When you're pregnant, there's so much emphasis on the birth and the baby — with good reason, of course. But planning for what will happen after the baby is born is another important aspect you should be thinking carefully about.
It's so important for new parents to have a restful and supported postpartum recovery period. Not only does it help you bond with your new little love, but it can assist in your own health and happiness after birth, as well. There's a great deal you can do to make sure your postpartum experience is positive — and evidence shows that careful preparation can be beneficial for outcomes, too.
So what should you do to ensure a healthy postpartum recovery? Here are five tips for postpartum care.
1. Get Physical
While you're still pregnant, take steps to plan for your physical postpartum care. Buy a peri bottle and a sitz bath (for vaginal care), nipple cream (for your breasts), and other tools (like comfy pillows) to soothe your body after birth. Once your baby is born, pay careful attention to your body's changes as the uterus shrinks, the perineum heals, milk comes in, and hormones regulate during postpartum recovery. If you've had a cesarean section, be sure to take it easy so you don't interrupt the healing process of your incision.
2. Be Real With Your Emotions
The time after you have a baby is often incredibly emotional. Of course, you feel tons of love for your new addition, but it's also completely normal to feel scared, overwhelmed, anxious, tired, or depleted. Feeling this way doesn't mean you're a bad mother. Be gentle with yourself as you ride the new mom roller coaster — every day may be different, and that's OK.
If you do start to feel anything that seems like more than the typical "baby blues," alert your support system of friends and family members and speak to a health care provider. It's important to get treatment early if you have postpartum depression or another postpartum mood disorder.
3. Prioritize Yourself
Everyone wants to touch and cuddle baby after birth, but don't let yourself and your needs get lost in all the infant adoration. The best thing for a new baby is a mother who is happy, healthy, and supported. Make sure you are getting everything you need, including nutritious food, lots of fluids, and adequate rest. Sometimes, that means asking for help outside of your immediate family — consider asking your community to help with meals or care for older children. One way to make sure you're connecting with yourself during the postpartum period is to prioritize doing one "normal" thing each day. Try taking a walk, having a relaxing shower, or seeing a friend.
4. Hire a Postpartum Doula
Although doulas are more commonly used for birth, there are also doulas who are specially trained to provide care in the postpartum period. Called postpartum doulas, they can help with everything from home organization and cooking to baby care and breastfeeding. Postpartum doulas usually work on an hourly basis. If it's in your budget, having an expert in after-birth care around can make a huge difference in the intense first few weeks and months.
5. Don't Skimp on Rest
The old adage "sleep when the baby sleeps" is definitely true during the postpartum time period. Getting enough rest is so important to ensure you have a successful postpartum recovery. It's much easier said than done with a newborn in the house, of course, but make every effort to rest as much as you can. Enlist your partner or other support people to take shifts with the baby or complete other chores or tasks so you can nap. And don't sweat the small stuff — it's much more important that you're well-rested than it is to have an empty dishwasher or scrubbed floors.
Recovering from childbirth is a process. But when you commit these important steps to memory, you can ensure that you'll stay your healthiest for your newborn. For more support during the postpartum period, find the right birth center for you.