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A Postpartum Guide to Practical Self-Care for New Mothers

Regardless of if you're at the end of your first pregnancy or your third, self-care is crucial to your recovery and mental and physical well-being. Most new mothers find it challenging to make time for themselves, but if you don't, your recovery could take longer, or the effects could take a toll on you, your family, and your new baby.

The Importance of Self-Care

During the postpartum period, you and your partner have to adjust to caring for a newborn baby together, feeding or nursing schedules, and learning how to function in this new reality. As a result, you'll feel stressed and exhausted and face burnout within the first few months, and you could develop depression.

Self-care is necessary to lessen stress, lower health risks, and help you and your partner get on track with your new life. It is not self-indulgent to take some time to rest, recharge your battery, or step away from the baby and decompress. Although the impulse to be a supermom is real, it's unrealistic, and trying to live up to this superhuman ideal will leave you disappointed. Be yourself, learn your body's needs, and put yourself first when you need to.

Setting Realistic Expectations

How you deliver your baby dictates your initial waiting period for exercising. Vaginal deliveries require six weeks for recovery, and you should never exercise after a C-section until your doctor clears you, as there is a higher risk of hemorrhaging or other complications. Give yourself a break and adjust to your life before attempting to regain your pre-pregnancy body.

Start any exercise program at a beginner level and pace yourself. Take breaks, drink plenty of water, and don't push yourself too hard. Don't set your weight loss goals too high; your body has changed, and you won't see immediate results overnight. Getting back to pre-pregnancy weight is at least a year-long battle for many women. You have plenty of time to reach your goals without damaging your health or well-being.


mother and baby fixing food

Proper postpartum diet and nutrition can help the body heal after delivery and decrease the risk of postpartum depression. A better diet fuels the body and gives you more energy, especially on those mornings when you are exhausted and need a boost. Following a postpartum diet plan can help maintain your health and well-being as your body recovers.

During labor and delivery, the body loses vital fluids, including blood and electrolytes, and good nutrition can help to replenish lost calories and fluids and improve your postpartum health. Crucial amino acids, including proline and glycine, come from animal protein, and increasing these proteins can contribute to a better recovery. New mothers also get vitamins and minerals from fruits, whole grains, and vegetables. Getting plenty of these foods plus protein reduces inflammation and repairs damaged tissue in the body.

Your doctor can test for nutrient deficiencies and help you adjust your diet. Zinc, folate, vitamin B6 or 12, or vitamin D deficiencies can increase the odds of anxiety and mood disorders, placing you at a higher risk for postpartum depression. Without adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals, serotonin and dopamine production decreases. Following a proper diet and meeting vital nutritional requirements give you balance and helps you to heal.


Maintaining a regular sleeping schedule is a real challenge after having a baby. But newborns sleep a lot, which can provide some opportunities for you to rest, too. Although you will certainly have plenty of things to do while the baby is sleeping, prioritize taking naps as much as possible. Many partners find that it's helpful to set up a schedule for caring for the baby, alternating responsibilities so that both parents can get some rest. Just a few hours of uninterrupted sleep can make a big difference in how you feel and how you recover physically.


Take time to rest for the first two weeks before you attempt to leave the house. When you're ready to get moving, start by walking inside your home. See how far you get before feeling tired, and sit down and rest as needed. Next, try walking in your yard for about 10 to 15 minutes. Walking a little at a time builds up your strength and endurance slowly without overexerting yourself.

By week four, you can add in short trips to the mailbox. Don't do this if your mailbox is far from your home; walk to the edge of your lawn if it is closer. Limit yourself to no more than 20 minutes of walking at a time, and be careful. If you're feeling up to it, you can start doing more complex household tasks, like mopping, in week five. When you see your doctor for your six-week checkup, you'll be able to get their advice on how to continue your recovery.


Whenever someone offers to help you, accept their help. If you can, get a family member to stay with you and your partner for the first two weeks after delivery; this can help you to get a little more breathing room while you adjust to your new life and find a daily routine that works for you. Grandparents, aunts, and uncles could take turns visiting to give you a break to take a nap, do simple household chores, or just relax. Postpartum mothers need a support system to help them heal and get back to normal. If you have a family support system, set up a visit schedule with them. Even if they help for just a couple of hours, this time could make all the difference to your health and well-being.

Programs and Support Groups to Aid New Parents

mothers and babies exercising

Support groups and programs can help new parents who don't know what to expect and have never cared for an infant. Groups and helplines are also beneficial when family members aren't available to help. Sometimes, new parents need support from an outside source who understands what they're going through. New parents can have many questions within the first few weeks, and having sources of support to turn to can give parents peace of mind.

  • Support Groups and Other Programs: By participating in a new mom support group, you can get advice, tips, and support. The Postpartum Stress Center can help you to find a group to support you through this period.
  • Virtual Support Groups: New parent support groups are available online as well as in person.
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