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The day has finally arrived and you are holding your newborn baby for the first time! Everything is a whirlwind from learning to feed your baby to the discharge instructions as you leave the hospital. You get home, get settled in, and the next thing you know, it is the endless cycle of feed, change diaper, sleep, repeat. You know that taking care of yourself is important too but it is SO hard when you are so tired and busy! Believe it or not, every parent goes through some variation of this. The important thing to remember is that while you may be feeling physically fine after a couple weeks, it actually takes months for our bodies to fully recover from giving birth! However, the first 3 months are the time during which you will notice the most significant advances in your postpartum recovery as well as when you can truly develop excellent habits to take with you throughout motherhood!
Most obvious will be your physical healing. When you first leave the hospital you will most likely be extremely sore! Whether you had a natural birth or a C-section, your body has just been through a beautiful, but traumatic, experience. Your wounds will take time to heal, you will have stitches which means you will need to be careful with your movements and activities for at least a few weeks. The average recommended time before you indulge in any strenuous activities is at least 6 weeks for natural birth. That is half of the first 3 months right there! Be sure to follow your doctor’s recommendations keeping in mind that not every person is the same and we all heal at different speeds and have different pain tolerance levels. If you notice that there is an activity that is cleared by your doctor yet it seems to cause an unusual amount of discomfort, be sure to let them know. I know that it is hard during those first few months to take care of yourself because you are in a fog from the interrupted nights however, paying attention to your body and what it is telling you is very important in not only helping you recover, but also in helping you continue to be the healthiest momma you can be!
It is important that you not only take care of your physical health, but your emotional health as well. In current culture there has been a HUGE increase in mental health awareness. While you may have never had a need to think about this before, remember that your body not only changed while you were pregnant, but it is even now changing again. You will see changes physically as you are obviously no longer pregnant, and you will feel changes emotionally and mentally as your hormones are rebalancing after giving birth. This means that you could be in for an emotional roller coaster even bigger than the one you were on while you were expecting! Many women, while ecstatic to have their little baby where they can hold him or her and see them, experience a feeling of loss after delivery. We get so used to being pregnant and having that little one literally inside us day and night, it is easy to feel a sense of nostalgia or even sadness that when we habitually reach down to rub our tummy it is no longer large and round. We no longer feel the little flutters of movement or the kicks and somersaults. Some women feel this so extremely that they even find it hard to bond with their newborn. If you begin experiencing any of this, don’t be embarrassed to bring it up to your doctor no matter how much time has passed since you gave birth.
Asking For Help
While there are many things to keep you feeling as if the days are passing in a blur, there are also many ways to counteract this. Many women, especially today, are extremely independent and tend to not ask for help. This is the time for that to change! Instead of worrying that you are being a burden or taking advantage of the people who care about you, let them help out and be your support during this time of healing and recovery. If your best friend wants to come over and visit on her day off and wash baby bottles while visiting, by all means let her! Your mother-in-law wants to come over and cook meals? Of course! Your hubby is asking what he can do to help? Don’t hesitate to ask for that foot massage or even to give you an hour of “you” time. Obviously your previous self care routine is most likely not going to work well and you will need to readjust. However, creating a new one that allows you to still take care of yourself while taking care of your baby early on will help you recover faster.
Listen To Your Body
Postpartum recovery is different for every woman just as childbirth is different for each of us. It is okay if you are recovering at a different rate than your mother, sister, cousin, or friend did. The most important thing is that you are recovering and enjoying getting to know your baby! Listening to your body will help you know when you need to slow down. Remember to take care of others, we have to take care of ourselves and that includes taking care of our children! Asking for help from friends and family is not only okay, it is even encouraged. Taking time out for yourself is still important even though you now have this tiny human relying on you for its every need. Don’t be embarrassed to bring up any concerns or feelings that may be bothering you to your doctor. If there is something that your doctor cannot personally address, he or she will be more than happy to refer you to someone who can. Remember, their goal is your overall health and complete recovery!