1. Eat enough.
It’s easy to skip a meal here and there when you’re dealing with the demands of a new baby—or worse, forget to eat altogether—but the lack of nutrition ultimately saps you of the very energy you need to stay on top of the whole motherhood thing.
One easy fix is to eat when your baby eats. Have simple-to-make snack options on hand so that when the time comes, you don’t have to prepare anything, says Lizellen La Follette, M.D. , ob/gyn at Marin General Hospital in California. Fill your freezer with double batches of dinners that you can bust out when you’re too tired to cook, or put your partner on dinner duty until further notice. You should also increase your fluid intake if you’re breastfeeding, says La Follette. The breastfeeding process creates a hormonal reaction that can increase thirst, so keep that bottle of water handy.
2. Keep taking your prenatal vitamins.
“Many women think that once they have the baby, they don’t need to continue taking prenatal vitamins ,” says Ross. Not so. “If you’re breastfeeding, your body requires more vitamins and minerals than during your pregnancy ,” she explains. You should also talk to your ob/gyn about upping your doses of vitamin D and omega 3 fish oil to ensure your babe scores the vital nutrients she needs.
3. Limit visits in the beginning.
Family and friends will be excited to see the new baby right away, but that doesn’t mean you have to allow it. “Childbirth is a difficult process for your body,” says New Jersey-based urogynecologist Betsy Greenleaf, D.O. “During this time, it’s challenging to keep your energy up, and visitors can further drain your (limited) resources.” Consider staggering visits over a longer period of time to help prevent isolation and postpartum depression —and bring the initial mad rush of visitors to a gentle flow. Phew.
4. Get more sleep. Seriously.
Sleep is important for every aspect of recovery, says Ross, yet
ironically is a thing of the past once you have a newborn. According to March of Dimes , newborns sleep about 16 hours a day for three to four hours at a time, making it impossible for mom to score a solid stretch of shuteye, well, ever. It’s best to sleep when your baby sleeps—even if it’s just for a quick nap—and teach her day from night asap so you can gradually get back into the rhythm of a good night’s sleep, says Ross. For example, leave the curtains open and don’t go out of your way to be quiet during daytime naps, and keep the nursery dark and super-quiet during nighttime snoozes.
5. Be patient with breastfeeding. (It’s harder than it looks!)
In the beginning, breastfeeding sucks. Literally and figuratively. “The pain from breastfeeding is hard to get used to,” says Ross. “Between the blisters, nipple cream that doesn’t really help, and simultaneous pain from uterine cramping, the entire experience can be toe curling.” And actually getting your kiddo to nurse doesn’t always come easy . Just remember that breastfeeding can be a major struggle for any new mom —lactation consultants exist for a reason.