Update: Since this post I’ve added two more babies to my life so I’ve had a chance to learn more about how to enjoy the postpartum period! I wrote this after my fifth baby was born.
It’s hard to believe my little one is almost 9 months old. It seems like yesterday I was kissing her sweet little fuzzy newborn head.
This baby has seemed pretty easy. Some of that is because she’s my fifth, but another big reason for it is because I know better how to take care of myself with a new baby.
I did things a little differently this time. I slowed down. I rested more. And I ate really well. So I really haven’t felt the sleep deprivation, and have managed to avoid a lot of the aches and pains (physical as well as emotional) that often accompany new motherhood.
And so I offer to you some of my best advice on:
How To Enjoy The Postpartum Period
First, some other things I’ve written about how to enjoy postpartum life:
- The challenges of being a new mom
- Home Alone. Only not.
- Postpartum life: the good, the bad, the ugly
Eat and Drink Well
This can’t be overstated. Hopefully during your pregnancy you’ve eaten well. If morning/noon/night sickness or food aversions made that difficult, the good news is that once baby is born, food tastes normal and wonderful again. That, and pooping will become easier. And no burping and heartburn!
There aren’t any special rules about eating for motherhood, just make sure you have easy, healthy snacks to grab while you’re nursing. Low blood sugar can hit you like a ton of bricks, leading you to reach for sweets or caffeine for a boost. Bad idea. Have lots of fruits, nuts, cheese, and raw veggies you like on hand. Have hubby or an older kid or your mother or a guest chop these up nice and load them onto a “nibble tray”.
After my 4th was born, my sister gave me this cookbook: The One-Armed Cook: Quick and Easy Recipes, Smart Meal Plans, and Savvy Advice for New (and Not-So-New) Moms. I still love it. After a few weeks “off”, when you get back into the kitchen with a newborn strapped to your body, you still aren’t up to spending an hour cooking every night. These recipes are all EASY and FAST. And no chopping. Hence the name!
Make sure you ASK people ahead of time to bring you dinner those first couple of weeks. People like to help but don’t always know how to ask. Tell them what you really want (in lieu of flowers or baby outfits that will be outgrown in 5 minutes) is DINNER. If you don’t have a network of people available, then bake casseroles and cook stews in your final month of pregnancy, freeze and instruct hubby or an older kid on the finer art of the defrost and cook.
Avoid the habit of drinking caffeine to compensate for fatigue. I see moms all over the internet bragging about how much coffee they drink. This is a disturbing trend, in my opinion. If your body is tired, REST IT. All that coffee isn’t good for your baby if you’re nursing, and it isn’t good for you either. Drink water, and NAP. Sit down to nurse your baby, put your feet up, and relax. Nursing hormones make you feel sleepy to motivate you to de-stress!.
I’m not usually one to advocate using drugs, but if you have wicked afterbirth pains like I do (and they get worse after each delivery!), use some over the counter pain reliever to help you manage. Ask your Dr or Midwife what they suggest.
Make sure you have a heating pad, Advil, and AfterEase tincture for after baby’s arrival. When the pains hit, practice your deep breathing exercises, curl up in a ball, or lay on your belly flat on the bed. A glass of wine couldn’t hurt (not with the Advil of course). Some women swear by a liquid calcium/magnesium supplement. Binding your belly can also help, because it keeps the abdomen sucked in and therefore the uterus tight. I used the BellyBandit after my last baby, and loved it.
Get Enough Rest
If you haven’t already, and you have other kids who don’t nap, implement a quiet time. If your other kids do nap, then sleep when they sleep.
I really don’t consider the postpartum daily nap (at least for the first 3 months, minimum) a luxury. It is a necessity for your mental state. Even if you can’t sleep, lay down and close your eyes for at least 20 minutes.
The more you rest in the early postpartum week, the better your life will be at 3, 6 and 9 months postpartum.
The easier your milk will flow, and the less you will struggle with low supply, exhaustion, stress and other issues.
If weather is permitting, spend a few minutes outside every day in the first few weeks postpartum. It’s good for the baby (use common sense, keep them out of direct strong sun) because it will help teach them day versus night. It’s good for you because you need the fresh air, the Vitamin D, and to be reminded that there is a huge world out there, and you’re not crazy just because you’re sitting around weeping when you look at your baby. Getting outside reminds you that life will get back to normal soon enough, and you’ll miss those nutty postpartum emotions.
Simplify, Delegate, Systematize
It’s not surprising that God equips moms with this huge surge of energy just before they give birth. This is the time to prepare for life once baby arrives. Some tips:
- Go paper, not cloth. I know, I know. This is usually a place you’ll be encouraged to swap paper towels for microfiber, but during the first postpartum weeks, you have permission to go… whatever the opposite of green is on the color wheel. Use paper plates and plastic utensils. Buy the recycled ones if it makes you sleep better at night. Stock up on disposable cleaning wipes. The funny thing about being postpartum is that you want everything super neat and clean, but you shouldn’t be the one to make it that way!
- Laundry is D.I.Y. Teach any child over 10 how to operate the washer and dryer. And require them to do their own laundry for the first few weeks after you have a new baby. This will have the effect of them producing far less laundry overall, which is a win/win for you once you take over the task. Unless you do what I did, and hand it permanently over to the oldest child.
- Systematize meal planning, homeschooling, and everything else. Whatever you find yourself having to do over and over? Get a better plan for it. You might want to sign up for a meal planner subscription so you don’t have to do this task. I printed out daily checklists for the kids so I didn’t have to do as much reminding.
Last but not least, do what you need to do to feel cute again. Pregnancy and new mom-hood can do a number on your self image. You’re
fatter curvier than you used to be, and nothing fits. And you sure as heck don’t want to don your old maternity clothes!
Set aside some money in the budget to buy yourself some cute new tops. Your old ones won’t fit while your new humongous milk filled boobs do their thing anyway. Buy some new earrings, and some cute flats. Go for flattering bright colors and prints and stripes, not the ubiquitous black you wore in hopes it would slim you. (Yeah, right!)
Splurge on a new lipstick, a pedicure, and trim your hair. Wear comfy nursing bras that actually fit well (helping to prevent mastitis). And absolutely do not stress about losing the pregnancy weight yet. Repeat after me: “9 months on, 9 months off”. Eat well and exercise, and don’t worry too much about the excess weight. Remember that your body may hold on to a few extra pounds as an “insurance policy” to ensure you have enough nourishment to feed your baby. Some women find that last 5 pounds melt off effortlessly once baby is eating solids.
A sign of healthy self esteem is caring about your appearance. Even if it’s just you and baby all day, take time to fix yourself up a little so that when you look in the mirror, you feel good about yourself.
What’s your favorite new baby life advice? What did you do to enjoy the postpartum period?