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Postpartum self-care: Taking care of yourself after having a baby

Woman doing yoga while her baby watches from the floor beside her.Becoming a parent is an enormous life change that triggers a big identity shift. This is especially the case for new mothers who experience significant physical, emotional and psychological changes related to pregnancy and delivery. All combined, the hormonal shifts, sleepless nights and learning required to take care of a newborn around the clock can take a very real toll on a new mom.

"There is quite an adjustment period after having a baby, and it’s really important for women to be tuned in to what they’re feeling both physically and emotionally," says Dr. Betty Chen, a family physician at Women’s College Hospital with specialty in pregnancy, delivery and postpartum care.

"Ask yourself, what are my main jobs as a parent now? In those first months it’s feeding and taking care of the baby, making sure the baby is stimulated, healthy and continues to grow, bonding with the baby, and looking after yourself so that you’re rested and healthy," says Dr. Chen.

Support is key

"Take stock of who your support people are and distinguish them from visitors," says Dr. Chen. "Find people who can provide emotional or practical support, like making meals or cleaning." This can be an emotional time so be clear about your expectations and maintain open and honest communication with those around you.

"If you don’t have family or close friends who can help out, it can be very challenging and this can make you feel very isolated. If that’s you, be open and honest with your healthcare provider. Whether it’s connecting you with a community program or a drop-in centre or finding other women in a similar stage of life, your provider can be a good resource," says Dr. Chen.

Not just about baby

While the early days are often all about the baby, self-care as part of postpartum recovery is important for your overall health. "Take the time to listen to your body and allow yourself to heal and recover. Once you are up for it, take care of yourself by getting outside, going for walks, being active and making social connections, so that you don’t feel all alone," says Dr. Chen.

"It’s also important to feel like an individual," says Dr. Chen. "Simple things like taking a shower, getting a haircut, doing something that makes you feel good – those are all important. You’re looking after yourself, doing something to help yourself feel good, and that in turn will help you to be a better parent for your baby."

It’s easy to get lost in your new role as a parent. Dr. Chen shares some tips to help you adjust to your new life:

Be kind to yourself: New parents need to lower their expectations about how much they can get done in just one day.
Delegate or let go: For laundry, groceries, meal prep and cleaning, remember if it doesn’t absolutely require your input, get somebody else to do it if you can.
Find a social connection: This can be a phone call, coffee date, a walk with a friend, neighbour or others from a local parent and baby community group. It can be someone who has recently gone through the same thing to help validate what you are feeling and make it seem like everything is normal.
When to seek help: If you have any physical or emotional concerns, see your healthcare provider right away. "It’s common to experience postpartum blues, have some anxiety or feel overwhelmed or sad in the initial weeks after the baby comes, but pay attention to your feelings and seek help if it lasts beyond two weeks, or if at any point the feelings become too intense," says Dr. Chen.

"It’s a fleeting moment in a person’s life when you have a baby, are caring for them and watch them grow and develop," says Dr. Chen. "Even though in the immediate postpartum period it can feel like the days go on and on and on, it goes by very fast."

 

This information is provided by Women’s College Hospital and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: April 24, 2019.

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  • Women's College Hospital