Society loves pregnant women! The bigger the belly, the more admiring looks and unwanted gropes pregnant women receive. By the end of your third trimester, you feel lush, full, and like the center of the universe – if not also like a planet with moons in your orbit.
Then – baby comes! You’ve just provided the world with another human being – your biggest rockstar moment to date! Immediately afterward, everything is focused on the baby. There’s no party for you, no celebration of your studliness or trophy for your awesomeness. Everyone’s giving gifts to the baby – which is great, and you’re grateful that there will be more laundry to do while you waddle around the house with your stitches, hemorrhoids, and your chest leaking milk. Ha.
So often in this culture women feel completely forgotten after childbirth, though the demands on them during this time will never be greater. It is no wonder so many women today experience post-partum depression and anxiety. From all-night feedings to the fact that everyone’s got an opinion, new moms have a LOT on their hands, and our culture expects them to be quickly back to work, back to skinny jeans, and smiling beautifully to boot.
Medically speaking, the first years after birthing our children are crucial. If women are not properly cared for, and also caring for themselves during this time, many chronic and serious health conditions can begin which may not show symptoms until later in life.
Whether you just had a baby, or did several years ago, it is never too late to address the physical, mental, and emotional needs of your post-baby body.
While it is a medically complex time, there are a few basic guidelines that are of the utmost importance.
GET PROPER NUTRITION – EAT!
Nutrient dense food is a MUST for new moms. Think daily bone broth, raw milk, cheese, yogurt, lots of eggs, liver, cod liver oil, meats cooked in bone broth, and plenty of fruits and veggies too. Traditional medicine suggests new moms eat nutrient dense soups as part of their daily diets – including soups made with bones, feet, and some vegetables in there as well.
REST REST REST
Good sleep can sometimes be hard to get when you’re waking for feedings every 2-3 hours, but proper rest is a must for post-partum healing. The year of your life that comprises pregnancy and the “fourth trimester” are the most important times in a woman’s life to slow down. Expect less of yourself, and get used to doing less. Nap as often as possible. As grateful as you are for your new Little One, you are healing from one of the most taxing experiences you will ever have – physically, mentally, and emotionally.
9 MONTHS ON, 9 MONTHS OFF
The months after pregnancy are not the time to be concerned with how your size 4’s are fitting or getting back into your old clothes even. Being an athlete and a super active person, this was one of the hardest things for me to accept early on and a very important one for my health. While some of my less athletic friends shed their baby weight after only 2 months, it took my body a full year to shed the extra 35 pounds I had willingly gained in my pregnancy. Every attempt I made to force my body to do this sooner simply fatigued me. I took lots of walks and hikes with the baby, and one day close to my daughter’s one-year birthday I realized I could fit back into my pre-baby clothes. It is a very important time to listen to your body. There is a wisdom to the saying “9 months on 9 months off.”
… Lots and lots of help – more than you are comfortable asking for, and more than you think you need. Laundry help. Cooking help. Hold the baby while I shower help. Amazon home delivery shopping help. I’m 40 and my mom is doing my grocery shopping help. Also, try putting a sign on the door. Have your hubby or partner tell people who want to come see the baby that they are welcome, but it would be appreciated if they would cook a meal, bring groceries, or plan to stick around and throw a load of laundry in or do the dishes while they’re there. The last thing new parents need is to be hosting guests and cleaning up after them. No. NO. No.
GET AROUND OTHER MOMS
Get around people with whom you can be real. Find women around whom you can be yourself and talk, laugh, cry. Be yourselves. Research has proven that when women get together and talk (as we know we do) it boosts our oxytocin levels. That’s that feel-good hormone that makes us feel a sense of bonding. It has also been proven medically to reduce inflammation in the body. Yep! Chilling with your gal pals actually makes your body heal faster and makes you healthier all around on a chemical level. Oxytocin also provides feelings of calm and contentment, decreases anxiety, and augments a feeling of security.
ASK YOUR MEN TO READ THIS
Rememeber, Honey is going through his own changes too. AND he did not just gestate and birth the baby physically, nor is he breastfeeding… Because you did, and you are, your hormones are in a huge state of flux and your body is working overtime to feed the Tiny One that has just arrived. You need extra support in terms of getting good healing. You need him to be your champion now and to support you in taking care of yourself.
WHEN TO SEEK HELP
As an acupuncturist, I have to strongly educate my pregnant patients about the post-partum period. The clients who return to my care soon after having their babies have easier recoveries all around. The post-partum period is the MOST IMPORTANT time to get support with your body, mind and heart, and it is the least likely time women will focus on themselves. Part of that is the all-consuming joy of parenthood, and part of it is the difficulty of figuring out how to get time away. Part of it is also because we so quickly forget about ourselves when taking care of others.
If you are showing signs of depression, are having physical difficulties, or have none of these at all, I recommend you check in with an alternative care provider in your area (or even online) who is knowledgeable about the post-partum period. Wellness care, also known as preventative medicine, is considered the highest form of medicine in the Chinese classics.
If you feel severely depressed, please call your doctor immediately. Post-partum depression is a serious condition that may require medical assistance.
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