It is no surprise that bringing a baby into the world is one of the most special and magical times that a woman will experience in her lifetime. The gift of pregnancy is a long journey with so much anticipation, and once delivery day comes around, there is nothing more spectacular than birthing a baby and finally being able to meet your little one. While there is so much love and joy during this time, there can also be periods of feeling down. This two week period postpartum even has a name for it, known as the "baby blues". How can that be? You ask. This should be one of the best times in your life, yet some women are left feeling empty, out of control, fatigued, hormonal and even depressed.
Now having birthed two children, I wanted to share my experience with both postpartum recoveries. With my first son, it took me SO long to recover. It was weeks before I felt like I could walk - even around the block or to the end of the street. Not only were the physical aspects of delivery hard, but the psychological aspects were also a huge challenge. I had major bouts of hormonal changes that caused a strong case of the "baby blues" post-delivery. There were even days that I felt depressed; as if my life had changed completely and that I would never get back to feeling like myself. On the other hand, with my second son and postpartum recovery(my most recent pregnancy and delivery), I felt AMAZING. I was literally out and about a few days after having given birth. I felt way less sleep deprived, mentally a lot stronger and like I had this whole "mom" thing down, pat.
Some of my postpartum success with baby number two can be attributed to the fact that I knew what to expect, including that of my body during labor and delivery and what was to come postpartum. In fact, a lot of my postpartum success can be attributed to that. However, there are some other variables that were within my control that I learned from my first pregnancy, which I believe helped me combat postpartum baby blues and fatigue with my second pregnancy. These tips and tricks I used during pregnancy and postpartum are what I am going to share in this blog post.
Before I get started, let me reiterate that postpartum depression is a real thing. It is not some made-up idea that women have or blame hormonal changes on. I can attest to that. This post is not a way to undermine postpartum depression, which is completely outside of a woman's control. Instead, this post is meant for mamas who struggle with a bit of the "baby blues" as they call it after delivery. According to my OB, the baby blues last (post-delivery) for up to two weeks. My OB told me that if the "baby blues" feeling continues past two weeks that it may well be postpartum depression, and that I should call her to schedule an appointment, should this happen to me.
Aside from that, read ahead for my recommendations on how to feel your best postpartum! I will break it up into two sections; the first includes things you can do during pregnancy to help your postpartum recovery. The second section will describe things you can do after baby is here to help recover a little faster.
Thrive Postpartum: Tips to follow During Pregnancy
1. Exercise Exercising and proper nutrition are probably my biggest regrets that I didn't follow during my first pregnancy. If you've been following our blog, most of you know that I gained upwards of 60 pounds with my first pregnancy and around 30 pounds with my second pregnancy - and both were boys (so no gender stereotypes here)! While weight gain during pregnancy sometimes cannot be completely controlled, to the extent that it can - through exercise and nutrition - I highly recommend you stick to it! For me, exercise not only helps me burn extra calories and feel energized, but it also helps me to eat healthy. Both exercise and diet go hand in hand in helping with a healthy pregnancy and postpartum recovery. Exercise will benefit you for a variety of reasons, which includes helping moderate pregnancy weight gain, increasing energy, helping with a faster labor and delivery, and also helping with a faster recovery. I am no doctor, so please do not take this as medical advice, but I will say that I am a firm believer that because I exercised during my second pregnancy, I a) gained less weight b) had an amazing labor and delivery that my body was prepared for, and c) recovered a lot faster because I was in good shape. And yes, I attribute these to maintaining a moderately rigorous exercise routine during pregnancy!
