This article was published on www.herfamily.ie and may differ slightly from here due to editing
So you’ve had your baby, and you were, well....amazing, a goddess, a pillar of courage and strength. Now what?
Baby swimming, baby tai chi, teach your baby sign language, keep the house spotless, eat 5 a day, practice mindfulness, get your pre-baby body back, look outstanding... oh and breastfeed, change nappies and get used to be becoming a mum....phew!
Something has got to give.
As a hypnobirthing and Yoga teacher, I work predominantly with pre and post natal women and I can tell you both from my own experience and from theirs, that after the birth of a baby you need to take it easy.
Sometimes, especially if you’ve had a great birth I find, new mums go straight from the hospital into super mum mode. Putting masses of pressure on themselves to be active, look amazing, be happy and to put on a great show for all the world to see that they are coping really really well.
The truth is that the postnatal period is one of great transition. Physically your body is recovering from a huge, huge task. Growing a baby for 9 (or 10!) months and then giving birth to this fabulous creature is no mean feat. No matter what type of birth you had - blissful, traumatic, surgical, it takes time to recover from it and it is really important to give yourself that time.
Also if you are breastfeeding you are working exceptionally hard physically, and you need to honour and respect that. I always marvel at how breastfeeding is natures clever little way of getting postnatal mums to rest. Exhaustion effects milk supply so you have to rest to keep your supply up and you have to sit down and feed and do bog all else for the first few weeks, giving your body and mind time to recuperate, recharge and heal.
And then there is the emotional roller-coaster of postnatal life. Becoming a mum is a hugely emotional time. It’s like a trapdoor is opened inside you and a whole depth of feelings and emotions you didn’t know were there are let out. This is one of the wonderful things about becoming a mum, but also it can be a transitionary process where you might feel deliriously happy one minute and terrified and miserable the next.
When its your first baby its all so new and you’re so unsure of everything. Even with the things you’re sure of, you second-guess yourself. Then there’s the frustration. You used to be a happy-go-lucky gal doing what you pleased, when you pleased. Now you can’t even go for a pee without considering how it will effect your baby! Its intense in the beginning and mum can feel frustrated and even trapped.
If it’s your second child you’re often consumed with emotion about the older child and the dreaded guilt! I remember when I had my second baby, my older son refused to speak to me or wear anything on his bottom half for 2 days. That was his little protest. When I look back now its quite funny but at the time I was so heartbroken for him. How could I do this to him? The guilt was incredible.
So with all that to contend with the LAST thing you need is pressure to get back into your skinny jeans and to have a spotless house or to have a baby fluent in 3 languages.
With that in mind here’s a few suggestions of what you should be doing in the first 12 weeks after birth:
Getting out for a bit of a walk is so important. This is not about burning calories, its about getting some fresh air for both you and for baby and to clear your head. Cabin fever can set in pretty easily and when you’re exhausted it can really make you feel trapped and frustrated. A 30 minute walk daily will really help.
If someone is good enough to offer to mind baby for an hour or so grab the opportunity with both hands and DO NOT use the time to clean the house or go to the gym. Sleep, rest, read, lie-down, re-charge.
The postnatal period is not the time to be calorie counting. You need your energy and nutrition, especially if you’re breastfeeding (that gives you a 300 calorie free pass incidentally!!). Eat healthy and often to keep the energy levels up. The ‘baby weight’ will go itself over time.
Its important to socialise, talk adult language and to feel human and like yourself, so seek out a group whom you can do that. It may be a breastfeeding group, a new mums group, a community play group or failing that a gentle and relaxing mum and baby class like baby massage or mum & baby yoga. Again, this is not about losing weight its about gaining sanity!
Don’t isolate yourself or lock yourself away. That’s not good for your postnatal head. Either get out for tea and cake or invite people to bring tea and cake to your home. That would be people you feel comfortable enough with to see you unwashed and in your loungewear.
Housework should be bottom of your priority list. It’s so unimportant. If the place is messy and that’s frustrating you then treat yourself to a cleaner for 6 weeks. If there was ever a time to do that, this is it!
Hand the baby over to Dad! He won’t break it and you need a bit of time out. No baby ever starved in a half an hour. You don’t have to leave the house - just go and take a bath, lie down, ring a friend for a gossip. It will really help you to feel less trapped and also give Dad and baby a bit of important bonding time without you interfering!