaifetz, Ph.D.
As a new parent, exhaustion is at an entirely new level. Trying to sneak in a wink of sleep feels impossible while caring for your new baby. While rest, recovery, and physical therapy are important, it can be difficult to actually make it happen.
A couple dietary things you can do to improve your energy:
- Eat breakfast within one hour of waking
- Eat regularly throughout the day
- Eat nutrient-dense foods
- Drink tons of water
Best foods for energy:
- Vegetables: including leafy greens, bell peppers, broccoli, avocados, carrots, kale, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, celery, cabbage, and carrots
- Fruits: citrus, berries, mangos, melon, apples and bananas
- Whole grains: oats, quinoa, and whole wheat bread
- Proteins: fish, poultry, tofu, beans, seeds, nuts, and lentils