You’ve pampered and prepared yourself for nine months in anticipation of your new baby, but how do you stay healthy once your bundle of joy becomes a bundle of hard work? Taking care of your own health deserves just as much attention as your new baby’s. Dr. Jordan Mitchell, obstetrician and gynecologist on the medical staff at Centennial Medical Center in Frisco, answers a few questions to help moms stay healthy while caring for a new baby.
Q: How can fatigue affect the way I take care of my baby?
Postpartum fatigue affects many new moms. To ensure that you are able to properly care for your baby, stick to the necessities. Put emails and thank you notes on the backburner and allow friends and family to bring meals. This will help combat stress and allow small naps throughout your day.
Q: What is the minimum amount of sleep a new mom should try to get when caring for a newborn?
New moms require a total of about two hours more than they needed prior to becoming pregnant because they are no longer achieving consecutive hours of sleep, which is more refreshing than the short naps that baby allows. Again, give yourself permission to accept help from those that love you during the first couple of months.
Q: What kinds of food should be eaten to stay energized?
Regular meals are often abandoned and replaced with quick snacks. This often means lots of sweets and other simple carbohydrates that will leave you feeling sluggish. Stock the pantry with ready-to-eat fruit and protein rich snacks like peanut butter crackers and cheese sticks.
Q: When breast feeding, are there food and beverages to stay away from?
The appropriate diet for a breastfeeding mom is similar to that during pregnancy. One particular food group to monitor is your seafood consumption. You can eat up to 12 ounces of most kinds of fish per week. However, four specific types of fish should be avoided because of their high mercury levels: shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish. In addition, when eating canned tuna, choose light tuna rather than solid white which has higher mercury levels. Alcohol consumption should be kept to a minimum. If your baby consumes alcohol through your breast milk, she may initially fall asleep, but will be restless and sleep a shorter period of time. If you do choose to have an occasional cocktail, time the drink right after a nursing session or plan to give your baby formula until all alcohol is cleared from your system.
Q: How is my immune system affected after pregnancy?
During pregnancy, hormonal changes lead to a weakened immune system. A common infection such as a bladder infection or the flu can lead to serious complications and even be life-threatening to an otherwise healthy person. Take your prenatal vitamin each day, wash your hands liberally, and eat a balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables and protein-rich foods. In addition, ALL pregnant women should get a flu shot. This is safe during any time of your pregnancy and also provides protection for your newborn who cannot receive a flu shot until he or she is six months old.
Q: What precautions should I take if I become sick while caring for my new baby?
Your child is susceptible to any airborne diseases such as the flu or common cold. However, if you are breastfeeding your baby will be getting your antibodies which will help him/her combat the illness. Additionally, many infections take a few days to weeks after exposure to produce symptoms so your child will likely be exposed by the time you realize that you are sick. Remember to wash your hands frequently and feel free to ask your guests to do the same.
Q: How much exercise should a new mom try to get each week?
For the most part, the physiological changes of pregnancy return to the pre-pregnancy state by about six weeks postpartum. Pre-pregnancy exercise routines can be resumed gradually for women that undergo an uncomplicated vaginal delivery. In general, the goal should be to obtain twenty minutes on five days of the week; this may take several months to achieve. Exercise is also a great way to decrease any stress and anxiety.
Q: Are there any exercises to do while pregnant or with your new baby? (i.e. stroller workout class)
Many gyms offer prenatal exercise classes, particularly prenatal yoga. In general, pre-pregnancy exercise routines can be continued throughout your pregnancy as long as the activities you choose are noncontact and do not propose a fall risk. Exercising throughout pregnancy decreases postpartum depression and excessive weight gain. Once baby arrives, start out with short strolls outdoors if weather is permitting or videos that you can do at home. Alternatively, many areas offer stroller stride classes, which eliminate the need to find a babysitter and are geared toward new moms. Centennial Medical Center offers a baby boot camp class for women on the Centennial campus; for more information on the class visit Centennial’s website at www.babybootcamp.com.