Even experienced mothers find that every new baby brings a new set of questions. From breastfeeding concerns to the risks of postpartum depression, there are several issues that are unique to new mothers and their new little ones.
Post-pregnancy and life with your baby.
Feeding Your Baby
Over the next several months, you’ll be spending a good deal of your time feeding – or preparing to feed – your little one. Here, we cover the basics of nourishing your new baby.
Breastfeeding or formula? Although there are lots of conflicting views on the matter, in general, most doctors agree that breast milk is the ideal food for new babies. If for some reason breast-feeding isn’t possible, then use formula. Most important, don’t feed your newborn baby other types of liquids, such as juice or even water. Most of the nutrients your new baby needs are in breast milk or formula.
Following feeding cues. If you pay close attention, your baby will tell you when he or she is ready to eat. Look for hunger signs such as stretching, restlessness, sucking motions, or other movement of the lips. Fussing and crying typically don’t occur until your baby is a little bit older.
Vitamin D supplements. You may consider asking your doctor about giving your baby vitamin D supplements. Not all babies get enough of this important vitamin from breast milk or formula. Supplements can help ensure they develop strong, healthy bones during the crucial early months of growth.
Exercise and Fitness
After 40 weeks of pregnancy – and another few weeks of recovery – you will likely be ready to start exercising again. But remember: it’s important to rest after giving birth. Your body won’t be ready for major workouts for about six weeks after giving birth. But there are some exercises you can begin right away. In fact, there are some simple exercises you can do while still in the hospital bed.
Breathing exercises – simple, deep breaths, repeated 5-7 times – can help you feel better physically and mentally. Leg and arm circles – small rotating motions with your limbs to get the blood moving – can do wonders in helping you feel better, too. Neck stretches – letting the weight of your head drop to the front, right, and left for 5-10 seconds at a time – can alleviate the stiffness caused by breastfeeding.
With each passing day, you will feel more progress. And after your six-week check-up, you can resume regular exercise, assuming you get clearance from your doctor.
It’s completely natural to experience mood swings after having your baby. You may find yourself feeling on top of the world one minute, and feeling the weight of it on your shoulders the next. This may happen for several days after giving birth, and it’s perfectly normal. But if your bout of baby blues lasts longer than a few days – or if your symptoms are particularly severe – you may be suffering from postpartum depression.
Signs and symptoms. Most symptoms of postpartum depression are the same as those in major depression. In addition to a generally depressed mood, you may have the following symptoms on a daily basis:
- Agitation and irritability
- Trouble sleeping
- Decreased appetite
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Feeling socially isolated or disconnected
- Loss of energy
- Negative feelings toward the baby
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Prevention and treatment. Although you can’t take measures to ensure that you won’t suffer from postpartum depression, you can take steps to help prevent it from continuing if you’re experiencing symptoms. Start by asking for help from others, and making sure you get enough sleep and nourishment as possible. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and prescription medications, unless recommended by a doctor. Visit your doctor regularly. If you feel at risk for postpartum depression, have your first postnatal check-up at 4 weeks rather than at the usual 6 weeks.
Coping and support. When a new mother suffers from postpartum depression it can affect everyone around her. In particular, the risk of depression in the mother’s partner increases significantly. But it’s important to remember that depression is not your fault – nor is it anyone else’s. It’s also important to acknowledge that simply having a positive attitude won’t fix postpartum depression. It’s a real illness, and requires medical treatment. If you’re struggling with the condition, talk to your doctor. Furthermore, strongly consider talking to a therapist. The sooner you seek help, the better off you’ll be – and the same goes for your new family.