5 Ways To Care For Yourself Postpartum

As soon as the blue line appears on a pregnancy test, many women go to great lengths to keep the fetus growing in our wombs healthy. We may stop drinking diet soda, or stop eating sushi. Some of us quit smoking. We sleep in a position that provides the best blood supply to the placenta, we go to the doctor or midwife frequently for check ups, we ask our husbands to scoop the litter box for the duration.

We also spend time making sure that our babies stay healthy after the birth. We interview pediatricians. We read about breastfeeding, kangaroo care, circumcision, vaccines and babywearing. We childproof the house and make sure all our gear meets current safety standards. We ask visitors to wash their hands.

After birthing a baby though, how many mothers pay as close attention to their own health as they did during pregnancy? How many of us quickly slide back into our bad habits of staying up too late, exercising too little, or drinking way too much coffee? How many of us put our physical health at the bottom of the priority list?

To be fair, it’s not always easy to be healthy. If you had a difficult delivery, convenience can trump healthfulness. When you’re sleep deprived, it’s hard to make the best choices. When you have other children to care for and a To-Do list a mile long, or if you’re juggling responsibilities at work with duties at home, it’s way too easy to let yourself slide to the bottom of the pile.

The problem is, it’s so important to take care of yourself after you have a baby, so you can heal, so you can be the healthiest mom you can be.

Here are 5 ideas to consider if you’re expecting, to make it easier to take care of yourself after your baby is born.

    1. Take up yoga–Yoga is great because it can be done at so many levels. A beginner can benefit just as much as a guru who has been practicing for years. Most poses can be modified to your skill level, and because yoga is low impact, it’s a great way to ease a postpartum body back into exercise while sparing your joints and stretched out abs. You can tailor your practice to your needs and in the privacy of your own home if you’re shy. Check out Yoga Journal for poses, tons of info, and podcasts, and join Yoga Today for access to a free weekly class.
    2. Freeze your dinners–Before my second child was born, I spent several days in the kitchen, cooking meals that could be frozen, such as Greek Spinach Pie, Lasagna Roll Ups, chili, soups and more. Having the freezer packed with wholesome, homemade food not only meant I was eating well after delivery, but it also made cooking dinner a lot easier. Simply thaw the meal and heat it up. This was one of the biggest things that saved my sanity because my husband went back to work after a week, and my baby took a long time to figure out the difference between night and day. At home alone with a newborn and a 2 year old, and up most of the night with the baby, I was absolutely exhausted. Knowing that we had something to eat for dinner was a huge weight off my mind.
    3. Order your groceries online–Most of the large chains of grocers offer this service. There are pros and cons to it (you can be very specific about your produce, and your personal shopper collects your order and bags it, but you can’t usually use coupons and fuel and delivery charges may apply), but if you’re busy trying to establish breastfeeding, or limited physically because of a c-section, having your groceries delivered can be a huge help. Plus, you can shop online at 2AM in your jammies if you want! Personally, I also found that it helped me eat healthier because I stayed out of the junk aisles.
    4. Fit exercise into everyday activities–Who has the time or energy to spend an hour on the elliptical when you have a new baby at home? Rather than writing off exercise altogether, try splitting it into smaller doses. Studies have shown that ten minutes of exercise three times a day is just as effective as thirty minutes at once. Do toe raises while folding laundry, push ups during commercials, or spend a few minutes stretching before bed. It adds up.
    5. Identify your stress causers and then streamline to avoid them–Sleep when the baby sleeps is a great piece of advice, but it’s not always practical. Figure out what you’re okay with letting slide, and what absolutely needs to be done, then find a way to make it happen. For me, I’m pretty particular about the cleanliness of my house. Letting the laundry pile up or not vacuuming for weeks was just not an option because of the stress it would cause me. So before my baby was born, I spent a couple of days deep cleaning each room, so the house was nice and clean when we came home from the hospital. Afterward, I tried to stick to a rough cleaning schedule so all the usual chores were split up throughout the week. Changing the cat box on Sunday, bathroom on Monday, dusting on Tuesday, etc. My house stayed looking relatively neat, and I could rest easy knowing I didn’t have a huge mess to deal with when I did get a chance to take a nap.

      What about you? What advice do you have to stay healthy while recovering from childbirth and caring for a new baby?

      Practice Positive Discipline & Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life

      Following the Principles: Parts 7 & 8 in a series of 8

      Baby Lazlo~ 1/6/10 ~ 11lbs~  23"long ~ Born Safely at Home!
      Baby Lazlo~ 1/6/10 ~ 11lbs~ 23"long ~ Born Safely at Home!

      Now that we have finally welcomed our newest addition— an 11lb son named Lazlo who was born safely at our home — I can take the time to sit down and write again. The swelling and the restlessness of late pregnancy made computer time just one more form of torture in a sea of physical discomforts. Fortunately, those discomforts are behind me now (although I vow to never, ever forget the challenges of the third trimester, just in case I am ever stricken with Baby Fever again years from now) and my recovery has been a joyous time of healing, snuggling, nursing and marveling. Well…for the most part.

