Postpartum Recovery: How to Not Sabotage Your Healing
Being a new mom can be exhilarating. But, it can also be a huge pain. Literally.
Despite the many spectacular pictures of glammed-up moms and newborn or hours-old babies on social media, the birthing process and the subsequent postpartum recovery period are no walk in the park.
You need to heal from all the stretching, tearing, and cuts that go with birthing. Plus, if you don’t pay close attention to your recovery, the demands of your new role could easily take a toll on your mental and emotional health.
This is why you must take your recovery seriously. I myself experienced serious postpartum issues after delivering my second baby, including postpartum depression, eating problems, and breastfeeding struggles, to name a few.
So, to help you out, I compiled some of the best tips I learned from my own journey as well as from some amazing mommas I’ve worked with. I hope you’ll learn a lot!
How long should you rest after giving birth?
There’s no standard answer here, but the safest thing to do is to rest for as long as your doctor tells you to.
Every momma’s journey is different. So, even though the postpartum recovery period is generally defined as the first six weeks after delivery, the actual timeline can vary from mother to mother. You should pay attention to your own postpartum symptoms and focus on what your body needs to heal—even beyond the 6-week period.
My postpartum recovery timeline after having my first child is way different from what I experienced with my second child. I also know mommas whose experiences are very different from mine!Pay attention to your own #postpartum symptoms and focus on what your body needs to heal—even beyond the 6-week period.CLICK TO TWEET
Listen to your body and make sure to follow the schedule of your postpartum checkups. This way, your doctor could monitor you better and tell you when it’s safe to start adding more activities to your routine.
What should you not do after giving birth?
Let’s start with the basics. You shouldn’t lift anything heavy, use stairs, or do anything that could impact your birthing wounds until your doctor says it’s safe to do so. It’s also best to refrain from swimming and having a tub bath as these could expose your wounds to infection-causing bacteria.
Sadly, many mommas sabotage their postpartum recovery in more ways than just doing activities they shouldn’t do. If you don’t want to derail your healing, here are some things to watch out for.
1. Going supermom mode
One thing moms are usually notorious for is trying to be supermom. Doing everything for everyone seems to be a default for mommas everywhere. But, this isn’t a good idea when you’ve just given birth.
If you can, try to stay off your feet for the first week after you give birth. Don’t be pressured to clean your house, prepare food for visitors who might be coming, or do any other tasks that you usually did before pregnancy or before your baby popped out. Remember: the period after birth is a crucial time for healing.
Try to get someone to help you with the chores during this first part of your healing process. If you have older kids, have them take over your chores for you or have hubby take control of your household. You may also consider hiring a postpartum doula to help you with taking care of your infant as well as yourself.
2. Inviting people over to see the baby
Another thing that can cause recovery problems is the need to entertain and take care of visitors. Your family’s first few days with your newborn are precious, so avoid getting ‘em marred by people who aren’t the primary caregivers of your little one.
Try not to have people over for three to five days or for as long as you feel it’s necessary for you to create that bond with your baby. It’s a natural tendency for your friends, relatives, and coworkers to want to carry your baby, which can mess up your breastfeeding rhythm. This could even expose your newborn to harmful bacteria.
If people do visit (or if that’s what you really want), set their expectations before they go anywhere near you or your baby. Let them bring their own snacks. Tell them to sanitize before touching your baby. You could even say that they should stay at least 6-feet away for safety reasons. They’ll surely understand.
3. Indulging in unhealthy eating and drinking habits
What you ingest is very important at this stage. Not only does your diet aid your postpartum recovery, but it also translates into what you give your baby via your breast milk. To put it simply, what you eat and drink goes into your breast milk. So momma, eat well and watch everything you take in!
This doesn’t mean that you cannot indulge in a sweet treat or two during this time (yes, you can have that slice of cake you’ve been craving), but try to limit your intake of sugar-filled treats.
Focus on eating healthier snacks like nuts, fruits, and whole-grain or galactagogue-rich foods. You should also drink lots of water to avoid constipation and urinary problems, which are very common postpartum symptoms. I know all these are easier said than done, which is why it’s best to connect with other mommas who can help you stay inspired.
If you’re breastfeeding but craving for coffee, consider decaf options to avoid risks of jitters, like the lactation-boosting Boobie Latte.
Mom- and baby-safe coffee?
BIG YES! Plus, it’s guilt- and jitters-free!
4. Exercising too soon after giving birth
Getting your postpartum body back to its pre-pregnancy state is a good goal to have, but it’s not something you should try to achieve in the first few weeks or months after giving birth.
Give your body a rest. It’s been through a lot in the past nine months, and it deserves your utmost patience and care as it undergoes recovery.
Don’t stress yourself out over any flab from your pregnancy. You can start exercising and trying to get back in shape once your doctor tells you that it’s okay to do so. When you do start exercising in earnest, start slow and treat your body like it just recovered from an injury.
