The first 12 weeks after birth, often called the 4th Trimester, have been recognized as a key period of development for your newborn. What is gaining more attention from doctors, educators, and our culture at large is the importance of mom’s recovery during this 4th Trimester. The most recent recommendations encourage a new mother to see their Health Care Provider for follow up care within the first three weeks after giving birth, as opposed to the previous standard of waiting until 6 weeks. Several studies have found that feeling prepared and supported, both physically and emotionally, means you are less likely to feel overwhelmed, fatigued, stressed, anxious or depressed.
Here are some things you can do to aid your body’s recovery, boost your mood and work towards having more energy after childbirth.
#1 REST when you can
You may have heard from others, “Sleep when your baby sleeps.” That’s good advice, but what if you can’t fall asleep? What is most important is to REST! Put your feet up to allow your body slow down and recover during baby’s sleep cycles. These quiet moments are not the time to do dishes or laundry or clean the house—you may be able to have friends or family help with household tasks. Resting when you can in these early days and weeks means your body will recover and rebound more quickly.
#2 EAT and drink to nourish your body and boost energy
Just like during your pregnancy, focusing on eating a balanced, nutrient-rich diet will speed up your body’s ability to care for itself. Eating regular, frequent meals is key to supporting your body’s healing during those early week. If you’re breastfeeding, you’ll need to take in an additional 500 calories per day beyond what you ate when pregnant. Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day and night, but consume caffeine in moderation. There are lots of resources available for postpartum foods including cookbooks and meal delivery services. Here are a few we recommend:
The First Forty Days by Heng Qu
MaMeal offers meal delivery in Illinois and Wisconsin with 3 different mommy-focused plans and teas
If you have a persistent lack of appetite, it may be a sign of a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder so be sure to talk with your Health Care Providers as soon as possible.
#3 Take a WALK
You may not be up for much physical activity after giving birth—this is perfectly normal. A short walk down the street or around the block may be all you can manage, but it will make all the difference! Getting some fresh air can be very beneficial to your physical recovery, mood and sleep.
As your body feels ready for more exercise and movement, start slow and simple. Check in with your Health Care Provider before beginning vigorous exercises. Pay attention to your body during and after exercise and be patient as your energy, stamina, and range of motion continue to change in this new body. Walking, postpartum yoga and stretching will help build up energy levels and prepare you for more intense and prolonged exercise.
#4 Connect with others and welcome HELP!
It can be all too easy for new parents to become isolated. As they say, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Asking for help when you need it and being willing to accept help when it is offered means you can rest, recover and spend time with your new baby. People love helping out new families! Want to stay in control or provide certain directions? Have a list ready to share: how do you like your laundry done, what foods would you like for a meal train or meal delivery service, special things to know about your dishwasher, cleaning the litter box or walking the dog, where the vacuum is stored.
Accepting support from family, friends, or professionals is a sign of strength and it also enlarges and strengthens your community.
#5 Take a shower or a BATH
Warm water can bring physical relief to the post-birth body. Taking the time for a bath can provide an important emotional break for a new mom. Sitz baths, full immersion baths and showers offer different ways for your body to release tension, promote circulation and healing, and just feel better. Using hot and cold compresses on the bottom, belly or breasts can also be healing tools. Just a few minutes in a shower or bath can feel restorative and energizing, allowing you to show up more fully with your baby.
#6 Consider supplements
Herbs, essential oils, teas, tinctures and other supplements may aid your post-birth body. Talk to an herbalist or your health care provider to learn more about your options and what will work best for you. Placenta encapsulation has been said to improve mood, increase your energy level, decrease your recovery pain, decrease fogginess, and promote lactation—this does require contacting a certified placenta specialist during pregnancy.
#7 Build your VILLAGE of professional support
Friends and family can be wonderful supports for new parents, but they can also be more celebrators than supporters. During the later stages of pregnancy, most parents-to-be choose their pediatrician. Use this time to also build your wider network of professional and community support. Make connects, or at least have a list of names on your fridge, so you are ready whenever the need may arise. Who to include on your village list: a therapist or counselor specializing in perinatal support, a lactation consultant, breastfeeding support groups, and a new moms or new parents support group. Having a supportive partner, friend, or postpartum doula help you gather resources, sort through the options or make a phone call will get you the support you need.
Interested in professional postpartum support? At Birthways Chicago our postpartum doulas are experts in providing knowledgeable, compassionate and non-judgmental guidance and reassurance as you settling into parenting.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: Optimizing Postpartum Care
American College of Nurse-Midwives: Post-birth recovery
March of Dimes: Your Body After Baby: The First 6 Weeks