It’s ironic: Just when you’re most joyful at the arrival of your new baby, watching his every smile, drool, pee and poop with adoring attention, you’re probably most distressed to discover your own body out of shape, your sex drive seemingly gone for good and your emotions more touchy than a teen-ager’s.
Welcome to life as a new mom! It takes many of us months to feel “normal” again. (In fact, your life is so altered that your definition of normal might be changed forever.) The truth is that the rate and nature of postpartum recovery can vary greatly, depending on whether or not you had a Cesarean section, how calm or needy your infant may be or how many unrealistic goals you’ve harbored.
Your mantra must be this: Take it easy. The first weeks postpartum are hard for many new moms. “If you’re feeling crummy, remember that you’re not a failure,” says Allan Lichtman, M.D., a Los Angeles obstetrician and gynecologist who is also a clinical professor at the University of Southern California School of Medicine. For support (and a reality check), talk to other new moms from your childbirth-education
After the rigors of labor, followed by consecutive nights of interrupted sleep, exhaustion is normal. It usually lifts after about three months as you and your new family gradually develop a routine. Get through it by napping, accepting assistance from friends and family (or hired help) and keeping your expectations realistic. In these first weeks, remember that your main job is to care for your newborn and yourself — not to clean the house or be the perfect hostess to the droves of visitors knocking at the door. “I really encourage women to use help and to nap — and to feel good about those choices,” says Los Angeles OB/GYN Allan Lichtman. You cannot let shyness keep you from asking for — or hiring — help at this time. Your sanity depends on it.
Your body just isn’t the same for several months after pregnancy and childbirth, so give yourself a break and don’t expect it to be. Focus on keeping up healthful eating and exercise habits rather than obsessing about the scale. Buy some flattering clothes and give yourself pep talks. Many women return to their prepregnancy weight within five months of childbirth, but for some it can take nine months to a year or more. The best way to lose the weight is to gradually work exercise back into your daily life. Keep up a diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and protein. And remember that breastfeeding can (but does not always) speed up some weight loss.