When you bring your new bundle of joy home for the first time, you'll be spending nearly every walking moment making sure he's warm, dry and well-fed. Don't forget, though, that your body has just undergone immense stress and will have its own needs. Take some time to care for yourself, since a happy mama makes for a happy baby.
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Your postnatal period will last for six to eight weeks after you bring your little one home. While you may be busy shuttling him to all those well-baby checkups, remember to schedule a doctor appointment for yourself as well to make sure you're recovering from the rigors of childbirth. Sex is a no-no for at least four weeks so your vagina has the time to heal. You may feel some pain in your perineum, which is the area between your vagina and anus, but you can ease this with an ice pack and some ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Kegel exercises will help you to restore your pelvic muscles, and should also help lessen the pain. If you had your baby by c-section, you may need prescription painkillers for up to a week after your surgery, and vaginal discharge and bleeding could last up to six weeks. You'll need to take it easy for six to eight weeks -- no sex, no heavy lifting -- but get up and move around so you don't get blood clots. If you have any symptoms such as continuing blood loss, dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain and severe headaches with nausea, vomiting or blurred vision, these might mean a serious problem, so call your doctor right away.
Good nutrition is a must in order to give you the energy you need to keep up with your little one. Healthy eating will also help get your body back in shape, but now is no time to diet. Losing weight quickly can be dangerous to your health and, if you're breastfeeding, could also harm your baby. Once you're fully recovered from giving birth, you can gradually begin to drop a few pounds, but it could take up to six months to lose all the baby weight. For now, your best bet is to eat small meals throughout the day to keep your strength up -- lots of good stuff like lean proteins, fruits and veggies. Chow down on high-fiber snacks to stay regular and combat that uncomfortable post-baby constipation.
Get Some Rest
It may seem as if you'll never sleep again, what with having to be on watch 24/7 for baby's slightest need. There are, however, a few things you can do to make the most of any catnap you snatch. If you can manage it, try to sleep whenever baby does. Pull the crib close to your bed so you won't have to hobble too far for those middle-of-the-night feedings, but keep in mind that snuggling with your little pumpkin may not lead to a good night's sleep. A 2012 survey by the College of Nursing at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee found that bed sharing was one of the main reasons new moms were so sleep deprived.
Ask for Help
While the first days with your new baby may be the most exciting time of your life, they can also be very stressful. Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, admits that all the big changes brought about by baby's arrival may feel overwhelming at times. The best way to start off your new life, if possible is to have a friend, relative or partner take some time off work to be with you, support you, feed and clean up after you, and help out with baby while allowing you a few precious moments to grab a nap or a shower. If you can afford it, you could hire a doula to do all these things, too. Even if you don't have on-call help, you can at least ease up on yourself. Your house may be a mess, you may be wearing week-old sweats and a ratty ponytail and eating nothing but cold cereal straight from the carton. Don't worry, the only thing that matters right now is that you take care of yourself and your bambino.