You read the books, documented the bump updates, arranged the nursery, and bought all the diapers, wipes, onesies, and other items needed for your little one’s arrival. You did all you could to prepare to take care of a new baby, but did you prepare to take care yourself after baby arrived? While caring for a baby may be new to you, so is taking care of yourself after such a big change to your body. If you’re not yet feeling comfortable with your postpartum body, know that you’re not alone! Whether you’re experiencing postpartum depression (PPD) or having trouble accepting how you look and feel post-birth, give yourself the time and grace to adjust.
According to the National Library of Medicine, around 1 in 7 women will develop postpartum depression, typically within 6 weeks of giving birth. Some of the symptoms include depressed mood, loss of interest, insomnia, feelings of guilt, and loss of energy.1 Whether or not you develop PPD after baby is born, it’s common to have feelings of not being yourself. Hormones have a lot to do with this. Because of their quick-changing levels after birth, postpartum hormones can have a large effect on the brain. According to HealthCentral, hormones like estrogen and progesterone can continue to fluctuate for two months after you give birth, and if PPD develops, these feelings can last for up to a year.2
That alone goes to show how important it is to take care of yourself — both mentally and physically — after baby is born. While baby will rightly be at the front of your mind, it’s important to keep your own health as a priority, too. Self-care and self-love are terms that have been on the rise in the recent years with an increased focus on mental health as a whole, and this time in your life — when you’ve physically gone through such a big change — is as important a time as ever to show yourself some love.
Your body has been changing for the last nine months, and it’s not going to stop now. While pregnancy is absolutely beautiful and magical, sometimes new moms feel pressured to get back to pre-baby weight and looks quickly. The fact is that’s just not going to happen for most. Sure, some moms seem to have an easier time than others losing pregnancy weight and getting back to their pre-baby body, but for others, it can take years! And not for lack of trying. Every body is different, and every body is going to change and return to “normal” at its own pace.
10 Ways to Show Yourself Some Postpartum Love
- Learn to love your body for what it’s accomplished. Remember that it brought you the most precious gift you’ll ever receive, and that in and of itself is reason to celebrate it — no matter how it looks. You’ve noticed several physical changes throughout your pregnancy — weight gain, stretch marks, and breast enlargement, to name a few. None of these are going to go away immediately after giving birth. They may take some getting used to, but they’re also a great reminder of the work you’ve done to grow your baby.
- Avoid comparing your body to others. Have reasonable expectations for how and when your body will change after giving birth. Just like how every person’s Instagram page only shows the highlights of their life, comparing yourself to how other new moms present themselves isn’t healthy. You don’t know their postpartum journey, their struggles, and what it took for them to get to where they are. Only compare yourself to the mama you were yesterday, and you’ll know that each little step forward is a success.
- Give yourself grace and patience. Take the emotions as they come, and realize that they’re all normal! And be patient with getting your body back to pre-baby size, looks, and function. Remember, it took nine months to grow your baby; you can’t expect to change those looks back right away! Know that the changes your body made and the hormone changes it’s going through were necessary to get baby here to you, so give it time to complete the postpartum journey, too.
- Practice self-care. Take time to care for your body. Make the time to treat yourself to something that relaxes you, even if it’s just a hot bath, time for meditation or stretching, or doing mental exercises like journaling or practicing gratitude. Buy yourself products like nipple balm and therapy pillows that will help provide comforting relief while breastfeeding.
- Surround yourself with support. Whether it’s your partner, other family, friends, or a mom’s support group, find people who will support you through your postpartum experiences. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it and communicate with your partner about your needs — and theirs.
- Get some exercise in. While rigorous exercise isn’t recommended immediately after birth, work up to your old exercise routine slowly. Walking is a great way to not only get your heart rate up, but also to get some fresh air and sunshine. Remember that the benefits of exercise extend to strengthening muscles — including abdominals, which were affected throughout pregnancy — boosting energy, and reducing symptoms of PPD.3 Make sure to consult your doctor before starting more rigorous exercise postpartum, especially if you had any complications at birth. Don’t forget to work in Kegels exercises to strengthen pelvic floor muscles that were weakened throughout pregnancy to help regain maximum bladder function.
- Eat healthy. Fuel your body the right way with healthy energy, which is good for you as well as baby, if you’re breastfeeding. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center reports that moms who are breastfeeding need around 500 extra calories per day to keep up milk supply and they should consume “lean meats, high-fiber foods, low-fat dairy products, and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.”4 In addition to supporting breastfeeding, eating the right foods can help you lose pregnancy weight at a safe, healthy rate.
- Find clothes that make you feel good. Postpartum can be an uncomfortable stage, as your body slowly continues to change after baby’s arrival. Pregnancy clothes may no longer fit and you’re not quite back to pre-pregnancy clothes, so find options that are comfortable and convenient and make you feel good.
- Take photos to remember the moments. Oftentimes moms find that they’re the ones taking photos, but not actually in many photos with baby. Make sure to get some of you and baby together so when you look back, you’ll remember the happiness and milestones during the newborn stage.
- Leave the mess. Tending to baby will be your first priority, and making sure you stay healthy should be up there as well. If there are messes around the house, small tasks you don’t get to, try not to worry about them. They may be hard to ignore, but give yourself the grace and patience and realize what’s important in the moment.
Above all, enjoy every moment of life with your new baby. There are sure to be difficulties navigating caring for a new life and working through the postpartum stage, but before long you’ll be asking yourself how time flew by and how baby grew up so fast.
- National Library of Medicine. Postpartum Depression. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519070/
- Postpartum Hormones: What to Really Expect After Birth. https://www.healthcentral.com/womens-health/postpartum-hormones
- Mayo Clinic. Exercise after pregnancy: How to get started. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/labor-and-delivery/in-depth/exercise-after-pregnancy/art-20044596
- University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Nutrition and Sleep Postpatum: New Mom Services at UPMC Magee-Womens in Central Pa. https://www.upmc.com/services/south-central-pa/women/services/pregnancy-childbirth/new-moms/after-birth/nutrition-sleep-postpartum