Life After Birth: 5 Ways to Take Care Of Yourself

Check out part one and part two of our series of frequently asked questions on postpartum mood disorders. We are offering an exclusive discount to Today’s Mama’s readers. Enter code HMHBLOVESTM to take $40 off a lifetime membership to our program. In our two-part series on postpartum mental health, we mentioned the idea of upping your self-care game if you have the baby blues. (Please note: the baby blues is not a postpartum mood disorder. Read our previous posts for a clear explanation and check out this post about baby blues vs. postpartum depression.) Self-care is often neglected during the blur of new motherhood, so we hope these fun ideas will tempt you to treat yourself and indulge in some much deserved YOU time.

Enjoy Some Water Therapy

Budget: Ask your partner, a friend, family member or sitter to take your little(s) for an hour of uninterrupted time. Fill up your tub and add your favorite bubbles, oils, or salts (we love these Ancient Minerals bath salts). Light a candle, and turn on your favorite Pandora station loud enough to cancel out any potential baby/toddler noises. Make sure to lock the door, so your zen isn’t interrupted.

Splurge: Consider checking out a float tank (get approval from your provider first!) in your area. Float tanks (sometimes called sensory deprivation tanks) are large, light- and sound-free chambers concentrated with Epsom salt so your body floats to the surface. It can be used as a tool for stress and pain management. If you don’t have any float tank companies in your area, consider getting a day pass to a local spa that has a hot tub. Either way, you’ll still get some deep relaxation and restorative time alone.

Find A Supportive Community

We were designed to mother in communities. Reaching out for help is life skill that you can start practicing today! Sometimes a good laugh or venting session with a friend can help do the trick. Other times, you may need a more experienced professional to step in.

Budget:  Set up a babysitting swap with another mama friend. You watch her kid(s) while she enjoys some alone time, and next time she’ll watch yours. Don’t have any close mama friends? Ask anyone you trust to watch your little(s) and you can “repay” them with a coffee or have them over for dinner once you’re feeling up to it. Don’t want to be alone? Strap the baby in the stroller, grab a friend, go for a walk, and allow yourself an hour to just vent on how freaking hard motherhood is. Once you’re done releasing, discuss ways you can troubleshoot the difficult situations. Need professional support? Check out Postpartum Support International’s free, live “Chats With an Expert” which are facilitated by licensed mental health professionals. You can also see if your insurance covers visits to health professionals, such as a behavioral health and marriage and family therapists.

Splurge: Hire a personal trainer, registered dietitian (this may be covered by your insurance), life coach, or business coach who can offer you personalized strategies to reach your unique goals, whatever they may be.

Streamline Your Beauty Routine

I mean, you’re absolutely stunning without makeup, but sometimes it just feels nice to spend a few minutes brushing your hair and taking care of your skin. Take some time to figure out a quick beauty routine that works for you. If you know you can breeze through your beauty routine in under 10 minutes with products you love to use, you’ll probably make regular time to do so.

Budget: We all have that one friend who has fantastic hair and makeup. Ask her if she’d come over to take a look at your makeup drawer and help you figure out which products to keep; which products to toss; which products to invest in; and how to organize everything. She’ll be honored to share her tips with you, and you’ll get some girlfriend time in!

Splurge: Consider going to a local Ulta or department store make-up counter and have them give you a quick make-over. You’ll likely have to purchase a product and/or pay a small fee for the service, but it can be a fun, new way to recreate your style. Ask for a simple routine to keep it reasonable! Or, you can try Beautycounter’s 5-Minute Face Kit. You could also go to a nice salon and get a great new haircut. Ask the stylist for some tips for fabulous, low-maintenance style!

Channel Your Inner Bookworm

I’m talking fiction — dramatic, juicy, “I can’t put it down” books. I’m NOT talking sleep training books and the other millions of baby books that make you doubt your mama instincts. Pick a new favorite tome and find some time to read each week.

Budget: Head to your library and find something that will take your mind off of mom-ing for awhile. You may be able to time it just right to join the library’s mommy and me group while you’re there! Or, you could also borrow a book from a friend, family member, or neighbor who has similar interests. Consider joining a book club. You might be able to find a local one on Meetup, or you can join an online book club on Instagram, like Belletrist, Book Bento, or RWBookClub.

Splurge: Consider getting a Kindle or Audible membership to keep your personal library fresh with new options.

Get Help with Grocery Shopping and Food Prep

Budget:  Consider a time-saving grocery service, like Instacart. Some popular local grocery stores also offer this service, and Amazon Prime Now delivers groceries in specific areas. You could also host a  weekly meal swap with your neighbors/community, where you each make a few batches of your favorite meal. Then you can “trade” batches of your meal for other meals so you get a variety of meals throughout the week, with less work and prep time.

