Giving birth is physically and emotionally challenging, and it takes time to heal from the experience. While it can be difficult to prioritize self-care and recovery while taking care of a newborn, supporting your health as a new mother is also essential.
We’ve included different strategies new moms can try to prioritize their postpartum recovery while caring for their little one.
Get as much rest as possible
It's advised that new moms try to get at least 7–9 hours of sleep per day, including nighttime sleep and naps combined. However, this could be more or less depending on personal needs or existing sleep patterns. For new moms, getting plenty of rest might feel impossible. But adequate rest is essential for aiding the healing process, recharging energy levels, stabilizing hormonal changes, and maintaining overall well-being.
Tips: Some mothers get extra rest by sleeping when their baby sleeps. Others find it best to create a specific sleep schedule for themselves and find child care support when they’re resting. When possible, caregivers can try to divide nighttime feeding shifts so new mothers get opportunities to sleep through the night.
Eat nutritious foods and drink a lot of water
New mothers, particularly those who are breastfeeding, often need to drink more water than usual to support their body's recovery and milk production. It’s advised that new moms try to drink about 16 cups of water a day (3.7 liters). To support recovery, new moms also need to eat a lot of protein, calcium-rich foods, iron, folate, fiber, healthy fats, and essential vitamins.
Tips: Some mothers find it helpful to carry around a large water bottle throughout the day, while others try drinking a large glass of water every time they breastfeed. Easy ways to increase protein intake can include buying a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, spreading peanut butter on crackers, or having some spoonfuls of cottage cheese. Milk and yogurt are both great sources of calcium and protein. Some moms like to make smoothies and add important nutrients like healthy fats from avocados and fiber from spinach for a quick nutritional boost.
Try gentle stretching and movement
Gentle exercise and stretching can help new moms regain muscle strength, improve overall mood, and promote blood circulation. It can also ease postpartum discomfort, reduce the risk of blood clots, and boost healing. Additionally, regular gentle exercise may help ease postpartum fatigue and stress.
Tips: Some moms like to get their little ones involved in some light exercise by going for a walk together. Or when their infants are in their crib, it can be a good time to do some gentle stretching next to them.
Accept help from friends and family members
For many of us, it’s hard to ask for help. But during the postpartum recovery process, it’s an important time to lean on a support network if possible.
Tips: Some new moms find it works best to ask for specific help from family and friends. For example, they might ask a particular friend or family member to bring over dinner one night. Or they might delegate the task of running an errand to someone who lives in that area. For mothers who are comfortable with it, it can be helpful to ask a trusted family member or friend to babysit for a short period to free up time for napping, running errands, or just getting some alone time.
Access community resources and support services
There are many different community resources and programs to provide new mothers with key services. These resources can help families access nutritious foods, affordable healthcare, and more. Utilizing these community resources can ease financial strain and help new caregivers provide a safe and nurturing environment for their growing families.
Tips: The following programs are available for qualifying families in California:
Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides assistance with food, nutrition education, and healthcare referrals to ensure mothers and their babies receive essential nutrition during their early years.
CalFresh, California's supplemental nutrition assistance program, is another resource to help families buy healthy food.
Many community centers also offer free or low-cost parenting classes, support groups, and educational workshops.
Medi-Cal provides comprehensive healthcare coverage, including prenatal and postpartum care.
Practice self-compassion and manage expectations
Being a new mother isn’t easy, and there are so many new adjustments to make and challenges to work through. Parenthood, especially for new moms, can be overwhelming, and practicing self-compassion can reduce stress and anxiety.
Tips: Practicing self-compassion doesn’t have to be another item on a new mom’s growing to-do list. It can be a matter of taking a few deep breaths when feeling overwhelmed. Short 5-minute mindfulness exercises or meditation practices can also help new moms return to a place of calm. Some new moms like to write or speak regular positive affirmations, such as “I am doing my best,” “I am a good mother,” or “I am learning and growing every day.”