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After Childbirth: Coping and Adjusting

Topic Overview

You can take measures to make your life easier in the days and weeks after childbirth (postpartum period).

Accept help, seek help

You may be exhausted from the delivery and from being up at night with your baby. Don't expect that you'll be able to keep the house spotless and do all the household errands too.

Many employers now offer paternity leave to allow fathers to stay at home after a child is born. If not, a relative or friend may volunteer to stay and help out with cooking, cleaning, and running errands. Allow your friends to bring you meals or do chores.

If you are having trouble with postpartum blues that last more than a few days or develop into signs of postpartum depression, call your doctor right away.

Limit visitors

Everyone will want to come see the baby right away, just when you're at your most tired. It's okay to limit visitors to as few as you feel you can handle or to ask them not to visit for a while. It's also okay to set a limit on how long they stay.

Get extra rest

Sleep when your baby sleeps. Even a short nap helps.

If you breast-feed, learn how to collect and store some breast milk so that your partner or babysitter can feed the baby while you sleep. Because both you and the baby have to learn how to breast-feed, you may want to wait a few weeks before you start pumping breast milk. For more information, see the topic Breast-Feeding.

Eat well

Good nutrition is key to regaining your strength and health. If you are breast-feeding, you need to eat 500 additional calories a day over your prepregnancy diet. This is the time you are truly "eating for two." Most women who breast-feed can eat a healthy diet and still lose weight.

Drink extra fluids

Drink an extra 5 cups (1183 mL) to 8 cups (1893 mL) of noncaffeinated liquids each day. A good rule to follow is to have a glass of juice, water, or milk each time you nurse.

An occasional glass of wine or a cocktail is okay now and may help you relax. Remember, the alcohol can collect in your breast milk and pass to the baby, so don't overdo it. Waiting to have a drink until after you breast-feed will reduce the amount of alcohol that goes into the milk.

Feel good about yourself

Don't focus on the fact that you haven't immediately returned to your prepregnancy shape or clothes. Buy something new that looks good, even if it's not your old size. Get someone else to watch the baby long enough for you to spend some time on yourself.

Ask questions

Call your doctor when something doesn't seem right with you or the baby. Most pediatric clinics have a nurse whose job it is to answer questions from new mothers, so don't worry that you're "bothering" someone. Your clinic or hospital should also have a nurse who specializes in helping mothers who are breast-feeding. For more information, see the Other Places to Get Help section of this topic.

Talking to other new mothers can help. Your local hospital may have support groups for new mothers. Mother-infant massage and exercise classes are also a great way to meet other new mothers. It can help a lot to hear that someone else is having the same experiences you are.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Last Revised November 13, 2013

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