How are YOU doing?
This is a question many health professionals forget to ask, and what a vital question it is for a new postpartum mamma…
The prenatal period is filled with so much attention, concern, nurturing, and love for the pregnant mum and her growing belly. There is plenty of interest in how you are, how baby is growing, and excitement for the expectant birth.
You experience a full nine months of planning, prepping, preparing the room, attending ante natal classes, joining prenatal yoga classes. There is an incredible shift in the mindset, motives and intentions of a pregnant women, and as her body changes, so she also finds change in her diet, daily practices and routines.
The prenatal experience is one of constant check-ups and check ins with your professional health teams, your family,your friends, your community…. And then you have your baby. Your precious bundle of joy has joined your family, and you are now a new mamma… and that interest and support for you and your health seems to dry up,and you are left all alone to tend to the needs of your newborn baby.
Of course there are Congratulations…
Of course there are many friends and family who want to meet and cuddle your new baby.
Of course there is plenty of love, and attention being passed around, but who is asking
- how YOU are feeling?
- If YOU have eaten, slept or had a cup of tea?
- If YOU need a time out or perhaps a bath or shower?
The focus has shifted now, and moms are often left behind.
There is so much concern and attention focused on your new-born, that as a mum you usually forget to pay any attention to yourself. We have a great medical system that offers phenomenal health care for women during pregnancy, but once a woman has a baby, her focus shifts to caring for her new little one and her own health tends to suffer.
During this postpartum haze of blissful baby bonding, breastfeeding, lack of solid sleeping, and a whole host of new life lessons to learn, it’s no wonder being a new mamma- can be a little more than overwhelming.
The postpartum period, introduces you to your new baby, but also to your new postpartum body, and just as you loved, cared for and nourished your prenatal body, you need to spend some time focusing on the love, and nourishment of your postpartum body too.
As a Homoeopath and women’s health advocate, I see how often women postpartum suffer from deficiencies, sadness, weakness, and pain. Many doctors don’t cover this information and only usually share it when prompted. It is so important for women during this postpartum stage, to tap into the guidance and advice of their health care providers and really take the time to focus on their own health and nourishment too.
There is a huge drive for new mums to bounce back after a birth, to post her new born photos and then get back on track to her old life, but no-one explains that your old life is just that, OLD. You will never go back there, you have journeyed nine months to get here, and you are transitioning into something new.
All transformations and change take time, there is no rush to be anything other than where you are right now.
Give yourself permission to slowly evolve from one phase into another, and release the need to follow the influence, the chaos and the cacophony of the outside world.
Your postpartum period is one that should be treated with compassion, kindness and reverence; for you are blossoming from the bud of pregnancy into the full bloom of motherhood.
Give yourself TIME and HONOUR this phase.
Below are my handy hints to stay happy, healthy, strong and supported during this beautiful new phase of mother hood.
1. Nourishment from the inside out.
Eat nourishing whole food. This sounds so simple but anyone learning to care for a newborn knows that eating anything on some days can be trickier than it sounds. Your nutritional status postpartum is crucial. To be clear, your baby gets exactly what she needs from your breast milk, and you’ll enjoy whatever nutrients are leftover. If you aren’t eating a balanced diet, you can be left with next to nothing.
Try to eat as many as five to six small meals through the day, and include water intake with every meal. Foods to focus on include eggs, lean protein, nuts, pulses, and legumes, the more fruits and vegetables you take in, the better your chances of fueling your diet with powerful micronutrients.
Include high energy snacks like mango’s, bananas, coconut oil, as well as super-foods like macca powder, hemp protein powder, and raw cacaoa.
Don’t be afraid of eating, food is your fuel, and you will be feeding not only your baby, and your body, but your mood and energy too.
2. Supplement your diet
Many women stop taking their prenatal multivitamin as soon as their baby is born. Your body’s demand for certain nutrients can actually be increased postpartum, especially if you’re breastfeeding, so please continue to take your prenatal multivitamin as long as you’re nursing.
You want to include: Folate, DHA, fish oil, calcium, Magnesium, Iron and vitamin B12.
Other supplements to focus on, are herbs that will assist in balancing the stress/cortisol/Adrenalin cycle in your body. With all the changes of birth, and breast feeding, and new demands on your sleeping, and feeding patterns, your body often copes by tapping into your adrenal glands and running off “fight or flight”- this is a sure fire way to send yourself into a state of burn out and adrenal fatigue. In order to prevent this, support your adrenal glands with herbs like Wythania and Ashwaganda.
3. Support yourself
Support your physical body, by wearing protective and supportive underwear. When you are pregnant your abdominal muscles stretch, expand and make space for your growing baby, and it will take time for these muscles to tone up and move back into place. Have patience, it took nine months to grow, and will often take nine to twelve months to change back.
Remember healing takes time; there is no need to rush. By practicing patience, you are tapping into your body’s own healing powers; muscles will slowly knit back together, neurons will begin to shift, and you will set up new pathways within the brain and nervous system, to actively prepare for your new role as mother.
Find your mind – body connection, and support your body in its efforts to tone up, by practicing good posture when you are breastfeeding, walking, sitting or moving around the house.
I am a firm believer in slow and gentle exercise within the postpartum period. Your body is still surging with hormones, and your connective tissue and skeleton is still shifting back into place, rather focus on mindful, low impact movement like yoga and swimming.
Support your physical surroundings- we are a social bunch. As human beings we thrive on human contact, we need to feel heard, we need to connect and share, and for complete emotional fulfillment we need to feel supported by our community.
This is so important for the postpartum mamma- tap into your surrounding community, ask for help and guidance and support.
Support can come in many forms, your husband can be on nappy changing duty, your mother in law can make the tea, your sisters can be on dinner delivery, your mum can watch your baby whilst you eat, or sleep or shower.
Our families and friends are our community, they are our emotional and physical support group, and it is of huge importance that new mammas’ learn to tap into this vital resource.
Remember they love you, and their service is a way of sharing and receiving their love.
If you are unable to connect with your family, or they are far away from you, there are some wonderful postpartum doulas who offer physical, and emotional support to a new mom, by tending to her needs, offering advice, or taking care of your new born for a few hours nap.
Remember who you are…
Yes you are a mamma, you have the proof of your gorgeous bundle in your arms, at your breast, content and warm and safe.
But you are also you, with your thoughts, your feelings, your desires, passions and dreams.
Keep this element alive, feed your inner self, love, nourish and nurture your soul too.
Your new job is to care for your baby, but remember that you are far more effective, and of much more use to your family, if you are happy, healthy and rested.
Give yourself some time every day to relax, unwind and focus on your health. Connect with your friends, or other mums, get outside and go for a walk in nature, reconnect with the outside world, listen to your favourite song, treat yourself to a massage, and truly surrender to loving and nourishing yourself as you did in your prenatal stage.
This love and nourishment will refuel you, and give you the strength to return to caring for your baby and your family with more gusto then before.
Congratulations mamma…. Enjoy this beautiful new phase of your life, and continue to tap in and ask…. How YOU are doing.