      Our first tandem nursing session a few minutes after Lazlo's birth.
      Our first tandem nursing session a few minutes after Lazlo's birth.

      There, of course, is my sweet little 22-month-old T-Bird to deal with. While she is thrilled that there is breastmilk on the menu again, she is not as enthusiastic about her new little brother trying to enjoy that milk–with or without her. Nursing them together is a terrific way to get a worry-free 20-minute power-nap, but can also backfire and result in T-Bird’s numerous attempts to unlatch the baby, to poke him the eye, to cover his face with a blanket, to elbow him… fun times. So then, I will go with the other extreme and nurse T-Bird first, or nurse her in another room, or nurse her after I get Lazlo to sleep. She then proceeds to spend that time constantly unlatching and relatching asking “Where’s Lazlo? Baby wants nursie?” while pulling, scratching and patting the unoccupied breast…more fun times. Not to mention the all-new behaviors when we are not nursing—throwing, hitting, screeching, drawing on walls, stomping food into the carpets.
      Continue reading “Practice Positive Discipline & Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life”

      If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free.

      Originally published on July 30, 2009 at m a m a :: m i l i e u.

      Okay, yes those are lyrics to a 1985 Sting song, but they rang oh-so-true today when I came across a quote on my igoogle page. I have a daily literary quote rss feed on my google homepage. Yesterday, it featured a quote from American Poet, Mary Oliver, and all I could think about after reading it was “that lady must have kids.”

      The quote went something like this:

      “To live in this world, you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.”

      I hate to reveal that it was only after watching “Benjamin Button” recently that I first had a paralyzing realization that I was indeed mortal. No, I didn’t think that I was a superhero or a downy white unicorn bathed in light before watching the film, I just hadn’t really given the dreary subject much thought.

      It wasn’t until seeing poor ol’ Benji aging in reverse–from a wrinkled and crippled infant to a wrinkled and crippled old man–that I truly came face-to-face with the fact that I am nurturing the next generation–someone who will only be budding into puberty just as I will be waning into the second half of life. I will be grey and he will be pimply. I will be mom and he will be my rebellious teen. I will be Grandma and he will be Dad. I will be a memory and he will be Grandpa.

      Your 20’s aren’t really a time when you waste much energy thinking about your inevitable and eventual end–you are just beginning what will hopefully be a long and successful life as an adult. Not even turning 30 this year changed all of that.

      Having a baby did, however. Now, several times a day, I am saddened by the reality of time’s quick passing. At nights when I am rocking my sweet suckling baby as he drinks and sniffles at my breast, I already envision the time, not very far off from now, when those gentle quiet moments of pure raw love and mutual dependence will come to an end.

      And my breast will eventually return to me. And from my breast, I will have to let him go. On to a sippy cup. On to a big boy cup. On to a fork and spoon.

      While my eye is pressed to the camera’s viewfinder, I can feel time ticking each minute into the past and imagine my husband, myself and our son years from now watching what I am recording at that moment–laughing at our “dated” hair styles, cars, furniture, clothes–things which are for us now new and modern.

      And, our home will return to us. And from our home, we will have to let him go. On to college. On to his own home. On to his own life.

      There will come a time that I will have to let him go–let him flutter on without my constant guidance, nurturing, or intervention. And the time is coming sooner rather than later. The independence has already begun. I am preparing now for the”letting go”.

      ——-

      Joni is a first time mommy, former teacher and lover of all things writing and cooking. She enthusiastically blogs about the pleasures and perils of natural mommying and wholesome organic cooking for your little foodie over at: www.mamamilieu.blogspot.com and www.feedinglittlefoodies.blogspot.com.

      The Journey To Attachment Parenting

      Since this is my first post, I thought I would use a piece I wrote when my son, Matteo was just a couple of months old. It was written late one night, when I realized just how I had gotten to believe and feel as strongly as I did about my parenting ideals. My journey towards the attachment parenting spectrum started long before I started I had my son, Matteo.

      So here is my story:

      I was 17, I didn’t know better. I didn’t know the joy of motherhood, I didn’t know the blessing that having a child was. I did know that my little *Simon needed a better Mom, a better home, a better life. I knew I couldn’t give this to him at the ripe age of 17. I knew that he was bigger than me in so many ways, so I had to let him go. I’ve never regretted that choice. I know to this day that I did the best thing for my little boy. I gave him physical life, and I gave him his life; a life that he deserved, and one that I knew I couldn’t give to him. For him, I became a birthmother.

      Now, I’m a mother again. This time, a different kind. The real kind. The kind that wakes up in the middle of the night. The kind that worries non-stop, the kind that claps in joy at the silliest things that her son does. I am a mother. Matteo is my pride and joy, I love him fiercely, with a love I never thought could possibly exist. His existence has opened new horizons, new feelings, new thoughts, and a new life for me. While he is learning so much from this big world, in the short time he has been here, he has taught me more about myself then I have been able to learn in my entire life thus far.

