The puerperium begins after the birth of the baby and ends when the mother’s body has practically returned to its pre-pregnancy state. This period usually lasts six to eight weeks.
In the puerperium, the mother experiences numerous progressive changes, both emotional and physical, and at the same time learns to manage all the modifications and adjustments that being a new mother implies. During this period, in addition, parents learn to care for the newborn and to function as a family unit that has undergone changes.
A mother needs to take great care of herself to regain her strength. You will need plenty of rest, good nutrition, and help during the first few weeks.
All new parents soon learn that babies have different schedules than adults. A typical newborn wakes up about every three hours and needs to be fed, changed, and comforted. Especially if it’s their first baby, parents, especially the mother, can feel overwhelmingly tired. While she may not be able to get eight hours of sleep in a row for several months, the suggestions below may help you discover ways to get more rest at this stage.
A mother’s body has undergone many changes during pregnancy, as well as during the birth of her baby. She needs to reset and recover from pregnancy and childbirth. In addition to rest, all mothers need to follow a healthy diet to promote reset and recovery.
The weight gained in pregnancy serves as a reserve for recovery and lactation. After giving birth, all mothers need continuous nutrition to be healthy and active, and to take care of their baby.
Whether breastfeeding or formula feeding, all mothers should eat a balanced and healthy diet. Most lactation experts recommend that breastfeeding mothers eat whenever they are hungry. However, many mothers are often so tired or busy that they forget about food. Therefore, it is essential to plan simple, healthy meals that include items from all of the recommended Choose My Plate groups.
The Choose My Plate icon is a guide to help you eat a healthy diet. MyPlate can help you eat a variety of foods while promoting the right amount of calories and fat. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Department of Health and Human Services have prepared the following food dish to guide you in the selection of food.
The MyPlate icon is divided into five food group categories, emphasizing the nutritional intake of the following:
Foods made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or other cereal grain are grain products. Examples include whole wheat, brown rice, and oatmeal.
Vary your vegetables. Choose a variety of vegetables, including dark green and orange vegetables, legumes (peas and beans), and starchy vegetables.
Any fruit or 100 percent fruit juice is part of the fruit group. Fruits can be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, and can be eaten whole, cut, or pureed.
Milk products and many foods made from milk are considered part of this food group. Focus on fat-free or low-fat products, as well as those that are high in calcium.
Eat low-fat protein. Choose lean or low-fat meats and poultry. Vary your protein routine: choose more fish, nuts, seeds, peas, and beans.
Oils are not a food group, however, some, such as nut oils, contain essential nutrients and can be part of the diet. Others, like animal fats, are solid and should be avoided.
Exercise and daily physical activity should also be part of a healthy diet plan.
To find out more about the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and to establish appropriate dietary recommendations for your age, gender, and level of physical activity, visit Choose My Plate. Please note that My Plate was designed for people over the age of two who do not have chronic conditions.
Although most mothers want to lose the weight they gained during pregnancy, crash diets and rapid weight loss can be dangerous to your health and to your baby if you are breastfeeding. It can take several months for a mother to lose the weight she gained during pregnancy. This can be achieved by cutting out high-fat snacks and focusing on a diet that includes plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, balanced with protein and carbohydrates. Exercise also helps burn calories and tone muscles and limbs.
Along with balanced meals, breastfeeding mothers should increase their fluid intake. Many mothers notice that they are very thirsty during breastfeeding. It is best to drink water, milk, and fruit juices. It helps to have a pitcher of water and even some healthy snacks next to the bed or chair where your baby is nursing.
Consult your doctor or a registered dietitian if you want to know more about postpartum nutrition. Certified lactation consultants can also help by providing nutrition advice while breastfeeding.
New and experienced parents alike soon realize that babies require a lot of work. Meeting the constant needs of a newborn takes time and energy, and this often takes parents away from other responsibilities in the home.
Although many parents manage just fine on their own, having someone to help with household chores usually makes adjusting to the new baby easier. Parents can focus on the needs of mother and baby, instead of putting their attention on doing the laundry or the dishes.
Helpers can be family members or friends, or you can hire a home helper. A family member, such as a grandmother or aunt of the newborn, may be able to stay a few days or more. Home aides offer a variety of services, from nursing care for the new mom and baby to housework and caring for other children.
Be sure to make it clear to the person you choose as your helper all the things you expect them to do. Communication is important to avoid misunderstandings or hurt feelings since in these first weeks emotions are usually fragile. In general, it is better for the mother to be relieved of all responsibilities except for feeding and caring for herself and her baby. This is especially important if she is breastfeeding. Others should take care of household chores such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, and shopping. This will help the new mother take care of herself, and keep her from having to limit the time she spends with her baby.
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