Being a mother is an exciting time. But there are some things you should know as you enter this wonderful new phase of your life.
Taking good care of your health can help you adjust to life post-pregnancy. And it can help you look and feel your best. Here are a few things you can do to get your body in great shape.
Get help when you need it
In the beginning, breastfeeding is not always easy for mother or baby. To help with this issue, many hospitals have lactation consultants to help moms learn good breastfeeding skills.
If breastfeeding hurts, if you feel frustrated or if you’re unsure about anything, ask your provider for help. Many hospitals also offer breastfeeding support after you leave the hospital.
Your baby’s pediatrician can be an excellent source of assistance as well. Check out the Every Ounce Counts website for more breastfeeding help.
Don’t say goodbye just yet
Six weeks after you have your baby, it’s important to follow up with your provider for a post-partum visit. This is the time to start talking about birth control, going back to work, any depression you may be experiencing and breastfeeding. Even though you’ll be busy, this appointment is not one to skip.
Take your vitamins
Start your day with multivitamin that has at least 400 mcg of folic acid. You should do this even if you’re not planning to get pregnant again. Experts believe folic acid helps promote heart health.
- Stronger heart, muscles and bones
- More relaxed mind and body
- Better sleep
- Higher levels of energy
- Healthier weight
- Healthier body
Choose the moves you’ll stick with
Pick an activity you’ll have fun doing and go with it. Try walking with your baby or jogging. Just make sure you get 30 minutes of activity a day.
Don’t have time for the gym? Make exercise part of your daily life. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Do walk lunges across the living room. Whether it’s 1-minute intervals during the day or a 30-minute full cardio session, staying active is key to staying healthy.
For more info on exercise and activity, scroll down to the bottom of the page.
- Grains: These foods are made with wheat, oats, rice, etc. Try to make at least half of your servings “whole grain.” This could mean eating oatmeal for breakfast or choosing brown rice over white rice.
- Vegetables: Eat plenty of them, especially dark-green, red and orange veggies are full of important vitamins and minerals.
- Fiber: Eating plenty of fiber like beans and peas will help you feel full and keep your digestive system humming. Plus, it’s good for your heart.
- Whole fruits: These sweet treats provide the most benefit with the fewest calories. Juice gives you the vitamins and minerals, but not the fiber. If you drink juice, make sure that the label says “100% fruit juice.” Otherwise, it’s really a sugar-sweetened drink, closer to a soda.
- Milk, yogurt and cheese: These can be part of a healthy diet, but switch to fat-free, low-fat or reduced-fat versions.
- Meat: Get the protein, skip the fat. Look for lean, low-sodium choices when possible – baked chicken, lean beef and turkey are great ways to get the nutrients you need. And remember, a serving is only about the size of a deck of cards.
- Seafood: Try eating fish, shrimp and other shellfish at least twice a week.
- Water: Drink 8 to 10 glasses a day.
Additional resources and information regarding healthy eating are at the bottom of the page.
If you’re a new mom, now is the time to take your health back from smoking. Smoking increases your baby’s risk of death from SIDS and can cause lifelong illnesses, like asthma, for your baby.
No one says it will be easy. But with a proper plan of action and support from people who care about you, your odds of success are very good. If you’re ready to get started, congratulations! We recommend you take a look at My Quit Plan for helpful tips and hints.
Making the commitment is the first step. Now, you need to find the solutions that fit your life and add new ones as you go. Success won’t be too far behind.
Ease the symptoms of withdrawal
There are many medications available that can lessen your cravings for cigarettes. Talk to your provider about options to find the one that works for you, especially if you are breastfeeding.
The Texas Quitline is also a great option. You don’t even have to leave home. Trained counselors call when it’s convenient for you and help you form a personal quit plan.
Get your shots
This is an important time to make sure your shots are up to date, especially for Pertussis (Tdap) and flu. Everyone who will spend time with your child needs to be immunized to keep baby safe. Infants don’t have the enough natural protection against these infections, so do what you can to make sure he or she stays healthy.
Learn from past pregnancies
If you are thinking about having another child and had complications with a past pregnancy, it’s important you tell your health care provider provider.
