Looking after Mum after baby is born
Before baby is born a mum-to-be usually has time to focus some time on herself, whether it’s a sneaky afternoon nap or a pamper day with friends - amidst the inevitable nesting and baby prep! Post-birth it can be a very different matter – often in Western Culture mum is expected to just ‘get on with it’ and embrace her motherhood role with a new found energy, at a time when she is least likely to have any. The attention that was on mum pre-birth, often shifts seamlessly to new baby. In some cultures the focus is much more on mum; in China new mums are traditionally confined to home for the first 30 days after childbirth, typically know as a ‘sitting month’. As a result, Mum gets to rest and recuperate both physically and mentally whilst family help out.
Mum needs to get some help and get the chance to sleep. A lack of sleep post-partum is linked to a number of health issues for new mums: extreme exhaustion, anxiety, post-natal depression (which affects at least 10% of mums post birth) and can also affect breast milk production – it may be worth noting that sleep deprivation has been used as a form of torture, better than thumb-screws but still very harmful!
How can new mum look after herself and be looked after in the first few weeks?
We all know the old saying ‘sleep when baby sleeps’ – not always possible, but try to grab any ‘sleep window’ you can with open arms. Your sleep-debt needs to stay as low as possible!
Both emotional and practical; don’t be too proud to ask family and friends. Use any help you can get so you can enjoy a ‘baby moon’ and get to know baby.
Join local mum & baby groups – but also try to continue pre-baby friendships so the conversation can be on subjects other than motherhood and babies! Talk to health professionals if you have any worries or concerns about yourself or baby – don’t feel like you’re wasting their time – they’re fully aware of how hard the first few weeks can be.
Take time off for yourself and don’t feel guilty – a long soak in the bath or a coffee with friends will help break what can feel like a monotonous cycle of feed, nappy, sleep… dedicate some time to yourself! Try to keep up old hobbies and interests so your role isn’t ‘just’ being a Mum. Try to relax – easier said than done though!
Eat well & exercise
Good nutrition can help encourage sleep - try to eat healthily and avoid caffeine and alcohol as much as possible, though the odd glass of wine is nothing to worry about!
Try to get some exercise - we’re not talking a marathon, a bit of yoga or even just a few stretches after sitting breastfeeding baby on the sofa for hours on end can be beneficial.
Venture outside! Even if it’s just a walk to the local shop and back - fresh air is proven to help encourage sleep – good for you and baby.
Don't strive for perfection!
Go easy on yourself - wearing PJ’s for 3 days straight is OK for the first few weeks - leave the housework for another day (or preferably for someone else) – it can wait. Don’t attempt to start a new project – ie renovating a house or planning a big event. Don’t try to be ‘perfect’ – it’s best to ignore other mums who are keen to publicise that their 6 week old baby already sleeps through the night - social media is particularly bad for this - channel your energies (or what little of it you have!) on baby and you!