Postpartum is a crazy time: a baby is constantly crying, you’re getting little to no sleep, and your body feels like you were hit by a dump truck. Organs are squished, you’re bleeding, leaking milk everywhere, and have an appetite that would scare a lumberjack.
There’s a lot of talk about “body after baby” in our society, but it’s more focused on losing weight than anything else, which does a huge disservice to the fact that a mother just performed this monumental task of growing and birthing new life. I decided to put this little guide together that focuses on overall maternal health and things I’ve done to feel great and find my new “normal” postpartum. There’s a little bit of everything, from doctor visits to exercise to my favorite products. This list is not extensive: there are many different ways to achieve postpartum health!
Any information in this article is not meant to be a substitute for a medical professional. These are simply my experiences that I hope can help other mamas!
Let’s carry on, shall we?
I’ll start off with the physical aspects of feeling great postpartum, since that seems to be the question on everyone’s mind! Feeling great about your postpartum body is a daunting task: you’ve got stretch marks, you’ve got pain, and even worse, you feel like a deflated meat balloon. Let me first say this: You are beautiful. I know, I know…you’ve heard this a dozen times before. But think of those stretch marks and possible scars in a positive way. They tell a story of your life and the creation of your little one. Your marks are unique, just like your story. Every story is beautiful, even if there are parts of it that are dark or that we aren’t always proud of.
One of the best purchases I made was this Bellefit Postpartum Girdle. After having a baby, your core is weak as hell! I had an emergency C-Section, so I had core weakness, a ton of unsightly swelling, and a C-Section “shelf” where the incision was made. With my son starting out in the NICU, I didn’t have a chance to rest to help speed along healing. Having the Bellefit was so helpful because it gave me core stability and enough pressure on my incision so that I wasn’t in terrible pain. It also caused the swelling to go down a lot faster than I anticipated, and made me look great under my clothes! Warning: the girdle WILL be tight and possibly uncomfortable for the first week or so. This turns some people off from the product but if you stick with it, you will see results pretty quickly!
Exercise & Cut Down on Processed Sugar
Preeclampsia and its after-effects has been the biggest drive behind me incorporating exercise into my postpartum routine. I had been an athlete before, but the lingering elevated blood pressure made getting back into shape a bit more urgent. I also was especially weak in my core, and it made holding my son and taking care of him very difficult. I started going to the gym almost 2 months after he was born, and that first month it was HARD. I started out with 5lb weights and walking on the treadmill. I wasn’t trying to break any records, so don’t feel like you need to be superwoman when you are getting back into it! I also wrapped my stomach to give me more stability. Overall message: BE GENTLE WITH YOURSELF, MAMA!
Here is an example of an exercise routine I used when first getting back into it (using 5lb weights):
- 10 dumbbell curls
- 10 rows
- 10 calf raises with toes pointed in, then 10 calf raises with toes pointed straight
- 10 body weight squats
- walk for 15-20 minutes
See? There is no shame in taking it as slow as your body needs. Exercise has also helped me a great deal in dealing with Postpartum Depression. Now that it is summer, soaking in the sunshine does wonders!
The other big piece to this was that I was mindful of how much processed sugar I was eating. I found when I cut back (not completely eliminate!) on eating so much sugar, I had mental clarity, not to mention that coupled with exercise and breastfeeding…I lost 50lbs! Loading up on veggies was key for me. But remember: weight is not an indicator of health, so if you are exercising and eating sensibly but the scale isn’t budging—don’t worry one bit about it!
Physical Therapy & Chiropractic
Physical therapy and chiropractic care made a huge difference in recovery for me. Relaxin had made everything loosey-goosey in my hips and spine, and the weight of carrying a baby in my pelvis meant there was some muscle spasms. Muscle spasms in the pelvis can cause painful sex, which is no fun.
For Chiropractic, I started going once every couple of weeks and quickly noticed my hips didn’t feel so squishy and loose. Back pain significantly decreased, and headaches I had been having from poor posture went away. Chiropractic even helped with carpal tunnel, another effect of pregnancy I experienced. I had been going to the Chiropractor for general wellness during pregnancy, and I think it prevented a lot of pain and discomfort.
Physical Therapy got my sex life back on track! As previously mentioned, the weight of carrying a baby can cause the pelvic floor to get weak and or spasm, which can make sex very uncomfortable (not to mention the breastfeeding hormones make everything very dry down there!). I only had to complete a few weeks of physical therapy before the pain went away! I actually had my pelvic floor dry-needled to release the muscles. I was a little scared, but I felt immediate relief (as in, as soon as the needle was pulled out!). Dry needling does not hurt at all, and I haven’t had any issues since.
I know chiropractic and physical therapy may not be financially possible for some, or that your insurance doesn’t cover chiropractic. We have to pay out of pocket for Chiropractic, but it is honestly so worth it, even if you can only afford a couple of sessions!
I know, I know. You don’t have time. You don’t feel like it. Whatever the case may be, try to give sex a shot. Even just cuddling can make a difference! Oxytocin is a powerful hormone, and we can get it from getting some lovin’! It lifts up your mood, feels good, and puts a smile on your face. Plus, it reconnects you with your partner after the baby is born and things settle down. What could be better than that?
Therapy saved me. Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but…I just feel so much gratitude towards my counselor. Going through a trauma means that you carry a lot of baggage. It can bring up a lot of things you never thought could be related. Add Postpartum Depression and Anxiety on top of that, and you’ve got some serious shit. Counseling has helped me unpack a lot of my experience and has given me tools to cope with stress. I have made huge strides in healing, though I still have some work to do.
More importantly, speaking with a counselor helped me navigate the emotional hurdles of motherhood! Motherhood comes with so much. So much what? Well…everything. I didn’t realize how hard transitioning from married, no kids Daisy to married, with a child Daisy would be. Lots of emotions, family memories, expectations, relationship shifts plus a gajillion other things makes new motherhood a doozy. It has been amazing being able to talk these changes out with a professional.
For me, this has been the most beneficial thing I’ve done during the postpartum period.
Meditation & Gratitude
All of us have at least one thing to be grateful for, even when things seem pretty bleak. Take 10 minutes each day to be grateful and meditate on all of the great things in your life. You can take a few minutes when you wake up or before you go to bed at night, but be sure to take some time for self-care.
I like to turn on the Liquid Mind station on Pandora, close my eyes, and focus on my breathing. Relaxation comes a lot easier to me now and I feel more prepared to take on the day. Meditation looks different for everyone, but be sure to pick something that is sustainable and enjoyable for you.
Well, that’s it! Although achieving postpartum wellness is obviously more complicated than this list makes it seem (and I just KNOW I’m forgetting something), these actions helped me a great deal. Almost 8 months postpartum and I look and feel great! It takes some work, but you are worth it! Don’t be afraid to ask your partner for support—you created this life together!
Tell me mamas: what are some things you did to feel great and bounce back postpartum?
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