The experience of giving birth is different for every woman, but all new Mums have one thing in common –they need to take care of themselves after having their baby. This page provides tips and links to important areas of self-care after giving birth, including healthy eating and breastfeeding, getting enough sleep – you and baby, pelvic floor exercises, what to do if you get mastitis, and postnatal depression (PND).
Healthy eating and breastfeeding
After childbirth, eating nutritious and healthy food can help you lose any extra weight that you gained while you were pregnant. And if you’re breastfeeding, it’s important to eat nutritious food to keep up your energy and milk supply for your baby.
- What is healthy eating? Advice on how to eat in a way that contributes to your long-term health, is enjoyable, and fits with your lifestyle
- The Non-Diet eating approach – an approach to eating, without the ‘diet’ rules
- Breastfeeding mums: Eating for maximum energy (Healthy Food Guide) – what you need to eat when breastfeeding, snack ideas, and tackling ‘baby weight’
- Eating well – even on a budget – tips to help bring your weekly food costs down.
Check out the Grown Ups: Food and Nutrition section for information on everything to do with food – from healthy lunches through to delicious desserts.
Getting enough sleep – you and baby
With a new baby in the house, getting enough sleep can be a challenge, to say the least! By setting up a sleep routine for your baby, you’ll also get more sleep and have more energy. You can also try sleeping when your baby sleeps, to get the rest that you need.
- Getting your baby to sleep in the first few weeks – learn about setting up a sleep routine
- Sleep and children – find out about naps, sleep habits, overcoming sleep problems, and sleep tips
- Healthy sleep tips for women (National Sleep Foundation) – how to develop healthy sleeping habits.
Read the Babies: Sleep time section for more advice on getting your baby to sleep and help with the equipment you’ll need.
Pelvic floor exercises
Your pelvic floor is important as it supports your abdominal and pelvic organs. After childbirth, you may experience a weakened pelvic floor. To regain the strength in your pelvic floor, it’s a good idea to do exercises from the first week after giving birth.
- Postnatal exercises – advice on pelvic floor exercises and health for postnatal women
- Exercising for the birth – includes advice for exercise in late pregnancy and explains how to do pelvic floor exercises
- How physio can help pelvic floor disorders (Physiotherapy New Zealand) – includes a video on how to do pelvic floor exercises.
Check out Physiotherapy New Zealand’s Pelvic floor exercise guide (PDF, 892KB) to learn how to build a strong pelvic floor to prevent problems after pregnancy.
What to do if you get mastitis
Mastitis occurs when the breast tissue – most commonly the milk glands and milk ducts – become inflamed. It’s very painful and can happen when you’re breastfeeding, so it’s useful to know what causes it and how to treat it.
- Coping with mastitis – find out about the signs and symptoms of mastitis and what to do if you get it
- read the Babies: Feeding your baby: Breastfeeding section for tips on breastfeeding your baby.
Postnatal depression (PND)
It’s quite common to have the ‘baby blues’ and feel low, anxious, or tearful for a few days or weeks after the birth. PND is worse than that; it’s a lasting depression that is associated with childbirth.
PND is a medical condition and can be treated. By learning about what PND is, you’ll know what to do if you experience symptoms like ongoing sadness, loss of enjoyment, irritability, feeling overwhelmed, anger, negative thinking, or an inability to make decisions. If so, tell someone straight away – don’t keep it to yourself.
- Recovering from postnatal depression – find out what PND is, how to identify symptoms, and how to recover from PND
- The Baby blues – learn about the ‘baby blues’ and how to help overcome them
Learn more about managing PND on the Mothers Helpers, Post & Ante-natal Distress Support Group Wellington or Mothers matter websites.
Caring for yourself after giving birth can be really hard – especially as you are also looking after another little life. However, do remember that you can’t look after your baby properly if you’re not looking after yourself.