Well Brain, Well Body Post Baby
Having a baby is one of the most exciting times in a woman’s life. However, it isn’t all roses. Sleepless nights, backache, constant worrying whether you are ‘doing the right thing’, feeling more like a milk bar than a woman, and incessant crying can certainly take it’s toll and rub some of the shine off being a new mum.
So while being a new mum is really exciting, it is also really challenging emotionally and physically. This means that while your baby is naturally your focus, it is also important that you take really good care of yourself.
Unfortunately babies have different time clocks to the rest of us, with most newborns waking every three hours to be fed, changed and comforted. It can take months for babies to settle down and establish a solid sleeping pattern, and getting a solid sleep can often feel like a distant memory for many mums. It is really important during this time that you get as much rest as you can, and you make the most of the down time available. Where possible:
- Sleep when your baby sleeps. It might only be for brief periods, but eventually the time will add up. If this doesn’t work for you schedule your sleep – allowing yourself much longer than normal (as you will be up every 2-3 hours).
- Don’t feel as though you need to be the ‘hostess with the mostess’ – It is normal for your family and friends to want to come around and visit, but encourage them to drop in at times that suit you best and don’t feel obliged to ‘entertain’ them. Remember that they are coming to see you and your new baby – not for the food, clean house, or stimulating conversation.
- Rest as much as you can until your newborn establishes a reasonable sleeping pattern (and we realize this can take some months). As far as possible grab the time you have to rest, catch up on reading, sleeping, journaling – anything that involves lying quietly and resting.
- Try to get outside each day – not only will it help you emotionally, the fresh air, and eventually exercise (once your health practitioner has cleared you), will help with your energy levels and sleep.
- If you have other young children at home, enlist a fellow mum, family member, or even baby sitter for some time each week to look after them to remove some pressure and enable you to sleep when your newborn sleeps.
- Remember that a lack of sleep affects both mum and dad. Even though it is usually worse for mum, because at least initially it is mum getting up to feed baby, dad’s sleep will be disrupted too. This means that both of you will be tired, be more emotional and have less tolerance than normal – so cut each other some slack.
A healthy balanced diet is essential. Nutrition plans a significant role in our physical health and energy levels AS WELL as our mental health. In general:
- Stick to low human interference foods – avoid too much processed foods, or food where you can’t recognize the first few ingredients in the ingredients list.
- Focus on a healthy balanced diet consisting of:
- 5 serves of vegetables
- 2 serves of fruit
- 9 serves of grains
- 5 serves of lean meat/ protein
- 5 serves of dairy
- Avoid alcohol.
- Increase your water intake especially if you are breastfeeding.
- Eat regularly – every few hours
- Watch your portion size. Lacking in sleep and increased stress increases our appetite hormones and cravings. So take care to ensure that your portion sizes don’t increase too much as well.
- How long you should wait to start exercising post birth depends on your history, your pregnancy and your birth. So wait until you get the all clear from your Doctor. Once you have the all clear:
- Try to exercise every day – 15 minutes will do. Even though it is often the last thing you feel like, taking your baby for a walk can help settle your baby, but also ensure that you experience some feel good hormones that are produced while you are walking.
- Get lots and lots of help – If you can afford it, consider getting a cleaner to take some pressure off the house, ask friends or family to cook a few extra meals each week to take some of the cooking load off, and get some help looking after your other children if you have them.
- Keep things simple and reduce expectations – don’t expect yourself to keep up with your other responsibilities in the same way as you did before baby. Remember this is a massive life change and we weren’t designed to be super human.
Get emotional support:
- Its ok to be emotional and feel overwhelmed sometimes. You’re tired, hormonal and experiencing one of the biggest changes to routine and life that you can possibly experience. Having a baby isn’t all roses and everyone struggles – so talk to fellow mum’s, your family and friends, and don’t try and keep up a brave face for appearances sake.
- Make sure you g out and catch up with your friends sometimes. Even though it might be the last thing you feel like doing, being able to have a laugh, get out of the house and connect with your friends is super important.
- Remember postnatal anxiety and depression can affect anyone and so talk to your GP or Child Health Nurse, if your ‘baby blues’ or worrying just don’t seem to let up. They will make sure you get the help you need.
- Your memory will not work as well as it used to. You are tired and are experiencing massive hormonal changes. Take some pressure off and don’t expect yourself to keep up. Keep lists, keep a notebook with you so that you can jot down anything that you need to remember, and try to establish set ‘spots’ to put certain items (such as keys, phone, baby bag etc).
- You will be more emotional than normal and these mood swings are normal. If possible hold off from major life decisions and reduce some of your expectations.
- Treat yourself – do things that make you feel like a woman. Go out with your partner if you can, and try and do small things that you enjoy and that are just for you.
- Join a mother’s group. If your hospital didn’t organize this for you look for a mother’s group in your area at local baby stores or through Meet Up.