Splurge: Let meal-delivery companies do the cooking for you! There are plenty of Whole30 Approved options out there. If cooking relaxes you, but you’d like help with some of the prep work, consider a service like SunBasket. Maybe meal planning gets you down. In that case, a subscription to RealPlans might be the ticket. It will save you tons of time planning and you’ll find delicious, new recipes to keep your meals exciting.

Bonus ideas from our HMHB Community:

“Tiara time” Dedicate at least 5-minutes to yourself.  You can designate this time by literally putting on a toy tiara, or by sitting in a certain spot in your house. When your partner or (older) kids see that, they’ll know that you need a minute to recharge and that they can’t interrupt you until it’s over.

Purchase a new coffee mug with a fun slogan Choose something to make you smile every morning. I like mugs from Brim Papery and The Love Bomb Company.

Start a new hobby or rekindle an old passion. Strap on your dusty rollerblades, learn how to kickbox, decorate cakes, play piano, color, or dance. The options are endless!

Walk around Target without a child or a time limit What else is there to say?

Recognize Yourself

The simplest way to take care of yourself? Remind yourself that you’re still you! It’s important to “put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.” In order to be the best version of yourself, you need to have your own needs met, and this includes taking time for self-care. When you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re more likely to pick arguments with your partner, yell at your kids, and emotionally eat. Simply taking a few minutes for yourself each day can make all the difference. Give it a shot, mama! What do you have to lose? What’s your favorite way to take care of yourself? Join the conversation on Instagram or send us an email.


Steph(hi)-6Stephanie Greunke is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition who specializes in women’s health. She is a certified personal trainer and prenatal and postnatal corrective exercise specialist. Stephanie guides and supports women locally and globally through her web-based private practice, RockYourHormones.com.

 

 

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3 Ways I’m Working on my Postpartum Fitness

I feel like I’m finally on the mend from a difficult pregnancy and ready to start working on my postpartum fitness, but figuring out where to start has been hard!  I had just started being dedicated to exercising before I got pregnant and was unable to work-out during my pregnancy because of health problems, so I’m weak!  After doing some research and getting started, this has been what is working for me so far.

finding a work-out routine after having a baby

1. Starting Easy

Mama on the Mend has a fantastic article about easing back into postpartum fitness and exercise.  I had a particularly difficult pregnancy that has left me very depleted and weak, so starting with these easy stretches has been ideal.  The stronger I get the more I want to continue with more yoga in my life.  Not only does yoga help me physically, but I notice a huge difference in myself mentally when I take the time to meditate and focus on my breath.

 

SEE MORE:  7 Health and Fitness Instagrammers You Should Be Following

 

2. Walking

 I used to subscribe to a fitness magazine and I quickly noticed a pattern in every real life story they featured.  Every woman’s fitness journey started with one simple thing: walking.  It seems too easy, but it really is a great way to start getting back in shape.  Walking is amazing too because it gets me and my new baby outside in the fresh air.  I’m amazed at how much lighter my day goes if I get outside and walk.

Tips to working out postpartum

 

 

Having a new shiny, easy to use jogging stroller has all by itself made a huge difference for me being able to easily go exercise (you can check out my review here).

And a Bonus from Dare Bee:

how to work on a fitness routine after having a baby postpartum

 

SEE MORE:  7 Reasons Trampolines Aren’t Just for Kids

 

3. Make it Fun

I’ve written about my love for the Fitness Marshall before.  He’s amazing.  I’m still working up to doing most of his routines because they.are.intense!  I love that I can do this from home with my newborn bouncing in his chair watching me.  Hip-hop cardio is something I really enjoy doing, and that’s why it will ultimately be effective.  It is so important to find enjoyment in your exercise, it’s the only way I’ll stick with anything in the long-run!

What worked for you starting out after a baby?  Comment below!

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10 Ways to Survive Postpartum {The Fourth Trimester}

We need to talk about the postpartum period more.  Many new Mom’s prepare for pregnancy and prepare for the birth but often do not prepare for postpartum or know that they should!  

Surviving Postpartum

With this being my third baby, I’m all about getting ready for the fourth trimester.  A few things I learned after having my other two babies:

1. It’s not just 6 weeks.

For some reason our country has adopted this “You’ll be right back to your normal self in six weeks” attitude.  That’s crazy.  Even if your recovery really is a breeze and your baby is a dream…your life is still nothing like it was pre-pregnancy.  I once attended a birth of a woman that had recently moved to the US from Canada (and had previously had babies in Canada) and as I was reviewing postpartum instructions she stopped me and asked “You keep saying 6 weeks.  Six weeks from when?  Six weeks from when the baby was born?  Are American women expected to return to work and life at 6 weeks!??”  She was appalled.  Obviously many parts of your life have to resume, especially if you have other children, but as far as expecting yourself to be back to 100% it’s important to be forgiving.

