Things to Do After Baby
When you bring your bundle of joy home, it’s expected for things to get slightly overwhelming. Between meeting all the baby’s basic needs, trying to feed the rest of your family and keep the house at least acceptably clean, it’s easy to forget to take care of yourself during this busy time. Here is a short list to help you remember things that need to be done for you and your body during the postpartum period:
1. Address the family planning early on.
Yes, you just had one baby and the next one may not be on your mind for a while. However, figuring out your contraceptive options early is going to help you avoid difficult situations later. If you feel like you are done having babies for at least several years, an IUD may be a viable option for you. On the other hand, if you want to space your pregnancies closely, inserting an IUD only to remove it a few months later may not be a good idea. If you are breastfeeding, a combined oral contraceptive pill is not an option. Progesterone only pills are usually used for breastfeeding mothers, however, it may still cause a decrease in milk supply, and small amounts of progesterone from the pills still do get excreted in breast milk. It is considered safe to breastfeed on progesterone, but make sure you do your research and evaluate all the factors before opting for this method. And, while we are on the subject, we are convinced that breastfeeding as a method of contraception can only be relied on when you are actually trying to have another baby. If you are not ready to promote your little one to a older sibling status, do not count on breastfeeding for pregnancy prevention, and consider more traditional methods instead.
2. Get a good haircut.
With the intense hair loss most women face in the postpartum period, that pre-baby hairstyle that looked so beautiful on your thick pregnancy hair likely looks totally different now. When the first craze of bringing the newborn home has passed, your routine is semi-established, and you are ready to try leaving the baby with your partner for an hour or two, do something nice for yourself and schedule a hairdresser appointment. While your first concern for the new haircut will likely be “low maintenance”, some women also find it helpful to get bangs to conceal the thinning hairline. Additionally, it might help going with a shorter length (which, in combination with less hair in general, will give you an even shorter drying time), and getting rid of layers for a while. Whatever you choose, remember that the experience of finally pampering yourself is as important as the result!
3. Sort through your closet.
With the pre-pregnancy clothes you hope to wear again one day, pregnancy styles that are getting a little bit loose on you now, and newly purchased nursing clothes, your closet is probably the fullest it’s been in a long while now. So, when your baby finally graces you with a nap somewhere other than on your chest, take a minute to sort and organize your possessions. Move any pre-pregnancy styles, that do not quite fit you yet into the far corner of the closet, so that they do not interfere with A. your body image B. your attempts to get dressed while still mostly asleep. The same goes for any clothes without breastfeeding access if you are nursing or pumping. You can also safely move any pregnancy clothes that are too big on you now into the storage. Even if you plan on having another baby fairly soon, it will still be several months until you need them. Make sure you have enough of the comfy and flattering clothes to wear right now and stock up on any essentials you may be missing, such as comfy nursing bras. Let those items take front and center of your closet, and avoid wasting your precious energy on fighting with your wardrobe.
4. Remember the vitamins.
You may not be in a prenatal period anymore, but good nutrition and the correct vitamin supplements are just as important during your postpartum period. Continuing your prenatals for this time is the easiest option, but a well formulated mutli-vitamin will also do the trick. Some important ingredients to look for include iron to help your body replenish the blood loss you had with delivery, calcium to help mineralize your bones and avoid osteoporosis, B vitamins to help with healing and recovery, and Omega 3s which have been shown to help with postpartum depression. Vitamin D deserves a special mention as it’s crucially important for both mom and the new baby. Your pediatrician will likely suggest you give your baby Vitamin D drops if you are exclusively breastfeeding, however, research shows, that mother’s supplementation with 6400 IU per day may bring the vitamin D in her milk to a sufficient level.
5. Visit a pelvic floor physical therapist.
It’s no secret that your pelvic floor muscles take on a lot of stress during pregnancy and childbirth. That stress can lead to a condition called pelvic floor dysfunction which, in turn, can cause such symptoms as urinary leakage, perineal and pelvic pain, and organ prolapse. While weakening of the pelvic floor is now commonly recognized as a cause of postpartum urinary problems, with Kegels are often recommended as a remedy, the term “dysfunction” is much more fitting for this problem. Though some of the muscles may be overstretched and weakened from childbirth, it is also common to have muscles that are overly tight, especially following a tear or episiotomy during labor. Simply doing Kegels may help strengthen the weak muscles, but may also lead to more tightening in the ones that were already tight, causing pelvic discomfort and painful intercourse. A pelvic floor therapist can help release the tight muscles and trigger points in your perineal area, as well as teach you to do Kegels and muscle stretching correctly and safely. As a bonus, they can also help you with assessing your diastasis and show you the correct exercises to reduce it.
6. Get screened for postpartum depression.
It’s great to see the awareness of postpartum depression rising in the recent years. However, reading about it is one thing, and having it happen to you is something totally different. The truth is, along with the joy of having a new baby join the family, many mothers are also feeling sad, anxious, and overwhelmed during the postpartum period. While any significant life event or change in your lifestyle may put you at risk for developing depression, new mothers are especially vulnerable to this condition due to hormonal changes, physical exhaustion, and sleep deprivation. Remember: feeling down is never your fault. If your baby blues are lasting more than a couple of weeks, share the problem with your healthcare provider and get screened for postpartum depression.