Bringing a new baby into the world is an amazing, transformative experience, but it also marks the beginning of a challenging phase known as the postpartum period. Here is how to navigate postpartum.
This guest blog post is written by Dr. Alyssa Berlin. Dr. Alyssa Berlin is a clinical psychologist specializing in pregnancy, postpartum, and parenting. She offers private counseling for women individually and with their partners.
What is the postpartum period?
Often referred to as the “fourth trimester,” it marks a challenging (and even more rewarding) time for a new mom and it begins right after the physical act of childbirth.
I myself have been through 4 fourth trimesters! In my work as a perinatal psychologist, I love working with women and their partners to help them through this time and maybe even help prepare them before their baby arrives.
This is a time of immense joy – of course! But profound challenges will come as you navigate the transition into parenthood.
With your newborn will come a wave of adjustments, new emotions, and unfamiliar responsibilities that require careful consideration and support.
Understanding the complexities of the fourth trimester is crucial for fostering a healthy and nurturing environment for both mom and baby.
Delving into the intricacies of the postpartum journey, I’d like to offer some guidance and tips to help mothers navigate this chapter with confidence. You’ve got this!
1. Rest, Nourish, Hydrate
In the whirlwind of caring for your newborn, it’s easy to overlook your own needs.
However, self-care is not a luxury; it is a necessity.
- YOU need to recover both physically and emotionally.
- Prioritize rest whenever possible.
- Take advantage of your baby’s naps to rest and recharge your batteries. Sleep is a bonus but not a necessary component of resting.
- Ask a friend or partner to watch the baby while you rest in the next room over.
- Try an eye mask and ear plugs if needed when you take a break. Rest fuels you so you can take excellent care of your newborn.
- Fuel your body with nutritious meals and stay hydrated to aid in your recovery and boost your energy levels. Proper nutrition is vital for your recovery and for supporting breastfeeding: try to choose whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats to give your amazing body what it needs.
- Eat well, sleep when you can, and DRINK WATER! Keep a water bottle filled and by your side.
2. Seek and Accept Support
As cliche as it sounds, it really does take a village.
- Don’t hesitate to lean on your support network, whether it’s family, friends, neighbors, professionals or virtual support.
- Accept help with open arms, from someone cooking a meal to someone holding the baby while you take a much-needed break. You don’t have to do it all alone.
- YOU need a tribe who can help pitch in when you need a few hours of rest in a quiet, dark room.
- If you anticipate not wanting to cook or prepare meals, I’d suggest a meal delivery subscription with ready-to-eat, nutrient dense foods.
- Another great idea is posting a meal train request on social media. You can use existing websites like www.takethemameal.com or start a simple Google doc and link it to the post. You can list foods you like, dietary restrictions, and days/times that people can volunteer to sign up and deliver you the food. Don’t be afraid to ask.
3. Embrace the Rollercoaster of Emotions
Let’s be realistic, the postpartum period is a time of intense emotions. From joy and love to exhaustion and frustration, it’s normal to feel a wide range of feelings.
- Give yourself permission to experience these emotions without judgment.
- Share your thoughts with a trusted friend or seek professional guidance if needed.
- Try affirmations
- Try stating this mantra out loud or write it on your bathroom mirror: I accept the emotional ups and downs of my postpartum journey with acceptance and grace, no matter how hard it feels, I will be kind to myself.
4. Connect with Other Moms
Joining a postpartum support group or connecting with fellow new moms online or in person can provide a sense of community and understanding.
It can truly be life changing to share an experience with moms going through the exact same thing.
My clients report that sharing their experiences and exchanging advice went a long way to combat the loneliness and isolation they felt during the postpartum period and was incredibly comforting and healing for them during this time of change.
6. Gentle Movement
As your body heals, incorporating gentle movement or exercise into your routine can help improve circulation and boost your mood.
Consult your healthcare provider before starting any exercise regimen, and when given the green light, engage in activities like walking or yoga.
Any light movement will help, even a 10 minute walk down the block.
7. Bonding with Your Baby
Embrace the precious moments of bonding with your baby. Skin-to-skin contact, feedings, and spending quality time together will strengthen your connection and promote emotional well-being for both of you. You’ll never get a re-do of this precious slice of time.
9. Monitor Your Mental Health
Be vigilant about your mental well-being.
If feelings of sadness, anxiety, or overwhelming stress persist, feel free to reach out to me and/or your healthcare provider.
Postpartum depression and anxiety are common and more importantly, so treatable; seeking help is a sign of strength. Don’t worry about racking your brain about if you’re really struggling or not.
When in doubt, check it out. Can’t get out of bed? Overwhelmed? Slipping into extreme feelings of sadness or confusion? Send a single text to a friend or ask your partner to set up an appointment for you immediately.
My best tip? Ask around BEFORE you give birth about who to call and how to go about getting immediate help if you find wanting that support after birth. Keep a sticky note with that info on the fridge.
10. Stay Organized
Keep track of appointments, baby feeding schedules, and daily tasks with organizational tools such as planners, smartphone apps, or simple to-do lists.
Staying organized can help reduce stress and allow you to manage your time effectively and assist you in carving out time for yourself as well as for you and your partner together.
11. Be Patient with Yourself, Be Kind
Remember that adjusting to life with a newborn takes time.
- Be patient with yourself, your baby and your partner as you learn and adapt to your new roles.
- Celebrate every accomplishment along the way. Utilize positive self talk during this time, as if you were speaking to your dearest friend or family member, and remember to be nice to yourself.
- The postpartum period is a time of profound change, growth, and discovery.
- Starting with the handful of guidance above, I hope you feel empowered to make a plan and navigate this journey successfully, remembering that success looks different for everyone.
- Success might be a single shower over a long weekend and that’s GREAT!
- Remember that you are not alone on this path. Countless other mothers have walked it before you, and they stand ready to offer wisdom and encouragement, just as you will for moms who come after you. Don’t forget that you are stronger than you know.
My online course The AfterBirth Plan™ is available to take at your own pace exclusively on Informed Pregnancy Plus (IP+). Start your free trial here today.
Having a baby is one of the top 10 stressors you will experience in your life. Having a solid plan to follow when you are in the trenches can be the difference between bringing a couple together or pushing them apart. You’ve spent a lot of time, effort, and love building a relationship with your partner. Let’s safeguard it and ensure that it survives the transition into parenthood. Prevention is better than cure! Take the first step in “baby-proofing your relationship” with The AfterBirth Plan™.