2. Diet Again, this goes hand in hand with exercise because watching your diet *during pregnancy*, helps to moderate any excessive pregnancy weight gain. In my first pregnancy, I was a lot more lax with my diet. No, I wasn't eating donuts all day or having Ryan run out in the middle of the night to satisfy cravings, but I will say that I consumed extra and unnecessary calories. I thought that being pregnant meant eating extra calories (an additional 250 or whatever they recommend), even if I wasn't super hungry. Thus, I snacked more and tended to eat outside of my normal non-pregnant diet, which is generally very healthy. As a result, I gained nearly 60 pounds!! -- Even just adding an extra snack or two a day and relaxing my diet - crazy, I know. After I gave birth to my first son, it was hard on me both mentally and physically to face the weight gain and my newly shaped body, and also the fact that I had so far to go to return to my normal weight. For some reason, I thought that my body would bounce back to normal right after delivery. Wrong. It took me about 15 months postpartum to lose all of the weight. Yes, I believe this weight gain contributed to some of my baby blues and feeling down after delivery. When I became pregnant with my second, I vowed that I would eat my normal diet and not consume any extra calories if I didn't need to or wasn't hungry for it. No, I did not consume an extra 200 calories or whatever they recommend because in my case, I didn't feel like I needed to. I was not hungry for it, thus I I continued to eat my normal and healthy diet, which includes eating healthily, consuming sweets in moderation and practicing portion control (eat when hungry; stop when full). And ladies, counting my normal diet led me to birth a healthy 9 lbs. 3 oz. baby! I cannot reiterate enough that eating healthy during pregnancy will benefit you tenfold postpartum. Physically, you will still have to lose weight postpartum but if you're breastfeeding, the weight will likely come off EXTREMELY easily. Mentally, you won't feel down or depressed because of all of the weight you now have to lose postpartum. Again, exercise and diet are key to feeling your best postpartum!! If you do anything during pregnancy, do these!
3. Don't Take Pregnancy + Motherhood Too Seriously Okay, so this is WAY easier said than done, but if I could go back to my first pregnancy and take some of my own advice, this would be one of the biggest takeaways, as well. During my first pregnancy, I literally felt like I was the first girl to ever get pregnant and have a baby. I acted like a diva and thought that I deserved extra attention because I was pregnant. This may be a little bit of an overstatement, but not really. If I could compare it to something, I would compare it to how (some) women act when they are a bride. You feel as if this is your time and that most things and conversations should be about you and your situation lol. I took my baby registry way too seriously, I took my baby shower way too seriously, I took my pregnancy diet too seriously and everything involving the word baby, pregnancy and motherhood way too seriously. Mentally, I felt like pregnancy and birthing a baby were things that women should get awards for doing because of how challenging and life changing they were. Flash forward to my second pregnancy, and I didn't act really any different than I would if I wasn't pregnant; I simply acted and felt like myself. I was so busy living my life and chasing after my toddler that I hardly stopped to realize that I was pregnant. It was a lot easier for me to carry on with my normal day to day routines, such as eating normally and also exercising regularly, as well. If I could give some advice to first-time mothers, it would be to act like yourself!!! Realize that the majority of our female population gets pregnant (sometimes multiple times) and that being pregnant doesn't give you an excuse to obsess over yourself and your current situation. I think that had I have acted more normal during my first pregnancy that being happy postpartum would have been easier. While pregnant, you start to feel like some sort of goddess the first time around, and when you aren't pregnant anymore, the loss of your belly and all of the attention can be hard - sounds weird, I know. Thus, I encourage you mamas to act like yourself, know that life will carry on after you bring a baby into the world and that not everything needs to revolve around you! Again, maybe this is a personal problem, but if I knew this looking back and now that I have gone through my second pregnancy without expecting any extra perks, I would say that this piece of advice is super helpful to thriving after delivery.
4. Prenatal Vitamins + Supplements This goes without saying. Take your prenatal vitamins during pregnancy and postpartum, especially if you are breastfeeding. This will help maintain any nutrition gaps that you may or may not be getting. Postpartum, you may not have either the time nor energy to eat the way you would like to, so definitely make sure that you are taking your supplements. This will help regulate your hormones, provide energy and enable a healthier recovery. Aside from consuming prenatal vitamins, I believe that vitamin D3 and fish oil or some sort of fatty-acid based vitamin is very helpful, especially in helping combat post-baby blues. Again, I am not a healthcare practitioner by any means, but I do have experience with taking fatty-acid type vitamins to help combat mental challenges. In high school, I developed an eating disorder and ultimately had to see a nutritionist, psychologist and therapist to help beat it. My nutritionist recommended I take fish oil daily - two capsules, three times a day. I don't remember exactly why, but I do remember that this had some sort of link to help combat mental illness like depression. Again, this could be a HUGE assumption and I do not want to say that this will cure any sort of depression, but I do believe that it helped me during a vulnerable period. If you want to read more about fatty-acids and the correlation between helping mental illness, check out this article from WedMB here. Cate also gifted me Shaklee GLA Complex vitamins to take postpartum, which I have been taking this time around. Cate's nutritionist told her that they help regulate hormonal changes post-delivery and can help combat postpartum depression. I am not sure if this is what has been helping me this time, but I am feeling wonderful and I have been taking these. Again, please talk with you healthcare practitioner before practicing any of these recommendations!!!