You could also ask your doctor about Kegel exercises known to help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles of women in their postpartum period.
5. Not taking physical, mental, and emotional issues seriously
A new mom has a lot to deal with when it comes to her own health. It’s not just about getting your postpartum body back in shape or getting used to breastfeeding. It’s also about recognizing when you need help for your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
It can be easy to shrug off certain signs of health problems when you’re too busy ensuring proper postnatal care for your baby. However, while it’s a given that the postpartum recovery timeline of each mom isn’t the same, there are some things you cannot and should not ignore, including:
- worsening abdominal pains
- persistent physical issues, like sore nipples
- excessive vaginal bleeding or discharge
- stitches that aren’t healing
For mental issues, postpartum hormones can bring about feelings of sadness or baby blues, which shouldn’t last more than a week or two.
But, if you find yourself feeling bluer than blue or too sad to even breastfeed, it’s possible that you’re experiencing postpartum depression. And I highly recommend setting an appointment with your doctor right away.
How to help yourself during postpartum recovery?
Postpartum recovery relies heavily on how you take it seriously. Not paying attention to your health after giving birth will result in complications that will not only impact your own well-being but also your capability to take care of your little one.
Not paying attention to your #health after giving birth will result in complications that will not only impact your own #wellbeing but also your capability to take care of your little one.CLICK TO TWEET
Even with doctors, doulas, lactation consultants, and supportive mommas around you, you are ultimately responsible for how you take care of yourself. So, between us mommas, here are some tips I’d like to share with you:
1. Put together your postpartum recovery kit way ahead of time
What is a postpartum recovery kit? It’s a handy set of items that can help you cope better with the challenges of mommahood. It includes some essentials and nice-to-haves, including:
Good maxi pads – During the first few days to weeks of your postpartum period, your lochia will be pretty heavy. Naturally, you cannot use tampons for this, so you need to find a good maxi pad to help stem the flow. Find one that can handle very heavy flows, or better yet, look for maxi pads that are made specifically for postpartum flows.
Disposable undies – If you don’t want your good undies to get stained by lochia, you should consider using disposable underwear with your maxi pads. You may also consider using padded undies—ready to keep incontinence and lochia contained.
Ice packs – This is another essential item a good postpartum recovery kit should have. Your vaginal area or incision area will most likely swell for days after giving birth, and this swelling can be uncomfortable and even painful. If you don’t want to use a pain reliever for the discomfort, an ice pack can help reduce the swelling and the pain.
Perineal spray – If you had a vaginal delivery, you can expect some itchiness between your legs after giving birth. But, you should avoid scratching the area when it happens. To deal with the itching and that raw stinging feeling down there, you should get yourself a good perineal spray that stops itching, cools the area, and relieves some of the pain.
Peri rinse bottle – Keeping your private parts clean after peeing is a must to avoid bacterial growth in the area. Since using toilet paper in this instance can be uncomfortable (some mommas even liken it to torture), a peri rinse bottle is your best option. This should be filled with warm water and used while you’re peeing as well as after.
Aside from helping keep your privates clean after peeing, it also helps reduce the stinging you will feel while you pee.
Other items you can consider adding to this list include pain relievers that are safe for moms who breastfeed, laxatives, and breastfeeding nursing pads. If you don’t want to assemble all of these items yourself, there are a few great pre-assembled postpartum recovery kits for you to choose from.
2. Listen to your body and your mind
Your postpartum body has been through a lot, so it’s normal to feel pain, tiredness, emotional lows, and even some hard-to-explain physical and mental struggles.
Try your best to cope, but don’t hesitate to seek help from your partner, your closest family or friends, or a trusted health professional.
Don’t keep things to yourself, find the assistance you need when things are starting to feel too much, and don’t brush off symptoms that can indicate you’re not experiencing a normal postpartum recovery.
3. Get as much sleep as you can
This may seem like a tall order, or impossible for some even, but getting as much rest as you possibly can is a must!
If your house looks like a tornado tore through it, or you have guests but you’re feeling tired or sleepy, drop everything (except the baby) and go snooze! Your house won’t know the difference, and your visitors will understand.
You need to recharge and rest after everything you’ve been through. If you can, let others take care of cleaning, cooking, and other strenuous chores. When the baby sleeps, you should try your best to sleep too.
Take care of yourself to take care of your baby
You cannot pour from an empty cup. This is a saying that encourages people to take care of themselves first before looking after others. Some mommas, however, feel that it’s selfish to indulge in self-love. But in this case, it is definitely a must.
You cannot take good care of your baby unless you take good care of yourself, and focusing on your postpartum recovery is necessary to do this. So go ahead and apply these tips. And when the going gets tough, remember that you can always reach out to our community of Milksta mommas.