      I love both my boys, but my love is so different for each of them. Simon shaped me for the mother I would one day be, and because of the selfless love I had for him, he’s made me a better mother for Matteo. Simon taught me how precious a child is and how beautiful it is to be a mother and watch your child grow. Without him, I would have never learned how much you can miss when you aren’t there.

      I’ve contemplated my parenting choices. Everywhere I look people are trying to train their children into their schedule, mould them into the beings they want them to be. I’m not saying this is a bad thing; it’s what feels natural for some parents. However, what’s natural for me is so different. I’m learning every day the things I missed with Simon, and because I know I missed them with him, I’m soaking every small, extraordinary moment up with Matteo. If he wants to stay up all night, I’ll let him. If he wants me to stick out my tongue over and over again, just so he can smile at me, I’ll do it. If he wants to nurse for hours on end, I’ll let him. All of this, because I didn’t get to do it with Simon. I want Matteo to be what he wants, because I want to watch him, I want to see what sort of amazing being I created without trying to make him into the baby he isn’t. I want to soak up every single moment, because I know I’ll never get it back.

      At night, when Matteo is wide awake, when my eyes are heavy with sleep, I turn on some country music, and we two-step around the apartment. I sing to him, I snuggle him closer. His eyes flit about excitedly, taking in every color, every picture, every shadow, like he’s never seen it before. Every so often, he’ll put his soft little head on my shoulder, and snuggle into my neck. Within seconds, his head is bobbing up again, trying to remember where he last looked, before he took the time to show me that he felt safe. He’ll be crying, and the moment we start dancing, he stops. Matteo usually looks at me with wonder for a second, and then turns his attention to the objects in the room. We dance for hours at a time, until my arms get tired, until he needs fed, until he’s sleeping, whatever. We just dance, and it’s my favourite time of the day. He’s the best dance partner I’ve ever had, and I sure wouldn’t trade those late night dances for even a bit of sleep.

      People talk about all the things that are awful about parenthood- no sleep, lack of a social life, not showering, having no time. The list goes on. What they don’t realize is that when you didn’t get to have that, when you didn’t get to experience those things, they are things you want to have. I didn’t get to see Simon’s first bath, or first smile. I didn’t get to see him cry real tears, or say his first word. I didn’t get stay up all night and rock him to sleep. The thought of all the things I missed with Simon haunted me for years, and even to this day, I sometimes wish I got to sample a bit of his life in real-time. Yet, because of this, I’m embracing all of the imperfections of parenthood. I want the late nights, I want the lack of a social life, I want all of the things that come with parenthood. I want to experience the terrible, the good, the amazing, the awful, all of it. I’m amazed by the simple beauty of all of these experiences, even the tiresome ones.

      There are no words, no amount of ‘thank-you’s that will be enough for Simon. I always thought if I ever saw him again, he would thank me for giving him his beautiful family. I never imagined that I would want to hug him tight, and thank him for teaching me how to be a better mom, a more attentive mother, a mother who appreciates the beauty in things that others might miss. A mother who will be happy to learn from her child, who will want to soak up every moment with her child, and will go to all lengths to make sure that her little one is happy, comfortable, loved, and protected.

      *Names have been changed for privacy reasons

      Mom to Mom: An interview with Jan Hunt

      An interview by Wendy Cook. You can read more from Wendy at Mother Rising.

      Many of you know that I read Jan Hunt’s book The Natural Child: Parenting From the Heart when I was pregnant with Satch and it changed my life. The child in me felt validated and it helped me trust my gut and feel supported about the way I wanted to mother my son. As some of you know, it’s one of several books that I give as baby shower / blessingway gifts. I believe that it has the power to change the world, one family at a time.

      I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Jan about motherhood; unschooling and her upcoming book for 2009. It is with great joy that I introduce, Jan Hunt.

      1. In what ways has becoming a mother changed you?

      It changed me in every way. It helped me realize that children are human beings and no different from adults in the ways that really matter. They are no different emotionally and react the same way we do to good or bad treatment; they are doing the best they can.

      I learned a lot from my son – he’s been my teacher. Here’s an example that I’m not proud of. One day when Jason was a baby, he threw a spoon down on the floor and I reacted with an automatic response by gently tapping his hand. He gave me a look that I’ve never forgotten, even 27 years later. He gave me a perplexed look, as though to say, “Why would you do such a thing… how could you hurt me?” And right at that moment, I just grew, like the Grinch… my heart grew 100 times bigger. Because up until that point I didn’t totally get it, and from that point on I got it. And any other time when I strayed off the path of respectful parenting, he would give me a look of confusion or bewilderment. He knew from the beginning – like all babies – what he deserved and what I should be doing.
      Continue reading “Mom to Mom: An interview with Jan Hunt”

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