There aren’t many women these days who haven’t done some kind of antenatal preparation. Whether it is hospital classes, hypnobirthing or NCT, it is generally well accepted that it is a good idea to do some kind of research. And to have an idea about roughly what to expect when you come to giving birth. There is also a reasonable amount of talk about how to look after a baby. Nappy changes, feeding them, bathing them, where they should sleep etc etc but how many people talk about how to make sure that YOU are OK? How many people tell you that it might be a good idea to think about and prepare for the postnatal period too?
I do believe that there is a certain about of parenting a newborn that nothing can prepare you for. The sleepless nights. The relentlessness of feeding and changing and feeding again. The unbelievable love that you just didn’t know was possible. The change in lifestyle are all factors that you may need to overcome. But by planning ahead a little you can make a difference to your own resilience and that of your partners too.
The first thing that everyone talks about when it comes to new babies is sleep. And for good reason because it comes at a premium! But if we think about our body’s evolution, we have to reason that there must be some sense behind a baby’s sleeping pattern. When you look into sleep (Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep is a good place to start or Dr Chatterjee’s podcast where there are numerous related episodes), you see that humans weren’t actually designed to be up and active ALL DAY and sleep constantly at night. We should all be getting more rest and downtime than we do. It actually isn’t a bad thing to reassess our expectations when it comes to sleep. Accepting that you are going to be woken every 2-3 hours (or often more) for the foreseeable future can make that initial period much easier.
Everyone’s family and work situations are going to mean there is no one way to make it work but a few things to consider are:
Caring for a newborn can feel draining, relentless and unrewarding for some people. And even if you are LOVING IT there will be days when you crave some time for yourself. Think in advance about what that might be so you don’t have to be creative on 3 hours sleep. Again, this is about reframing it and knowing that you don’t have to go to a spa for a day. Just taking a 30 minute bath with some lovely bath salts can some time to yourself can make all the difference. Putting on your favourite song, eating your favourite meal, going for a walk (when you are ready) are all instant mood boosters.
In an ideal world you will be getting massages and a full postnatal check with a Women’s Health specialist. Even if that isn’t possible yet, create time to make sure you are nurturing your body every day. Shoulder circles, ankle circles, side bends and gentle twists are all great ways to mobilise your body at a time where you can end up being very static and immobile. A couple of weeks in, when you are starting to feel more mobile, go for regular walks to get your pelvic floor mobilised too.
I cannot overemphasise the importance of what you put into your body at this time. It is NOTHING to do with weight loss or ‘getting your body back’ and everything to do with nourishing and nurturing yourself. Your body is trying to recover from both pregnancy and birth while doing the demanding physical job of caring for a newborn so it is vital to take care of it.
Do some meal plans for the first few weeks and batch cook in advance as much as possible.
Think ahead and book online food orders scheduled way in advance so that is one job done for the first month or so.
Think about how and what you will eat when the baby won’t be put down.
Perhaps your partner can make your breakfast and lunch before they leave for work in the morning so you don’t need to do any food prep through the day
Eat lots of high quality protein to speed up the healing and recovery process
Eat good fats such as avocado, oily fish and nuts and seeds
Consider supplements to help replenish any depletion you may experience following your pregnancy
Did you know that men and women are biologically programmed to respond differently when a baby arrives on the scene? The mother’s hormones are on overdrive. She is likely to be consumed by the baby and totally focussed on what they need. Whereas men are programmed to continue to search for food etc and often their attachment builds more over time. Many women find their partner’s behaviour baffling in the early days as they return to work and to their ‘pre-baby’ lives with ease. It can often feel as if nothing has changed for them which can lead to resentment. But just the understanding that your bodies are working in the way that they were designed to can be helpful for both parties. It may give you a little more understanding of your partner’s perspective.
I hope that has been helpful. If you would like more information about Postnatal Recovery, I am doing a free webinar on Tuesday 29th June at 8pm with lots more information. You can also buy our Postnatal Recovery online course here.
Do get in touch if you have any questions.
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