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Being pregnant and having a baby is an exciting, life changing experience and also a body changing experience. All new mothers would agree that there are countless things to worry about and otherwise concern your thoughts with. But in the weeks and months following giving birth, there is one fact that stands out among the rest. No matter what you do, no matter how hard you try to learn how to do all the new stuff and to do your best, the very best thing you can do for your baby at this time is to take care of yourself. This is your number one top priority.

The most important thing a new mother can do is take care of herself, so that she can take care of her baby. And this may mean taking time to get back into shape and doing it the right way. Whilst you may have new soft curves that you are happy with and hope to keep, there may be areas of your body that you are not so happy with, and are eager to start working on. Take advice, take care and listen to your body. Sometimes serious injury or health problems can occur if the right steps aren’t taken. Most doctors will tell you to take a full six to twelve weeks off of any vigorous exercise routine after giving birth, even longer if the birth is by C-section.

Your body has basically been through a nine month work out and needs time to heal. If you were running six miles a day before you got pregnant don’t expect to get out there and complete six miles your first day back on the track. You are not getting the same amount of sleep, your nutritional requirements are different and you may be carrying around extra weight – not to mention the hormonal and emotional changes that could be helping to weigh you down. Be kind to yourself.

Here are a few guidelines on ways in which you might nurture yourself after you have had a baby. Some of them may seem self evident, but many women have trouble giving themselves permission to make their needs a top priority. So, here goes:

1. Nurture the nurturer
It’s true. It can feel wonderful if you pamper yourself even a little. Whatever it takes – a pizza, a manicure, a hair-cut, a long-distance phone call, a good book, etc. This precious ‘you’ time is necessary to revitalize your senses and make you feel special. Do not feel guilty about this, or you will be defeating the purpose. You need to enjoy this precious time doing something that makes you feel good. So go on, book a babysitter, get a friend to watch the baby for an hour and go for it!

2. Sleep
This is vital. If your baby is getting you up at night-time, it is important that you find time to rest through the day. That means, when your baby rests, you do not do the laundry or clean the floor, you rest. If you can’t sleep, then lie down on the sofa, shut your eyes and try to relax. Many women find it useful to listen to a meditation CD for 30 minutes or so, and this can be as beneficial as having a couple of hours of sleep. Your body needs time to refresh and revitalize, especially if you are not sleeping well at night.

3. Eat nutritiously
How many times have you heard this? From your doctor, your mother or your girlfriends? Eating well is one of the greatest ways to feel better. This is absolutely essential if you are breastfeeding. Many new mothers are bothered about too much weight gained during pregnancy and may be preoccupied with how they can lose this in the early postpartum months. You may need to put this off for a while until you are feeling stronger. You should try to eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruit, along with proteins like lean meat, fish, nuts, eggs and cheese. A good multi vitamin supplement for new moms is also highly recommended. And, apart from the occasional treat, do watch out for extreme amounts of high-sugar snacks and caffeine. It’s an easy trap to fall into, but both can affect you adversely and make you to feel nervous and anxious. And if you do eat the wrong stuff, don’t beat yourself up or feel guilty about it. Just try to develop better eating habits going forward.

4. Exercise moderately and sensibly
Try to get out and walk if you are not interested in regular aerobic sport or gym style action. The fresh air will feel delightful and the gentle exercise will help keep you in shape and feeling good. It will also be good for your baby to be out in the fresh air, whether in the stroller or in a baby sling close to your body. It may be easier to drive, but it is healthier to walk in this phase of your life. Try to do it with other new moms and make it a social occasion.

5. Stay in touch with friends
Spend time with family and friends that you feel happiest with. Devote your time to people who will support you and help you out, if required. Self imposed seclusion can lead feelings of loneliness and depression. Many new Moms feel too tired to see friends or feel they should be able to cope on their own. This is not helpful to you. Please try to stay connected with all the important relationships in your life and ask them for help when you need it. You will be able to repay the favor at a later time.

You know that when you travel by plane, the advice at the start of the flight is that, in the event of an emergency, you should attach your own oxygen mask first. As a new mother you need to use this as a metaphor. Put yourself first, it is not selfish, it’s an act of love.

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