Women's wellbeing: Healthy habits to feel your best postpartum

Posted by iChild, May 09, 2023 11:43 AM

By Keoghan Bellew, qualified Personal Trainer at Fitness Supertstore, who specialising in supporting women through pregnancy and postpartum

Between recovering from labour, lack of sleep, and taking care of your new arrival, it can be easy to neglect your own physical and mental health. However, finding simple, everyday ways to look after yourself is one of the best things you can do as a new mother — not only will you feel better equipped for the demands of parenting, but you’ll also be less vulnerable to long-term health problems. Most importantly, postpartum health should never be approached with expectations that your body should ‘bounce back’ quickly or look how it used to look. Instead, be gentle with yourself and focus on key cornerstones like rest, good nutrition, and light movement that will help support your physical and mental health.


Rest as much as possible

Particularly in the early stages of your postpartum journey, rest is absolutely essential and should therefore be the first priority in your road to recovery. While parents might laugh at the distant memory of eight hours’ sleep, finding any possible moment to rest will benefit your mind and body. After all, we do most of our significant healing while we’re asleep, and after birth the body instinctively begins to recover and repair on its own. It’s often tempting to get housework or other jobs done while your baby sleeps, but when they’re napping, try to take this opportunity to do the same. Even a few minutes of shut eye will help keep you going throughout the day.

Physically resting, even if you don’t sleep, is also instrumental in allowing your body to recover. Your partner, friends, and family will no doubt want to help you navigate newborn life, so don’t be afraid of asking for help around the house if you need it. Find a large, supportive chair that you feel comfortable in, and sit in this while you nurse. You may also continue to use pregnancy pillows while you sleep or rest, to keep your neck, back, and hips in alignment.

Nourish your body

Especially if you’re breastfeeding, it’s so important to eat plenty of nourishing food and drink lots of fluids, as you will likely be hungrier and thirstier than usual. After all, your body is performing the amazing job of providing everything your baby needs to grow, thrive, and develop their immune system. Even if you aren’t able to breastfeed (or simply choose not to), your body will still have plenty of internal and external healing to do after labour, which takes up more energy and time than you may initially realise.

So, a major step towards a healthier postpartum journey is to make a nourishing, balanced diet one of your main priorities. This tends to be a more achievable step for most new mothers compared to getting adequate sleep or returning to exercise, as sometimes just making it through the day can be tiring enough! For example, prepping healthy meals for the week can be something that your partner takes on while you’re busy with baby’s bath time or getting them down to sleep. Alternatively, if friends and family ask if there’s anything they can to do help, you could always suggest coming by with a few healthy midweek meals to pop in the fridge or freezer. These can often be far more helpful and appreciated by new parents than flowers or balloons!

Keeping a large water bottle or travel mug near you can make it easier to stay hydrated, which is vital when your body is recovering from any major stress. Adding a few ice cubes or slices of lemon and cucumber can also encourage you to drink more, as it makes it a little more interesting than plain water.

Ease into movement

Generally, the NHS advise waiting until after your six-week check up to do any strenuous or high-impact exercise. However, if you exercised regularly before and throughout your pregnancy, you may feel ready earlier, but make sure to talk to your midwife or GP and get their professional advice on what’s best for you. Always be more cautious if you had a complicated birth, and listen carefully to your doctor’s advice on physical movement after a caesarean — the guidelines will differ from a standard birth.

You can start easing yourself into gentle movement when it’s safe and you feel ready, though: things like daily stretches, postpartum approved yoga, and simply heading out for a walk with the pram can have a host of benefits. Not only will low-impact exercise help aid your physical recovery, but any form of movement contributes towards your mental health. Remember that your joints and muscles tend to be weaker after pregnancy, so take it easy and focus on abdominal exercises to rebuild your core strength and support your back. Pelvic floor exercises should also be a key part of your recovery and rehabilitation.


Be kind to yourself

Many new mothers struggle to adjust to their postpartum body, which can sometimes lead to feeling insecure or even a little lost emotionally. It can be a bit of a journey back to yourself after pregnancy and birth, so try to approach this period of your life with a newfound respect and kindness to your body and the amazing things it has just done. Rest, good nutrition, and light exercise can all help your mental and physical health get back on track, but it’s also important that you take it slow and steady, without expecting overnight changes.

Whether they come to you, or you get outside, spending time with friends and family can gradually help you feel more like yourself and remind you of the support system you have around you. Baby groups can also be instrumental for new mothers who may not have the greatest support system of their own, as talking to other women who feel the same as you do can be immensely comforting. Even small things such as wearing loose-fitting, breathable clothing in the weeks and months after you give birth can help you feel less self-conscious or uncomfortable, letting you concentrate on what’s most important.

Pregnancy and birth are huge transitions to go through, so it’s important to support your body as much as you can postpartum. For more expert tips like this, check out the bumps & babies section.

By Keoghan Bellew


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