First…thank you to all you Mamas who offered ideas for this post. You rock!
Second, I was astounded by the number of women who either felt guilty or were MADE to feel guilty for wanting to take time for personal wellness (I’m looking at all of you mother-in-laws out there). And here’s my unapologetic response: Fuck that noise!
Taking care of YOURSELF as a new mama is absolutely, positively essential when it comes to taking care of your baby. If you’re running on fumes and feeling completely broken down, that takes its toll on everyone. So let me be the first to tell you… DO YOU, BOO BOO.
And to that one badass Mama who emailed me that she lied to her husband and told him she had a doctor appointment so that she could go get a pedicure: YOU ARE MY HERO. New motherhood means survival by any means necessary…and I firmly believe that routine mani-pedis are our Darwinistic obligation.
There’s no “me time” with a newborn…there’s barely any “pee time.” Just when your body requires rest, recovery and relaxation the most, you will likely have none of it. Don’t freak out. We’ve all survived it and so will you. But ignorance should not be bliss. The better prepared and realistic you are pre-baby, the easier it will be to manage your postpartum wellness and find those little moments to give yourself some well-deserved TLC.
With those new mamas in mind, I put together a few tips and tricks for managing your hormones, stress, emotions, and ever changing body parts…
1. Skin Gym
I could get into all the medical mumbo jumbo about why your skin freaks out after you deliver, but let’s just agree that it happens and has something do with hormones.
Since dipping out for a facial probably won’t happen for a while, I’d suggest treating yourself to some new skincare products. I’m no beauty expert, but I know someone who is! My good friend Cinya is a Senior Beauty Editor for E! and is my go-to girl for no-nonsense beauty advice. (She also has an amazing eye for style. Follow her on Instagram!)
When it comes to clearing up your skin during the hot mess of postpartum breakouts, she suggests Tata Harper’s Purifying Mask or Caudalie’s Instant Detox Mask. They aren’t cheap, but they’re worth it. Oftentimes hormones throw off your skin so drastically that you’re forced to get on antibiotics to remedy the situation (Trust me. I know from experience).
But, I’m not opposed to the occasional cheap fix either. Trader Joe’s Natural Facial Cleansing Pads with Tea Tree Oil are literally the best $3.99 you’ll ever spend. When you’re in between washing pump parts and your third attempt at showering, these pads are a quick fix and make you FEEL like you have clean skin.
Finally, it goes without saying, but SPF, SPF, SPF! Unfortunately, when it comes to being a woman, melasma sort of goes with the reproductive territory for most of us. MD Crème Mineral Beauty Balm SPF 50 from MDSolarSciences is not only a tinted SPF and great for all skin types, it’s also free from all that yucky shit you don’t want on your face (especially when nursing). Not to mention, it won’t clog your pores (which is stupendous, because you just spent some serious coin on those purifying face masks).
2. Hair of the Mama
One of the biggest perks of pregnancy for me was “Mermaid Hair.” I’m talking healthy, luscious locks that fell into place with a simple flip. Basically, I was a Vidal Sassoon Model.
Then I stopped breastfeeding. Not long after, I stopped hair flipping too.
I’d like to quote Seth Rogen in Knocked Up when I say, “Fuck you, hormones! You’re a crazy bitch, hormones!”
When little tufts of hair started breaking off, I knew I needed to do something. I couldn’t succumb to the crown of thorns I’d seen many of my friends experience.
3. Vitamin ME
If you haven’t already guessed it by now, hormones are real jerks—during pregnancy and postpartum. Researchers suggest that it takes approximately two years for the average woman’s hormone level to re-balance post-baby. My daughter isn’t quite 2 yet, so I still have the occasional hormone-induced meltdown. (My husband not-so-fondly refers to this alter ego as “Tiff.”)
Fortunately, modern medicine knows a bit more nowadays about our body’s postpartum nutrient depletion, which can contribute to the fatigue, reduced energy and general feeling of imbalance. Managing it can be as simple as incorporating supplements into your diet to make up for the nutrients you’re now lacking.
It varies for each person, but research suggests that postpartum women can benefit from supplements of B12, Magnesium Calcium, Vitamin D and Zinc.
B12: Aids in rebuilding blood supply post pregnancy and delivery, which will help with energy and overall well-being. It aids in a healthy digestive system and is critical for maintain healthy hair, nails and skin.
Magnesium Calcium: Aids in getting a deeper, more quality sleep that leaves you feeling better rested, as well as help reduce the occurrence of migraines and regulates high blood pressure.
Vitamin D: Aids in bone strengthening, immune support and has been associated with breast cancer prevention.
