What is the postpartum period?
The first six weeks after you give birth is considered the postpartum period, this is when your body will be trying to return to its “normal” not-pregnant state. During the postpartum period, the body will be going through a number of physical and physiological changes, and may be physically vulnerable to infections and injuries while it recovers. This is why you, like many other moms, may experience a bit of a roller coaster in terms of how you’re feeling–and your postpartum experience may be different than how you felt while you were pregnant, and it may feel different with every child.
Developing a postpartum care plan can support you during your post-pregnancy recovery and transition. It can also help you avoid complications that could affect both you and your baby.
Essentials for Mom’s Postpartum Care Plan
Rest so you can be at your best
It can be tough to get some much-needed rest after delivery, especially considering how often babies need to eat during their first few weeks on earth! That said, getting enough quality rest is very important—sleep deprivation may be a contributing factor in “baby blues” and even postpartum depression.2
But getting sleep isn’t just about avoiding feeling tired–it’s also about making sure you can enjoy those precious moments you’ll be spending with your baby! It’s going to be fun regardless of course, but it’s going to be even more fun if you’re feeling refreshed, so don’t hesitate to make getting rest a priority and enlisting support of the people around you to help.
Whether it’s asking your partner, family member, or caregiver to spearhead afternoon diaper duty or napping when your baby sleeps, try to get as much sleep as possible. Whenever possible, make time for yourself to get that rest, and ask for the support of a partner, caretaker, and/or family member to take care of the little one while you take care of you.
Nutrition is especially important in the early stages of life, and while baby is breastfeeding, what you eat is basically what they eat. A nutritious postpartum diet is good for your own health and for maintaining an adequate milk supply for your breastfed baby.
- Lean proteins
- Fiber-rich carbohydrates
- Healthy fats, such as fatty fish that are excellent sources of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, a key nutrient that can help encourage healthy brain development in infants
- Low-fat dairy
Your doctor may also recommend that you continue taking prenatal vitamins. Keep drinking plenty of water too, because your body uses a lot of water to produce breast milk.
Keep in mind that for whenever breastfeeding is difficult, inconvenient, or not an option, there are many different baby formulas that you can use to ensure your baby is getting all the nutrients they need to grow healthy and strong.
Your body has just grown a beautiful baby–that’s hard work! It’s normal to be tired and have some postpartum discomfort. Whether you had a cesarean birth or vaginal delivery, you’ll need some time to recover. Don’t overdo things. Your body will thank you, and you’ll feel better when bonding with your baby.
- Don’t lift anything heavier than your baby (especially if you’ve had a C-section)
- Avoid vigorous exercise until cleared by your doctor
- Ask for help when you need it
Stay ahead of feeding difficulties
Whether you’re new to breastfeeding or new to breastfeeding your youngest, it’s not uncommon to experience some challenges with feeding and breast discomfort. If your breasts are feeling painful, hard, or uncomfortably swollen, this could be breast engorgement which is caused naturally by an increase in milk supply and blood flow to your breasts. The following may provide some relief:
- Nurse for as long as your baby is hungry, as regular breastfeeding helps keep milk from accumulating in your breasts.
- Use a warm compress, which can help milk flow.
- Apply a cold compress to help reduce swelling and pain.
- Gently massage your breasts while breastfeeding to help promote milk drainage.
- Consider using a pump for times when you can’t
- Ask your doctor about medication that can provide relief.
Schedule a postpartum doctor visit
It’s always important to put a postpartum checkup on your to-do list, just to be sure that everything is recovering properly. Your doctor can make sure you’re recovering well and not having any complications. It’s also a great opportunity to ask questions and address any concerns.
There’s a lot of emphasis on rest, in the postpartum period, but don’t feel like you have to be stuck and still! From boosting energy and reducing stress to promoting better sleep, there are postpartum exercises that have plenty of mental and physical benefits. You can start a regular workout routine once you get the green light from your doctor.
Stay ahead of baby blues and postpartum depression
The combination of hormonal fluctuations, exhaustion, new responsibilities, and physical discomfort can leave you feeling sad, irritable, or overwhelmed. This is called the “baby blues” and many women experience them as their bodies recover and hormone levels re-stabilize. Some common indicators of baby blues include:
- Crying easily
- Feelings of anxiety and being overwhelmed
Baby blues typically go away on their own within a few weeks of your delivery. But if your experiences persist or worsen, you may want to see your doctor about postpartum depression, especially if you’ve been experiencing:
- Debilitating sadness
- Feeling guilty or hopeless
- Extreme anxiety
- Feeling like you’re not bonding with the baby
- Change in appetite
- Suicidal thoughts
Consider birth control
It’s not too early to think about birth control, regardless of your plans for future children. Hormonal methods, such as the pill or patch, may be safe if you’re breastfeeding, or you can select a non-hormonal option like an IUD.5 Speak to your doctor about the optimal time to start using birth control since it can vary depending on the method you choose.
More postpartum health resources
Taking care of yourself can help you get through the joyous, yet sometimes emotional and physically challenging, postpartum period. Explore our Tips and Resources section for more postpartum articles and videos, including:
- The Postpartum Period: What You Need To Know About The First 6 Weeks After Childbirth
- 6-Week Postpartum Checkup: Everything You Need To Know
- What Are The Baby Blues and What You Can Do About Them
- Potential Postpartum Complications To Be Aware of