Taking care of your mind and body after birth

Denise Gray, Midwife

 

In today’s age of digital perfection, new mums are under increasing pressure to look good post-partum, as if birth was no more significant than a hair appointment. Social media presents us with images of perfection daily, new mums looking perfect with tidy houses and sleeping angelic babies. So, it was refreshing to see Katy Perry giving her followers a more realistic view of early motherhood when she published a picture of herself a few days after giving birth, with a visible ‘bump’, large postnatal pants and nursing bra. Katy garnered widespread praise for this honest portrayal of early new-born life and encouraged a wider discussion about the early days following the birth of a baby.

It’s often very difficult to know what to expect once the baby is here – most of your energy has been focussed on the pregnancy and birth. But here are a few points to remember about those early days:

Eat, sleep, feed repeat…

The early days might feel like a constant blur of feeding, winding, changing and staring in wonder at your baby – and that’s ok! If all you are doing is taking care of your baby it is a magical, wonderful and surprisingly restful time.

The recent pandemic has forced people apart from each other but one of the few positives is that new parents have found themselves able to immerse themselves into the ‘new-born bubble’ focussing only on getting to know their child without the pressure of visitors and having to make an appearance, sometimes at the expense of their own wellbeing. So, go ahead, stay in bed, admire your beautiful baby, let them feed as often as they want for as long as they want, practice plenty of skin to skin, stay in your pyjamas all day, enjoy the amazing feeling of doing nothing but looking after yourself and your baby.

You are more likely to successfully breastfeed if you give yourself time to learn this new skill and you are less likely to compare yourself to others if you aren’t surrounding yourself with external pressures. Let yourself be looked after by those that love you and can enable you to focus solely on your needs and your new-born’s needs. For simple advice to help you cater for your babies’ nutritional needs and provide a positive feeding experiences throughout the first year of life, check out our Ten Steps for Feeding Babies.

It’s all about you

Apart from a few genetically blessed people, it is unreasonable to expect that you will strut out of the hospital in your size 8 jeans. The old saying of ‘9 months on, 9 months off’ is very true and it’s normal to look pregnant even when the baby is no longer on board. Look after yourself in those early days with nutritious food and plenty of fluids. Ensure your diet is balanced and contains all the vitamins and minerals your body needs – our Ten Steps for a Healthy Pregnancy are equally applicable to those early post-partum days.

Keep gently mobile, listen to your body and most importantly rest. New babies tend to be very nocturnal; like all mammals they feed more at night when the predators are in bed and the milk supply is plentiful! So, although it might feel strange and slightly unnatural to some, sleep during the day when your baby does. Let your partner manage the house and any other children whilst you get some all-important rest. Sleep is a great healer; it helps the body recover and ensures a plentiful milk supply. It’s crucial for good mental health to get enough rest and can help you feel more in control and able to deal with the demands of life with a new baby in the house

Help is still there

The early days with a new born can be wonderful, but can also be very isolating if it isn’t going to plan. Remember that help is there from both your midwife and health visitor who will be in regular contact with you and provide a wealth of advice and information. Additional support is also there, online support groups and resources can help to answer those questions or provide reassurance when you feel you aren’t ‘doing it right!’

The first days with your baby are a unique opportunity for you both to start on the right path and develop healthy habits that will last a lifetime. Allow yourself time to enjoy this period and don’t allow yourself to be pressured by unreal images of a perfect life that doesn’t exist. You’ve done something truly amazing- now enjoy it!

Found this helpful? Why not share with your friends and family and make sure to check out some of the resources on our website to help you navigate life with your baby and ensure that you have all the information you need to get your new life off on the right track.

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Further Reading

  • Lucy Upton, Specialist Paediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist   Childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century, with recent NHS figures revealing that one child under five is admitted to hospital because of obesity every week. The coronavirus pandemic and resultant lockdown has challenged already difficult circumstances and during this time many children were consuming more higher fat and/or sugar snacks, spending longer in front of screens and missing out on regular activity including physical education classes.
  • Dr Gill Harris, Consultant Paediatric Clinical Psychologist   Following his recent recovery from coronavirus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has publicly blamed excess weight for his need for intensive care. He has subsequently declared a war on the UK’s obesity crisis and is planning a post-pandemic public health drive to battle the growing problem.
  • Katie Fox, Primary School Teacher   Due to coronavirus, playgroups and nurseries are shut and those children due to start school in a few months will be out of routine and away from friends. It is understandable that many parents are worried about getting their children ready for September. Children learn and progress at different rates so there are no set criteria on what they need to be able to know or do when they first start nursery, but if they have had some experience learning at home it could help to make it a smoother transition. Turn taking games, imaginative play, reading, and developing fine and gross motor skills can promote independence, build confidence and help develop simple skills.