From an excellent Cosmo article: “Childbirth is one of nature’s most wondrous but biologically brutal feats. For nine months, a woman’s muscles and bones bear the increasing weight of a baby that isn’t even slightly ergonomically positioned.  Sometimes, pelvic bones crack under the duress.

“[R]esearchers from the University of Michigan likened childbirth to running a marathon — only before a marathon, you train — after giving 68 women MRIs seven weeks after birth. The MRIs showed that 29 percent of them had evidence of fractures they never even knew they had in their pubic bones, while 41 percent had undiagnosed tears in their pelvic floor muscles, which wrap around the vagina and anus.”

Your body needs some gentle loving care after having a baby and 6 weeks just doesn’t cut it.  Plan on taking it easy and listening to your body as you recover!

2. Organize the Village

Say yes to help.  If anyone offers to take your other children, allow them to.  With my first baby my Mom and husband both took the week after she was born off and helped…and then they both left me!  It was shocking and scary that second week to suddenly be completely alone.  With my second baby I staggered my Mother and my husband so that my mom was here for the first week and my husband stayed home for the second week-it gave him the opportunity to tie things up at work and gave me 2 weeks of help. You can also consider a Postpartum Doula.  Postpartum Doula’s come to care for you, help with housework and care for your older children.  Right now I’m making lists of things my older kids can be doing, activities that they can be a part of and friends they can go play with-that way I’m not searching for these things after.  Anyone that is offering to make meals or help with anything I’m just tucking my pride away and saying YES!  Thank you!  

3.  Prepare for Breastfeeding {or not}

I highly recommend learning everything you can about breastfeeding before you have the baby.  Often we are so focused on getting the baby here that we miss crucial information in many of the pregnancy books and childbirth education classes about breastfeeding.  I was incredibly grateful to have been on WIC with my first baby because their lactation consultants contact YOU and I believe it was because of that extra help I received that I had a successful breastfeeding journey my first and knew what I was doing with my second.  Ask your care provider about what lactation resources will be available to you after you deliver and if additional help is available in the weeks following the birth.

I also recommend investing in a breast pump.  I was so grateful to have a single hand pump initially and if you’re planning on being home full time after the birth of your baby, that’s really all you need.  They are perfect for softening your breast before a feed if you’re engorged and for pumping extra here and there to store for a few hours away from your baby.  When I returned to work full time after my first child I realized I needed a double electric and thankfully now most insurance companies cover one!

Surviving Postpartum

It’s also a good idea to stock up on nursing pads and Bamboobies makes the loveliest reusable nursing pads!  They pretty much carry all of the most amazing breastfeeding goodies your heart could ever desire.  I love these soothing therapy pillows-they can be hot or cold and for sore boobs and nipples they are heavenly!

With both of my girls I’ve also done a few things to boost my milk supply-eating being the most important.  Many mothers get a little obsessive about losing the baby weight and immediately start dieting after their babies are born-it is so important not to restrict calories initially!  I’ve also found that staying well hydrated is extra important while nursing!  I really like this tea from Pink Stork that helps promote milk production and I recommend finding one that you like.  I keep lots of juice and coconut water on hand to mix it up when I get sick of water.

If you are choosing not to breastfeed, study up on milk suppression and stock up on needed supplies.  Cabbage leaves for inside your bra, sage tea and peppermint oil are all great ways to suppress milk production and make for an easier transition.  Knowing ahead of time how to help suppress it will help prevent difficulties like mastitis.

4.  Re-Vamp Your Wardrobe

I’ve known women that have packed pre-pregnancy jeans to the hospital to wear home.  They were sorely disappointed when that didn’t work out so well.  Postpartum is rough because maternity clothes make you look like you’re still pregnant and normal clothes typically don’t fit yet.  And personally I am so sick of my maternity clothes by the time I have my babies that I can’t look at them any more.  I recommend finding some high-waist yoga pants, some “boyfriend” style tees or nursing camisoles and a new pair of pajamas.  I’m also pretty in love with Dwell + Slumbers house dresses-they’re nursing friendly and darling!

Along with your new jammies, you’re going to want new bras as well.  Cake Lingerie amazes me with the sizes and styles that they offer (they go from 30A all the way to a 40K!).  I worked helping women fit nursing bras and it’s often HARD to find sizes.  Their nursing bras are buttery soft, supportive and so pretty!  I recommend getting a few to sleep in and a few to wear during the day.  I get nervous ordering online and everything I have from them was true to size!  Having good nursing bras is a must.

