5 tips for a healthy recovery after having a baby

A guest post by Raunak Karim, who blogs for psysci, a psychology and science blog that examines the latest research in mental health and explains how findings can impact and improve people’s lives.

The new baby is here! Panic stations engaged. Do we have everything ready? Is he or she a healthy baby? What does the baby need us to do right now?

Wait! Stop.

We all get so focused on the new, little life that we often forget mum also needs some TLC after having a baby. Having a baby can be one of the most physically traumatic experiences for a woman to go through. Bits stretch and tear, things elongate which really shouldn’t and don’t forget the soup of hormones that churns through you before, during and after the birth. However, these five simple tips will go a long way in helping you have a healthy, happy recovery.

Hydrate

Dehydration can seriously weaken an already fatigued body. To the mum who’s just completed the physical marathon of childbirth, hydration is so important. The body’s fluid levels will be severely depleted postnatally, and are likely to diminish further as lactation begins. To restore fluid levels, plain water should be readily consumed, and diuretics such as caffeine avoided where possible (although sometimes your need for caffeine might be your top priority!). Increasing your fluid levels will help alleviate constipation issues and work to ensure sufficient fluid levels are retained when lactation begins.

Nutrition

Along with adequate and quality fluid intake, careful selection of nutritious meals are vital for a healthy recovery. Protein-rich foods and foods with high fibre content should be sought, along with a good multivitamin rich in B and D groups. Prior planning is recommended to prepare and freeze meals before childbirth and have them readily available for when you’re weak and in need of good nutrition. Good nutrition is imperative for both breastfeeding and formula feeding mums, in order to recover from the childbirth ordeal.

Sleep

Sleeping has phenomenal restorative properties for both the mind and body. Getting adequate sleep is vital for new mums, especially as the baby blues and interrupted nights may be just around the corner. It is recommended to sleep at the same time baby sleeps in order to keep up the quantity of hours you need to heal and handle the pressures of having a newborn baby. Of course that is not always possible, but remember that if your baby is sleeping, it doesn’t mean you should be doing the washing up. Don’t be afraid to ask visitors to look after the baby while you sneak off for a power nap.

Rest

Obviously, sleep might not always be ready and available for new mums. Instead, plan to rest. Ensure you have adequate time off work or study and don’t feel tempted to fill those days with jobs and tasks. Take the time to rest and recover from childbirth, even if it means sitting in your armchair all day long with baby in your arms. Rest is vital for a healthy recovery, and allows you time to form a strong, lasting attachment with your baby.

Ask for help

It was once said that it takes a village to raise a child. Well, if not a village, it certainly takes help! To ensure you have a healthy recovery, physically and emotionally, don’t be too proud or embarrassed to ask for help. Childbirth takes a huge physical toll and an even bigger emotional toll on mums. Pain, swelling, limited movement, fluctuating hormones and postnatal depression may all be factors in your recovery. There is nothing more important for your recovery than acknowledging these factors and asking for help.

Yes, it is important to focus on baby’s needs. He or she, after all, can’t do much independently in the early days! But you also need to remember your needs are just as important. You need to do everything possible to ensure a speedy, healthy recovery so you and baby can get on with getting to know one another.  

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What you really need (& don’t need) for your new baby

Oh the consumerist excitement that comes with a first pregnancy! One of the only consolations for the lack of alcohol and sushi during my first pregnancy was the prospect of shopping, shopping, shopping. And as I’m a project manager during my day job, I was obsessed with making sure that I had everything I needed all perfectly ready for the day the baby arrived.

My poor second baby was lucky that I bought him a new cot mattress.

Only because I’d already bought everything under the sun for my first, and we still had all those things. Some of them hadn’t even been used yet.

The internet will reveal countless lists of what you “need” to get for your baby. I duly studied these, collated them into a final list, and created a spreadsheet, including an estimate of my total projected spend. Seriously.

So I would like to save someone out there from going totally overboard like me. Therefore, here is my (hopefully) no-nonsense list of what I think you need before the baby comes, what you should wait to get until after the baby comes, and what you can leave in the store.*

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What to buy before your baby comes