Knowing your full medical history will help your provider ensure your next pregnancy goes as smoothly as possible. There are medications that can help some women avoid going into preterm labor again. Talk to your clinician about any medications you may be taking to be sure they are safe to take during pregnancy.
The waiting game
Proper birth spacing not only protects your health, it also protects your baby’s. Experts recommend that pregnancies be spaced no closer than 18 months and no further apart than 60 months.
Women who get pregnant too soon after childbirth have a higher chance of miscarriage and pregnancy complications. Closely spaced pregnancies may also mean the baby has a greater chance of being born too early or too small.
Timing is everything. Your ability to have a healthy pregnancy decreases as you get older, but having a baby before you’re ready can also cause problems. Work with your provider and talk to your partner about your birth control options to decide what will work for you.
The Center for Disease Control has some great tips for staying healthy with your friends.
Check out HealthyPlate.gov for more great reasons why you should keep up your exercise routine.
Create a personalized nutrition and physical activity plan with the USDA’s SuperTracker.
For information and help on quitting smoking, visit the American Cancer Society.
The items in your home and the people you live with play a big role in your health.
Child care challenges? Selecting child care is one of the most important choices you will make about your baby. Visit the Department of Family and Protective Services Search Texas Child to make an informed choice. This site shows the official record for every licensed child care provider in the state. You can search for daycare, learn about standards in Texas and look up the record of a child care provider you’re considering.
Keep your baby safe During the first few months, your baby will sleep between 15 and 20 hours a day. Babies sleep safest when caregivers follow the ABCs of safe sleep:
- Alone: Babies should sleep alone, without parents, siblings or stuffed animals.
- Back to sleep: Babies should sleep on their backs. The Back to Sleep national campaign has reduced SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) deaths in America by 50%. When babies sleep on their sides or bellies, they can suffocate.
- Clean and clear crib: The safest place for a baby to sleep is a crib with a tight-fitting mattress and no toys, blankets or baby bumpers. Dress your baby in a light onesie. Try to keep the temperature around 70 degrees, as babies can easily overheat.
If your baby is not sleeping in a safe place, he or she can easily slide into a position that won’t let him or her breathe. To make sure your baby is safe:
- Never let your baby sleep unattended in a car seat, swing, bouncy seat or stroller.
- Never put your baby to sleep on a pillow, sofa, quilt, rug or other soft surface.
- Never put your baby to sleep on a couch or armchair.
Keep your baby safe and sound As your baby grows, there will be more hazards that present themselves. Avoid danger by always keeping an eye on your baby. Before they can even crawl, babies are still very mobile. They can roll, slide and fall when you’re not looking.
If you need to put your baby down, be sure to use the harnesses or belts that come with changing tables, high chairs and swings. Baby proof your house by getting down on your hands and knees and looking for hazards from your baby’s point of view. They’ll be crawling around before you know it.
Put baby locks on cabinets, drawers and move anything poisonous to a high location that is out of reach. If you have a gun in your home, keep it locked securely and out of reach.
The summer months can be very dangerous to babies — especially in Texas. Never leave a baby in a car unattended. Not only is it against the law, but also it creates a real risk of death — even on a cool spring day.
Always watch children around water as babies can drown in just an inch of water. Bathtubs, pools and even buckets can be threats. It only takes a second, so be sure to always designate an adult to be responsible for watching children while they are playing near water.
Getting help for violence and abuse Intimate partner violence can have lasting effects on your child’s development. Children who are in a violent home where domestic violence and abuse are present become victims, too.
You may be experiencing abuse if your partner or colleague:
- Continually monitors your activities, in person or on social media
- Tries to stop you from going to work or seeing friends and family
- Accuses you of being unfaithful
- Tries to control your money, your medications (including birth control), what you wear or your eating habits
- Hurts you physically or threatens to do so
If you are experiencing violence or abuse in your home or work environment, please visit Womenshealth.gov to help protect yourself. You may also contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) or 206-518-9361 (Video Phone — for callers with hearing impairments).
Find out if you’re eligible for Texas state health benefits The State of Texas offers several programs to help pregnant women and their babies.
- The DSHS Expanded Primary Health Care program provides primary, preventative and screening services to women ages 18 and older whose income is at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). For questions, please contact: CHSS@dshs.state.tx.us.
