Looking after yourself

Congratulations on your new baby! Being a new parent is like nothing else you’ll ever do. It brings joy and surprise as you get to know your new baby, along with some sleepless nights and big changes to your life.

To look after your baby well you need to look after yourself too. Eating well, getting enough sleep, being active and asking for help are all things you can do to look after yourself.

Eating well

What you eat and drink will have a big effect on how you feel during the day and how well you sleep. When you are eating well you are looking after yourself and your baby too.

Drink whenever you are thirsty, especially if you are breastfeeding.

Try to not miss meals. Having healthy snacks during the day is important too.

See Eating for Healthy Breastfeeding Women to find out about eating well while breastfeeding.

Sleep

Getting the sleep you need is not easy with a new baby or a very young child. Sleep is one of the most important parts of looking after yourself and your baby. It’s important for breastfeeding too.

Try to sleep or rest when your baby does. And try to accept that broken sleep and tiredness are part of being a parent.

To find out more about coping with tiredness and getting more sleep, see Coping with stress, tiredness and anger on the Plunket website.

Being active

Being active can help you to recover from the pregnancy and birth, and return to your pre-pregnancy weight. Getting out of the house can help you feel better and more refreshed. Start pelvic floor exercises as soon as you feel able.

Returning to activity

If you’ve maintained your fitness throughout your pregnancy you should be able to return to light aerobic activities fairly quickly. Some women can do so within days of an uncomplicated birth – others may take a few weeks.

Start with a gentle walk and try to slowly increase your activity. As you get stronger and fitter, try challenging yourself – maybe by walking or jogging a bit faster, going further, or adding in some hills. Aim to build up to at least 2 1/2 hours of moderate-intensity activity (like brisk walking) spread over the week.

If you have had a Caesarean section or a complicated birth, check with your midwife, as you may have to wait 4–6 weeks before doing anything more than simple activities. Try to build activity into your day by going for a walk with your baby, or with other new parents.

Staying comfortable

  • Wear a bra that supports your breasts well (not an underwire bra, which may put pressure on your breasts and could lead to blocked milk ducts). Some people prefer to wear 2 bras or a bra and crop top for extra support.
  • While you are breastfeeding, the most comfortable time to exercise may be just after you have fed your baby.
  • Make sure that you get enough to eat and drink.

Pelvic floor muscle exercises

Your pelvic floor muscles support your bladder, uterus (womb) and bowel. They often become weaker during pregnancy and childbirth, so some women wet their pants when they sneeze, cough or exercise. See the Pelvic floor muscle exercises page to find out how to strengthen these muscles.

Ask for help when you need it

Try not to do too much too soon. Housework is not as important as you and your baby.

It’s OK to accept help from friends and whānau and to ask for help yourself. Often it’s the help with the small, everyday things (looking after other children, meals, errands or housework) that makes a big difference.

If you find you feel down, depressed or hopeless a lot of the time, or if you have little interest or pleasure in doing things, you may be developing postnatal depression. You can read more about postnatal depression, or call PlunketLine on 0800 933 922 to get help. Your midwife, nurse or doctor is also there to help you.


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