An estimated one in six women suffer from postpartum depression, and many more develop compulsive behaviors (such as washing their hands or obsessively checking whether their baby is breathing.)
As a cocktail of hormones surge and sleep arrives less regularly, anxiety and depression can weigh heavily on new parents—and particularly on moms who must nurse around the clock. It’s important to remember that taking good care of a baby is impossible without taking good care of yourself.
Below are some reminders for staying healthy after becoming a mother:
1. Indulge in healthy food
Indulging in healthy food throughout the day will maximize the energy you have as a new mom. The quality of your breast milk will be consistent, regardless of what you choose to eat, but poor dieting will ensure that your body expends its nutritional reserves nursing the baby and can leave you feeling weak. Make sure you get all the nutrients you and your baby need.
- Salmon is rich in a type of fat called DHA, which is essential in the development of your baby’s nervous system and can help boost your mood.
- Lean beef is rich in iron, protein, and vitamin B-12—all of which can help you maintain your energy through the day.
- Oranges and other citrus fruits are excellent breastfeeding foods, since nursing moms need more vitamin C than pregnant women.
2. Drink more water while breastfeeding
Drinking more water while breastfeeding will increase your stamina and keep a variety of discomforts (from sleepiness, to dry skin, to constipation) at bay. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should drink nearly 100 ounces of water per day, more than the average adult.
3. Get the sleep you need
Getting the sleep you need during the first few months as a new mother is vital for your sanity as well as the safety of you and your baby. According the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center, people who sleep fewer than five hours per night are dramatically (four to five times!) more likely to be involved in a sleep-related automotive collision. Here are a few ways to increase your odds at achieving REM sleep on a regular schedule:
- Keep the baby close. For frequent feedings, getting a bassinet that attaches to the bed or sits directly next to it can save you the energy of getting up. When the baby begins to stir, you can scoop them up, nurse, and put the baby back in the bassinet.
- Find what makes you sleepy. While it might be tempting to decompress in front of a computer or television, the light from these devices are stimulating and counterproductive to your sleep cycle at the end of the day. Focus on a book or music during the end of your day, or during your baby’s nap time.
- Sleep when your baby sleeps. A key routine for staving off postpartum sleep deprivation is to sleep when your baby sleeps. If your baby takes a nap, put everything aside and take a nap, too. It doesn’t matter if you dishes to wash or clothing to iron — if you’re too tired to drive your child to the pediatrician, you can put your fresh family at risk.
At THIRA we know being a new mom isn’t easy and the emotional currents are powerful. Regular eating habits, proper hydration, and sleep will get you through having a newborn, but it’s on you to find the ritualization of these patterns that will best fit your new lifestyle.
You deserve to feel supported and healthy and we hope these tips buoy your confidence.
Happy Mother’s Day!