5. Mentally Prepare for a Newborn and Know that Life *WILL* Get Easier With Time When you are pregnant with your first, you will get tons of (sometimes unsolicited) feedback from moms or dads about what is to expect with a newborn baby as a first-time parent. Some people tell you its magical beyond belief, while others tell you to enjoy your life as it is before shit literally hits the fan (sorry for the language - and pun intended!). After having two kiddos, I believe it is a little bit of both. However, on my second child, I was WAY more prepared for what was to come and thus wasn't surprised by all that a newborn demands since this wasn't my first rodeo. With my first, I was straight up worried about all of the negative advice I was getting; I was worried about the sleepless nights, feeding demands, and life changes that were to come. Thus, I became in denial that my baby would cause such a burden. What I am here to say that will help you prepare for a successful postpartum welcoming to your little newborn, is to read up on what is required of a newborn and to give yourself a reality check if you need one. Newborns do not show emotion initially, which can be hard for some parents, especially when you are giving them all that you have. Newborns need to be fed constantly; thus, be prepared to feed them around the clock. Newborns won't sleep through the night initially; thus, be prepared to wake up several times a night to feed your little one. Newborns cry and must be soothed; thus, know how to soothe your baby. And finally, even if you've done everything in your power to help your newborn thrive, sometimes they will STILL cry. Not only are newborns somewhat difficult (if you aren't prepared for what to expect), but the life you've now entered into is a HECK of a lot different than the life you once had. For first time mothers, this can require a HUGE adjustment, or at least it was for me. Sometimes, you can't do anything except experience the huge life change with your first baby, which may cause some negative emotions or regret. However, if you can read up on these life changes and requirements about to transpire, and gracefully come to terms that having a baby isn't necessarily easy, I believe the transition will be a lot easier. I know that because I knew what to expect with my second child, it was a heck of a lot easier to get through those sleepless nights, knowing that there is light at the end of the tunnel and life does resume as it was!! Most importantly, as I just said, it is important to remind yourself that life WILL go back to normal!!! In the beginning you likely won't feel like yourself and it's important to remind yourself that this is OKAY! It will take some time, but believe me when I say that you will come to a place in which you feel like yourself again - have faith. If you can mentally prepare yourself during pregnancy that you may not feel like yourself in the beginning and that is OK, then bringing a new baby into the world will be a lot easier on your psychologically, knowing that there is light on the other side!