  • A cot for the baby to sleep in (obvs) and a brand new cot mattress.
  • A moses basket is also useful because the baby can then sleep in the living room or wherever you are around the house. But I would try to get a hand-me-down or charity shop one because you only use them for about 3 months and they can cost upwards of £60.
  • Bedding for the cot and moses basket: 3 fitted sheets for each.
  • 3 small cellular blankets to use for swaddling and out & about.
  • Those baby sleeping bag thingys. Gro-bag is the main brand but Asda does some brilliant (much cheaper) ones. They really are the best things for babies to sleep in right up until they move into a bed.
  • 8 all-in-one sleepsuits. Baby can stay in these day and night. White is a popular choice but I prefer colourful ones that hide the poo stains. These often come with built-in scratch mitts too – the stand-alone ones will be lost immediately.
  • 1 little newborn hat for right after baby’s born. I never used hats again until baby was much older.
  • My opinion is that you only need vests if it’s summer and very hot – and then baby can wear that on it’s own.
  • A couple cute jumpers/cardigans.
  • A cute little pramsuit or other warm going-outside suit. I like the ones with ears on the hood.
  • Nappies, nappy sacks & wet wipes along with a good changing mat.
  • A pushchair. For some they are practical; for some they are fashion. Up to you – but make sure:
    • you can fold & unfold it one-handed
    • you can put the brake on & off without struggling
    • it has a raincover and cosy-toe
    • it will fit through narrow doors and down the aisle of a bus
  • A carseat.
  • A playmat with flashing lights & music. I left mine laying on these for long periods of time.
  • A vibrating bouncy chair. This is a godsend when you need to get stuff done.
  • A baby bath or bath support & some baby bath soap.
  • Cotton wool pads (not balls). When they are really small you can use these for cleaning tiny poos and also wiping gunge off eyes and noses. You will quickly move on to wet wipes though.
  • Muslin squares, like 20 of them. You will go through loads of these.
  • A changing bag that makes you feel happy. Treat this like a handbag purchase because you will take it everywhere.
  • Even if you’re planning to breastfeed, get a steriliser, about 2 small bottles, a bottle brush and some made-up formula milk in those sterile bottles. The pre-made baby milk is perfect for midnight feeding panic moments.
  • If you’re planning to formula feed, I would go ahead a get a full pack of formula powder as well.
  • Metric arseloads of maternity pads.
  • 1 box of breastpads.
  • Lanolin nipple cream.
  • Hand lotion (your hands will be messed up by all the post-nappy-change hand washing)
  • Chocolate.
  • A couple of nursing bras in a size larger than your maternity bras, but don’t spend too much because your breasts will change and you will need to perhaps get different sizes after the baby comes.

Wait until after the baby comes to get…

  • Lots of bottles. You may find that your baby doesn’t like the teat on the bottles you bought, and so you’ll have to experiment. You’ll be annoyed if you buy a whole collection of one type of bottle and they don’t work.
  • A breastpump. You might be introduced to the magical world of breastpumps while you’re in hospital. This may well change your perspective on what sort of pump you would like. You may also decide you don’t need one. Don’t get a manual one!
  • A sling or baby carrier. Check for a sling library in your local area and try these out with your baby before buying. There’s a lot of marketing around these but everyone is different as to whether they can actually get the damn thing on.
  • Baby toys. People will probably buy these for you. If not, you can always order some online.
  • Dribble bibs. Not all babies dribble until they’re seriously teething, which might be months later. You can use muslins to catch milk drools. Wait until you need the bibs.
  • A nursing cover. You may find you want one, and you may not. Wait until you feel the need as they are pricey.
  • Same goes for nursing pillows. I just used a throw pillow or normal pillow.
  • Extra bottle-feeding equipment such as bottle warmers & carriers. You may find these aren’t necessary for the way you manage bottle feeding.
  • Nappy cream. My babies never got any nappy rash until they were much older and then my health visitor recommended different sorts of creams than I would have bought in my pregnant state.
  • A baby monitor. You’re not really meant to have the baby sleep in a separate room until he/she is 6 months old, so you might as well wait. The technology changes fast and it will be better to get a newer model.

Things you don’t even need

  • Non-bio washing detergent. Unless unusually sensitive skin runs in your family, I could never see any issue with using bio. It gets out the poo a lot better.
  • Baby socks. Baby socks are the world’s most pointless things. They fall off immediately. If you must have some for cuteness purposes, invest in some sock-ons. Those things work pretty well. Booties are also purely for cute and you will probably receive at least one pair as a gift.
  • Special towels for the baby. Hooded towels are cute, but if you use a normal bath towel you can make it kind of hood-like without spending extra money.
  • Cot bumpers. They are pretty but they’re dangerous for baby. So you’ll just have to take them off before using the cot which you won’t want to do when you haven’t slept for more than 2 hours at a time in the last week.
  • Top and tail bowl. Sometimes these come in cute packages with the baby bath, and you can get one if you want, but you can just use any old bowl!
  • Nursing tops. I found that these exposed more boob than just lifting up a standard (more attractive) top. If you like wearing dresses though, nursing dresses are worth the investment.
  • An Angelcare mat. These are mats that monitor your baby’s movements and set off an alarm if they don’t move for a period of time. These will send your nerves into overdrive as you will get lots of false alarms. My sons had them in hospital and they went off several times a night for no reason whatsoever.

What were your must-have baby items? What things did you buy and never use?

*Disclaimer: This is all just my opinion based on experience. I’m not an expert on shopping … but I’ve had a lot of practice.