SELF CARE FOR NEW MOTHERS: PART 1
New mothers often neglect to care for themselves
You’ve just had a baby. Congratulations on achieving the amazing feat of building a tiny human within yourself. You’ve just made it through 9 months of pregnancy which for some women can be a tough slog, dealing with various degrees of unpleasantness such as morning sickness, fatigue, fluid retention and back pain. And then you gave birth – whether it was a vaginal birth or a C-section, you were incredibly brave and strong.
During all this time, care and attention has been directed at you. You quite likely tried very hard to eat well and took your vitamins regularly with the intention of growing a healthy baby. Perhaps if you were lucky you were pampered with foot rubs, back massages and relaxing baths to soothe your aches and pains. You may have even attended pregnancy yoga or Pilates classes, aquarobics, or walked more regularly than you did before you were pregnant.
But now your baby has arrived and suddenly there’s not as much time to look after yourself, but it’s just as important to look after yourself now, as it was while you were pregnant. In this two-part article I will share with you some ways in which you can look after yourself without sacrificing too much of your time.
THINGS THAT NEW MUMS CAN DO TO TAKE CARE OF THEMSELVES:
1. Take an hour just for yourself each week
Recent research has found that new mothers who take at least one hour of time for themselves each week significantly reduce their chances of experiencing postnatal depression. How you spend this time is up to you, but if you need ideas, perhaps you could consider getting a massage, taking a relaxing bath, going for a long walk, attending a yoga class, going shopping, seeing a movie or sitting in the park reading a book.
2. Don’t stop talking your vitamins
You need to be getting an abundance of nutrients just as much now as you did while you were pregnant, this is especially important if you are breastfeeding. You lose a lot of minerals, including zinc and iron, while you are giving birth so it’s important to replace them.
Zinc has a lot of roles in the body but most notably for new mums it helps to keep your hormones balanced. Good levels of zinc also help wound healing and reduce nipple damage from breastfeeding.
Iron levels can drop if you lose a lot of blood during birth and this mineral is important for energy and immune health.
Magnesium and B vitamins are also very important for new mothers as they help with energy, mood and relaxation.
It’s just as important to look after yourself now, as it was while you were pregnant.
One hour each week for yourself, reduces the chance of experiencing postnatal depression.
Calm your mind by simply focusing on your breathing.
In the last two trimesters of pregnancy and during breastfeeding, babies require a lot of calcium to help build their bones. If your diet is low in calcium, then calcium will be removed from your bones to support the babies’ bone development. Thus it is vital that your calcium intake is adequate. Calcium, along with magnesium is also important for muscle and nerve health and low levels can contribute to tension. While it’s possible to get plenty of nutrients from food sources alone, new mums often struggle to find the time to eat well and so it is recommended to take a supplement as an insurance against deficiency. Talk to your healthcare practitioner about which supplements may be best for you.
3. Breathe to be calm
Meditation, mental stillness, or mindfulness comes in many forms, but my favourite way of calming the mind is to simply focus on the breath. Sit in a quiet spot, breathe through your nose slowly and by concentrating on the action of breathing, other thoughts are swept away. This may be something you can do during a nap time or at a time when you can have someone who can watch your baby for a little while. I would suggest that you take 5-10 minutes a day to do this by yourself, also while you are putting baby down to sleep. If you are feeling anxious or your mind is occupied with other tasks that you need to do, it will drag the process out as baby will pick up on your state of mind.
In the second part of this article I will share with you some further ways in which you can care for yourself after having a baby.
Alison Mitchell is a Naturopath based in Windsor and Bella Vista, NSW, Australia. She is passionate about helping people reclaim their health and vitality by blending traditional healing methods with the latest research. She has an interest in women’s health and digestive issues. She is a foodie and she believes that life is meant to be enjoyed and that good health is one of the best ways to do this. Connect with Alison on Facebook or on her website.