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As a new mother, you’ve endured the long wait, and possibly the discomfort of pregnancy. Soon after delivery though, parenting responsibilities set in, as does the routine of feeding-changing-sleeping and getting used to baby’s rhythms. This makes us forget how fragile the woman’s body really is.
During this time, a woman’s body is healing, re-adjusting, and needs to re-build its strength. Often put in second-place after baby, a mother’s health is as important as a newborn’s. During this period, you may experience a range of post-natal problems: post-natal infections, excessive bleeding, mood swings, pain in the perineal area, discomfort during sex, hair loss, post-natal depression, breast soreness and tenderness.
This is a special time in your life – a time where your focus needs to be on your baby, and equally importantly, on your body. Forget the housework for a while – or get someone who can help you with all the chores. It may be difficult for you, but your mind, body and spirit will be in better shape if you can get rest, get a gentle post-partum massage, and de-stress.
Here are some tips you can keep in mind:
1) Sleep when your baby sleeps: Please try and resist the urge to clean the house. Or wash nappies. Or fold clothes. Or cook. Or meet the steady stream of visitors. For the first six weeks, do only what needs to be done. Your body is an amazing healing-machine, but it needs time, rest and peace.
2) Uterus and Lochia (bleeding): Immediately after delivery, your uterus begins to contract – commonly called ‘postpartum aches and pains’. Keeping your bladder empty helps the uterus contract effectively, and prevents too much bleeding. If you are doing too much around the house, bleeding can increase and become bright red. That’s when you know you need to take it easy.
3) Caring for yourself while breastfeeding: Breastfeeding is a learning process for you and the baby – babies instinctively know how to suckle, but not necessarily how to breastfeed. In the first week, particularly after the body produces clostrum – the nutrient-rich and thick milk, it is normal to have some pain and tenderness. If baby does not ‘latch’ properly, breastfeeding can continue to be a painful and difficult process for both mother and child.
Here are some things you can do to help relieve soreness and heal cracked/chapped breasts:
* Keep breasts open to air frequently: this helps reduce the possibility of infections
* Warm water or tea bag compress for 15-20 minutes, 3-4 times a day
* Avoid underwire bras
* Rub a bit of your own breast milk and some virgin coconut oil onto the nipple and breast area – both are rich in Lauric Acid – one of nature’s most powerful wound-healing, anti-inflammatory agents
4) Post-partum massage: Ayurveda recommends 42 days of rest and care – because these 42 days influence a woman’s health, and prepare her for the journey ahead. If you cannot do the full 42 days for some reason, regular post-partum massage is an effective and holistic way to help the process. There are unique (and scientifically proven) post-partum benefits of regular massage, and they include hormone regulation, reduced swelling, better sleep, and improved breastfeeding. More advanced massage therapy helps restore the body to its pre-pregnancy condition, and assists with C-section recovery.
5) Caring for your mental health: Having a baby is exhilarating. It can also be exhausting. 80 per cent of new mothers have severe mood-swings – known as baby blues – and it is important not to ignore these symptoms. About 10 percent suffer from major post-partum depression. Traditionally, doctors have blamed hormones for this, but chemistry can’t explain everything.
Don’t give up your previous interests, don’t take on all the household chores, and get reassurance and support from your family and partner.
Rest, relaxation and sound sleep is imperative. If your ‘blues’ last longer than a few weeks, speak to your gynaecologist.
Tips for the new dad
* Helping your significant other with some of the little things will bring her much joy, relief and peace of mind.
* Offer to help watch over baby while she takes a nap
* Make dinner for her once in a while
* Help her create a schedule and set priorities
* Send her for a massage, a pedicure or a manicure
* Sterilise the bottles, fold the nappies
* Give baby a massage once in a while – because baby needs to grow the bond with dad as much as with mum
The author is the Managing Director and founder of Coconess, which makes virgin coconut oil based products