Tips for mums on how to navigate postpartum

The newborn days postpartum can be tough. Here's some advice from Dr Michelle O'Driscoll
Tips for mums on how to navigate postpartum

Loving Mother Cuddling Sleeping Newborn Baby Son Over Shoulder

THE newborn days postpartum can feel like a haze, a blur that often extends past those initial weeks of adrenaline, and leaves new mums feeling depleted and worn down long-term.

We know how beneficial sleep is for mood and wellbeing in general, but unfortunately that’s not usually a wellbeing tool that’s on the cards when there’s a new little human relying on you for their care. So what strategies can we turn to instead?

Ensure nutrition and hydration

Back to basics is key, and your energy levels will remain rock-bottom unless you become actively aware of what you’re fuelling yourself with. Regardless of your feeding method of choice, your baby needs you to have the energy for the late nights, early mornings, and all that happens in between. Consider the key food groups and your intake of them, and commit to having a water bottle to hand for regular sips throughout the day.

Gather support

This may be in the form of family, friends, healthcare professionals and local or online groups. Choose those to lean on that acknowledge the difficulty of the postpartum period, while also managing to remind you of the bigger picture and those positives aspects too. Be honest with those closest to you about how you’re feeling, as they’re often the ones to spot if postnatal anxiety or depression is creeping in, perhaps sooner than you might recognise or acknowledge it yourself. Having some of those supportive people in your corner is invaluable.

Practice self-compassion

It’s very easy to get self-critical during this time, and to fall into a downward spiral of feeling like you’re not “good enough” in any aspect of life right now, be it as a mother, partner, sister, friend. We can become over-critical of our efforts and abilities, and lose sight of the enormity of the transition that you’re currently navigating. Allowing yourself the space to experience this season of your life minus the criticism will reduce the weight of expectation, and make way for trusting that you’ve got this – because you have.

Play with routine (or lack of it!) 

Depending on your coping style, you may find routine and predictability to be your saviour in these early days. Indeed, babies after a few weeks of life thrive on routine. You may find that being organised and planning ahead makes the day less overwhelming, more manageable. Beware, however, of making it a rod for your back. It can easily become a reason for not leaving the house if we over-obsess about implementing it. And babies throw all sorts of spanners in the works, so being OK too with routine not always going to plan is important.

Embracing the lack of too rigid a structure in terms of the elements of your own day, and taking things as they come might be exactly the permission and relief you need as you navigate this new world.

Don’t wait, ask

Probably the most important thing to remember is that there is no such thing as a stupid question, and nothing more powerful than a mother’s intuition. The phrase “mother knows best” is so true when it comes to your own baby. So self-criticism aside, if there is anything about your baby’s health or indeed your own postpartum experience you’re not sure of or not happy with, ask, ask and ask again. From your mental health to your episiotomy or c-section wound, to pelvic floor issues. From colic and reflux to cow’s milk protein allergy and beyond - empower yourself with good health advice and reassurance, which will allow for early identification and management issues, and a much better postpartum experience.

If there is anything about your baby’s health or indeed your own postpartum experience that you’re not sure of or not happy with, ask, ask, and ask again.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr Michelle O’Driscoll is a pharmacist, researcher and founder of InTuition, a health and wellness education company.

Her research lies in the area of mental health education, and through InTuition she delivers health promotion workshops to corporate and academic organisations nationally.

See www.intuition.ie

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