After you've given birth, don't worry about showing the world what a superwoman you can be. Give your body time to heal. Even if you don't have stitches from an episiotomy or C-section, your vagina and uterus need TLC. Your vaginal and pelvic area are going to be sore, and you can have bloody to white discharge for three to four days or up to two weeks. Instead of getting home from the hospital ready to resume life before baby, relish the extra time you'll have feeding and rocking your baby to sleep. Consider it purposeful bonding time instead of idle downtime. Talk to your doctor about how much time you need before doing your normal daily activities, including exercise.
Though you can't expect gourmet meals from the hospital in the days after you give birth, you can talk to the hospital's dietitian about getting healthy, balanced meals during your stay. You can even ask her for postpartum diet tips to help you stay energized and lose the baby weight. Once you're home, aim for a diet of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, low-fat dairy and foods rich in healthy fats. The more nutrient-dense your meals, the more energy you'll have and the easier it will be to stay energized and slim down. Most important, staying well-nourished will significantly benefit your baby if you're breast-feeding.
You may be thinking that getting enough sleep is easier said than done when you have a new baby, but once you get your baby on a feeding schedule, you can take advantage of the hours in between to catch your Z's. Adequate sleep is essential to your postpartum recovery as well as making sure you have enough energy to keep up with the demands of a newborn. Sleep is also a key factor in your overall health, weight management, and mood. A well-rested mom is a happy, healthy mom. Work out a feeding schedule with your husband or mate to trade off nightly feedings.
The soreness from a vaginal delivery or C-section may seem like the end of your regular exercise program, but low-intensity activity can actually help you heal and set you up to stick with your workouts, albeit modified until you've healed. Talk with your doctor about the activities that are appropriate for you and make an effort to get moving. You may not be able to jump right back into vigorous exercise, but you can keep moving; for example, rock your baby in your arms as you dance around a room or put your baby in a baby carrier and take a walk through the park. As you get stronger, you can head back to the gym or your regular exercise program.
Even if you can afford it, you don't have to hire a nanny and hang out at the day spa every week to feel pampered -- but you should take some time every day to relax. Whether it be a half-hour to pray or meditate in the morning or a bubble bath after your baby goes down for the night, carve out time to just rest and recharge. You might even consider getting a monthly massage or mani/pedi. Taking care of yourself will help you manage stress, feel more rested and be an even better mom to your new baby.
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