Life after baby: The real deal
Some common misconceptions about the early stages of motherhood.
Myth #1: You'll love every second of parenting
“The transition to parenthood can be physically and emotionally exhausting,” explains Dr Tania Trapolini, a clinical psychologist specialising in perinatal psychology. “There can be great emotional highs and intense love, but coping with sleep deprivation and lots of change may leave many parents vulnerable to negative emotions.”
Give yourself time to get used to your new role. Simple self-care practices, such as a hot shower, mindful breathing techniques or a daytime nap (when baby is also sleeping), will provide a much-needed break and can help to equip you to navigate the ups and downs of family life.
“It’s completely normal for new parents to find this a period of adjustment and a steep learning curve, but keeping a calm attitude and having some self-compassion can help you feel more confident to cope with challenges,” reassures Dr Trapolini.
“The transition to parenthood can be physically and emotionally exhausting.”
Myth #2: Your pre-baby body will bounce back quickly
“Getting back to your goal weight starts and ends with being as healthy as possible,” says accredited practising dietitian Jemma O’Hanlon. “The best approach is to focus on eating a wide range of nutritious foods when you’re hungry, and to slowly ease yourself into some regular exercise. But don’t forget to check with your doctor first if its okay for you to do this.”
Try to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, and keep a stash of healthy snacks that will help keep you sated when you’re out and about, such as apples, bananas, a handful of unsalted nuts, crunchy vegetable sticks (carrots are great!), and tubs of low-fat low-sugar yoghurt. For dinners, O’Hanlon recommends sticking to the basics: “You can’t go wrong with meat (or another lean protein), and three veg – aim to fill a quarter of your plate with fish, lean meat or tofu, a quarter with some quality low-GI carbohydrates such as wholegrain bread, basmati rice or pasta, and fill up with a variety of colourful vegetables.”
Once your doctor gives you the all-clear to start exercising after your baby’s birth, aim for 30 minutes or more of moderate activity each day. Regular exercise won’t just help you lose excess baby weight – it can also help boost your energy levels, relieve stress and tension, and can help ward off postnatal depression.
“Getting back to your goal weight starts and ends with being as healthy as possible.”
Myth #3: Your baby should only eat organic, homemade food
“Keep things simple and stock-up on low-salt canned or frozen veggies, as well as wholesome grains like couscous and soba noodles – these have a long shelf life, are budget-friendly and are easy to whip into a healthy meal,” suggests O’Hanlon. “You may find it easier to cook food in batches and store it in ice trays in the freezer so you have portion-controlled sizes ready to use whenever you need them.”
Ready-made baby foods from the supermarket can also be helpful when you’re busy or on the go, but always buy products with low levels of sugar and sodium (salt).
In the end, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting. Your experiences might not match what you see in magazines and social media, but if you’re caring for yourself and your family with love and compassion, and keeping everyone healthy and active, rest assured you’re on the right track.