For the past 10 months your body has been going through the most changes it’s likely had since its own turn as an infant. And, like it or not, once you’re back home from the hospital with a baby in tow, everything doesn’t just bounce back to normal life like nothing ever happened. This fourth trimester is a gentle time, to be taken slow and easy. It’s a chapter where you and your baby are both learning about each other, so enjoy it and don’t rush -- your new way of life will mesh together with your old soon enough.
The first six weeks after coming home are a time of recovery where you should focus on letting your body mend itself. Soreness, bleeding, aches, and pains are common so keep ice packs, heating compresses, and menstrual pads close by for relief. Use this time for self-care and reward yourself for a job well done by enjoying massages, taking baths, drinking water (it helps with milk production), shopping for a new postpartum outfit, and sleeping as much as possible.
You want to get back in shape, but don’t try jumping right back into your old workout routine. Rather, do a gentle postpartum yoga class at home or go outside for a walk around the block, giving your legs a much needed stretch. Your baby will enjoy the new scenery and the fresh air will be good for the both of you to strengthen your immune systems together.
Throughout these first weeks at home there will, no doubtedly, be lots of trial and error, so learn to go with the flow and be flexible -- and whatever you do, don’t stress (babies can sense stress which will make them more fussy).
Lay down a strong foundation with your partner or a loved one to ally up and undergo these transitions as a team. Together, come up with a plan of what they can do to help (this could be diaper duty, swaddling, night feeds, or simply taking the baby on a walk to give yourself a break -- or a nap). Asking your partner to be extra patient, supportive, and encouraging during this time is also important as this is a very emotional time for a new mother as her hormone levels are still adjusting.
Even though romance might be the farthest thing from your mind, it’s important to still spend quality time with your partner so the two of you can catch up on the non-baby areas of your lives -- even if it’s just putting the baby to bed early to fall asleep on the couch together while (attempting) to watch a movie. It will mean a lot to your partner to be acknowledged as your lover, as well as your teammate in baby raising.
To aid your body and mind in recovery, focus on eating healthy meals, using foods that are ideal for postnatal recovery like leafy green vegetables, Swiss chard, avocado, fish, sweet potato, whole grain cereal, oatmeal, eggs, and fruit. If cooking is about as foreign to your partner as your baby’s umbilical cord was, opt for a meal delivery service. Depending on where you live there are different options that will work with your dietary restrictions and can often be delivered directly to your door.
Use this special time to rest and relax -- you don’t have to be a superhero. You’re learning how to mother a new baby in the world, so relish in it… even at 4am.