Postpartum Self-Care Planning

This week on the podcast Diet Culture Dropout and on the blog I wanted to talk about postpartum self-care. Specifically my experience with adding this supportive practice into my routine. I know for many parents this is a very challenging time with limited capacity to commit to much.

Firstly, I just want to acknowledge the massive amount of privileges I have which has shaped my experiences. Factors of being able to take a maternity leave, having three uncomplicated healthy pregnancies, I received government maternity support benefits for two of them and have an incredible husband who is very involved within the family. When I reflect back at my three postpartum experiences they are all very different. Self-care for each of them looked different due to many factors. For context I have a six, three and ten month old. The middle one was born two months after the COVID lock down. My vision of what I thought it was going to be like was significantly different and obviously very isolating.

Defining self-care

So what is self-care exactly? A handy definition always helps cover this foundation. “Self-care has been defined as the process of establishing behaviors to ensure holistic well-being of oneself, to promote health, and actively manage illness when it occurs. Individuals engage in some form of self-care daily with food choices, exercise, sleep, reading and dental care.”

I talk about self-care a lot in the work I do with clients. It really is at the bedrock to disordered eating, poor body image and dysregulation. Along with being very instrumental in managing health in all outlets. It is essential in how we function and such a supportive tool.

But for a lot of people it is so tremendously hard to do. Do at all. Or at least consistently. Many people in caregiving roles whether within their family, work designation or amongst friend circles have a hard time doing it. There is a ton of factors to this. But most importantly it usually boils down to meeting everyone else’s needs before your own.

My postpartum self-care routine

This is my lived experience for what worked for me. So please always always do what is best for you.

Eating is a non-negotiable

For me postpartum eating is and was always non-negotiable. For each pregnancy meal prepping was essential the months leading up. Thankfully we have the space (we are those people with three freezers). Some go to ideas are: casseroles, soups, frozen quick foods (chicken burgers, fries, nuggets, fish), lasagnas, tikka masala, chicken curry, pad thai, taco rice casserole, quiche. Also made a conscious effort to make snack foods as these often get forgotten about. Some of my go to’s were: muffins, cookies, energy bites, granola bars, granola, fruit cups, crackers, pepperettes, variety of cheeses. I was also very mindful about having my soul foods to for when you just need that emotional comfort from food. For me those are corn chips and salsa, chocolate, chocolate covered almonds, popcorn, chips, Kawartha Diary ice cream and a variety of tea options. When baby #3 came this past January meal planning on the weekly has also become much more essential for us. If we do not have a plan our house falls that week. If you are in need of a postpartum gift always give quick easy food.

Sensory comfort

I am a very sensory stimulated person. So using this to my advantage I was mindful about how I would maximize comfort and soothing in my everyday. Again to make self-care as easy as possible. Ideas being essential oil rolls, candles, lavender lotion, bath salts, eucalyptus essential oil drop in shower etc. I also got a new floral smelling face cream from Harlowe Green Flora by Willow’s Bark. It felt like luxury applying which made me feel better in my skin (literally).

Comfortable Clothing

Postpartum body changes are so frustrating at times. Becuase they usually ebb and flow for long periods of time. So my tip here is having a variety of things that would fit. But not just pants and shirts. But bras, undies, camisoles, bathing suits etc. I also always moved my smaller clothes (before pregnancy) out of the way in my closet so that was not there to trigger a bad body image moment. I also lean in hard when dressing for comfort. Each pregnancy a way I prepared was also doing some small shopping to get a few new things that were comfy and supportive. In my last pregnancy it was new underwear, comfy set of PJ’s and fuzzy socks. Which all felt so lovely. This is definitely one you need to do some pre-planning ahead of time so when you are in the closet getting dressed you have options.

Letting go of the to do list

It took me a long while to learn that rest is productive. Allowing myself time, space and the ability to not always be productive. This was super hard for me to learn as I have also partook in this toxic work hussel culture. With each postpartum experience this got easier. I read a line about how your child will not remember how clean your house was, the laundry process or the organized pantry. Rather the time spent and the memories you have together.

Movement

This postpartum experience movement has been slower to get back into my groove. But again I am fine with this as my capacity and volume of self-care time has drastically been reduced in this phase of life. So I am leaning into that and honoring that. When I do have the energy and desire I also really focus on doing movement I really enjoy. Along with being more mindful when I am doing it. With clients I also always suggest getting clear on your movement intentions and goals. Working towards more interanlly motivated ones rather than exerternal ones. A great episode we debunk bounce back fitness culture postpartum with Jessie Mundell is here.

Lastly, it was always helpful to get support from a pelvic physiotherapist which helped me slowly and safely get back to my movement goals and everyday function.

Meditation

Learning how to meditate has been a practice that has taken me several years to get into the groove with. But once becoming a parent to tiny humans that are always exploding with emotions I found it was essential. It helps me be more regulated and grounded in my nervous system. Although I want to be clear I am no zen person. I use an app called Insight Timer and prefer to do yoga nidra meditations.

Other Small sprinkles of enjoyment

Other random things that are so darn small but make me feel appreciated are drinking two hot cups of herbal tea in the morning, watching the sunset for a few minutes (anytime that is not winter), intentional deep breathing, and switching to a water bottle that has a straw. They are not earth shattering but are small sprinkles of joy for me.

So there you have it my best postpartum self-care advice. I would love to know what worked for you and how you managed to care for yourself in this very giving and trying time.

 
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    Atheana Brown is a Registered Dietitian who specializes in disordered eating, body image, intuitive eating, and family nutrition. Her mission is to break the generational cycles of dieting and body shame.

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