The intricacies of post-pregnancy can be difficult to describe. It’s one of those life experiences you only truly “get” once you go through it.
Download our FREE report on post-pregnancy exercise. I had been working with pregnant and postpartum women for years prior to becoming pregnant myself, and consider myself extremely fortunate to have heard hundreds of stories about life with a newborn and recovering from birth, and lots of advice on how to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Hearing first-hand from new moms about the realities of postpartum made me feel more confident as I muddled through the first few months with my own baby.
I’ve heard so often from women, “I wish someone had told me ________,” or “I wasn’t expecting ________ to be like that.” In fact, I hear comments like that so often, that I have a feeling many of you may benefit from what they (and now I, as well!) have learned.
With help from some of the moms who work with me in my coaching program, I have compiled a list of 10 things you should know about post-pregnancy life, and some advice to help you through them when the time comes.
1. That mesh underwear everyone talks about? It’s better than you can even imagine. Stock up, if you can!
If you’re a mom, I’m willing to bet you know what I’m talking about.
If you are giving birth in a hospital, after giving birth you’ll likely be given a pair of the most glorious mesh underwear. They’re comfy and stretchy, and they don’t dig into your skin. They’re perfect post C-section—no irritation. Be sure to ask your nurses for a couple of extras before you leave the hospital!
2. Make going to the bathroom as comfortable as possible.
If you’ve had a vaginal birth, keep a ‘peri bottle’ on hand in your bathroom(s) at home. Use the peri bottle to spray warm water on the vulva/perineum/anus before, during, and after urination and bowel movements to help reduce stinging sensations.
To avoid straining and additional discomfort, keep the bowels moving easily. A few things that can be helpful for that:
- A magnesium supplement or gentle stool softener. Magnesium attracts water into the intestines and relaxes the muscles of your gut, reducing straining and improving passage of stool (Check with your doctor before adding a supplement to your regime to make sure you’re taking it in the form and dosage that’s best for you.)
- A Squatty Potty or a low stool to raise your feet up when you go to the bathroom. Raising your feet offers several benefits including reducing pressure and putting your intestines into optimal alignment for more comfortable and thorough elimination.
- Relax the pelvic floor and breathe
3. Your relationship with your partner might feel rocked. It’s normal—hang in there!
If you’re parenting with a partner(s), know that it’s so normal for your relationship to go through some bumps along the way.
It can be hard to navigate these new waters as you learn how to parent together, while on little sleep, while also recovering from birth and experiencing major hormonal adjustments. It’s a lot. Here are some tips that can help make this a little less bumpy:
- Communicate clearly
- Ask for what you want and need
- Don’t make assumptions
- Go to counseling
- Don’t keep score
Above all, remember it’s all normal. It’s hard work figuring out this new version of yourself as a mom, and understandably so, how that affects your relationship, too.
4. You’ll be eating many snacks and meals one-handed.
It’s likely that you’ll be very hungry postpartum, especially if you’re breastfeeding.
I have never experienced hunger like I did in the early postpartum months—pregnancy hunger didn’t even compare.
You won’t have much time to eat, let alone prepare meals.The good news? You’ll quickly master the skill of eating one-handed while holding your baby!
Some examples of one-handed snacks include:
- Sliced cheese
- Pepperoni, jerky, salami, rolled-up deli meat
- Protein or energy balls
- Raw veggie sticks
- Sliced apples, pears, pineapples, or other fruit.
… basically, foods that don’t require utensils.
5. Postpartum night sweats can be intense.
Although getting a good sweat on at the gym can make you feel great, waking up in a pool of sweat at each nightly feeding (for weeks) feels quite the opposite.
I clearly remember waking up for each feeding session throughout that first month, having soaked through my shirt and the sheets! Here are four tips that helped me deal with this:
- First things first, be prepared—use a mattress cover on your bed during this time.
- Expect quick temperature changes. Getting out of bed for a feeding, covered in sweat, I would be shivering and cold, but once I started nursing I would be hot again. To help with this transition, I started keeping a robe on the chair in which I sat to feed her, and threw it on as soon as I got up, before picking her up. By the time I was done nursing I had usually taken it off, but it made the transition from the bed to the chair a lot more comfortable.
