by Megan Lynch
Pregnancy and childbirth can be harrowing experiences, leaving many women and men in our culture feeling marooned and bewildered. Well-meaning friends can unknowingly make things worse by encouraging these feelings. Women who have just accomplished the herculean task of labor and birth (with men by their sides) are often told to just do what they can to keep their heads above water, and hope for the best.
Nothing makes a new parent feel like a functioning human being again like radical self-care however. Far from just “making it work,” parents who get back into their fitness game can feel like their old self again and develop the patience and endurance needed to care for their little bundles of joy. But self-care after a baby can be tricky, and if you’re not careful, candy bars for dinner and hours on the couch can seem like reasonable choices.
Although some women go through special circumstances that make it even trickier – bedrest, for instance – the vast majority of us can become better parents and happier people by making sure to keep their own wellness a priority. Here are a few tips.
If you or your partner are still pregnant, that is. Even if you’ve spent the entire first (or second) trimester trying not to lose your lunch and didn’t make it to the gym once, it’s not too late to develop good habits. Exercising now will make it easier to go after the baby arrives.
If you need support, Blooma Nashville and Hot Yoga of East Nashville offer some fabulous prenatal yoga classes.
BREASTFEED, OR HELP HER BREASTFEED
Breast milk is essentially liquefied body fat, and although moms shouldn’t count on breastfeeding alone to zap away the evidence of their pregnancy cravings, it does help most women lose one or two pounds per month. Besides, the benefits of breast milk are out of control for both the baby and mother: it’s customized nutrition and medicine for the baby and cuts down on your own risk of developing breast cancer, to start.
Guys, you’re not off the hook here. Help create the ideal situation for your lady and newborn. Make it your mission to make sure she always has a glass of water, get a pillow to support the baby or her lower back, or just stick around and converse. Feeding the baby can be a lonely experience without you.
At our hospital-hosted prenatal class, my husband and I were encouraged to order take-out after the baby arrived as a way to save time on cooking. The few times we did only made things worse. Who wants a stomachache and an energy crash when they’re already sleep-deprived? Not me.
Get a calendar, assign which one of you will cook, and plan your meals. It’ll give you more energy, save money, and give your life much-needed organization. Especially when the baby decides they’re going to be creating their very own new schedule.
SUPPORT EACH OTHER
The most important thing you can do as a new parent is respect your partner. Give them the time they need to workout. If they seem reluctant to leave the house, say the magic words: “I want to spend time with the baby.” Repeat this phrase as many times as it takes for them to pick up their gym bag and leave. Encourage your partner, ask them about their workouts, and tell them how great they look when they’re sweaty.
Your newborn baby may have a lot of needs, but their most important one is a happy and loving parent. Do yourself, your partner, and your baby a favor by making wellness an important family value early on so they can follow in your footsteps themselves.