The first weeks after childbirth are a whirlwind of excitement and joy.
But, it also is normal to feel tired and overwhelmed as your body recovers
from giving birth and you adjust to the demands of caring for your newborn.
Proper nutrition and exercise can play a huge role in helping you to recover
from childbirth, beat fatigue and take the best care of your new baby.
Balance is Best
Proper nutrition is critical for new moms. Eating a variety of healthy
foods can improve your body’s ability to recover from childbirth,
increase your energy levels and boost your breast milk supply.
You should aim to eat a balanced diet that includes protein, carbohydrates
and fats and is rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, fiber
and whole grains. It also is important to drink plenty of fluids, especially
water and limit the added sugars and saturated fats that are commonly
found in sweets, sodas, fruit drinks and fried foods.
If you are breastfeeding, be especially careful to avoid caffeine and alcohol.
As your breast milk supply increases, you may notice that you feel more
hungry and thirsty than usual. You should try to drink a glass of water
and have a small, healthy snack such as a handful of baby carrots, a few
nuts or an apple each time your baby nurses during the day.
Although caring for your baby will keep you busy around the clock, remember
to eat regularly and avoid skipping meals. To make sure that your body
is getting all the nutrients it needs, your doctor also may recommend
that you take a vitamin or mineral supplement.
And, no matter how much you are looking forward to losing those extra baby
pounds, it is important to allow your body to heal and wait for the OK
from your doctor before starting to diet. Many new moms—especially
those who breastfeed—find that they can lose some of their baby
weight simply by focusing on eating a healthy, balanced diet.
Exercise for Energy
When combined with a healthy diet, exercise can boost your mood, increase
your energy and help you to get back in shape after giving birth. However,
it is important to wait until you feel up to it and start slowly.
How soon you can exercise after your baby’s birth depends on several
factors, such as your activity level during pregnancy and whether you
had a vaginal delivery or a caesarean. If you had an uncomplicated pregnancy
and delivery, you should be able to take short walks with your baby in
the stroller, or do simple stretches, as soon as you feel up to it. However,
you should wait at least 4-6 weeks and get your doctor’s approval
before beginning an exercise program.
Preventing Pelvic Floor Problems
Because your pelvic floor needs time to heal after giving birth, you should
avoid vigorous activities such as running and aerobics at first. Strengthening
your pelvic floor using exercises such as Kegels before returning to vigorous
activity can help you to avoid involuntary urine leakage, which commonly
occurs after childbirth. Your doctor can suggest some exercises that will
help to strengthen your pelvic floor.
Start Small, Go Slow
When returning to exercise after giving birth, it is important to start
slowly, rest when you are tired and gradually increase the duration and
intensity of your exercise sessions over time. At first, it is a good
idea to start with 10-minute exercise sessions and build from there. Because
your newborn is probably keeping you busier than ever, it’s OK to
opt for several short exercise sessions—such as three, 10-minute
intervals while the baby naps—as opposed to a daily 30-minute session
or a one-hour exercise marathon a few days a week.
And, it’s important to remember that you probably won’t return
to your pre-pregnancy shape overnight. Trying to do too much too quickly
can backfire and lead to exhaustion, injury and other complications.
Many gyms and fitness centers offer classes that allow you to exercise
with your baby, which is a great option if you are looking to get out
of the house and meet other new moms. However, working out at home using
post-natal exercise videos, taking a walk with your partner and your baby
or doing some light weight lifting can be equally fun and effective.
Eating right and exercising after the birth of your baby will help you
to stay happy and healthy. But most importantly, it will give you the
endurance and strength you need to take the best care of your newborn.