Surviving Postpartum

5.  Stock your Fridge/Freezer

Focus on nutrient dense foods but don’t think about weight-loss right now.  I love this article-it’s all healthy meals you can make and freeze all at once before the baby comes.  I was amazed with my other two how hard it was to cook for myself!  I was always so hungry but struggled to sit down and eat unless someone put food in front of me.  Gathering up favorite take-out menus isn’t a bad idea either.

And be sure to steal that giant hospital cup they give you with the straw.  Anything that will make eating and drinking easier is a good idea!

6. Stock your medicine cabinet

A few medicines that are a good idea to have on hand: Stool Softener, Ibprofen, and Tylenol.  I had miserable after-birth cramps with my second and staggering Ibprofen and Tylenol with a good heating pad really helped me survive.  Stool softeners have never worked well for me, but many women swear by them.  I do my best to stay well hydrated and drink lots of apple juice.  Know that if you’re pain/constipation/other ailments are too much to handle you can always ask your care provider for something stronger and you should always consult with your care provider about any medications you’re taking while breastfeeding.  Also-keep taking your prenatal vitamin!

7.  Take Care of your Undercarriage

Speaking of buying new bras…you’re going to want new undies as well.  These aren’t as fun to shop for because I’m talking about Depends and panties large enough to accommodate large maxi pads.  While you’re at the hospital be sure to fill up your bag with as many mesh panties and pads as they will give you.  If you need more you can always check out a homebirth kit supplier and grab more-the mesh panties are my fave so I stock up after delivery.  

Surviving Postpartum

Earth Mama Angel Baby makes some of my favorite things to take care of your lady bits after delivery.  Their Bottom Balm and Bottom Spray are incredibly soothing and assist with healing after delivery.  They also make a C-Mama Healing Salve for c-section mamas!  I’m very much looking forward to my postpartum herbal bath with my new babe.   I’ve also whipped up a batch of padsicles for after delivery and made a few homemade ice packs using alcohol and water (they stay flexible).  My vagina will be well taken care of after this birth.

After the majority of healing has taken place, but lochia is still flowing I’m really looking forward to using my THINX panties!  If you haven’t read up on our favorite period panties, you need to here.  THINX did not exist when I had my first two children and I am so excited to have them for this one!  No more wearing pads for a month!!  Once I’m past the initial overflow I’m switching to my sexy period panties.

8. Feather your nest

Before I had my first baby my husband insisted I sleep on a waterproof pad for the last few weeks of my pregnancy.  His instincts were good because my water did break while I was laying in our bed and I was very grateful not to saturate our memory foam mattress with amniotic fluid.  After the birth I continued sleeping on a waterproof pad-every part of me was leaking!  Between milk leaks and night sweats I saturated that pad often and was so glad not to be washing all of my sheets as often as I was needing to wash that pad!  

I also recommend stashing care kits around the house with snacks, nipple balm, nursing pads, wipes, etc. anywhere you plan on nursing.  It’s much easier to care for yourself if everything is within arms reach, especially initially.  Six months out you will be making dinner while nursing and doing kegels like a pro, but for those first few months it’s nice to make life easy.  Many moms love donut cushions,  nursing pillows, and other comforts to make life easier.  I love having a wrap to put my babe in so I can do things like dishes while still holding them close.

9. Exercise

Once again, this is not the time to be focused on weight loss.  That is not the season of postpartum.  Postpartum should be about healing because if you focus on healing now, things like weight loss go much better later!  Gentle, easy stretching, pelvic floor setting, yoga and short walks outside are a great way to begin physical activity again and can help with things like baby blues and postpartum depression.  Another thing to consider is Perineal Re-Education.  We’re not good at taking care of our pelvic floor after delivery here, but France is amazing at it!

With my first I dove back into work at 6 weeks, ate whatever I could and did not take care of myself.  I stayed heavy and was often sick and ended my first year postpartum a MESS.  My body had used up every last nutrient it had and my hair and nails were thin, I couldn’t kick infections and I was exhausted all of the time.  I started taking care of myself and eating better and by my second pregnancy I saw lots of improvement.  After my second I allowed myself the space to heal and focused on eating nutrient dense foods and loving my body.  I eased back into exercise gradually and easily was able to lose weight during that first year and stay healthy while doing it.  The fourth trimester is a time of healing, all of the other things really do come later IF you allow yourself to do that.

10. Research Contraception

During late pregnancy is a good time to start talking about contraception with your care provider, with your significant other and for yourself.  There is something about knowing I won’t have another baby for awhile that helps me sleep better at night during those first few postpartum months.  Many women are surprised that this is the main topic of conversation at their 6 week check-up and I find it’s much easier to go in with your mind mostly made up about what you would like to do instead of starting the discussion then. 

What helped you survive postpartum?

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