Editor's Note: What an exciting thing to walk through your front door for the first time with your brand-new baby! It’s a moment you’ve been awaiting for months, or maybe even years, and your brain is likely whirling with dreams, plans and ideas about the kind of mother you’ll be. Though taking care of yourself might be the last thing on your mind, it’s an important part of the coming months (OK, years). Here’s some advice from childcare expert Emma Jenner (www.emmaschildren.com).
By Emma Jenner
Don’t forget your own postpartum needs
There is so much advice out there about how to take care of your new baby. But what about you, the mother? While you were pregnant you took excellent care of yourself, and it is important that you keep it up now that your baby has arrived.
I often hear expecting mothers say how having a baby is not going to change them, but the reality is nothing of the sort. As a new mother you have varying degrees of hormones that you don't know what to do with racing around all over the place. Your boobs are painful, you might be sore from stitches of one kind or another, you’re sleep deprived like you’ve never known, and you now have a little life that is completely reliant on you for everything.
Here are my tips for making it through these first few blessed but difficult weeks.
Prepare your partner. Encourage your partner to prepare not only for being a new dad, but also a husband to a new mom. It may be helpful for him to recognize the symptoms and know the difference between baby blues and postpartum depression, and when you should seek medical advice. To find out more, check these resources.
A note for partners: Remember, even if the new mother seems to be completely in control and on top everything, she still needs support and should be given as much as possible. Take the baby while she has a rest, shower or an hour off. Mothers often need to be reminded, or even gently coerced, to look after themselves.
Seek support. Encourage friends and family to help out by picking up shopping, cooking dinner or even popping in a load of wash. Try to limit visitors who will need you to wait on them. Communicate with your partner or husband and ask if you need extra help.
Eat. You’ll need plenty of healthy regular meals and snacks. Not only can skipping meals make you feel worn out, but it can effect your milk production. Extra calories are important if you are breastfeeding. Your baby will start to strip your body of its nutrients if you don’t supply them through a good diet.
Stay hydrated. Drinking is important and can easily be forgotten, so find what works for you. Leave a glass by the sink so every time you walk past you have a drink, or put a water bottle in every room.
Take time to shower. Making time for your daily hygiene can make you feel human again. (Recent recommendations suggest showers rather than baths for several weeks to prevent infection.) You can’t always count on getting this basic job done when your baby is sleeping, or rely on someone else being able to take the baby. If you are alone, take your baby into the bathroom with you and lay her on a changing mat on the floor. This will help you get an important part of your day done and your baby will eventually get used to the routine. You may even find she enjoys your singing in the shower – especially if this was something you did during your pregnancy! Shower 20 minutes after a feed and change, when your baby will likely be at her most content.
Set realistic expectations. You won't be back in pre-pregnancy clothes the day after you've given birth. Some days you may not even manage to get dressed! Keep your daily expectations (and the pressure that goes with them) to a minimum. Instead, look at everything you do get done as an achievement!
Trust your instincts. Doctors, baby nurses, family and friends can be a tremendous help, but they all have their very own opinions. Good advice is wonderful, but you are the best judge of what’s best for you and your baby. If something doesn't feel right, say so. Don’t be bullied into doing something you’re not happy with. A mother’s intuition is very powerful, so learn to trust it.
Also try to learn that, although you’ll often tend to put your needs last, they are just as important as your baby’s. To be a good mom and take good care of your baby, you have to take care of you, too!
Emma Jenner (www.emmaschildren.com) is a childcare consultant and the childcare expert on Take Home Nanny on the TLC network.