Exercise and diet
How you treat your body and what you put into it affects both your physical health and how you feel about yourself. You don’t need to make drastic changes to your diet or activity, but it helps if you consider focusing on whole foods, fresh fruit and vegetables, and avoiding processed or pre-made foods. Light activity, too, can be undertaken soon after birth, and with a pram or baby carrier, you can start feeling yourself again by heading out for walks, seeing friends or going to the local café.
Consider also leaving social media alone for a bit; social media can project an unrealistic image of how mothers should look and feel after a baby is born. There is no ‘normal’ way to be or feel – there is only what feels right for you.
Postnatal depression and the baby blues
Any time there’s a big change in your life you’re at risk of falling into a slump and feeling down. This is no less true than when you bring a baby home. It’s important to understand that every person reacts differently to a baby, and sometimes adjusting to the change can take longer than you’d like.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious or just plain down and out, try to speak up. Speak to family, friends or healthcare professionals about your feelings. Keep a diary, be honest, express yourself – although it can be hard to own these feelings, the best thing you can do for you and your baby is to acknowledge your position, trust yourself and look to your support network for help if you need it.
Take every opportunity to sleep
A newborn’s sleeping patterns and feeding routine can put heavy demands on a mother. It can be hard to adjust to the constant waking up and meeting your baby’s cries for attention in the early hours of the morning.
Try to get sleep at every possible opportunity – even if it’s just for an hour or two between feeds. Be restful, and let the normal household chores and life administration fall behind. Call on your support network to help with these if you can. You can also try pre-preparing formula or breast milk and allowing a family member or friend to look after and feed your baby for a longer period of the day or night.
Forming a bond
Bonding and attachment are important for both your health and the health of your newborn. Like starting a new job or travelling to a new country, the first few days can be filled with anxiety and doubt as you find your way around.
But like starting anything new, sometimes all it takes is time to settle down. The more time you spend with your newborn – whether it’s through feeding, talking, singing, playing or just holding them close – the more you will come to understand each other, and the better you’ll be able to respond to their needs.
This reciprocal communication – and yes, your baby will start to communicate in their own little ways – will allow you to connect, read each other’s emotions and strengthen your bond.