6. Mentally Prepare for Breastfeeding Again, this is another one that sometimes is just easier the second time around. I know with my first, I had a HARD time breastfeeding. Ryan would come home to me in tears as I sat there topless with My Breast Friend around my waist and our son in my arms. I was in so much pain, didn't know if I was breastfeeding correctly and felt like a cow. It took me over a month to not feel any pain while breastfeeding our son and until I got the hang of it, an actually started enjoying it. With our second, I am a week postpartum and already feel like I have breastfeeding under control. I am not in pain, my son is feeding like a champ and I am certain that he is getting enough milk. If you are a first-time mother, I advise you to learn as much as you can about breastfeeding so that you know what to expect when your newborn arrives. Know that you will be feeding your newborn around the clock - likely every two hours. Know that you will experience pain *in the beginning*, but if you stick with it, it will subside. Know that it WILL become easier and that these moments of breastfeeding will be the most precious moments you look back on as a mother. In fact, I cried when I had to stop nursing my first. Again, know and read up that breastfeeding may be challenging for you *in the beginning*, but that it WILL get better and even turn into something you love so much that you won't want to give it up when the time comes <3
Thrive Postpartum: Tips to Follow After Delivery
1. Do Your Makeup/Get Dressed! This may be a personal thing, but there is something that makes me feel A MILLION times better if I shower, do my hair and do my makeup.. and get dressed for the day. Getting ready and dressed sets your day into motion and signals to the universe that you are ready to get out and seize the day! With my first pregnancy, I wasn't shy about staying in my sweats all day sans makeup with my newborn on my lap. Yes, these were some of the sweetest moments, but I believe this might have also contributed to a bit of the baby blues. To say that I went into hibernation for three months postpartum is a little bit of an understatement. And let me tell you, there is nothing more depressing than looking in the mirror postpartum to a tired, unkept face and about 40 pounds heavier. With my second pregnancy, I have made every effort to get myself up, do my makeup and get myself ready for the day - and it has made the world of a difference. Not only does it make you feel more inclined to get out of the house, but you just feel fresher and more put together in general. Even if my newborn or toddler is crying while I am doing my makeup this time around, I remind myself that it is important that I get myself ready so that I can feel good and give them the love and attention they need. I am a firm believer that mama needs to take care of herself (within reason) before she can take care of her littles. Again, this may not apply to you if you aren't the makeup kind of girl, but at least get your hair brushed and get on some cute Lululemon sweats rather than your dingy nursing tank that is stained and nasty. You'll feel a million times better and again, be more inclined to be social and get yourself out of the house. Not only that, but you'll feel more and more like yourself!
2. Get Out of the House ... which brings me to... get yourself out and about!. Getting out of the house with your newborn is imperative to your sanity. If this means having your hubby come home early from work so that you can go to a coffee shop and sit by yourself, or even having a sitter come so that you can have time to yourself, then I recommend you do it. With my first pregnancy, I had a HARD physical recovery which made it difficult to get out of the house, which is again why exercising and nutrition is so important to help your body prepare for labor and delivery, so that you can recover faster. If you have recovered and can walk, there is no reason why you shouldn't get out of the house!! Yes, I know, you are tired, but POWER through it. Grab a cup of coffee or even better, make a trip with your little(s) to the local Starbucks. You'll feel amazing that you got yourself out and proud of yourself for accomplishing something other than sitting around with your new babe. Not to mention, getting some vitamin D (sun) will help boost your spirits and your mood.
3. Keep the House Clean + Make Your Bed Ok ya, again, this may be a personal thing, and I will admit to being a clean freak, but there really is something to making your bed every morning. Even navy seals are taught this > read/watch why making your bed is so important here or below, as testimonied by navy seal, Admiral McRaven:
"If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and will encourage you to do another task... and another, and another. And by the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that the little things in life matter. If you can't do the little things right, you'll never be able to do the big things right. And if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made; that you made! And a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better. So, if you want to change the world, start off by making your bed." -Admiral McRaven In addition to making your bed, I believe keeping your house clean and clean of baby stuff is just as important postpartum. There is nothing like a mood buster than looking at an unkept house full of baby diapers and dirty clothes all over the place. To me, I feel way cleaner and better and happier when my home is clean and nice :)
4. Eat a Healthy Breakfast I did this with both pregnancies. Again, there is something about starting your day off right. For me, that is having a green smoothie in the morning. I encourage you to get back on track (if you have gotten off track during pregnancy), and to do it quickly! You'll feel better and feel as if you are progressing towards weight loss, if that is your desired outcome.
5. Drink Water I did this with both pregnancies, in fact, even more with my first. I constantly carried around a huge jug of water that the hospital had given me. Drinking water helps to flush out your system post-delivery, it will also help normalize any hormonal imbalances and keep you regular. I notice that when I drink more water, I also tend to have fewer cravings. You certainly can't go wrong with drinking more water; so I encourage you to drink up!
6. Give Yourself a Little Personal Time Giving to your newborn isn't an option in the beginning, but giving all of yourself so much that you lose yourself isn't the way to go. Make sure that you take, even if only a few minutes, to help pamper yourself during the day. Whether this includes doing your makeup, writing a blog, reading a bit of a book, catching a few moments of your favorite shows or exercising - make sure that you give to yourself, mama. You deserve it.
Alrighty, well that is my list of recommendations for postpartum success! Hope this can help :)