Taking care of your health as a new mum

After giving birth, it’s not just your baby that you need to care of – looking after yourself is just as important. Not only does giving birth take its toll on your body, but you have to be able to then deal with the physical and mental strain of looking after a baby. Below are some tips on how you can look after your health as a new mum.

Getting rid of the baby fat

Many women gain weight during pregnancy. This can result from being less active during pregnancy, giving in to food cravings and possibly trying to ‘eat for two’.

Once your baby is born, getting rid of this ‘baby weight’ can be difficult. While looking after a newborn, you may struggle to find time to exercise, nor may you have the time to cook healthy meals. Meanwhile, the stress of looking after a baby could inhibit weight loss.

While you don’t have to lose this weight, it could benefit from increasing your energy levels, making you feel better and increasing your chances of conceiving again. For this reason, it’s worth trying to improve your diet and exercise.

In the first few weeks, you’ll want to avoid certain exercises such as weight lifting and abdominal exercises, which could aggravate scars. However, many other forms of exercise are likely to be possible. You may be able to ask a partner or family member to look after your baby while you exercise. Alternatively, you could look into fun ways of exercising with your little one.

As for your diet, try researching easy and healthy meals. If you’re breastfeeding, it could be essential that you’re packing your diet full of nutrients – limit processed foods and up your intake of organic foods. Drinking more water and less alcohol could also help.

Staying mentally healthy

Postnatal depression and anxiety are very common. In fact, 1 in 10 new mums experience depression after giving birth. This can be due to factors such as loss of routine, loss of free time, anxiety over responsibility, and strained relationships with others.

There are so many ways in which you can improve your mental health as a new mum. These include being social, letting others help and trying to establish a routine. Don’t worry about trying to keep up with housework – do only the bare essentials. Try to schedule free time for yourself every week at a specific time by having a partner or family member take over – this will give you a break to look forward to. Breaks could also be essential for reducing separation anxiety between you and your little one.

There’s no shame in looking into professional help. In fact, this is often the brave thing to do – many new parents with depression are afraid to ask for support, which can often make it worse. You may be prescribed antidepressants, or you may be able to get help from a counsellor.

Of course, one big thing that will help keep you mentally healthy as a new mum is upping your sleep. This leads on to the next point…

Coping with lack of sleep

Babies take several weeks to develop a body clock. It may then take several months after this – or even several years – before they consistently sleep through the night.

If you’re getting little sleep or you are constantly getting an interrupted night’s sleep, it could start to take a toll on your physical and mental health. You can combat this by thinking about how and when you sleep.

You could take turns to do night feeds with your partner (if you’re breastfeeding you can use a breast pump so that you’ve got milk in a bottle). Alternatively, you could make a habit of sleeping whenever your baby sleeps – even if this means napping in the day. If you’re feeling exhausted, don’t be afraid to ask a family member or trusted friend to look after your baby while you nap.

As your little one gets older, you’ll gradually get more sleep and less interrupted sleep. Bear this in mind, as it will motivate you through those sleepless nights in the beginning.

Reducing stress

Chronic stress is also not good for the body and mind. It can affect everything from the ability to sleep to the ability to lose weight. It could also prevent you from producing breast milk. And yet looking after a baby can often be stressful (especially if your baby is crying a lot, not sleeping well or ill).

Activities such as taking a hot bath, listening to music, laughing and exercising can reduce stress levels. Work out what is the best stressbuster for you – schedule time for this each day to help you de-stress.

Coping with breastfeeding

A lot of new mums struggle with breastfeeding. There is a lot of support that you can look into to help with breastfeeding including ways to help with milk production (such as de-stressing and getting the right nutrients), and ways to make feeds easier (such as using a breast pump). If you find that you’re getting sore, there are also treatments that you can look into including natural remedies to treat cracked nipples. Breastfeeding doesn’t have to be uncomfortable.

Not all mums can breastfeed or want to. Formula milk is always an alternative option in most cases and despite claims is no less healthy for your baby.

Recovering from birth injuries

Stitches are sometimes required after giving birth. You may have even had a c-section birth. It’s important that you care for any scars so that they heal well. This could mean avoiding certain exercises, as well as keeping the area clean.

If you notice that your scar doesn’t look right or bleeding, make sure to contact a doctor to get it checked. There is always a risk of complications such as keloid scarring, reopening of wounds or infection – even if you are looking after your scars.

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