I remember the day we got our professional newborn photos back clearly. I remember the joy looking through all the treasured moments in time that were captured and loving every photo except for this one. I instantly stopped on the photo above and went into criticism and judgement mode. I didn’t like what I saw and I didn’t know how to process it. I saw the soft tummy and isn’t thought that it shouldn’t be.
Not even 2 weeks post birth and yet my mind started going into overdrive thinking why did my stomach look soft and rounded still. Why had not yet gone down to its pre-pregnancy size, I mean thats all we ever see on social media and the internet – love for that big round pregnant belly, and applause and admiration when someone loses the weight and the belly disappears after giving birth. Even as a Dietitian who works within the disordered eating space, I was not excluded from the toxic diet culture and messaging around bouncing back after birth. Thankfully the moment and self doubts about my body passed quite quickly and I was able to move on with my day, enjoying the beauty in all the photos that had been taken with my little family.
I now look back on this photo with gratefulness, knowing all that my body was able to do to grow another human, and at least for me – I have been much kinder on my body and its changes since becoming a mother compared to pre-pregnancy. I look at those tired but happy eyes while I hold my 10 day old darling with absolute joy.
I do believe that it isn’t chance that I was able to be kinder on my body and nourish it without focusing on weight or bouncing back to my pre-pregnancy status. Our physical and mental health is impacted by a number of factors (hello sleep deprivation!) and it was a combination of factors that enabled me to nourish myself fully in the postpartum period. The term ‘nourish’ is thrown around a lot at the moment and is probably going to be the buzz word of 2023, but just a reminder that nourishment goes beyond just food and has no correlation to weight or self-worth.
To be truly nourished as we transcend into motherhood, we need much more than just food! I know that my ability to really thrive and feel nourished came from a combination of these four elements:
There is no doubt that food is important, our energy needs increase by an additional 400 to 600 calories each day to assist with milk production if breastfeeding. There are also huge hormonal shifts, as our body changes and adapts to no longer being pregnant and a number of nutrients are needed to support this. Protein, Iron, Iodine, Vitamin D and Vitamin B12 are particularly important for both mother and baby in the fourth trimester.
Rest is the priority post birth and we need to be gentle on ourselves as we progress back into exercise. When your body is ready, exercising will release endorphins and oxytocin known as the feel-good hormones, helping with our energy levels and the emotional ups & downs that the fourth trimester brings with it. Gentle movement such as a walk or a 10-minute yoga flow can be a great place to start.
Supportive and loving connections
Postpartum can be very isolating, having support and connection with others meets one of the basic needs of a mother and without it mental health can be impacted significantly. Historically, we lived in villages raising our children together with all the mothers providing support and even feeding each other’s children when needed. If we look at recent times during the pandemic, mothers worldwide were isolated throughout their whole journeys into motherhood, with some even having to give birth without the support of their loved ones. During this time, it is undeniable that a mother’s mental health was impacted, with one study showing that rates of postpartum depression increased from 10% in 2017 to 34% during the pandemic.1
Connection with ourselves
This is easier said than done, as during the postpartum period our whole focus is on the baby, who is reliant on us for everything. But remember it is important to connect with ourselves as well. All the changes in postpartum can often result in feeling like we have lost the identity of who we were before becoming a mother. So, it can be helpful to try and continue to do some of the things that you previously enjoyed. Whether it be exercise, meditating, journaling or just going outside for a few moments as the sun is rising, anything that helps to ground you.
I truly believe that honing into these four elements in the early days of postpartum helped my mental health and ability to cope as a new mother greatly. Of course this isn’t possible for everyone, and there are a number of reasons that we are unable to nourish ourselves in the postpartum. But hopefully this is some food for thought if you are on your motherhood journey.
Let me know if you would like some tips on how to set yourself up in pregnancy for a nourished postpartum x
And If you are wanting some assistance with navigating nutrition and your relationship with food in the postpartum period – Reach out and book in for an appointment
Photography by the talented – Kristi Teakle Photography
I'm here to help you become the expert of your bump and support you to nourish yourself to your full potential!
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