The postpartum time period is most often associated with the physical recovery from fatigue and the strain of labor and delivery. It is typically defined as the first six weeks after a vaginal delivery or eight weeks after a cesarean one. In addition to the physical healing that occurs in the weeks following the birth of a child, progesterone, estrogen, and prolactin hormone levels are also significantly changing consequently impacting the mother’s mood, sleep and more.
On top of these hormonal and physical changes, there is a lot to adjust to and navigate while taking care of the new addition to the family. Due to these reasons and more, it is critical to incorporate postpartum wellness strategies to stay healthy and reduce stress.
Postpartum wellness refers to taking care of oneself both emotionally and physically in the immediate six to eight weeks following the birth of a child.
Check out the NASM Wellness Coach course for other actionable wellness strategies.
5 Postpartum Wellness Strategies
Listed below are five essential wellness strategies to consider postpartum:
- Be Kind to Yourself
- Maintain a Growth-Oriented Mindset
- Incorporate a Daily Check-In
- Move and Nourish
- Allow and Seek Support
1. Be Kind to Yourself –During postpartum, it is easy to be hard on yourself as you navigate the new routine while adjusting to the hormonal shifts and physical changes taking place in your body. Immediately after childbirth it might be difficult to engage in regular daily behaviors like showering and cooking meals while taking care of an infant.
It is important to be kind to yourself and watch out for any negative self-talk in the weeks and months following the birth of your child. Remember that regardless of whether this is your first time being a parent or not, you are navigating a huge life change. The daily routine you had prior to the birth of the new member of your family will look significantly different than after.
You might be unable to do things around the house or have downtime in the same way you did pre-baby. In either scenario, talk to yourself as you would to a best friend going through a big life change. Be gentle and kind to yourself as you navigate through sleepless nights, loss of pregnancy weight, and the new routine of continuous diaper changes and feeds. It is also important to be kind to yourself, as it takes time for you to feel more like yourself.
2. Maintain a Growth-Oriented Mindset – Maintaining a growth mindset is an essential wellbeing strategy that helps new moms reduce stress, and respond positively not only to postpartum challenges, but also parenting as a whole. A growth mindset refers to having the belief system that your own abilities and skills can improve over time with continuous effort, learning, and internal resilience.
Despite how prepared a new mom might feel initially from the preparation done during pregnancy, nothing can truly prepare a person one hundred percent for the time post childbirth. Every mom’s postpartum experience is unique, and every new baby has their own unique personality and temperament. Consequently, your experience might not mirror what you read, researched, or might have experienced following the birth of another child before. Similarly, knowing how to respond to your child’s sleeping and feeding cues might take time.
Keeping a growth-oriented mindset will help remind yourself that it is okay to learn and improve your ability to understand your baby’s needs and wants over time. Embracing this philosophy is an essential way to stay well emotionally not only during the postpartum timeframe, but also during the first year as you navigate through your child’s developmental milestones.
3. Incorporate a Daily Check-in – Taking care of a new baby can be demanding and require all of one’s attention and energy. Due to this, it can be normal for new moms to forget to check in with themselves on what they need to stay well both physically and emotionally.
An important strategy to incorporate post-partum is to prioritize an internal check-in with yourself daily. This check-in can be simply asking yourself the following questions, “How are you feeling physically?”, “What are you experiencing in the present moment emotionally?”, “What do you need in this moment to feel more grounded and/ or supported?”
These questions can be quite powerful to increase awareness on what you might need. A daily check-in could also be done as a mindfulness practice incorporating five to ten minutes of meditation, deep-breathing, and/ or others. With either approach, having a better awareness of what you need to be well is the first step in obtaining it.
4. Move and Nourish – Once you get the all clear from your physician, introduce gentle movement back into a daily routine. Go for walks with the baby outside and/ or walk around the house if that works better depending on the season and climate. Gentle movement not only helps physical wellbeing efforts, but also boosts mental energy and mood as well.
In addition to introducing gentle movement back into a routine, focus on drinking enough water to stay hydrated. This is especially important if you are nursing or are planning to nurse.
Drinking enough water is essential for cognitive functioning and emotional regulation, especially while operating on minimal sleep. Furthermore, focus on eating whole foods and meals that sustain energy throughout the day.
For example, start the day with oatmeal mixed with blueberries and flaxseed, snack on hummus and carrots, and consider lunches and dinners that include a variety of vegetables and lean protein. These types of foods will help with your energy and mood as you take care of the baby.
5. Allow and Seek Support – Give yourself permission to allow support from loved ones in your life. Say yes when friends and family offer to cook, clean, or take care of the baby to assist in those early weeks.
This can allow you to heal and incorporate emotional and physical self-care into your day. If you are used to doing everything on your own without help, then this strategy can be difficult to do initially. However, it is extremely helpful to allow yourself to do so. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends and family if needed. Remember, asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but of strength. A self-aware person knows when they need support and are not hard on themselves when asking for it.
If you experience baby blues in the early weeks or months after the birth of your child, know that this can be a normal part of the journey. Approximately seventy to eighty percent of women may experience symptoms like unexplained crying, irritability, mood fluctuations, and sadness.
If you find that you need additional support based on how you are feeling, remember that your OB-GYN is there to support you. Contact your OB-GYN or primary care physician if you feel that your mood isn’t improving and depressive symptoms are lasting daily for two weeks. Regardless of whether you experience baby blues or postpartum depression, know that you are not alone. Seek support as needed.
Every mother’s journey postpartum is different, but incorporating these strategies can help keep emotional wellness top of mind during the postpartum time frame. In addition to prioritizing these efforts during the postpartum period, it is important to continue these self-care efforts throughout the first year as your child grows and develops. Sustaining these efforts in the long run will be an essential way to stay well emotionally during each infant and toddler phase.