When you have a baby, it can be tempting to race straight back to our pre-baby lives, doing all the things we think we should be doing, and feeling guilty if we don’t. We’re bombarded with media images of new parents looking immaculate, taking older children to the park, going to events etc. We might see friends and influencers on social media out and about a few days after birth, and there is so much information on how to ‘get back to normal’ after birth, that it’s not surprising we think that’s what we should be doing. The reality is that you need time to recover – from both pregnancy and birth.
Here are 5 tips for helping with your postnatal recovery.
Eat and drink well. Your body can’t heal if it isn’t fuelled. Warm, nourishing foods are great to help your physical recovery. Eating well and staying hydrated also have the benefits of helping fight fatigue, helping to prevent constipation, and helping milk supply if you’re breast/chest feeding.
Keep a bottle of water with a sports cap near the toilet. The first few visits to the toilet after a vaginal birth can be sore, especially if you’ve had stitches. Squirting water from a bottle over your vulva and perineum as you wee can dilute the urine and help to prevent stinging. Leaning forward on the toilet can also help. If you’re stuggling to poo, pop a step under your feet to raise your knees. If you’re having any problems with your perineum always ask your midwife or GP to check for signs of infection.
Wear comfortable clothes. This may sound obvious, but after 9 months of maternity clothes you can understand the desire to get back to your old wardrobe. However, if you are recovering from a caesarean birth, or if you have sore breasts, then tight waistbands and restrictive tops will be really uncomfortable. Wear loose clothing, or stay in your PJs. There’s no rule that says you have to get dressed!
Get support. Having a support network postnatally will make a massive difference to your recovery. Rope in a team of people who are happy to help out with all the day-to-day stuff like cleaning, cooking and shopping. If you have older children, see if there’s another parent from school who could help with the school run. If you have a dog, see if someone else will walk it for you, or consider hiring a dog walker for a couple of weeks. It might be you have friends and family who can help out, or you might want to hire a postnatal doula to support you both practically and emotionally. Whatever you do, accept all offers of help! (And if you’re looking for a postnatal doula in Portsmouth then you know where to come!)
REST! There are many cultures around the world where there is a postnatal lying-in period. Your only job after birth is to look after your baby! In the western world there is this expectation that we’ll be up doing all the things just days after our babies are born, but rest is so important to your physical & emotional wellbeing. Don’t feel guilty for staying in bed or spending all day on the sofa. Your body is healing – and it will heal better and quicker with rest!
Written by Sarah Lewis – antenatal teacher and postnatal doula in Portsmouth.