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Five self-care habits I wish I had prioritised after birth

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Your body just went through the most epic and somewhat traumatic experience of its life.

No, it wasn’t being a contestant on Australian Ninja Warrior. You just gave birth to a baby.

And as natural as that is, it’s an enormous feat for any woman and takes an enormous toll on the body.

Childbirth is similar to running an ultra-marathon. Apart from pushing a large object through a very small hole called a vagina (or having a massive opening cut into your abdomen), which is nothing like a marathon, that little uterus of yours contracts for a whole minute every 3-4 minutes for hours and hours on end. It’s like HIIT training from hell.

My longest labour was 12 hours which is at least a 50km run, I’m sure of it.

Anyway, not only have you just done the most epic workout you’ll ever do, stretched your vagina as wide as it’ll ever go and moaned (or screamed) as loud as you’ll ever moan, you now have a precious, tiny infant that relies on you for everything.

All I can remember in the first three to four weeks after having a baby was the epic amount of bodily fluids and how the myriad of methods to absorb them filled my bathroom bin.

Breast pads, sanitary napkins, nappies, baby puke rags. Blood, milk, poo, sweat, wee, baby vomit…I’ll move on.

For at least the next six to 12 months after giving birth, you really need to prioritise looking after yourself – more than ever.

Not because you’re selfish or obsessed with health, but because you’re a wonderful, amazing and incredible woman, who became a mother for the first time–or again–and you can only put out what you put in.

If I could go back in time, I would 100% look after myself better. This is what I’d do:

Prioritise my iron supplement

A mild haemorrhage during my first labour left me very low and run down, and I wasn’t fully aware back then what iron deficiency would mean for me while I was trying to adjust to a new baby, breastfeeding and all that went along with being a new mother.

See your GP first and don’t take a supplement unless you’re actually deficient. See a dietitian for nutrition advice for your long-term iron status.

Prioritise my lunch

The early days of being a stay at home mum are tough to get used to, especially if you’ve worked full-time for years prior to having a baby.

During these months I prioritised vacuuming, washing and the baby (of course) thinking I had to accomplish ‘things’ at home to feel like I achieved in my day.

I regularly skipped lunch or ate peanut butter on toast. I was hungry, had poor energy levels, I snacked on poor quality food, and was irritable, teary and not a happy chappy.

If I could go back in time, I would absolutely prioritise eating a good, full, whole-food-based lunch.

Drink lots of water

If you’re breastfeeding you’re going to need to drink lots. Breastfeeding is incredibly dehydrating. Your body is making milk like a champion and that milk is mostly water.

Again, I did not prioritise this and most afternoons/evenings found myself feeling exhausted, headachy and cranky.

Dehydration affects your concentration, your overall wellbeing and heaps more. Be a drink bottle bandit and make sure it stays full.

Include more healthy fats

Did you know that the nutritional composition of breast milk doesn’t change with your diet, except for the types of fats that you consume? It’s true.

If you consume healthy, plant-based fats and omega 3 fats then your breast milk will be full of those fats too. Avocado, nuts, seeds, extra-virgin olive oil, salmon and other fatty fish will give you lots of nutrition–much more than just healthy fats–and nourish your baby as well.

Make friends with fibre

I don’t know about your experience but the first time I did a poo after giving birth was a monumental occasion. Dear lord, I couldn’t even control it and I felt like my whole nether region was the size of a football…

Anyway, a mixture of hormones, dehydration and poor diet quality can lead to constipation and along with all the other challenges of the post-partum period, not being about to poo is the last thing you need.

Try my ‘Do a poo’ smoothie: 1 kiwi fruit, 1 cup baby spinach and ½ cup prune juice every day and you’ll have 99 problems but pooping won’t be one of them.

If you need help with your nutrition for pre, during or post-pregnancy, contact my team at The Healthy Eating Hub. We’d love to help.

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