It’s not uncommon for mums in the first post natal year to be liable to lurgies: coughs, colds, small infections – the sort of annoying ill-health that stops you feeling great, but doesn’t quite incapacitate you.
This is all to do with post natal depletion. It’s 100% natural for mums to come out of pregnancy depleted. After all, everything you did for the last nine months enabled your body to grow a baby – it wasn’t for your benefit.
All the great nutrition, vitamin supplements or healthy activity choices you made helped you grow a baby – they didn’t benefit *your* body.
Combine this with the fact that most new mums are on the go as soon as baby is born. We’re usually out of hospital as quickly as possible, returning to everyday activities like housework, cooking, shopping, in as little time as possible.
There is plenty of social pressure for mums to be “getting back to normal” as quick as possible – and to be looking amazing while they do it.
We don’t take good care of our new mums and help them to recover.
So what’s to be done for a depleted, run down mum?
We get well looked-after in pregnancy – by ourselves, by our nearest and dearest, and by society in general. But once baby arrives most women are left to their own devices. Taking the time to care for yourself is essential. You can’t look after a baby or your family if you don’t look after yourself. Try: meeting a friend for a chat, without baby if you can swing it. Read a book; book a massage, manicure or pedicure; say no to helping others if you need to.
How do you put back in what growing a baby took out? The answer is, you eat it, of course. For the general population the solution can partly lie in good quality nutritional supplements – however for breastfeeding mums this isn’t possible, and nutrition has to come from food choices. Do: make sure you have enough water; eat protein with every single meal and snack; eat sources of B vitamins such as Marmite, broccoli and eggs; get two portions per week of oily fish; eat magnesium rich foods such as leafy green vegetables bananas and pulses; cut out as much sugar as you can.
Gentle restorative exercise
If you’re feeling run down, or if all the evidence shows that you are rundown (you have infections, exhaustion, low mood), now is not the time to be be slaying your workout, either in the gym, on the pavements or on YouTube. It’s the time for gentle restorative movement that makes you feel fantastic all day – not just for an endorphin-filled field five minutes at the end of your workout. Try: gentle yoga or Pilates, or walking. If these agree with you you can increase their duration or intensity but be careful to pay attention to how they make you feel for the rest of the day.
Prioritise gut health
Almost 70% of our immune system cells live in or around the gut. (https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-nutrition-gut-health) Having a healthy gut is essential to absorbing nutrition from your food. Do: lots of vegetables, especially the leafy green variety; some fruit; fermented foods such as a range of natural yoghurts, sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi; fruit, vegetables, beans (including soy), tea all contain gut-boosting flavonoids; avoid sugar, grains, MSG and NSAIDS (ibuprofen, paracetamol).
I know this is a ridiculously tall order for new mums. Sleep is the most precious commodity to all new parents and a few of us are lucky enough to come across it easily. However your immune system needs you to sleep. Lacking sleep means you lack proteins called cytokines, which you need when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you’re under stress. Your body can’t produce infection-fighting antibodies if you’re lacking sleep (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/expert-answers/lack-of-sleep/faq-20057757). Try: prioritise naps over housework and nap if/when baby naps; get early nights; ask for help so you can sleep – although sleeplessness is hard on dads too, they don’t have the same issues of postnatal depletion that mums do.
None of this is easy I know, but prioritising your health is really prioritising your family and your little one. None of us can ‘pour from an empty jug’ and an essential part of being a mum is taking care of yourself.