When we think about pregnancy, we think about those nine months where the woman is carrying the baby as it grows. However, since most American women give birth between the months of July and October, at least a handful of you are just now entering the postpartum phase (statistically speaking). The transition between being pregnant to holding a newborn in your arms is massive and often comes with complicated feelings; according to the American Pregnancy Association, between 70 and 80 percent of women experience what’s termed the “baby blues.” We’ve compiled a few strategies you can use to feel more like yourself in the postpartum stage.
1. Take it easy
After giving birth, most women find themselves feeling tired for several weeks. This is a result of a combination of factors: a sharp decline in pregnancy hormones, the physical process of giving birth, and the sleep disturbance caused by a newborn’s schedule. It’s important to allow yourself to rest as much as possible. If you’re breastfeeding, try to sleep when your baby does.
Sometimes it’s hard to delegate tasks because we feel like we should be able to take care of everything by ourselves. However, during the postpartum period, it’s easy to become too tired and overwhelmed, which can lead to feelings of postpartum depression. Work with your partner to share newborn care responsibilities, or consider hiring a babynurse who can get up with your baby at night for feedings and allow you to sleep.
3. Keep to a well-balanced diet
When you have a newborn in the house, it can be hard to find time to sit down and have a healthy meal. However, it’s important to remember that your body is still healing—and nourishing it is one of the best things you can do to keep your emotions balanced. It might be easiest to “graze and sip.” Try setting up snack and water stations in the rooms in your home that you frequent most. That way, you don’t have to feel like you need to tear yourself away from your baby just to eat.
Experts recommend salmon, eggs, or lean beef as good sources of protein, legumes and leafy greens for iron and vitamins A and C, and blueberries and oranges for your antioxidant and more mood-boosting vitamin C. Don’t forget brown rice and whole-wheat bread—carbs are essential for new-mom energy, and whole-wheat bread is a great source for folic acid. It’s also essential that you keep yourself well-hydrated, especially if you’re breastfeeding. Invest in a good water bottle with a straw so you can sip without worrying about spilling.
4. Get outside
Be sure to allow yourself time out of the house without your baby; fresh air is rejuvenating. A change of scenery can do wonders for your state-of-mind. Depending upon your birth experience and your doctor’s recommendations, you may also want to get some light exercise—for instance, a walk around the park. Sometimes having a different view for a few minutes makes all the difference. A part-time or full-time nanny or even a babynurse can help with this. Even if it’s just a few hours a day, knowing that your baby is in good hands will allow you to more easily recharge and relax, which will in turn boost your mood and allow you to be a more energetic, hands-on parent.
5. Treat yourself
Giving birth is a wonderful thing, but don’t forget it comes along with major bodily trauma. Don’t feel guilty about treating yourself to a massage, aromatherapy, acupuncture, or even a newborn care specialist. Partnering with a babynurse agency allows you to find a trained professional who can answer all your questions and who you can lean on when you don’t have the strength.
6. Talk about it—and if you need to, ask for help!
The symptoms of postpartum depression are: weepiness or crying for no apparent reason, impatience, irritability, restlessness, anxiety, fatigue, insomnia, sadness, mood swings, and poor concentration. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, make sure to talk about how you feel with someone you trust. It can also help to talk with someone about the process of giving birth. It doesn’t matter if your experience was good or bad; just the act of going back over your memories of the birth can be cathartic.
7. Be realistic
In the first few weeks or months after birth, you’re not going to get to everything on your to-do list. Many women have an unrealistic idea of what the postpartum period will be like, and oftentimes they expect too much of themselves. Don’t expect perfection. You need time to heal and to adjust to your new routine. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t beat yourself up—you’re not alone! There’s nothing wrong with asking for help, whether it’s from your partner, your family, or even a newborn care specialist agency.