I’m excited to announce that we welcomed our son, Jack, in August. I took a small break from blogging, but I’m excited to be back and share a few postpartum tips.
Keep in mind that living a healthy life is a spiritual pursuit! Being physically and emotionally healthy allows you to be a good witness and live the kind of life God has called you to. However, I also want to stress that being “healthy” doesn’t always look the same for different people.
Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. – 3 John 1:2
A quick background on me: I’ve had two babies and four abdominal surgeries in the past four years (two were C-sections). With both of my pregnancies, I gained about 50 pounds. I also struggled with pre-eclampsia and postpartum depression (PPD) after my first pregnancy. For me, it felt like during pregnancy there was a purpose to my growing and changing body, but once my daughter came out that same body became unfamiliar and unforgiving. I had to constantly remind myself my body still had a purpose—to nourish and protect my sweet baby.
My postpartum journey after my second baby has been a much more enjoyable experience. Instead of focusing so much on changing my body, I worked on changing my mindset. Below I’ve put together a list of 10 postpartum tips for both physical and emotional health.
- Sleep. Fitness is one way to love your body, but rest is just as important. Becoming a mother comes with so many physical and emotional changes as well as exhaustion from minimal sleep and frequent feedings. When we stop sleeping, our cortisol levels increase, which prevents us from being able to metabolize calories efficiently. In the first 6-8 weeks, don’t worry about getting back to the gym. Just take the time to rest and bond with your baby.
- Drink lots of water. Hydration is so important in establishing your milk supply and flushing out the water weight you gained during pregnancy. If you get dehydrated, your body will try to retain water so drinking plenty will also help prevent you from becoming bloated. I am not a big water drinker, but I was intentional about drinking at least 90-100 ounces a day. Every morning, I would put six water bottles or two large jugs in the fridge so I knew exactly what I needed to drink to hit my goal.
- Nourish your body.
I know it’s natural to want to lose weight right after baby arrives, but try not to focus on dieting or skipping any meals. Instead, nourish your body with healthy foods and eat clean. As much as possible, avoid sugar (some fruits are okay) and processed carbs. If you’re like me and get caffeine headaches, try coffee with truvia or unsweetened tea. Below are some of my favorite snacks and meals to make sure I stay energized and continue producing milk:
– Carrots & Hummus
– Hard boiled eggs
– String Cheese
– Rotisserie chicken and cauliflower rice
– Salmon and zucchini noodles
– Pork chop and roasted veggies
– Chicken and goat cheese with asparagus
– Hamburger steak with green beans
– Scrambled eggs and bacon
- Walk. Sometimes just moving can energize your spirit. This one is easy to do with your baby, just use a carrier or a stroller and go out and walk for about 30 minutes a day. By week six, I had worked my way up to walking three miles every day with little man strapped to my chest. It was a sweet time to put on worship music and enjoy the feel of him snuggled up against me while still getting some fresh air.
- Go at your own pace. Don’t rush yourself because you see other moms doing it or because you feel like you need to get your “pre-pregnancy” body back. Take it one day at a time and find the things you enjoy doing. For the first six weeks, I did nothing but walk. After that, I started incorporating some prenatal yoga. By week eight, I was able to ease back into my all-time favorite workout: BBG with Kayla Itsines. Some days you might feel comfortable and confident in your body, and some days you might feel like a stranger in it. That’s okay. Don’t let an image of how you think you should look or feel impact your self-worth.
- Sleep! I know this was already said, but I can’t stress enough how important it is to sleep and rest as much as possible in those first few weeks after baby arrives. When my daughter was born, my PPD got so much worse when I stopped sleeping. My anxiety went through the roof. Again, not sleeping increases your cortisol levels, which increases your risk of depression and anxiety. This time around, I spent three whole days just lying in bed with my son, bonding with him and building my milk supply by letting him nurse frequently.
- Soak it in. The number one piece of advice I have heard from other parents is, “Enjoy it. They grow up so fast.” Snuggle your baby for as long as you can. Just hug them tightly and bask in that sweet newborn smell (pre-dirty diaper). Partly because of my anxiety, I had a hard time being all there in some of the moments with my daughter. I was constantly worrying about being a new mom, stressing over my weight, and feeling guilty about both of those things. It’s hard to let those things go, but try to spend at least an hour a day with your mind on nothing but your beautiful little miracle bundled up beside you.
