The postpartum period, often referred to as the "fourth trimester," includes the time immediately after childbirth and typically up to the first six weeks, although let’s be honest…the physical, emotional, and hormonal changes that come with postpartum extend far beyond just six weeks.
From the moment you see that first positive pregnancy test, most women begin planning and preparing for their pregnancy and birth experience. However, planning ahead for the postpartum period, while equally important, is often overlooked due to the one million other items on your to-do list.
By discussing the importance of this life changing phase, expecting moms can better prepare for the challenges and joys that come with the postpartum period. Prioritizing sleep and self-care during this time is essential not only for physical recovery from childbirth but also for your overall well-being.
Sleep in the Postpartum Period
From the early stages of your pregnancy, you have most likely already heard the horror stories on how sleep deprived you’ll be. Yes, the postpartum period will bring a change to your usual sleep schedule but it does not have to be something you dread.
Lack of sleep can affect both your physical and mental health in a variety of ways such as increasing stress, weakening your immune system, and increasing your risk of postpartum depression. All of which can lead to delayed healing. The good news is there are a few ways to decrease sleep deprivation:
- If possible, share nighttime duties with a partner or another support person. If you are breastfeeding, have your partner burp the baby and put the baby back to sleep. If you know you operate better during the day and are bottle feeding, have them take the night shift while you rest.
- Ask for (and accept) help. I know this can be a tough one, but the postpartum period is not the time to do it all yourself. Allow those around you to assist with whatever tasks may need to be done to eliminate the burden of things you feel have to be completed during the day. This could include household chores such as laundry or washing dishes, taking care of pets, grocery shopping, or running errands. Delegating tasks will help to lighten the load. If you don’t have anyone who could help with these tasks, skip them. The dishes in the sink will be okay until the next day.
- This saying is cliche but sleep when the baby sleeps. Take advantage of those times when the baby is asleep, even if you are not actively sleeping. Those periods of rest can provide the energy you need.
- Just like you most likely have a bedtime routine for the baby, create one for yourself as well. Take a warm bath or shower, drink a cup of tea, utilize an oil diffuser, or listen to soothing sleep sounds. Setting the mood can prepare your body and mind to wind down for bed.
Prioritizing self-care isn’t selfish. Just because you’re a new mom does not mean that your needs are any less important. If anything, the postpartum period is the perfect time to not only continue to prioritize your self-care but also increase it. Here are some key tips:
- This should go without saying but it is something moms often don’t do: make sure you are eating. Have some well-balanced, nutritious meals and snacks prepared for easy access. Maintaining a healthy postpartum diet is key for postpartum recovery.
- If you have not tried them already, incorporate some relaxation techniques into your day, such as mindfulness, deep breathing, meditation, or reciting affirmations. ● Express your needs to those around you and communicate how they can help you practice self-care.
- Allot dedicated time for yourself. Go for a walk, find a new show to binge watch, read a new book, take a bubble bath, grab coffee with a friend; whatever it is, having “me” time is essential for self-care.
- Set boundaries. Nothing says bring on the unsolicited advice or unwanted visitors like the postpartum period. Establish and communicate boundaries in order to protect your peace of mind.
- Whether virtual or in person, take advantage of opportunities to connect with others such as new mom or postpartum support groups. Sharing experiences with one another can provide a sense of community and serve as a reminder that you are not alone during this life changing time.
- Remember, seek professional help if needed. There is no shame in reaching out to a mental health professional if you feel as though you’re struggling and need additional support.
Practice Kindness With Yourself
At the end of the day, the most valuable thing you can consistently do during this transition is to give yourself grace (even though this is easier said than done). Whether this is your first or third baby, this is a new experience for both you and the baby and you are learning together. Remember to be gentle with yourself, take things one day at a time, and know that each day you are doing your best! You can learn more about postpartum care on our Mommy's Bliss 360 Library.
This site is intended for informational purposes only and does not provide medical advice. Please consult your physician or other health-care professional.