21 Postpartum Self-Care Tips To Care for Yourself After Giving Birth

Anyone who’s a parent knows your newest addition will change absolutely everything! Your routine changes, your body changes, and your emotions are going through tons of topsy-turvey changes (thanks, hormones). With all these changes, what’s a mom to do? Enter: a postpartum self-care plan for moms. Whether you’re navigating postpartum anxiety or depression, are seeking more quality rest, want to make time for counseling, or would like to take better care of yourself in general, a postpartum self-care plan can help you tune in to and meet your needs.

Postpartum Self-Care Plan

Following a postpartum self-care plan isn’t just something for moms to add to their to-do list later. It’s a crucial part of taking care of yourself so you can be the best mom you can be for your little one. But what exactly should you include in your plan? Let’s explore how you can prepare to cope with both the emotional and physical changes that happen postpartum in your self-care plan.

12 Tips for Coping With Emotional Changes

An effective postpartum self-care plan for moms should cover all aspects of postpartum life, including your physical wellness and your emotional and mental health. Here are some tips for coping with emotional changes postpartum:

1. Journal

You don’t have to be a writer or have a fancy, full-priced journal to benefit from journaling. Change is hard, so having a private and personal outlet to process that change with zero judgment will help you cope. This kind of self-care and self-awareness is also helpful in identifying postpartum depression symptoms you may have.4

2. Practice Gratitude

It’s easy to find big things to be grateful for in your postpartum life, but what about the small things in between? Of course, you’re grateful for your baby, but try finding small things that bring you joy, too. By incorporating a gratitude practice into your postpartum self-care plan, you’re training your brain to look for the positives and to find moments that bring you joy. This can help you through the hard times that inevitably come, like seemingly never-ending sleepless nights or the days when it seems like baby will never stop crying.12

3. Feel Your Feelings

No rule in the handbook of parenting says you can’t be overjoyed with your little one but also feel overwhelmed at times. Holding space for all your feelings, the good and the more complex and difficult, is important. If you notice you’re struggling more with the latter, consider looking into postpartum counseling to help you adjust or deal with emotions like anxiety and depression as part of your self-care.13

4. Be Honest With Your Provider

When you go to your follow-up appointments for postpartum care, it isn’t just about making sure everything checks out physically. Usually, providers will give you a short survey asking how you’ve been feeling, emotionally. Be honest if you’ve been feeling down, disconnected, or blue so they can determine how best to help you.

5. Join a Support Group

The never-ending cycle of sleeping, changing, eating, etc. can feel isolating. Sharing the day-to-day monotony with other moms in the same place you are is a great way to get emotional support. The best part about these support groups is that there’s one for everyone! If you want to leave the house, try checking one out in person. If you prefer to join other mamas from the comfort of your home, you can do that, too. For instance, Postpartum Support International offers a variety of online support groups you can join.

6. Give Yourself Grace

We’re our own worst critic in almost everything, including being the best parent we can be. Be patient with yourself as you learn the new ropes of parenting (or balancing a new addition to your crew), and have some self-compassion. Remind yourself that it’s okay to make mistakes along the way while you’re settling into life with a new baby.

7. Ask for Help

Unrecognizable person places hand on a mother's shoulder as she offers comfort and support.

When you’re feeling emotionally spent and it seems like washing one more onesie is about to throw you over the edge, pause and ask for help. As simple as it is, this is probably the most underrated form of self-care. You can’t be the mom you want to be if you’re doing it all and not making time to take care of yourself.

8. Learn How To Say “No”

When you have limited energy and limited time, it’s okay to say “no.” Many of us, especially moms, have been conditioned to always say “yes” (to everything), and it feels selfish to say “no” — but it isn’t. It’s perfectly fine to set boundaries and say “no” to requests. Protecting your peace of mind is an essential part of self-care for moms, even if it means telling visitors they’ll have to hold off on coming over.

9. Take a Step Back

As much as you want to do it all (all the time), it’s important to take a step back from extra obligations to focus on yourself and your little one. Yes, you’ve been dying to volunteer to host the book club at your house, but adding more stress to an already stressful situation (because newborns are a lot of work) runs the risk of you not enjoying what should be a fun experience.

10. Have Mindful Moments

It would be great to squeeze a short yoga session between feedings and sleeping, but let’s be realistic. Even making time for a shower is a win in those early days. But when possible, try to enjoy a mindful moment and focus on taking deep breaths to help you stay calm and relaxed. Finding time for yourself won’t always be easy, so try to build in these moments when you can. For example, if you’re rocking the baby, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Or, for a few minutes before you lay down to rest, stretch your body out to relax.

11. Accept Treatment if You Need It

No matter how much self-care you do, you may still experience the baby blues. Sometimes, it can even be more serious than that, like postpartum depression. If you’re feeling off, talk to your provider about postpartum depression, whether you have it, and how to treat it.14

12. Spend Quality Time With People Who Aren’t Your Baby

Any mom knows how easy it is to lose hours holding, rocking, and simply watching your baby sleep. While those bonding moments are vital for forming secure attachments with your little one, moms are social creatures, too, and need to feel connected.1 So, meet up with your friends for a coffee or pop your baby’s car seat into the stroller to go for a walk to catch up. Even if you prefer to stay home during the first few weeks, you can FaceTime your family or invite someone to swing by and chat.

