Motherhood is a rewarding and exciting time for a new mom and her family. It is also a challenging time, whether you are a new mother learning to care for a newborn, or a seasoned mother juggling the care of a new baby and other children. It is normal to experience a roller coaster of emotions as you mentally and physically recover from pregnancy and childbirth.
Important tips for a healthy mom with a new baby:
- Sleep, sleep, sleep! It can be difficult to get enough sleep with around the clock feedings and thinking about laundry, cooking, and cleaning the house. Leave the housework to your partner or family. Remember that getting enough sleep helps you recover from the birth and also ensures that you have enough energy to spend with your new little one!
- Eat healthy foods. Making good food choices helps to shed that baby weight and also helps with overall energy level. Save time by making large meals and freezing portions for later. A high fiber diet and lots of water can help that ever-so-common constipation after delivery. Continue taking your prenatal vitamin. An additional 300-500 Kcal/day is recommended for breast-feeding moms. It is OK to drink that “cup of Joe,” but try to time your caffeine intake appropriately (if breast-feeding), as your baby will feel the effects of that caffeine approximately three hours after.
- Connect with other moms. Because motherhood consumes most (if not all) of your time, it is important to share the experience of your birth and new baby with other moms and dads. The Vermont Nursing Association (VNA) has an updated list of mom/baby groups around Vermont. Look them up!
- Exercise. Essential for losing the baby weight and a great way to deal with stress! Recommendations for exercise after vaginal births vary and are largely based on comfort of the individual, but generally 4-6 weeks after birth is a good rule of thumb. Exercise after cesarean sections is recommended after 6-8 weeks. Yoga is a great low-impact exercise and is a great way to strengthen and tone your core muscles. Other exercise options are walking, swimming, biking, jogging, and hiking.
- Make time for your partner. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement and stress when dealing with your new baby, but don’t forget about making time for yourself and your partner. Plan a date night or a movie night and have a friend/family member watch the baby.
Hormones fluctuate very rapidly after a baby is born and, because of this, some women experience mood swings. It is important to differentiate common postpartum blues from postpartum depression. Up to 50-80 percent of women will develop postpartum blues. Symptoms include: irritability, mood swings, crying spells, and anxiety. Symptoms typically peak five days after birth and resolve within two weeks; while postpartum depression is characterized by more intense feelings of sadness, despair, irritability and anxiety.
Those with postpartum blues are at an increased risk of developing postpartum depression, which can affect 10-20 percent of women. If you have any of those symptoms, please see your healthcare provider to talk about ways to treat it.
Jackie Houghton, PA, is a Family Medicine Physician Assistant at the University of Vermont Medical Center.