Bringing a new life into this world is a life-changing experience for the new mom, to say the least. The feeling may be awesome but a host of associated practical problems — sleep deprivation, adjusting to your changing body, mood disturbances and recovering from childbirth — besides taking care of the baby may take the shine off some of the joy
Here are a few tips to help you through all this and more while caring for your newborn.
Weight loss after childbirth: Don’t go on a strict, restrictive diet. Most women need 1,500 and 2,200 calories a day — to keep up their energy and prevent mood swings. If you’re nursing, you need 2,000 to 2,700 calories to nourish both yourself and the baby. Losing weight too quickly can cause a decrease in your milk supply.
Weight loss of about one kg a week is safe and won’t affect your milk supply if you’re nursing. To achieve this, cut out 500 calories a day from your current diet (without dipping below the safe minimum) by either decreasing your food intake or increasing your activity level.
Skipping meals can make energy levels lag. It won’t help you lose weight and it will make you feel tired and grouchy. Eating five to six small meals a day (rather than three large meals) fits the appetite and helps lose weight. Skipping breakfast can also sabotage your weight loss efforts. Slow down on your eating, too, if possible. Foods good for new moms include fruits and vegetables, low-fat milk and dairy products and whole-grain products like whole wheat bread and whole grain cereal.
Urinary and other problems: Childbirth causes nerve and muscle damage to the bladder or urethra. You might leak urine when you cough, strain or laugh. This improves with time. Kegel exercises can help tone your pelvic floor muscles.
To do Kegels, tighten your pelvic muscles as if you’re stopping your stream of urine. Try it for five seconds at a time, four or five times in a row. Work up to keep the muscles contracted for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions. Aim for at least three sets of 10 repetitions a day.
If you notice pain during bowel movements and feel swelling near your anus, you might have hemorrhoids. To ease any discomfort , soak in a warm tub and avoid constipation. Your doctor might recommend a topical hemorrhoid medication.
Sore breasts and leaking milk: Your breasts might become firm, swollen and tender (engorgement). To ease discomfort, nurse, use a breast pump, apply warm washcloths or take a warm shower. Between feedings, place cold washcloths or ice packs on your breasts. Pain relievers might help, too. Wear a supportive bra. Ask a lactation consultant for help.
If your breasts leak between feedings, use nursing pads to help keep your shirt dry.
Hair loss and skin changes: During pregnancy, elevated hormone levels put normal hair loss on hold. After delivery, your body sheds the excess hair all at once. Hair loss typically stops within six months.
Stretch marks won’t disappear after delivery, but eventually they’ll fade from reddish purple to silver or white. Expect any skin that darkened during pregnancy — such as the line down your abdomen — to slowly fade as well.
Mood changes: Childbirth triggers a jumble of powerful emotions. Mood swings, irritability, sadness and anxiety are common. Many new moms experience a mild depression, sometimes called the baby blues. To fight off these blues, take adequate rest, good diet, do post-partum exercises or walks. Good family support is important, take good care of yourself. Share your feelings, and enlist support of your partner, loved ones or friends for help. If your depression deepens or you feel hopeless and sad most of the time, contact your health care provider. Prompt treatment is important.
— The writer is a gynaecologist, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurgaon