Having a baby is a beautiful thing. After all, we spend nine months growing a person! Nine months picking names, picking clothes, picking out all the “stuff” we need. Months making a birth plan and reading pregnancy books and preparing for the amazing life change that is having a baby.
Then we give birth. And we start experiencing a whole lot of things that nobody ever said anything about. Now what?
Recovery is vital when it comes to life after birth. Your body just had a baby, and it needs time to heal. So whether you're having your first child, your second, or your tenth, here are my favorite ways to have a happier and healthier postpartum recovery. I not only recommend these tips to my patients, but I've learned to take my own advice as well!
1. Rest for 10 days.
There's no prize for the first mommy out of bed. Your body just went through a major experience — it needs and deserves a rest.
Many midwives restrict their mamas to 10 days of rest before leaving the house, even in the most straightforward of births. I realize that for some, that amount of time just isn’t realistic. But the point is, take as much time as you can. Stay in bed with your baby. Rest, feed, sleep, cuddle. You won’t regret giving yourself time to heal.
2. Drink half of your body weight in ounces of water.
It’s easy to let your water intake slide when you’re caring for a newborn (or any children for that matter). But your body needs H2O, and lots of it, to heal after birth.
If you're breast-feeding, your body is losing liquid by the ounce every time you nurse. Drink at least that much to rehydrate after feeding, as it’s easy to become dehydrated. A general rule of thumb is to drink half of your body weight in ounces. So if you weigh 150 pounds, you need at least 75 ounces of water every day.
3. Fill up on protein and leafy greens.
Maintaining balanced blood sugar levels is just as important after your baby is born as it was while you were pregnant. Your body needs the appropriate food to produce milk, balance hormones, and heal properly. Take the time to nourish yourself, just as you nourish your baby.
What to eat? Protein is crucial. Chicken, eggs, or tofu are important in order to keep energy levels up and speed healing. Dark, leafy greens, whether cooked or in a salad or smoothie, are full of nutrients that keep you going. And hot soups and stews are a great idea, as they are both nutritious and easy for you and your baby to digest.
4. Ask for help.
Some days will be easier than others. On the days that are hard, ask for help. We live in a time when we don’t talk to each other like we used to. Social media has led us to believe that something is wrong with us when we have a brand-new baby and can’t manage to get a shower taken, clean the house, cook, or exercise.
But it truly does take a village. Ask for any help that you need — because no one can read your mind.
5. Join a support group.
Nobody ever said having a baby was easy. Share your experiences by joining a supportive mommy group on Facebook, at La Leche League, or a local lactation group. Find a circle you have something in common with. Or, simply plan a get-together with other mommy friends.
It feels good to talk to others about what’s going on in your life. Sometimes the best way to overcome a tough day is to talk about it!
I never experienced full-blown postpartum depression, but I did experience some dark feelings that I wasn’t expecting. Those feelings then turned into a cycle of feeling guilty about my thoughts and constantly wondering if that was normal. But once I started talking to a couple of mommy friends (usually via text in the middle of the night), I realized that my feelings were a normal part of being a new mom. That was extremely helpful.
6. Soak up some sun.
Sunshine can turn a whole day around. If you’re past the point at which you need to stay inside because your baby is brand-new, head outdoors! Just getting out of the house can make you feel like a new person. And if you’re not ready to get outside yet, try to sit in a sunny spot inside.
Not only is vitamin D, which you get from the sun, great for strong bones, it's also vital to overall health and well-being.
7. Consider encapsulating your placenta.
Seems crunchy and maybe even crazy, right? Although there is little scientific research supporting placenta encapsulation — the practice of ingesting your placenta via a pill — the anecdotal evidence is impressive.
In my practice, I've seen countless women benefit from their placenta. And women who don’t do it with their first child but do with their second tell me they notice a big difference in how they feel. I know I did. Placenta encapsulation is said to help with hormone regulation, managing the baby blues, milk supply, energy levels, and speeding up overall recovery time.
The bottom line: Be good to yourself and happy healing!
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