Becoming a new mom comes with a lot of sacrifices, but you must have a self-care practice in place for early postpartum.
First of all, congratulations! If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you’re close to welcoming (or already have!) a new bundle of love into your life.
With this significant life change comes a definite shift in priorities for many new moms. Gone are the days of sleeping in, long soaks in the tub, and popping into a yoga class without a second thought.
Quite quickly, you’re self-care time has been replaced with countless diaper changes, middle-of-the-night feeding sessions, and staring at a little human wondering how you created something so magnificent.
I’m here to tell you, mama, that it’s time to re-prioritize your self-care as a new mom. The more you care for yourself, the more capable you are to care for your little one, and they need you now more than ever.
Keep reading for ten postpartum self-care tips that I wish someone shared with me.
A look at my postpartum self-care
For me, a c-section mama (more on why that happened here), my postpartum recovery and self-care looked different than a mom recovering from a vaginal delivery. That’s the beauty of self-care, though, it’s a unique practice for every person who practices it.
As someone who had never had major surgery, I didn’t know what to expect. I scoured the web and digested every article on c-section recovery I could find, but none of what I read touched on the importance of self-care during that crucial period. Thankfully, I knew better.
Here’s how I cared for myself in early postpartum:
- Brushed my teeth twice a day
- Ran a comb through my hair
- Drank plenty of water
- Asked for help and was specific about the support I needed
- Ate nourishing foods with ample protein and healthy fats
- Tried to sleep when the baby slept
- Soaked up snuggles, cuddles, and skin-to-skin time
- Told myself repeatedly that the hard parts are only temporary
- Gave myself permission to recover at my own pace
As you might have noticed, the above list isn’t glamorous or extensive, but it’s all that I could muster the strength to do in those early days. It was enough for me to show up and be present for our son – and that was sufficient for me.
Also, if you keep reading, you’ll find that I’ve linked some of my favorite postpartum self-care items. These are things I kept sending my husband back to Target for, so hopefully, I can save you a trip!
Self-care can be a small – yet impactful – practice
If I could share one powerful piece of advice, it’s this: you don’t have to do it all in the early postpartum days (or, like, ever).
Your number one job as a new mother is to take care of the small human you just birthed into this world. To do that role effectively, you must care for yourself as well.
Let the dirty dishes stay in the sink and resist the urge to make your bed (because, if anything, it hurts). Ask for friends and family members to drop off meals at your house or order in for your favorite restaurant.
Release the idea that everything has to be perfect because all that your baby needs is you – plain and simple.
10 simple postpartum self-care tips
1. Ask for help and be specific
Bringing home a new baby requires all hands on deck. Sometimes, new moms don’t feel confident in asking for help for one reason or another.
Here’s the thing: asking for help is essential in the early days, but the importance of specificity in your requests often is forgotten. The clearer you are on what helps looks like to you, the easier it will be for others to help give you the support you require.
2. Stock up on postpartum essentials
Depending on the type of birth you have (vaginal or c-section), there are specific postpartum self-care essentials. Below are some must-haves for either type of delivery.
- Mesh underwear (I lived in these)
- Overnight pads (these are non-toxic and my favorite)
- Panty liners (for the days when bleeding slows but isn’t entirely gone)
- High-protein snacks (I lived on these during the early days of nursing)
- Nipple cream (I bought two jars of this brand)
- Medela gel pads (store in the refrigerator for an extra soothing boost)
- Comfy pajamas (nursing-friendly and loose is ideal – try these!)
3. Create a game plan with your partner
While keeping tip number one in mind, clearly communicate what you’ll need help with once the baby arrives and make a game plan with your partner or support person. Having a plan (although it may change!) will help to lay the foundation for a smoother transition into your new role as mom.
Consider responsibilities such as:
- Who is feeding the dogs
- Where meals will come from for mom and dad
- Baby’s feeding schedule
- Who is in charge of diaper changes
4. Block out time for your basic hygiene
As I mentioned above, my self-care consisted of brushing my teeth twice a day in those early days, and it took some planning to get that accomplished.
Talk to your partner and figure out the best course of action to ensure that you take a shower, brush your teeth, and comb your hair. Usually someone holding the baby is involved, so it’s a great time for baby to bond with their other parent.
5. Make sure you’re eating enough
Whether or not you choose to breastfeed, you must focus on getting plenty of lean protein and healthy fats in your diet after giving birth. Your body just went through an incredible transformation, and now its time for healing and repair to begin.
If you are breastfeeding, make sure that you’re eating enough to sustain breastmilk production and keep your supply plentiful. You’ll quickly notice how hungry you become while nursing, so always have a healthy, filling snack nearby!
6. Drink a lot of water (and go pee often!)
Water will not only help your body to feel replenished, but it’s also essential for milk production (if you choose to breastfeed). I tried to always have a large water bottle on my nightstand – the one from the hospital works fine, but I preferred an insulated version like this one to keep my water cool through the night.
Also, you may notice that your bladder doesn’t send the standard signals that it’s time to go like it used to. In the early days, get up and go pee every time you nurse your baby (which is about every two hours) to help your body empty everything.
7. Say No to unwanted visitors
It’s possible you’re ready for visitors soon after giving birth, but there’s also a possibility that you’d like some alone time with your new addition.
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the thought of having friends and family over to meet your little one, take steps to set appropriate boundaries as needed.
As my midwife told me: if you feel you have to clean the house or get out of your pajamas for a visitor, they shouldn’t be stopping by.
8. Spend time with just you and baby
One of my fondest memories with my son in the early postpartum days was when we’d do skin-to-skin while listening to relaxing music. I’d send my husband downstairs to make breakfast, and we’d snuggle up, just the two of us.
Occasionally, those moments would be interrupted with a feeling that I needed to get up and “do something,” but I did my best to stay present and soak up those sweet cuddles. It’s time you’ll never get back.
9. Nap as much as you can
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “sleep when the baby sleeps,” and I couldn’t recommend following it enough.
Of course, if you have another kid at home, this sentiment could be tough to follow, but do your best to sneak in a few extra moments of sleep throughout the day. It’s amazing what a three-minute nap on the couch can do when you’re sleep-deprived.
10. Speak up if something doesn’t feel right
Throughout your postpartum journey, it’s imperative that you become your own advocate, especially when it comes to your health care. If something doesn’t feel optimal – stitches, staples, your mental state – speak up and talk to your healthcare provider.
A lot of women I’ve spoken with have a fear of bothering their OB or midwife with their concerns. Still, I must gently encourage you to remember that your physical and mental health and wellbeing will never be a bother to anyone.
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Additional resources for your postpartum self-care journey
If you’re looking for more, check out the below postpartum self-care resources.
Above all, remember that every postpartum journey is different. Try not to compare yourself or your baby to someone else, and focus on nurturing and caring for your little one.