Postnatal Care: Taking Care of Yourself and Your Baby

(6 minute read)

Postnatal Care: Taking Care of Yourself and Your Baby

In all the excitement and anticipation of bringing your baby into the world, it's important that your own wellbeing doesn’t take a backseat. In this guide, we'll share some practical tips to help you navigate life with your little one, helping you establish a habit of self-care, and ensuring that both of you thrive every step of the way.

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Keeping your cup full

After you’ve given birth, it’s natural that your ‘care compass’ will be pointing in one all-consuming direction: towards your baby. But it’s crucial to remember that caring for yourself is just as important as caring for your newborn. By prioritising your wellbeing, you'll have more capacity to be your best self, and your little one will benefit in turn. You can’t pour from an empty cup, after all. By adopting a few simple strategies, you can ensure the smoothest possible start to your fourth trimester, for both you and your baby.

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Matrescence

Before we dive into the practicalities, let’s take a moment to appreciate the intense change you have experienced since giving birth. Becoming a mother is a significant, complicated shift in status that can rock every fibre of a person's being. There’s a name to describe this feeling of permanent, beautiful, overwhelming transition: matrescence. The term was coined in the 70's by medical anthropologist Dana Raphael, and describes the very specific ‘coming of age’ that occurs when you have a baby. A bit like how adolescence refers to the transformative period between childhood and adulthood. And it doesn’t just involve your identity – it involves your body, too. Birth is a total endurance test, and requires you to use muscles you probably weren’t even aware you had! In this time of profound adjustment, both physical and psychological, it’s crucial to be kind to yourself.

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Slow and steady

When it comes to postpartum recovery, patience is key. It’s hard to imagine that you might stay in bed for a long time after birth, but it’s important that you do. Rest really is the most powerful remedy! Think of your bed as the ultimate sanctuary. An easy rule to help you to relax, recover and bond with your baby in the first few weeks after birth is this: one week in your bed, and one week near your bed (ideally on the sofa). This might sound like ages, and will likely prompt a string of questions like who will cook? Who will do the laundry? Who will do the grocery shopping? Surely your partner can’t be expected to do all of that alone while you lay in bed. The truth is, that yes they can! But they should be calling on your support network, too, because they’ll also need to rest at some point.

This period of slowness will help your baby as much as it helps you. It will give them time to adjust to the outside world. Birth is stressful for your little one – they are suddenly in a cold, bright world, no longer in a tight cocoon – they have space to move and my goodness is it confusing for them! Being in bed with you, close to you in skin-to-skin contact will help them to acclimatise in the least stressful way possible. Remember that you can extend this time for as long as you need – there is no exact formula when it comes to recovery.

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The power of postpartum exercise

While exercise is a great way to feel in touch with your body and boost your mental health, it’s important to give yourself time to heal and knit back together first. Build up your confidence gradually, and don’t push it. Your body has been through a lot! When you do feel ready to venture out (seriously - there is no rush!), take it very slow. Start with a short walk to the end of your road or around the local park. Perhaps you could pop to your nearest shop with your baby.

And when you’re eventually ready to exercise again, there are several gentle activities that can help you build up your strength and feel grounded in your body:

  •   Postnatal yoga increases calmness, reduces anxiety and depression, boosts your energy, lowers your blood pressure, and assists relaxation through meditation. The benefits are endless!
  •   Swimming helps to tone your muscles gently, and contributes to stress relief.
  •   Walking restores your muscle strength and firms up your body as you move it.

What next?

So, while it would be easy to let your own needs take a back seat while you focus on nurturing your newborn, it’s clear that taking care of yourself is not a luxury; it's a necessity. For more detailed advice on caring for your body and your baby during postpartum recovery, be sure to explore Lucy’s archive of invaluable resources over at Butterbean. Winner of the Loved by Parents award 2023 for best innovative maternity product, Butterbean is a trusted and affordable hub of wisdom on pregnancy, birth and beyond. Lucy is the ultimate companion to new and expecting parents, and her expert courses include hypnobirthing, pregnancy yoga, midwife support, and all the tools you need to feel totally prepared.

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