- WIC (Women, Infants and Children) helps pregnant women eat well, learn about nutrition and stay healthy.
- Medicaid for pregnant women provides benefits to low-income women during pregnancy. The coverage continues up to two months after birth.
- Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Perinatal pays for qualified, low-income women to get medical care for their unborn children. This includes labor and delivery. It also includes health and medical services for the first 12 months of the baby’s life. A pregnant woman may be eligible even if she does not qualify for Medicaid.
If you don’t have health insurance, your child may be eligible for CHIP or Children’s Medicaid. These programs offer free or low-cost health coverage.
Resources Learn how to reduce your exposure to chemicals by downloading the CDC guide, “How to Reduce Your Exposure to Chemicals at Home, Work, and Play.”
Learn more about SIDS prevention by visiting the Room to Breathe website.
Find out more about the effects of domestic violence on children from the Children’s Welfare Gateway.
The Texas Council on Family Violence provides a listing of family violence service providers across the state. These providers can offer services such as 24-hour emergency shelter and advocacy for victims of domestic violence.
Learn more about CHIP and Medicaid programs for Texas moms and kids.
To keep your emotional and mental health from hurting your physical health, you must reduce stress. If you don’t take care of you, you can’t take care of anyone else. Stress is hard on your physical health. It can cause higher blood pressure, weight gain and skin conditions. Figuring out what helps you reduce stress now will pay off later.
Figure out what’s stressing you out
It’s best to face the issue as soon as possible. Hiding from it only makes things worse. Once you know what is stressing you out, try your best to work through it. Or ask your friends, family or even a counselor or therapist. Sometimes you can’t handle it alone.
Relax your mind with a hard workout or a simple stretch. Whether it’s a brisk walk behind the baby buggy or some other form of cardio, the most important thing is to get moving. Remember to invite a friend. Having a workout buddy makes you more likely to stick with your plan.
Take time for yourself
Being a mom is the most demanding — and most rewarding — job there is. Between late-night feeding, changing diapers, making lunches and chauffeuring around town to baseball practice, soccer practice and dance recitals, a mom’s life is nonstop.
You need to take time for yourself and recharge. Use your support network to help when you need it most. And take advantage of those times to give yourself a break. Go get a manicure, a massage or take a walk around the block. Alone time is key to a happy, healthy mommy.
Enjoy one another
Having a child is hectic. Caring for your children — especially when they are young – leaves little time for anything else. However, it’s important that you and your partner make time for each other. So take little breaks here and there to talk, take a walk, hold hands or tell stories.
Just take the time to nurture the relationship when you can. It will make you a stronger, more connected team. And being one team goes a long way in reducing stress in your home and in your family.
It might be something more Depression after pregnancy is more common than most realize. The signs differ for everyone, but can include sadness, anger, hopelessness, guilt or lack of interest in the child.
If you begin to feel this way, talk to your nurse or provider about your feelings so they can get you the help you need. You can also call the National Lifeline for Support at (800) 273-TALK (8255).
Organizations such as First Candle and Hand to Hold offer a wide range of support and lists of counseling resources in your area. The March of Dimes can help guide families and offer support. Get connected to other families who have experienced extended hospital stays in intensive care by visiting the March of Dimes.
For more information on getting help, the Texas Department of State Health Services has information here.
The March of Dimes also has a NICU Family Support Program that can help guide families and offer support. Get connected to other families who have experienced extended hospital stays in intensive care by visiting the March of Dimes.
One way to fight stress is through support groups. Learn more with this tool from the Mayo Clinic.
Find plenty of helpful documents to help you manage stress.
Learn more about the symptoms and treatment methods for depression.
Learn more about general mental health issues and treatments.
Reproductive Life Plan
Identify your goals for the future. Discuss with your partner and see how children fit into those plans. With the Reproductive Life Plan, you and your partner will develop a plan for the future based on your hopes and dreams of today. You can download it here.
Get dad involved with Maps for Dads, a guide to taking care of your new baby. It’ll provide him with information, tips and other helpful ideas. Download it here.
Learn how to keep you and your baby safe and healthy by downloading the Information for Parents of Newborns. This guide offers helpful information and resources that are great for moms and dads of newborns.