9 Tips for Coping With Physical Changes

Even though you know what kinds of physical changes your body will go through during pregnancy, dealing with changes that come postpartum is a whole other ball game and an essential part of your self-care plan. Review these tips for coping with the physical changes you may experience:

1. Keep Your Follow-up Checkup

The mature adult female OB/GYN listens empathetically to the depressed young adult mother.

Even if you’re totally exhausted, keeping your postpartum follow-up appointments is a must. This kind of self-care is important for moms because it can help your doctor catch potential issues before they get worse. Whether you gave birth vaginally or via C-section, there’s potential for postpartum complications related to infections, hemorrhages, among other serious health issues.2 Your provider will typically check your blood pressure, do a pelvic exam, and take a look at any stitches to ensure they’re healing properly.

2. Honor Your Body With Movement

Exercising and moving your body doesn’t mean you “snap back” to your postpartum body ASAP. The truth is, your body will never be the same. Remember, moving your body is about feeling good, not losing weight. Make sure you check with your doctor before reintroducing exercise into your routine. But postpartum exercises that are generally safe can be as simple as kegels, deep breathing, or short walks.5

3. Wear Clothes That Feel Comfortable

This goes hand-in-hand with making sure your body feels good and comfortable. Your body just did an incredible thing! Don’t force yourself to wear real pants (or anything else uncomfortable) until you’re ready to. Go for flowy dresses, loose joggers, oversized shirts, or everyone’s favorite (postpartum or not) — comfy leggings.

4. Nourish Your Body With Nutritionally Dense Food

When we talk about postpartum nutrition, it has nothing to do with the D-word (yes, “dieting” is the D-word). What we mean is eating foods that give you energy. No, you can’t survive on just coffee all day. Following a well-balanced meal plan that includes fruits, veggies, grains, and protein is a good place to start. Specifically, you’ll want to enjoy foods higher in zinc, foods with choline (a nutrient that helps with memory and cognition), and iron-rich foods.6,7

Consider eating foods like:6,7

  • Meats
  • Fish
  • Shellfish (including oysters)
  • Whole grains
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Eggs
  • Soybeans
  • Chicken
  • Almonds
  • Vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts

5. Get Some Quality Rest

Since having your baby, you’ve likely had people tell you that if you need to rest, you should just sleep when the baby sleeps. While it’s well-meaning advice and good in theory, it hardly qualifies as quality rest. Building quality rest and sleep into your postpartum care plan is a non-negotiable. This could look like asking your partner, friend, or family to come over and watch your little one while you get some sleep. You could also establish a schedule with your partner, designating different hours to ensure everyone gets their much-needed rest.

6. Take the Time To Shower

A portrait of a smiling plus size woman standing in the bathroom after having washed her hair.

Taking a long, relaxing shower isn’t just self-care because it gives you time to yourself. It’s also part of taking care of your postpartum body. No matter how your baby came into the world, while your body is healing, keeping clean can help you avoid future problems like infections. Consider using a squirt bottle to clean your perineum, which is sensitive, considering everything your body just went through.8 You also can try out a sitz bath, specifically targeting this area instead of a regular bath.9 Check in with your doctor before resuming baths to ensure it’s safe for your situation.

7. Abide by Your Doctor’s Recommendations

If your doctor says not to lift anything heavy after giving birth or any other specific advice, listen to them! They aren’t just giving you these instructions to make life harder. For example, if your doctor tells you not to lift 10 to 15 pounds after a C-section, you really shouldn’t, even if you think it won’t be a big deal.10 The last thing you want to do is visit them (yet again) because your stitches aren’t healing properly.

8. Advocate for Yourself

You know your body best. Don’t hesitate to speak up if something feels off or you aren’t feeling well and have unusual symptoms. Serious complications can come from waiting and watching.2 For example, if you’re experiencing chest pain, difficulty breathing, extreme dizziness, or heavy bleeding, call your doctor.2,11

9. Stay Hydrated

It’s easy to forget to drink water during a normal day, but those first days, weeks, and months with your newest addition are even more of a blur. Being well-hydrated is important to healing your postpartum body and helps with milk production if you choose to breastfeed.3 You can encourage this habit by getting a fun new water bottle, flavoring your water, and making it routine to take a drink every time you feed your baby.

Committing to self-care during the postpartum days is important, but it doesn’t mean it’s easy! The good news is you don’t need to buy anything to start incorporating self-care into every day. For moms, self-care isn’t just about long baths and spa days. It’s about looking after your mental and physical health in your postpartum season. Practicing self-care supports your mental and physical health and helps you be the best mom you can be. As hard as it might be, taking the time to care for yourself isn’t selfish — it’s essential.


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