5 Ways to Stay Healthy After You Have a Baby

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By Marisa Belger

Pregnancy is all about making decisions: Will you find out the baby’s sex? Will you take the prenatal tests? Will you cheat with that glass of wine? Paint the nursery blue? Or yellow? Or pink? And the decision-making doesn’t stop there. You have to decide whether to work with an OB or midwife; whether to hire a doula; if you’ll give birth at home or in a hospital; if you should invite your mom or your best friend to the big occasion or keep it simple with just your partner and your hypnotherapy tapes at the ready.

You may think that once your little one is cradled in your arms the decisions will screech to a halt. But nothing could be further from the sleep-deprived, dirty-diaper-changing truth. Life as a new mama requires you to not only make continuous decisions for your babe, but also asks you to make good choices for your own well-being – forces you, really. The early days post-partum are a rush of physical adjustments as you are reintroduced to your body; emotional adjustments as your hormones ebb and flow and identity adjustments as you sink into your new role as parent. To keep yourself strong -- and sane – as you navigate the early days with baby, Lara Kohn-Thompson, an NYC-based perinatal educator and massage therapist, suggests that you make the following 5 decisions for yourself:

  1. Sleep when the baby sleeps. (Really.) Catching some z’s when your latest addition snoozes is one of the most common pieces of advice for new mamas, but few actually succeed in pulling it off. Push back the guilt (“I should be doing more!”) or the worry (“What if I don’t wake up when he/she starts to cry?”) and decide to close your eyes whenever the opportunity arises.
  2. Hydrate and feed yourself. You can’t sustain your baby properly, if you don’t sustain yourself. Make a commitment to eat three meals a day -- ensuring that you’re getting enough protein -- and drink plenty of water (see #’s 3 and 4, below).
  3. Allow others to care for you while you care for your baby. Hopefully you were able to practice receiving help while you were pregnant. Now’s your chance to take it to the next level. Being a new mother requires that you give, give, give – so decide that it’s okay to receive. Accept help from your partner, your family, your neighbors, your friends. Let them clean your house, make you food, even answer your calls and emails. “If any guests come over to meet your bundle of joy, make it clear that they have to take care of themselves,” suggests Kohn-Thompson.
  4. Trade baby gifts for support. “When people ask you what you need, skip the presents for something you – and your partner – can really use: hot meals, massage sessions, house cleaning,” says Kohn-Thompson. Technology allows gift givers to purchase everything from dinner for two or an hour of shiatsu online. Direct them to Send a Meal (http://www.sendameal.com/new_baby) or your favorite spa’s website.
  5. Go slow. The first three months after your baby’s birth is a fragile and transformative time. Treat it like the Fourth Trimester – your time to find your center again and regain your strength. “Your body is in a period of involution,” says Kohn-Thompson. “It worked so hard processing nine months of your baby’s growth and processing labor – now it’s processing lack of sleep and nursing a newborn.” Take it easy. Decide to be gentle on yourself. Don’t overexert your body or add unnecessary items to your already full to-do list.

Learn more about Lara Kohn-Thompson at: www.larakohnthompson.com.

Marisa Belger is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in numerous magazines and websites including Natural Health, Prevention, Travel + Leisure, and New York. Her latest book "The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother" is now available to buy on Amazon and includes 60 simple recipes for healing soups; replenishing meals and snacks; and calming and lactation-boosting teas, all formulated to support the unique needs of the new mother.