- Skip the guilt. Be kind to yourself and believe in yourself. Let go of comparison. Let go of doubt. Let go of the idea that you’re not good enough. You are exactly what your baby needs. Give yourself grace. If you break your eating plan, if you skip your workout, or if you experience a setback, skip the guilt. Don’t punish yourself or push yourself harder. Just take a deep breath and start over again.
- Take baby breaks. Ask your spouse or family members to watch the baby and take time to do something you love, whether that’s exercising, reading, painting, or shopping. Motherhood absolutely changes you, and sometimes it feels like you lose yourself, but spending time doing things you love can help ground you and refresh your mind, body, and soul.
- Spend time in the Word. Let God remind you that you are worth loving, even when you forget. Let Him pour His love, grace, endurance, abundance, and patience onto you until you are so full that it literally flows out of you. Spending time in His Word will help equip you to be the mother you aspire to be.
Those are my 10 tips! If you want to set goals for yourself, remember that your goals set a tone. There is a big difference between a goal to get your pre-pregnancy body back and a goal to wake up every day loving the body that you’re in. After my first pregnancy, my goal was weight loss. This time around, my goal is simply to be healthy so that I can love my babies well.
Bonus Tip: Find community & surround yourself with positivity.
Identify some key people in your life who you know can keep you grounded and walk with you through the tough times. I had a really intense wave of anxiety hit in the hospital the night after our son was born because 1) He had some breathing issues for the first 24 hours and 2) When our daughter came to visit, she collapsed into the floor sobbing “oh no” as soon as she saw him. I panicked wondering how I was going to be a mother of two and texted one of my sweet friends (at 4 am!) who immediately responded with this:
Never, ever underestimate the power of encouragement from other moms who are in the same boat. Surround yourself with supportive moms and, more importantly, be one! Be the mom who will always speak grace into a situation.
I’ll leave you with great advice from some of the rock star moms in my community:
My own sweet mama: Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. You don’t have to be superwoman. Leave the dishes or the dusting for another day. Cuddle on the bed, play on the floor with all the toys… housework can wait. Listen to people’s advice but in the end, do what you feel is right. Not everybody wants to raise their kids the same way.
I also encourage you to read, read, read! Help your children develop a love of books. Start a nighttime routine that includes reading.
Finally, write down things that happen. It goes so fast and you forget. One of my favorite memories is taking my daughter for ice cream after her first day of kindergarten. I wrote down everything she told me about her big first day. When she left for college I printed out a copy of that page and wrote her a note telling her I hoped her first day of college was just as special.
(Guys, I totally remember opening that note and crying on my first day of college. It was such a sweet gesture and I highly recommend doing it for your kids!)
Kelly: Don’t be afraid to admit the emotions you are experiencing. It’s hard to say that you’re not happy. As a new mom, you might think it’s just part of the experience. As a veteran mom, you might think you should be able to handle it. Find people you trust and be honest about how you’re feeling. It’s always okay to ask for help!
Abbey: It’s SO okay to say no. I think so often mental health is misinterpreted as something that will get better if you force yourself to return to normal, or if you get back in the gym, or if go get lunch with friends to take your mind off things. But for a mom suffering PPD/PPA, going anywhere or doing anything other than changing the next diaper or surviving until the next nap may actually sound like the most exhausting and scariest thing in the world. Your mind needs time to rest and heal just like the rest of your body, and it’s okay to give it that rest.
(You can follow Abbey on Instagram here to follow her motherhood journey.)
Heather: Being a new parent is hard any way you put it, particularly for mothers. Working or staying home both come with their individual challenges and rewards.
Personally, I am a stay at home mother of a preemie baby. My pregnancy and first few months of motherhood were loaded with researching every detail, second-guessing my own intuition, seeking professional medical advice, seeking professional second-opinion medical advice, and reading all the opinions of other parents in the numerous parenting social media groups I followed.
I was overwhelmed, exhausted, fatigued, anxious, protective, and just trying to survive. If that sounds like you, I invite you to practice some of the following tips:
Limit your own screen time. We usually hear this tip regarding our children, but it’s definitely an area to practice a little self-control. Try turning off the screen two hours before bedtime, for both you and your child. The little sleep you get is sacred so do yourself a favor and help out your brain.
Use social media with intention. You may be in a million groups pertaining to your interests. However, during this incredibly vulnerable and valuable season you are experiencing, don’t let social media add to your stress or anxiety. When you see something that makes you feel less than enough, get rid of it. You don’t have the energy for that. Instead, use social media to find groups that meet locally and connect with other people face to face. Peer-to-peer support is essential.
