After the Baby Comes: Take Care of Yourself, Too

The first month or two after giving birth can be intense, overwhelming, and exhilarating—not to mention tiring. If you’re a new mom, there’s a lot to learn. Experienced mothers must juggle the needs of their new baby and their older children. To stay on top of all this, you need to watch out for your own health.

Put a Priority on Sleep

While you may not sleep a solid eight hours for several months, the following tips may help you get more rest now:

  • Sleep when the baby sleeps, even if it’s only for 15 minutes.

  • Save steps and time. Have your baby’s bed near yours for night feedings, but do not put baby to sleep in your bed.

  • Let the dishes wait. Your partner, friend, or relative can help with chores.

  • Many new parents enjoy visitors, but you’re not obligated to entertain. Feel free to excuse yourself for a nap.

Check in with Your Doctor

It’s just as important for you to see the doctor as it is for your baby. You should have a postpartum checkup after giving birth, usually within six weeks. Your doctor will examine you and make sure your body is recovering well. This is also a good time to ask questions, such as when you can begin exercising again or when it’s safe to have sex.

Pay Attention to Your Body

Here are some changes you may experience after giving birth, as well as how to care for them:

  • Bloody vaginal discharge: The amount should markedly decrease.

  • Hemorrhoids: Warm, shallow baths (sitz baths) help, as well as creams or sprays your physician may recommend.

  • Vaginal tenderness: Taking sitz baths twice a day may relieve soreness and speed healing.

  • Constipation: Drinking more fluids, exercising, and increasing the fiber in your diet are some ways to prevent constipation. Don’t take a laxative without the recommendation of your doctor.

  • Painful contractions: These may continue after birth as the uterus returns to its original size.

  • Discomfort in your breasts: Your breasts will enlarge as milk production begins. Wear a supportive bra and nurse your baby frequently to help keep the milk flowing. Warm compresses can help stimulate the letdown of milk. If engorgement is severe, cold packs may help.

Be sure to call your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever of 100 degrees or higher

  • Bleeding that requires a new sanitary pad every hour, or if you pass a clot the size of a walnut or bigger, or you notice a change in the smell of your blood flow

  • Pain or burning during urination

  • Redness, discharge, or pain at an incision site that becomes worse

  • Severe abdominal pain

  • A hot, red, hard, or painful area in a leg

  • Red streaks or hard, lumpy areas in a breast

  • Cracked or bleeding nipples

  • “Baby blues” that last more than a couple of weeks or that are severe

Online Medical Reviewer: McDonough, Brian MD

Date Last Reviewed: 4/2/2010

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