Zinc: Aids in immune support, increased energy level and fights off fatigue.
Studies also suggest a correlation between B12, Vitamin and Zinc deficiency and postpartum depression. There’s still some debate over the science, so I’ll leave it for you to decide. It’s also been suggested that supplementing with Vitamin D and B12 can help increase milk supply among nursing mothers. All four are deemed safe for expectant and nursing mothers if taken in their recommended dosage. Obviously check with your doctor if you have any hesitations, because I barely passed chemistry.
4. Oil Up
Essential Oils are all the rage among the hippy, dippy Santa Monica mom’s tribe.
Not long after delivering, I met Casey, who is basically an essential oils guru. I knew I hit the new mama friend LOTTERY. (She’s also super gorgeous and once dabbled in “atmosphere modeling,” which literally means nothing but is somehow everything I want to be when I grow up). She offered me a quick primer on how to use these non-toxic, non-invasive therapies to your postpartum advantage. While Casey swears by the Young Living brand, there are plenty of alternatives for you to consider (like, Doterra and Aura Cacia).
“Peppermint is my go-to oil. It helps with both energy and headaches, which I had constantly after my son was born. Rub a little bit on your temples and just a touch behind the neck!
Eucalyptus is great a natural remedy for a stuffy nose or chest congestion—especially for breastfeeding mamas. When my son was little and got a stuffy nose, I would diffuse two to three drops in his nursery to help him with his breathing…and, hopefully, got him to sleep.
Young Living’s Joy is amazing for emotional balance. It’s uplifting and gives me a sense of peace…which all new moms could use a bit of. I’d rub a small dab on my heart and it really changed my day.
Speaking of balance, I needed a lot of hormone help in the first few weeks post-baby. I found that diffusing a mix of Sage, Thyme and Sandalwood was an amazing reset button.
Lavender is a must-have oil for new moms (for the most obvious reasons: stress relief and relaxation). Whether you diffuse it, add a few drops to an evening bath, or even put a rub a few drops on the heels of your feet before bedtime, it’s hugely helpful for new mamas who need to take time to unwind.”
5. Wrap it up
There are plenty of women who could give two shits about what their stomach looks like post-pregnancy. They have gone through battle and wear their wounds like badges of honor. If you are one of these women who embrace their stretch marks and scars as a symbol of womanhood, then I APPLAUD YOU. We need more of you in this world.
Unfortunately, I am not a member of your liberation army. I wish I wasn’t desperate to get back into my old jeans, but I was… Sure part of it was vanity, but mostly I was just anxious to feel like myself again.
After delivery, it’s likely that a nurse will hand you a white gauze-y belly band to help in your recovery before declaring that you’ll “snap back in no time.” You’re going to be tempted to use the hospital-provided belly band because it’s free, it’s convenient and using it means one less thing for you to worry about.
Listen closely: STOP IT RIGHT NOT. Take that glorified dish rag and throw it in the trash. Just because they slapped Velcro on a piece of cloth does not a belly band make.
Your midsection is the anatomical equivalent of jello in a bowl. Shit is all out of whack, and you need to help reset the muscle memory as soon as humanly possible. During pregnancy you may have been enticed to purchase one of the more heavy duty bands at Buy Buy Baby or Pea in the Pod. While they’re far better than the cheap paper towels you’ll get from the hospital, they’re still localizing the issue. Unless you’re Giselle or one of those Teen Moms, you’re gonna need a little more support than just a thick belt around your stomach.
Introducing… the torture chamber.
Ok, it’s really not that bad. Design Veronique is a company that sells postsurgical compression garments to help aid people in their postoperative recovery. During my pregnancy, my friend Carolyn recommended I order the mid-body support corset online (she’s an orthopedic surgical physician’s assistant, so she really knows her shit). Not only did it help me recover from my C-section (there are different options available depending on how you deliver), it also supported my lower back and helped with spine realignment, as well as encouraging the return of the abdominal wall to its pre-pregnancy shape–from my ribcage all the way down. Basically, if the devil manufactured a pair of Spanx, this would be it.
At the end of the day, it’s critical that new mamas take care of themselves…in whatever way they deem appropriate. For me, I found that spending some time, no matter how small, on my own personal wellness gave me a sense of fulfillment and identity that I so desperately craved. The more I was able to feel like myself again, the more of myself I had TO GIVE to my new baby.
And if you need to lie to your partner so that you can go get a damn pedicure, do not feel ashamed. Grab that net and catch that beautiful butterfly. YOU DESERVE IT.
I’d love to hear your stories, tips and tricks…so comment below!