- Keep extra towels handy. I put a big, comfy towel under my body, on our bed. I kept another one on the floor beside me to trade out during the night, if need be.
- Keep a change of clothes nearby, as well. I laid out an extra nursing tank by the bed before I went to sleep so I could do a quick change in the night without having to fumble around to find another one.
6. Feeding your baby might take time, trial and error, and work to sort out. You’re doing a great job.
One of my clients said it best:
“Breastfeeding may not happen for you immediately, but with time, patience, and the right support you will get the hang of it if you want to continue with it.”
The support piece in this is essential. Breastfeeding might be ‘natural’, but it is absolutely a learned skill that takes practice and some coaching.
If you have questions or need any guidance at all, consider enlisting the help of an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and find breastfeeding support in your area.
Do keep in mind that the very best way to feed your baby is doing so in a manner that works for you, too.
7. You’ll feel every possible feeling—and some feelings you didn’t even know existed.
The baby blues are extremely common. You’re not doing anything wrong!
So much is happening in your body and in your life. Your hormone levels have fluctuated wildly to allow birth to happen, to help your body produce breast milk, and to start the slow process of helping your body get back to functioning like it did before you were pregnant.
You are going to be operating on very little sleep, which is tough on everyone.
You might not feel like you for a while. Talk about it with your partner, your friends, your midwife, your doctor. They are there to support you.
Here are some helpful words of wisdom from a few current moms:
“You are not alone, and you just joined the Mom Club, the most incredible club there is.”
“It’s OK to grieve for your former self. But know that your current self is amazing. Be gentle, kind and patient with you.”
“You need to be gentle with yourself. You will feel more things at once than you ever thought possible, even though you have just been pregnant and had all the feelings. I remember explaining it to my husband as feeling like my emotional feelings were on the outside of my skin and anything that hurt my feelings felt physical, and any physical pain or discomfort also felt emotional.”
8. You will likely get a lot of advice, from a lot of people.
If you need help with anything, absolutely ask for advice.
That being said, know that you can always consider the advice you receive, and you can choose to not take it. Trust yourself and your instincts above all, and do what feels best for your family at this time (because it will all change again by next week!).
Are there things you were certain you’d do, but it’s not working? Stop and change it up. For example: we thought we’d keep our daughter in our room for at least the first few months. Wrong! We moved her to her own room when she was four weeks old. We all got more sleep that way, and that was a win for us.
Do what works, right now, for your situation.
9. Parenting is a physical job. Immediately.
Even though a newborn baby might not weigh very much initially, you end up carrying them in your arms much of the day, and they get heavy quickly.
Mom-ing is tough on the body! You are rocking, swaying, bouncing, holding, feeding, and trying to recover. Prioritize strength training in pregnancy to help you prepare for these tasks and postpartum recovery, too.
I can tell you from personal experience, that it has been extremely helpful to have safely re-built my strength postpartum, to help keep up with baby’s growth and weight gain!
10. Everyone told me how much the baby would need me. No one told me how much I’d need her.
Not much has surprised me postpartum. I’ve heard a lot of stories. But, it’s incredible how in an instant you need this tiny baby. No one could prepare me for this, because it’s impossible to describe or understand until you feel it yourself.
I couldn’t imagine a love so deep, or such sharp instincts to want to protect someone so badly (even if you don’t feel these things right away).
If you’re pregnant and approaching postpartum for the first time, know that, yes, it’s a lot to experience, and hopefully the advice from other new moms presented in this article can help ease your mind and help you navigate those first few months.
Also know that you’re about to embark on the the most incredible — and really, really fun — adventure!
Our FREE post-pregnancy exercise report is great for brand-new mamas, although many of the exercises are also appropriate for women who are much farther along in their postpartum recovery but haven’t yet done specific exercises to heal their core and pelvic floor.
If you or anyone you know has had a baby, and hasn’t done a specific core and pelvic floor healing protocol, make sure you download our FREE report.