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A Guide to Postpartum Self-Care for Parents

Thursday June 20, 2024 | Body Contouring, Botox

Bringing a baby home for the first time is one of life’s joyous moments. Your bundle of joy is a testament to your growth and willingness to pass on life to the next generation. However, the initial stages of parenthood aren’t as luminous as most media portrays. The first stages of parenthood are challenging and can affect your social life, mental well-being, and physical state. This is also something many parents want to hide. After all, they just brought new life into the world, so they must love this momentous occasion, right?

Like any other nuance in life, parenthood exists in shades of gray. You can bring joy to your new baby and mourn your old life. This mourning won’t last forever, either. However, some may experience lingering mental and physical effects from this stage of life years after the birth of their child. As you adjust — no matter how long it takes — you can take care of yourself as you enter the grand adventure of parenthood.

Understanding Postpartum Changes

When parents anticipate changes after bringing a baby home, they think of what they may see on TV or in movies: a mother glowing as she swaddles her newborn surrounded by a loving family in the new chapter of their lives. With celebrities declaring how fast they lost the baby weight on top of this image, many parents have grandiose expectations of their new lives and how similar they may be to their old selves — just with the addition of a smiling baby.

The key to preparing parents for changes is to examine parenthood transparently. Here’s what to expect.

Physical Changes

After growing a human for nine months and then giving birth, moms may experience various physical changes to their bodies. More than that, early motherhood and any lifestyle changes that come from it can also affect their bodies. These changes may differ from person to person based on genetics, environmental factors, and more. However, generally speaking, here is a list of the most common physical changes parents experience after giving birth and in the months to follow:

  • Changes in your breasts: Even if you don’t breastfeed, it’s normal for your breasts to enlarge initially after birth and then sag after the nursing period ends. Many women don’t retain this volume. If you do breastfeed, your nipples may change color or shape.
  • Stretch marks: Many women experience stretch marks around their breasts, stomach, or wherever their skin stretches.
  • Lingering stomach fat and skin: Even after you’ve given birth, you may have lingering fat and tissue around your stomach. It can take up to six weeks to go back to normal, but due to genetics, it may never become as taut as it once was.
  • Varicose veins: Many women experience varicose veins during pregnancy, which can extend to 12 weeks after birth due to dilated blood vessels.
  • Urinary incontinence and constipation: Due to the chronic pressure of your pelvic floor from pregnancy, your muscles in this region may weaken, leading to less control of your bowel movements and bladder.
  • Fatigue: Many parents report feeling exhausted from birthing and then spend sleepless nights caring for their newborn and any excess weight they continue to carry.
  • Hair loss: Many women lose the hair they initially gained in pregnancy due to a drop in hormone levels.
  • Skin changes: Again, hormone fluctuations may cause your skin to break out or darken around your face.
  • C-section scars: Women who received a C-section surgery may have pain around their abdominal muscles and have a scar. This scar may fade in a few years but may never disappear entirely.
  • Vaginal pain: Women who had vaginal deliveries may experience tearing of their perineum, which can cause pain for up to six weeks after birth.

Even parents who may not have birthed their baby may experience physical changes. They may have less time to maintain their physical health and appearance. They may gain weight after not having time to create healthy diet plans or carve out time for exercise.

No matter what kind of parent you are, these physical changes may likely affect other aspects of your life and health.

Social Shifts

Your social life may change just like any other facet of your life. While you may become closer with your partner, you may also experience more conflict when splitting new parental duties and financial concerns from having a child. Your physical love life may change, which could affect your relationship. Likewise, your support system may be thrilled for your new addition to your life, but some friends or family may also become more distant. Some parents report feeling isolated due to this distance.

Changes in Me

Many parents report that the most significant change in their new postpartum life is the change in their routine. They experience sleep deprivation as they bottle or breastfeed their newborns or soothe them back to sleep. They don’t have as much time to do things they enjoy or care for themselves. If they find time, they do the bare minimum: taking a nap to catch up on sleep, jumping into the shower, or completing other tasks around the house.

Many parents may look at this and other changes in their lives and worry about whether this is the new “normal.” It also doesn’t help to look in the mirror and see all the physical changes you’ve most likely endured in parenthood. Because of this, parents report feelings of sadness, lack of self-confidence, anxiety, and even depression. Nearly 80% of parents experience the “baby blues” — feelings of initial sadness after a baby is born that can last up to two weeks. If you experience any more symptoms, you may need to seek a diagnosis of postpartum depression. Hormonal changes may instigate these conditions, but baby blues can pass quickly.

