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The New Mother - Taking Care of Yourself After Birth

Taking care of yourself after birth:

The postpartum period begins after the delivery of the baby and ends when the mother's body has returned as closely as possible to its pre-pregnant state. This period usually lasts six to eight weeks.

The postpartum period involves the mother progressing through many changes, both emotionally and physically, while learning how to deal with all the changes and adjustments required with becoming a new mother. The postpartum period also involves the parents learning how to care for their newborn and learning how to function as a changed family unit.

A mother needs to take good care of herself to rebuild her strength. You will need plenty of rest, good nutrition, and help during the first few weeks.

  • rest:
    Every new parent soon learns that babies have different time clocks than adults. A typical newborn awakens about every three hours and needs to be fed, changed, and comforted. Especially if this is their first baby, parents - especially the mother - can become overwhelmed by exhaustion. While a solid eight hours of sleep for you may not happen again for several months, the following suggestions may be helpful in finding ways to get more rest now.
    • In the first few weeks, a mother needs to be relieved of all responsibilities other than feeding the baby and taking care of herself.
    • Sleep when the baby sleeps. This may be only a few minutes rest several times a day, but these minutes can add up.
    • Save steps and time. Have your baby's bed near yours for feedings at night.
    • Many new parents enjoy visits from friends and family, but new mothers should not feel obligated to entertain. Feel free to excuse yourself for a nap or to feed your baby.
    • Get outside for a few minutes each day. You can begin walking and postpartum exercises, as advised by your physician.
    • After the first two to three weeks, introduce a bottle to breastfed babies for an occasional night-time feeding. This way, someone else can feed the baby, and you can have a longer period of uninterrupted sleep.
  • nutrition:
    A mother's body has undergone many changes during pregnancy, as well as with the birth of her baby. She needs to heal and recover from pregnancy and childbirth. In addition to rest, all mothers need to maintain a healthy diet to promote healing and recovery.

    The weight gained in pregnancy helps build stores for your recovery and for breastfeeding. After delivery, all mothers need continued nutrition so that they can be healthy and active and able to care for their baby.

    Whether they breastfeed or formula feed, all mothers need to eat a healthy and balanced diet. Most lactation experts recommend that breastfeeding mothers should eat when they are hungry. But many mothers may be so tired or busy that food gets forgotten. So, it is essential to plan simple and healthy meals that include choices from all of the recommended groups from the food pyramid.

    The food guide pyramid is a guideline to help you eat a healthy diet. The food guide pyramid can help you eat a variety of foods while encouraging the right amount of calories and fat. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Department of Health and Human Services have prepared the following food pyramid to guide you in selecting foods.
    Food Guide Pyramid for Young Children, USDA
    Click Image to Enlarge


    The Food Pyramid is divided into 6 colored bands representing the 5 food groups plus oils:
    • Orange represents grains: Make half the grains consumed each day whole grains. Whole-grain foods include oatmeal, whole-wheat flour, whole cornmeal, brown rice, and whole-wheat bread. Check the food label on processed foods - the words “whole” or “whole grain” should be listed before the specific grain in the product.
    • Green represents vegetables: Vary your vegetables. Choose a variety of vegetables, including dark green- and orange-colored kinds, legumes (peas and beans), starchy vegetables, and other vegetables.
    • Red represents fruits: Focus on fruits. Any fruit or 100 percent fruit juice counts as part of the fruit group. Fruits may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, and may be whole, cut-up, or pureed.
    • Yellow represents oils: Know the limits on fats, sugars, and salt (sodium). Make most of your fat sources from fish, nuts, and vegetable oils. Limit solid fats like butter, stick margarine, shortening, and lard, as well as foods that contain these.
    • Blue represents milk: Get your calcium-rich foods. Milk and milk products contain calcium and vitamin D, both important ingredients in building and maintaining bone tissue. Use low-fat or fat-free milk after the age of two years. However, during the first year of life, infants should be fed breast milk or iron-fortified formula. Whole cow’s milk may be introduced after an infant’s first birthday, but lower-fat or skim milk should not be used until the child is at least two years old.
    • Purple represents meat and beans: Go lean on protein. Choose low fat or lean meats and poultry. Vary your protein routine - choose more fish, nuts, seeds, peas, and beans.
    Activity is also represented on the pyramid by the steps and the person climbing them, as a reminder of the importance of daily physical activity.

    To find more information about the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 and to determine the appropriate dietary recommendations for your age, sex, and physical activity level, visit the Online Resources page for the links to the Food Pyramid and 2005 Dietary Guidelines sites. Please note that the Food Pyramid is designed for persons over the age of two who do not have chronic health conditions.

    Although most mothers want to lose their pregnancy weight, extreme dieting and rapid weight loss can be hazardous to your health and to your baby's if you are breastfeeding. It can take several months for a mother to lose the weight she gained during pregnancy. This can be accomplished by cutting out high-fat snacks and concentrating on a diet with plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, balanced with proteins and carbohydrates. Exercise also helps burn calories and tone muscles and limbs.

    Along with balanced meals, breastfeeding mothers should increase fluids. Many mothers find they become very thirsty while the baby is nursing. Water, milk, and fruit juices are excellent choices. It is helpful to keep a pitcher of water and even some healthy snacks beside your bed or breastfeeding chair.

    Consult your physician or a registered dietitian if you want to learn more about postpartum nutrition. Certified lactation consultants can also help with advice about nutrition while breastfeeding.
  • help for new parents
    New as well as experienced parents soon realize that babies require a lot of work. Meeting the constant needs of a newborn involves time and energy and often takes parents away from other responsibilities in the home.

    Although many parents do fine on their own, having someone else helping with the household responsibilities usually makes the adjustment to a new baby easier. Parents can concentrate on the needs of mother and baby, rather than the laundry or dirty dishes.

    Helpers can be family, friends, or a paid home care provider. A family member such as the new baby's grandmother or aunt may be able to come for a few days or longer. Home care providers offer a variety of services, from nursing care of the new mother and baby to housekeeping and care of other children.

    Whoever you decide to have as helpers, be sure to make clear all the things you expect them to do. Communication is important in preventing hurt feelings or misunderstandings when emotions are fragile these first few weeks. It is generally best for the new mother to be relieved of all responsibilities except the feeding and care of herself and her baby. This is especially important if she is breastfeeding. Others should assume the chores in the home such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, and grocery shopping. This will prevent the new mother from limiting her time with her baby to take care of the house.

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Online Resources of Normal Newborn

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