MS, RD, LDN
Janel holds a Master’s in Nutrition Communication from Tufts University. As the recipient of the 2010 Massachusetts Young Dietitian of the Year award, she believes in making healthy eating simple, sustainable, and delicious.
Whether you knew you wanted to be a mom your entire life, or getting
pregnant was a big surprise for you, adjusting to parenthood is something all
new moms face. Having a tiny, brand new person in your life who relies on you
24 hours a day can be both exhausting and exhilarating and comes with many new
challenges, especially in the beginning. You’ll be instantly faced with changes
to your everyday routine and sleep. This, coupled with postpartum hormone
changes, can leave you feeling frazzled and discouraged one minute, and
absolutely over the moon elated with your baby the next. Welcome to parenthood!
If you haven’t heard it already, get ready for people to tell you the old
adage, “Sleep when your baby sleeps!” Since newborns typically average between
15-18 hours of sleep per day, this may seem like an easy task. However, in the
first weeks, newborns sleep in unpredictable spurts, oftentimes confusing night
and day. But sleep is a necessary way for you to rest and recover after
childbirth and have the energy to care for your baby. At least in the beginning
months, put the baby announcements and laundry aside and try to sneak in a nap
each day. It may be easier to do this if you have a helpful friend or family
member who can come over to spend time with the baby, in case she wakes up
earlier while you’re still getting some rest. Some women find it helpful to go
to bed early each night, giving their partner the last evening feed with the
baby so that they can get an uninterrupted 4-6 hours of sleep.
Your body has increased calorie needs postpartum so it’s especially
important to fuel your body with nourishing, satisfying foods. Your meals might
be as unpredictable as your baby in the early weeks, so having healthy food on
hand will ensure you’re getting enough calories to support your breastfeeding
goals. Even if you’re not breastfeeding, your body will need nourishment to
recover from childbirth. Have healthy snacks handy – in the nursery, next to
the couch, in the diaper bag – so that you can grab a handful of trail mix or a
granola bar when hunger hits. Meals don’t need to be fancy – a peanut butter and
banana sandwich or can of lentil soup can be put together in minutes.
When a friend offers to bring over a meal or a family member volunteers
to empty the dishwasher – say yes! Many new moms may not feel comfortable
accepting help, but now is the time for you to bond with your baby and take
care of your and her needs – not pay extra attention to the growing pile of
laundry! Many people want to help but don’t know how. Bringing over food or
running quick errands for you is a great way for you to get items off your
to-do list and for others to feel useful.
Seek out a social support group of new moms. Mommy and Me or New Mom
classes are popping up everywhere, from hospitals to fitness centers. This is a
great way to bond with other moms who are experiencing the same new highs and
lows of having a newborn at home. It’s also a great way to practice getting out
of the house with your baby (and all the diapers, wipes, and gear you need!).
If there aren’t any classes near you, there are plenty of websites and Facebook
groups where moms can connect via social media. It’s comforting to know that
someone else is awake doing a midnight feed or soothing their baby at 3am just
It is totally normal for it to take weeks or months before you feel like
you’re in a parenting groove. Many parents find the first six to eight weeks of
a new baby the hardest. Not only did you just give birth, but you are dealing
with hormonal changes, exhaustion, relationship dynamic changes, new
expectations, feeding your baby, and finding a way to strike a balance between
your old life and your new role as a mom. It is important to remember that
these issues are common – though not openly talked about – and typically
resolve once you feel more comfortable in your new parenting role. However, if
you’re experiencing ongoing distress that doesn’t go away on its own and is
affecting your daily functioning, speak to your healthcare professional, as it
may be a sign you’re experiencing anxiety or postpartum depression.
Remember, it can take time to adjust to parenting but there is no wrong
or right way of doing it.
“Losing weight after pregnancy.” Medline Plus, date accessed July 27, 2018. <https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000586.htm>
“Recovering from birth.” Office on Women’s Health, date accessed July 27, 2018. <https://www.womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/childbirth-and-beyond/recovering-birth>
“Postpartum Depression.” Office on Women’s Health, date accessed July 27, 2018. <https://www.womenshealth.gov/mental-health/illnesses/postpartum-depression.html>