Move towards healing after having a baby
Our healing and recovery are so important after having a baby. We all want to be moving towards healing after birth. So much changes after pregnancy, your body naturally starts to work towards healing but did you know there is so much you can do to help it along the way? Here are a few very simple and achievable steps you can take right now.
New mum nutrition
What you eat has a big impact on your body. There are inflammatory and anti-inflammatory foods, and they can play a big role in your recovery and helping you heal from the inside out, either causing more inflammation or reducing it. Here’s some foods for each, you can see what you mainly have in your diet and make some small changes to help healing.
- Coffee, wine and fizzy drinks
- Most things out of a packet (refined carbs): cakes, biscuits, crisps, fast food
- Processed meats: bacon, salami, hot dogs
- Omega 6 (sunflower oil)
- Omega 3 (found in fatty fish)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Dark chocolate
That’s not forgetting our micronutrients, all the vitamins and minerals our bodies need to function at 100%. Now I know it’s not easy, especially when you have a newborn! You are hungry a lot, even more so if you’re breastfeeding and snacks are your best friend. The aim here is to have your fruit, veg and anti-inflammatory foods to help your body, but don’t beat yourself up if you do have foods that are listed under inflammatory. Making sure you are fed is most important! This also isn’t the time to be starting a diet of any kind, your body needs food and that means fats, carbs and proteins.
You want to make sure you are eating enough fibre, as constipation is a real issue postpartum, not to mention during pregnancy! By easing constipation you will also reduce straining when you go to the toilet. Straining or bearing down during pregnancy or postpartum can cause issues with your pelvic floor, which is something you want to avoid.
Your body is 60% water so you can see how important it is to stay hydrated. Your cells need water to function properly, your tissues need to be hydrated to heal and your brain needs the water to function. If you’re dehydrated you will have a decrease in mood, focus and brain function. Not to mention if you are breastfeeding you will really notice the difference if you are dehydrated to hydrated in your milk supply. Water is a great source of hydration, drinks like caffeine and fizzy drinks can actually dehydrate you. It can take 48 hours to rehydrate your body so it really is important that you stay hydrated every day.
Ah good old sleep, if you have just had your baby then sleep can feel like a distant memory. Sleep is the time when your body regenerates, repairs and restores which is important for recovery. So when you can get your sleep there are a few things you can do to get the best sleep possible. Have the room as dark as possible, it’s worth investing in some blackout blinds! Aim for the room to be around 18c in temperature, limit blue light exposure from your phone in the evening and avoid caffeine in the afternoon.
Sleep will improve as your baby gets older, so please don’t stress about how much you are getting, if you can nap in the day that is brilliant too. It can take your body days to recover from one bad night sleep, so you can see why it’s important and why your body takes time to heal postpartum.
Stress releases cortisol which is brilliant in a serious situation, a few minutes or hours, but when this is prolonged to days, weeks or months it can have a detrimental effect on your body. You will be left in a permanent state of fight or flight, feeling anxious, stressed and possibly depressed.
There are lots of little things you can do to reduce stress in your body, here is a little list that you can try out:
Mediation – has actually been proven to reduce stress, it improves healing in the body, including your skin and help you feel happier, calmer and more patient. Even 10 minutes a day can have an amazing effect on your whole day.
Fresh air – going for a walk in the fresh air can work wonders and if its sunny the added vitamin D from the sun boosts happiness.
Exercise – moving your body releases so many endorphins, it also helps boost your self-confidence. Postnatally you will also be helping your body to recover and restrengthen, make sure you don’t rush back to exercise and wait until at least 6 weeks to start gently returning to exercise.
Time for yourself – this can be hard if you are a new mum but it is so important to help you feel like yourself and for you to put yourself first. So whether this is a bath, a half-hour walk by yourself or a whole afternoon it is so important. You are non-stop all the time and need time to relax.
Talking – talk to someone you trust, your partner, a friend or a family member. Being a mum is a big job that you take on, with so much learning as you go. It’s not easy and I promise if you share with other people you will feel better to get it off your chest and know you’re not the only one.
Movement & Postnatal Exercise
Movement is so powerful. By exercising whether that’s a workout, walk, swim or hike you are increasing your heart rate, increasing blood flow around your body and in-tern increasing the oxygen supply to your muscles, which helps with healing.
You release endorphins to improve your mood and exercise helps you sleep better, which is a bonus in itself. It helps you feel more confident in your body, helps you regain full function and helps to reduce stress. It’s something to be enjoyed and celebrated. It shouldn’t be a chore or something you feel like you have to do, you just need to find what you enjoy and get going or keep going.
Postpartum is a time to follow a specific exercise program designed for the postnatal period, your body has been through so much change over the last nine months and now it needs a little love and guidance to get it back to 100%. Make sure you’re following a specific program from a pre and postnatal qualified personal trainer or women’s health physio.
I hope this post has helped you and that you have been able to take away some useful tips for you to move towards recovery and healing. Take it slow, be kind to yourself and look after yourself the way you do your baby. All your feelings are valid and need time to be processed and moved through, give yourself time and seek help if you’d like it with your healing. There are plenty of people like me who love to support new mums!
Lucy is a pre & postnatal corrective exercise specialist and mum. She is on a mission to empower, educate and inspire women during pregnancy and motherhood to feel fit, healthy and body confident.
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