Tips for looking after yourself after giving birth

A new baby is incredibly exciting, but the changes to your life can come as a bit of a shock. You must look after yourself before you can look after anyone else. Here’s how.

Many people give a lot of thought to pregnancy and labour, but the true work begins once your baby arrives. Looking after yourself is as important as looking after your baby in these early precious months, as you will likely undergo some major emotional and physical changes.

Rest when you can

Nothing can prepare you for the exhaustion many parents experience in the first few weeks of a new bub coming home. Waking every few hours in the night, feeding and then settling can feel like the nights are endless and you wake more tired than you went to bed.

Make your only responsibility to rest when the baby rests (if possible) and ignore the housework.

Exercise

Exercise is not only about fitting into your jeans. It is also hugely beneficial for your mental wellbeing. When you have the six-week all clear from your doctor, you are ready to slip on your trainers.

“If you're looking for a sure-fire way to improve your mood, lift your spirits and have a positive effect on you, your baby and your life? Exercise,” says Yummy Mummys personal trainer, Yasmin Tselepis. 

“Joining an exercise group that caters to Mums and their bubs is another way like-minded woman in the community can connect with one another. Sharing stories and ideas are all part of being part of this very precious club - Motherhood.”

Eat right

A new baby can be exhausting. Tiredness may make you want to snack all the time, or it may make you forget to eat.

“Just like on an aeroplane, fit your own oxygen mask before helping others. It’s important to still prioritise your health whilst learning what your baby needs,” says dietician, Rosalyn D’Angelo.

“Whether you’re breastfeeding or not, what you eat can directly impact your overall health, energy levels,  and ability to handle stress.”
 
Sugar can be tempting for a quick fix when you’re tired but will ultimately cause your energy to crash. 

“When you’re tired it’s hard to muster up the energy to prepare something. So when you are feeling good and you have a bit of time up your sleeve, stock your fridge and pantry with foods that you can use to whip up a quick snack to satisfy your sweet tooth. Ricotta, plain Greek yoghurt, honey, frozen berries, fresh fruit, nuts, dates and oats are all great options to keep in the cupboard,” says Rosalyn.

Look out for each other

Postnatal depression can creep up on anyone. Even Dads. You may notice changes in yourself or you may not. 

“Perinatal anxiety and depression is a serious illness that will affect around 100,000 families across Australia this year,” says Terri Smith, CEO of PANDA – Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia.
 
“Postnatal depression affects one in seven new mums and up to one in ten new dads. We know that many people are reluctant to come forward and seek help due to shame about the illness,  and also through a perception that they are failing as parents.”
 
It's important for expecting and new parents, as well as those around them, to be aware of the signs and symptoms of perinatal anxiety and depression and where to go for help.
 
“It’s recommended that people seek help if their symptoms persist for longer than two weeks. Otherwise, people risk suffering in silence for longer, reducing their enjoyment of what could be a very special time and potentially even putting their lives at risk.”
Tired mum

Say no to obligation

Don’t feel like you need to entertain visitors, or need to take the baby out to introduce them to everyone you’ve ever met. While visitors may be a lovely distraction from routine, and outings are important, you must listen to your body and to your baby, and if saying no feels like the right thing to do, do not feel bad about that.

“Don’t fill up your calendar, it’s ok to say no until you’re ready,” says From the Leftfield’s psychologist Dr Sasha Lynn.

Have realistic expectations

“In your imagination, a new baby may have just slipped into your lifestyle, and discovering this is not the case may come as a shock. Just go gently”, suggests Dr Lynn.
 
“Most importantly, give yourself time. Time to adjust, time to let the emotions out, time to learn how you and this new little life will work together. Rest where you can,” says Dr Lynn.

Don’t try to be Super Woman. Take time to recover and bond with your baby and if other things have to go by the wayside for that, then so be it.

“Be really kind to yourself. You don’t need to maintain a perfect house while you’re in that postnatal period,” says midwife, Anita Lane. “There are some cultures where the mother stays in bed for a month after having a baby and the community and the people are in there caring for her. We don’t have that and we often feel pressure to do it all alone.”

Ask for help

They say it takes a village to raise a child but these days we tend to live in more isolation, even if we are urban dwellers. Now is the time to rely on your friends and family to help you.

“Make a list and put it on the front door, or on Facebook, so if someone comes to visit they can pick a job to help with. Many people drop by to visit the baby and you feel obligated to make them a coffee or give biscuits,” says Anita. “Things like putting the washing out, or bringing a load in can be a huge help. Often people just don’t think to offer or don’t know what to do. This can help.”

Also, if you feel you are not coping, or are having feelings of sadness, hopelessness or anxiety, ask for help. You are not alone.

If you need help or support with how you are feeling, you can visit the PANDA website or call the PANDA national helpline on 1300 726 306 (Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm).

MumMatters CTA

Back to top