Pregnancy brings numerous changes, many of which resolve in the postpartum period (goodbye, constipation!). However, each phase of parenthood comes with its unique challenges, and the postpartum period is no exception.
Your life has changed forever. It’s undergone a profound transformation - that’s undeniable. There are many new paths and situations to navigate and because of this, I strongly advocate for preparation. The more knowledge you have, the more empowered you’ll feel. Understanding what to expect allows you to devise a flexible plan for various scenarios, bolstering your confidence and sense of control. In this post, I will explore three of the most common postpartum challenges faced by my clients (and myself!) and provide coping strategies. From managing hormonal changes to balancing parenthood amid a whirlwind of responsibilities and the crucial need for self-care – I've got you covered.
I Feel So Unlike Myself
Let's begin with a topic that is often overshadowed by the demands of deciphering baby poops and cries: emotional and identity challenges. Following childbirth, estrogen and progesterone levels drop significantly, typically around day three post-birth. This hormonal shift can lead to mood swings, sadness, anxiety, and irritability. It might catch you off guard, striking seemingly out of the blue. Once I acknowledged the possibility of this hormonal roller coaster, I felt better equipped to handle it, knowing that it should be a temporary phase. These feelings should generally resolve within about ten days or less. If they persist, consult your doctor to discuss the possibility of postpartum depression and anxiety.
>> To prepare for this hormonal dip, arrange for extra support around days 3-5, and find moments to engage in activities that bring you comfort, whether it's a relaxing shower, a good cry, or a brief walk outside.
In addition to hormonal fluctuations, you may be grappling with a new identity, which can be simultaneously exciting and challenging. It's okay to have mixed feelings about the sudden transformation in your life, from feelings of joy and love to moments of grief and anxiety.
>> One way to maintain your individuality is by dedicating a small window of time to engage in activities or hobbies that hold significance to you. This helps you retain your sense of self amid your new role as a parent, providing a source of fulfillment beyond parenthood. Schedule a daily reminder for moments when you have extra assistance with the baby to indulge in activities that bring you joy or stimulate your mind. You can even link these activities to tasks you're already doing for the baby; for instance, watch an interior decor video during feeding time or listen to a podcast while strolling with the baby. This way, you can make the most of your time while still tending to your baby’s needs.
Balancing Nutrition Amidst Chaos
The postpartum days are so slow, yet so fast at the same time. Just when you manage to squeeze in a few minutes to eat, you're often caught up changing diapers or tending to other baby-related tasks, leaving you with little time to decide what to eat.
First, it’s important to understand that a healthy postpartum diet helps support your recovery. It's vital to understand that maintaining a healthy postpartum diet is essential for supporting your recovery. Ensuring an adequate intake of healthy fats, protein, and staying well-hydrated can aid in replenishing your iron levels and even prevent issues like hemorrhoids. These dietary choices are pivotal in helping you feel better, boosting milk production if you're breastfeeding or pumping, and supporting your mental and physical well-being. The journey into motherhood can be both overwhelming and physically demanding. Proper nutrition helps maintain your stamina and energy levels, while neglecting your nutritional needs can increase the risk of postpartum depression.
>> To ensure you feel your best, focus on foods and drinks that are low in added sugars, prioritize protein and healthy fats, and make hydration a priority. Your body is in the process of tissue repair and potentially producing breast milk, so the protein and fat in your diet will aid in these processes and maintain your energy levels.
Now that we've established what to eat, let's address how to incorporate it into your hectic schedule:
- Snack Smart - if you don’t always have the time to make a meal - keeping healthy, easy-to-eat snacks like cut-up fruits, nuts, yogurt, or granola bars within reach can be consumed quickly when you have a moment or are passing by the kitchen. They can also go with you around the house for when you get nap-trapped.
- Combine Activities - Consider placing snacks or a light meal within arm's reach at your baby's feeding spot, so you can combine feeding times with your own mealtime. When you go for a walk, make it a habit to bring a snack with you to maximize your time.
Set Realistic Expectations - Simplify your meals by focusing on quick-to-prepare, nutritious options that don't require a lot of decision-making. Think of a meal in terms of categories – include a "green," a "protein/fat," and a "carby" element. This approach streamlines meal preparation and removes the need for complex decision-making. An egg on toast with a few pieces of spinach or a bowl of rice with hemp seeds, avocado and lettuce and my favorite dressing or leftover chicken in a wrap with lettuce and dressing. Always make extra protein when your house makes dinner, buy bags of cut up lettuce, and have a “vehicle” for your meal - for example toast, rice, wraps!
Overwhelmed by Decision Making
On the topic of decision-making, it's something that can quickly become a burden during the postpartum period. After making numerous decisions over the past nine months, during childbirth, and now daily for your baby, you may feel decision fatigue. This is especially true during the initial postpartum weeks when you'd prefer not to think about what's for dinner, daily activities, or visits from others.
Creating and Using a Postpartum Plan
Here's where a postpartum plan comes in handy. A postpartum plan can encompass various aspects and can be as simple as a set of lists or a conversation covering:
- Visitor preferences
- Feeding preferences
- Sleep schedules for you and your partner
- Household chore distribution or tasks where you could use some assistance
- Self-care practices
- A list of essential grocery items
- Five easy meal ideas or favorite takeout options
This plan essentially serves as a reference sheet created before the baby's arrival, providing a rough framework for how you'd like to structure the initial postpartum weeks. While things may change, having a list of areas where you could use assistance, especially when visitors come over, is immensely helpful.
Additionally, this list can include a few self-care activities you can enjoy when you have a few spare minutes. Focus on one thing you can do every day, whether it's a relaxing shower or another activity that brings you joy. The transition into motherhood, or adding another child to your family, is an adjustment, and a postpartum plan can make you feel more prepared and ready for the "fourth trimester," serving as a roadmap for your ideal postpartum experience. You can also build a postpartum team that you can rely on for assistance with your mental health.
In preparing for the hurdles of the postpartum period, you're not merely learning to cope; you're actively laying the groundwork for your success as a parent. Equipped with knowledge, understanding, and a proactive mindset, you're not just braving the challenges; you're constructing a resilient vessel to navigate the unpredictable seas of parenthood. Each step you take to prepare, every coping strategy you embrace, and every ounce of self-care you prioritize lays a foundation for your (and your family's) well-being. Cheers to your journey - from the triumphs of preparation to the grace of adaptability, and the love that fuels it all.
This site is intended for informational purposes only and does not provide medical advice. Please consult your physician or other health-care professional.