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Postpartum Coping Strategies for Your Entire Family

February 10, 2012

Sometimes called “the fourth trimester”, the several months after you give birth can be a challenging time for everyone in your family. When the focus is entirely on your new baby, it can be easy to overlook your own health and the wellbeing of your partner. Plus, if you already have little ones at home, they might need some extra reassurance and care during this time.

Of course, while your newborn thrives on a fractured, round-the-clock sleep schedule, you’ll find that your own energy levels are flagging! Your baby may sleep as much as 16 hours per day, and it’s important to use as much of that time as possible to relax and get some rest yourself. Even if you’re not normally a napper, you may find yourself in need of a daily nap during this time. Creating an environment that is conducive to sleep will help; draw the blinds, turn off the ringer on your phone, and close your eyes in a quiet area of your home. Even if you can’t fall asleep, 30 minutes of quiet relaxation can replenish your energy. In addition to napping, setting an earlier bedtime for yourself can win you some extra hours of sleep each night. Though you might be accustomed to watching The Daily Show or The Late Show with David Letterman, giving yourself more time for sleep each night is a great coping strategy in those first few postpartum months.

And while numerous diaper changes, loads of laundry, and baby-bouncing might distract you from eating, remember to work in three meals and a few snacks per day, preferably high in protein, complex carbohydrates, and calcium. Plus, staying hydrated and continuing intake of pre-natal vitamins can be beneficial for breast-feeding moms. Both you and your partner need to take the time each day to eat healthily.

But even with a great support system, a few well-placed naps, and a fully-stocked fridge, many new moms find themselves overwhelmed in the first several weeks by postpartum depression and anxiety. A combination of exhaustion, worry, and hormonal upheaval contribute to this condition, which affects 10% – 20% of new mothers. Symptoms include mood swings, irritability, sadness, crying, difficulty concentrating, and fatigue. More extreme symptoms may include difficulty completing everyday tasks or bonding your your baby, and loss of interest in daily activities and caring for your newborn. If these symptoms persist, see your doctor right away. Postpartum depression is treatable, and your doctor can discuss various options with you.

And parents aren’t the only members of the family feeling stress during this time. If you have more than one child, your older children are going through quite a transition right now! Allowing them to be a part of your new baby’s life can be a great learning tool for them, and will help them to cope with the changes. Ask your older child to bring you a diaper, or hold the baby gently. And spend some time alone with your older children each day. Taking time out for them at bedtime will make them feel secure and cared for.

While the postpartum period only lasts a few months, it can be a transformative time for your family. Providing for the wellbeing of your family is crucial during these months, but you need to include your own health and happiness as a top priority.

Photography courtesy of Stacey Lynn Photography.

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