The New Mother: Taking Care of Yourself After Childbirth

by Zuo Yue Food

Hi Mummies,

I’m Pauline, co-founder of Zuo Yue Food. I’m a mother of 2. I had infertility issue PCOS back then and I thought it would be tough to have kids on my own. Through the help of TCM, I had my first baby and it was life-changing for me as a first-time mother. As my confinement meals were well-supported, I conceived my no. 2 shortly. Inspired by how confinement food has helped me physically and emotionally, I hope to share more about post-partum and the benefits of confinement food to fellow mummies. =)
The post-partum period begins after the delivery of the baby and ends when the body has nearly returned to its pre-pregnant state. This period often lasts 6 to 8 weeks. The post-partum period involves us going through several transitions, both emotionally and physically. I was learning how to deal with all the changes needed with becoming a new mother. Even as an experienced mum when I delivered my no. 2, having a new addition in the family means changes for me, my husband and my child (no. 1). The postpartum period also involves me and my partner learning how to care for our newborn and learning how to function as a changed family unit.

As mummies, we need to take good care of ourselves to rebuild our strength. We will need plenty of rest, good nutrition and help during the first few weeks.

Rest

Every new parent soon learns that babies have different time clocks than adults. A typical newborn wakes up about every 3 hours and needs to be fed, changed, and comforted. My partner and I were overwhelmed by exhaustion initially. Getting a solid 8 hours of sleep was impossible. I have learnt that:

  • In the first few weeks, you need to let someone else take care of all responsibilities other than feeding your baby and taking care of yourself.
  • Sleep when the baby sleeps. This may be only a few minutes of rest several times a day, but these minutes can add up.
  • Save steps and time. Have your baby's bed near yours for feedings at night.
  • It’s nice to have visits from friends and family, but please do not feel obliged to entertain guests. Feel free to excuse yourself for a nap or to feed your baby.
  • Get outside for a few minutes each day. You can start walking and doing postpartum exercises, as advised by your healthcare provider.

Nutrition

Our body has undergone many changes during pregnancy and birth. We need time to recover. In addition to rest, we need to eat a healthy diet.

The weight gained in pregnancy helps build stores for our recovery and for breastfeeding. After delivery, we need to eat a healthy and balanced diet so that we can be active and able to care for the baby.

Most lactation experts recommend that we eat when we are hungry. However, many mothers may be so tired or busy that food gets forgotten and thus, this inevitably affects the mother's mental well-being and milk supply. 

I was blessed with delicious and healthy confinement food during my post-partum period. I was so looking forward to my confinement meals every single day! I was even converted from a non-pork eater to a vinegar pork trotters lover! I used to have flu and cold feet often every month before pregnancy but after confinement, I did not have these ailments anymore. Shortly, I had my second baby and I made sure I did a proper confinement for the last time. I felt stronger with my body constituent warmer. Having nutritious food, sufficient rest and plenty of fluids also helps a lot with my milk supply. Inspired by the positive effects of confinement food, with God's perfect timing, we started Zuo Yue Food. =)

Zuo Yue Food's goal is to bring joy and comfort through nutritious confinement food with a tinge of home-cooked taste so that mummies can enjoy a positive post-natal period during the first month (and subsequent months) after childbirth. By having nutritious confinement meals from Zuo Yue Food, you can enjoy a good rest during mealtimes, be well-supported for breastfeeding and be assured that your diet is a balanced and healthy one.

Zuo Yue Food Confinement Packages are planned according to the 4 food group categories (with Science and TCM approach in mind):

 

Science

Zuo Yue Food

Grains

Foods that are made from rice, wheat, oats, cornmeal, barley, or another cereal grain are grain products.

White rice, mixed white and brown rice, mee sua (more coming your way soon).

Vegetables

Choose a variety of vegetables, including dark green, red, and orange vegetables, legumes and starchy vegetables.

Avoid 'cold' vegetables and provide 'warm' or 'neutral vegetables such as Broccoli, Spinach, Kai Lan, Nai Bai, Fried Beancurd Skin, Vegetarian Goose, Carrot, Pumpkin, etc.

Protein

Go lean on protein. Choose low-fat or lean meats and poultry. Vary your protein routine. Choose more fish, nuts, seeds, peas, and beans

Signature Vinegar Pork Trotters, Sesame Oil Chicken, Cod Fish, Salmon, Red Snapper Slices, Teriyaki Chicken Chop, etc.

Fluid

Milk products and many foods made from milk are considered part of this food group too. Focus on fat-free or low-fat products, as well as those that are high in calcium.

Herbal soups e.g. Black Chicken Herbal Soup, recovery soups e.g. ABC soup and lactation soups e.g. Papaya Threadfin Soup

Red date longan tea (which is an important fluid for Asians during confinement). 

 

Most mothers want to lose their pregnancy weight, but extreme dieting and rapid weight loss can harm you and your baby if you are breastfeeding. It can take several months for you to lose the weight you gained during pregnancy. You can reach this goal by cutting out high-fat snacks. Focus on a diet with plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, balanced with proteins and carbohydrates. Exercise also helps burn calories and tone muscles and limbs. 

Along with balanced meals, we should drink more fluids if we are breastfeeding. You may find that you become very thirsty while the baby is nursing. Try keeping a pot of red date longan tea and even some healthy snacks beside your bed or breastfeeding chair.

Help for new parents

New parents soon realize that babies need a lot of work. Meeting the constant needs of a newborn involves time and energy. It often takes us away from other responsibilities in the home. We understand this totally.

I was adamant about not getting any help after my confinement. I took care of my no. 1 all by myself alone for the first nine months. In the end, I gave in and hired a domestic helper due to exhaustion and emergency appendicitis during the seventh month. Everyone's experience is different though. You probably will do fine on your own, but having someone else helping with the household responsibilities usually makes the adjustment to a new baby easier. You and your partner can focus on your needs and the needs of your baby, rather than on the laundry or dirty dishes.

Whoever you decide to have as helpers, make clear all the things you expect them to do. Communication is important in preventing hurt feelings or misunderstandings when emotions are fragile these first few weeks. Have your helpers take over chores such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, and grocery shopping. This will help you take care of yourself, and keep you from limiting time with your baby.

Lastly, there is no perfect parent.

I was often overwhelmed with mum's guilt when my children were little. I blamed myself for the slightest rash on their skin and simply couldn't forgive myself when I forgot something or made an honest mistake. Looking back, I wish someone would have told me to let it go and things will be fine. 

Having a baby is a life-changing experience. Take things as the time comes and  you will know what's best for you and your baby. When things get rough, take a deep breath... You are the best mom for your baby. (:

Zuo Yue Food believes in being a part of your motherhood journey during and even after your confinement period. We work with in-house experts and high quality partners to offer you an extensive network of support and community in motherhood. 

Look out for our next post! =)

*Some parts of the content is adapted from Stanford Children's Health.