A. Birth Control
You can become pregnant again before your first postpartum period. Even though this is less likely if you are exclusively breastfeeding, have not had a period, and your baby is younger than 6 months old, it is still possible.
If you want to protect against pregnancy, discuss your options with your doctor. This may include barrier methods (like condoms or diaphragms), an IUD, pills, a patch, an implantable device, or shots.
You need plenty of sleep, lots of fluids, and good nutrition, especially if you’re breastfeeding. An easy way to stay on top of drinking enough fluids is to have a glass of water whenever your baby nurses. At least until your milk supply is well established, try to avoid caffeine, which causes loss of fluid through urine and sometimes makes babies wakeful and fussy.
If you have any breastfeeding problems, talk to your doctor, midwife, or a lactation specialist. Your clinic or hospital lactation specialist can advise you on how to deal with any breastfeeding problems. Relieve clogged milk ducts with breast massage, frequent nursing, feeding after a warm shower, and warm moist compresses applied throughout the day.
If you develop a fever or chills or your breast becomes tender or red, you may have an infection (mastitis) and need antibiotics. Call your doctor if this happens. Continue nursing or pumping from both breasts, though, and drink plenty of fluids.
C. Engorged Breasts
Engorged breasts will feel better as your breastfeeding pattern becomes established or, if you’re not breastfeeding, when your body stops producing milk — usually within a few days.
Exercise as soon as you’ve been cleared by your doctor to help restore your strength and pre-pregnancy body, increase your energy and sense of well-being, and reduce constipation. Begin slowly and increase gradually. Walking and swimming are excellent choices.
Ask your doctor about a stool softener. Don’t use laxatives, suppositories, or enemas without your doctor’s OK. Increase your intake of fluids and fiber-rich fruits and vegetables. After your doctor has cleared it, exercise can be very helpful.
Urinary or fecal incontinence often eases gradually as your body returns to its normal pre-pregnancy state. Encourage the process with Kegel exercises, which help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. To find the correct muscles, pretend you’re trying to stop peeing. Squeeze those muscles for a few seconds, then relax (your doctor can check to be sure you’re doing them correctly).
Wear a sanitary pad for protection, and let the doctor know about any incontinence you have.
What Else You Can Do to Help Yourself
You’ll get greater enjoyment in your new role as mom — and it will be much easier — if you care for both yourself and your new baby. For example:
- When your baby sleeps, take a nap. Get some extra rest for yourself!
- Set aside time each day to relax with a book or listen to music.
- Shower daily.
- Get plenty of exercise and fresh air — either with or without your baby, if you have someone who can babysit.
- Schedule regular time — even just 15 minutes a day after the baby goes to sleep — for you and your partner to be alone and talk.
- Make time each day to enjoy your baby, and encourage your partner to do so, too.
- Lower your housekeeping and gourmet meal standards — there’s time for that later. If visitors stress you, restrict them temporarily.
- Talk with other new moms (perhaps from your birthing class) and create your own informal support group.
While recovering from delivery can be a lot to handle, things will get easier. Before you know it, you will be able to fully focus on enjoying your new baby.