Reduce your researching. This comes from the woman who had antimicrobial, moisture-wicking onesies on her baby registry because they were the most logical and best onesies on the market. You don’t need to know everything, it’s overwhelming. Due diligence is responsible but anything beyond that point might not be the wisest way to spend your time. Consider stopping yourself halfway down the rabbit hole and asking, “In the grand scheme of things, does this really matter?”
Be health conscious. No, I don’t mean start a vigorous workout routine as soon as the doctor clears you after birth, but think about the things that fuel you. Consider making them a top priority as a form of self-care. A lot can be said for a 10 minute walk in the fresh air or a nutritious meal. When you are ready and after you have been cleared by your doctor, exercise does do wonders for your body, mind, and soul.
Nikki: My biggest tip for postpartum is to give yourself grace in all areas. There’s so much pressure to do it all, but it’s literally impossible at this vulnerable stage. No matter how your birth went, you’ve been through A LOT both emotionally and physically. Give yourself grace above everything else.
So ask for help. Tell people you’re struggling. Accept any and all handouts. A friend had called this period in my life my “year of no.” God really grew me in that time where I took a step back and let people help me instead of me trying to do everything and be everything to everyone. They say it’s just a season in our lives, so it’s really important to remember that plants don’t bloom in all seasons.
We recently planted blueberry bushes and the Gardner told us that the first couple years we need to prune the buds off to keep it from producing fruit so that the berries will grow bigger and fuller down the line.
That’s us. The year we have babies is when we literally look like tangled up twigs and can’t produce a little leaf, let alone fruit. But you will bear fruit again. You will feel beautiful again. You will be able to create and serve and be you.
Just now is not that time. So sink your roots down deep and snuggle that baby. Time to be a scraggly twig. And that’s okay. You’ll be fuller and more fruitful later on because of it.
(You can follow Nikki’s blog here to read more of her amazing writing.)
Kim: Find friends or other mommas that you can be real and honest with—that you can share your truth with and know they won’t judge you for it. Don’t worry about what other people think or be concerned that you may not be doing it right. We all have our own way of parenting, and just because their journey might look a little different than yours, it does not mean that one journey is better than the other.
If you are an audiobook or podcast lover, do a search for topics like ‘parenting’, ‘positive parenting’, or ‘positive discipline’’. These will be great resources to listen to as you continue your mom journey.
Be careful not to compare yourself to what you see on social media. So often we see other moms who ‘bounce back’ or lose the baby weight so quickly. God designed each of our bodies in their own unique and special way and that design is beautiful. When you are approved and ready to get back to the gym, I suggest starting slow and building back up your endurance. Find whatever makes you eager to work out. For some, it may be CrossFit. For others, it may be running, spin classes, Zumba, etc. If you find a workout routine that you truly enjoy, you will look forward to it and won’t dread it.
With my health journey lately, I have found that a clean diet has helped me physically but also in my appearance. My skin is clearer and my clothes fit better because I am eating more natural, clean foods. A clean diet has helped me with maintaining wellness and confidence!
Alexa: First and foremost, know that with God all things really are possible! He is the only place we can find strength and grace so cling to Him every day. Sometimes I find myself getting overwhelmed with two hungry twins and a two year old with a dirty diaper who are all needing my attention. Instead of getting frustrated, I try to remind myself that this is just a season. If I can respond in a calm manner, it’s easier for all of us. Just breathe!
Know that those long nights and tantrums will be over before you know it so hang on tight, say some extra prayers, and try and enjoy your children for each stage they are in. They can sense our emotions and if your kids are anything like my two year old, she reflects everything I do so keep that in mind.
Remember that you are not alone! Every mom is in this parenting game together so find some other moms who you can relate to and find encouragement from. I couldn’t survive without my mom friends.
Physically, be sure to give yourself grace. Remember that this too is just a season. You will get your body back in time. Focus more on the gift you have in front of you (your children) and not the extra pudge. Do things that make YOU happy. For me, that’s exercising. Even if it’s just a short walk with your kids, get out and do something. I have a routine I stick to and it helps me mentally and physically. Get out and do the things with your husband that you enjoy. I believe kids should adapt to your lifestyle and will enjoy the things you do if you stay active and include them in your activities.
During stressful days, try not to take your feelings out on comfort food but rather healthy food that will add benefit to your life—especially if you are breastfeeding.
Overall, remember that we are all in this together. Dads, too! Happy and hard times are inevitable so find ways to enjoy both for all they are worth because each day is a gift and your children deserve all the love you can give!
(You can follow Alexa on Instagram here to follow her journey as a mommy of a toddler and twins!)