Healthy Tips for New Parents

By on October 17, 2016

Congratulations, it’s a baby!  After nine long months the wait is over and you finally get to meet your beautiful baby. You get to memorize your baby’s face and watch with amazement as your child learns, grows and changes each day.  It’s a wonderful feeling.

However, life as a new parent is also quite an adjustment.  Once you arrive home from the hospital, the reality sets in that you are the parent, and the cycle of eat, diaper, sleep begins.  One minute you are madly in love with your new bundle of joy, and the next you are crying for no reason or about your lack of sleep.  Some parents find the transition relatively smooth and easy, and other parents experience feelings of depression.

Knowing how to do it, when to do it, and what to expect can be challenging, especially when everyone you know starts to give you parenting advice.  With information overload, it can be tough for new parents to filter all the information, and find what works for you.  Yet, finding ways to stay healthy as a new parent is equally as important to be at your best as a new parent!

The pressure to return to your pre-pregnancy size is often felt by new moms.  With many celebrities sporting bikini ready bodies within a few weeks, the realities of healthy weight loss after a baby is often overlooked.  It took nine months for your body to stretch and grow, and a healthier and more realistic goal is nine months to lose your pregnancy weight.

After giving birth, it takes six weeks for your body to heal and recover from pregnancy and labour.  During this period, it is not a good time to be dieting, or returning to your old strenuous exercise habits.  Healthy eating habits are essential to heal the body, and ensure you are getting enough energy to cope with the demands of a newborn.  In addition, gentle exercises, such as walking and stretching, are a great way to start the healing process once you feel ready.

Healthy eating is important for both mom and baby.  Breastfeeding is the best method for feeding your baby according to Health Canada and numerous other health institutions around the world.  It is a complete food, containing an ideal balance of nutrients to support healthy development and immunity in your baby, but the benefits of breastfeeding are not just for baby.  Breastfeeding shrinks the uterus to its pre-pregnancy size.  It burns an additional 400-500 calories each day.  And, it helps moms lose weight quicker!  Remember, once you reach your goal weight your body may not be exactly as it was before you were pregnant. Your hips may be slightly wider, your abdomen may be a bit softer and your breasts may change in size.  Know that you are not alone, and you should feel proud of your new body and everything is has accomplished.

Unfortunately, breastfeeding is not a reality for all new moms, and that’s ok.  Whether you are breastfeeding or not, it is important to eat a healthy diet to ensure you have optimal energy to keep up with the demands of motherhood.  For moms that can breastfeed, be patient.  It may take you and your baby some time to master the art of breastfeeding.  A proper latch is key for success, and you and your newborn will need to practice.  If you are struggling, as many new moms do, ask for help from your midwife, nurse, lactation consult, or naturopath.

Sleep deprivation is another reality of parenthood no one can be fully prepared for.  Although the third trimester’s frequent midnight trips to the bathroom begin to prepare you for disrupted sleep, the reality can definitely be challenging. Just like every mom handles the trials and tribulations of sleep-deprivation differently, every baby sports their own unique sleep habits. In general, most newborns are up at least once if not more throughout the night for a feeding, a diaper change or just the comfort of their parent’s company.  And, while most babies will begin to sleep through the night around three months, this is not always the case.  Whether your new baby is an excellent sleeper or not, it is important for new parents to sleep when baby sleeps, and to find a sleep routine that works best for you.  Leave the dishes in the sink, and the vacuum in the closet.  If you fall a bit behind on your household chores, life will be ok.  In fact, it will be much easier to handle a messy room when you are more rested.  Researchers have found a higher rate of post-partum depression in sleep-deprived moms, so developing healthy sleep habits is essential.

Eating a healthy diet, exercising and sleep may seem like common sense.  However, common sense can go right out the window when you are feeling tired, overweight and flabby.  So remember looking after yourself is important throughout the earlier days of parenthood. The newborn phase is just that, a phase, and quickly passes.  Trust your instinct when you are overwhelmed with advice, a mother’s intuition is an important tool.  You will find your own family’s unique rhythm, and soon enough you will to be struggling to remember those early days.  If you are not coping, or are not finding your family’s rhythm, there are a number of resources in the community available to you.  Health care providers for pregnancy and the post-natal period can include a midwife, family doctor, naturopathic doctor, nurse, lactation consultant, doula and/or chiropractor.

Jennifer Hendry-Lynn, BSc. (Hons), ND, practices as a Naturopathic Doctor at ReAlign Health in Cambridge, ON.  In her daily practice she treats a variety of health concerns, including: women’s health, pregnancy, allergies, digestive disorders, pediatrics and autism.  She is DAN! trained.  For more information visit realignhealth.com or drjennd.com or call 519-650-1630.

 

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