Postpartum depression, however, can last up to three years after birth. Postpartum depression may involve harmful thoughts related to you or your baby, and you may experience feelings of hopelessness or excessive anxiety. Nearly 10% of mothers report postpartum depression, but many experts and studies find that this statistic may be faulty as many mothers may confuse their depression with baby blues.

Dads and co-parents can also experience something similar. Even if they don’t have as many hormonal changes that affect their emotions, sleep deprivation, money worries, and routine changes can cause an emotional response — many dads and partners — nearly 25% — report feeling depressive symptoms. Just like with mothers, this statistic may be even higher as many parents go undiagnosed, assuming their emotions are simply baby blues.

The Importance of Self-Care for Parents

No doubt about it, it’s challenging to move past these changes. However, it’s crucial now more than ever to take care of yourself as you learn how to cope. If you don’t and let these changes build and lead to chronic stress, you can even be at risk of conditions like heart disease, diabetes, or cancer.

You could also burnout from parenthood, and your child may suffer from it, along with the other relationships in your life. However, taking time for yourself, no matter how small or short, can prevent burnout, make your child’s life more fulfilling, and transform your mental and physical health. With that in mind, let’s look at some examples of self-care that can benefit you as a new parent.

Physical Self-Care

You can’t always control the physical changes you experience as a new parent. For example, stretch marks or C-section scars are inevitable for most parents. However, there are things you can do to take care of your body so you can feel better.


Exercise is a multifaceted self-care activity. For one, the endorphins you release during exercise can boost your mood, benefiting your mental health. Exercise also lessens your chances of developing chronic conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. In addition, it can help you strengthen the weakened muscles from pregnancy.

Lastly, exercise can help boost your self-image by helping remove any lingering fat or excess skin. If skin still lingers, even after losing weight, you can propel your physical state further by investing in body contouring to provide a more toned look.

Be sure to cater your exercise schedule to your physical needs. Don’t push yourself too hard early on after giving birth, as you still have time to recover. However, you can still see all the benefits of exercise from small exercises like walking — plus it’s an activity you can do practically anywhere.

Skincare Routines

As mentioned, hormonal changes are bound to change your skin after pregnancy. It may feel coarser, acne-prone, or darker. Establishing a skincare routine can address all of these issues. In addition, it can be a meditative practice, allowing you to connect with yourself after taking care of a baby all day. If you need help figuring out your skincare routine, contact a professional who can advise you.


Although it may be tempting to order takeout to spend more time with your baby or partner or catch up on some sleep, eating more processed foods can worsen your health and mood. Instead, create a daily or weekly meal plan with plenty of protein, fruits and vegetables, fiber, and healthy fats. It’s also important not to neglect healthy carbohydrates, which help your body produce serotonin, which may be lacking postpartum. Balance this with protein to help regulate your blood sugar and satiation levels.

If you’re worried about when to make food while caring for your newborn, you can always meal-prep your meals once a week, freeze food for later, or use simple or slow-cooker recipes.


Sleep is the cornerstone of your well-being. With little sleep, your mood will worsen, and it will take longer to recover from the birth. In some ways, losing sleep is inevitable. You’ll need to feed, change, burp, or rock your baby every two to three hours. In addition, many babies’ sleep patterns can easily vary from yours, keeping you up all night. However, you can adjust your schedule and your lifestyle so you can still feel rested despite these disruptions at night:

  • Make a plan with your partner about feeding shifts during the day and night;
  • Pump during the day, bottle feed at night so your partner can take over;
  • Prioritize three to four hours of sleep at night to complete REM cycles.
  • Nap when your baby naps;
  • Avoid caffeine that may disrupt your circadian rhythm;
  • Reach out to your support system to care for your child to catch up on sleep.

At the end of the day (or night), rest is the most critical aspect of recovery. If you lack rest, you won’t see any improvements in your physical or mental health.

Doctor Visits

Most importantly, visit a medical professional if you have a persisting medical condition. Since postpartum recovery comes with so many physical changes, it’s normal to shrug things off as usual. However, persisting issues such as vaginal pain can indicate more extensive issues and could affect your overall health more. Plus, a general provider can help refer you to other providers that can provide additional help. For example, if you’re experiencing urinary incontinence, you could have a weakened pelvic floor. In this case, a provider can connect you to physical therapy or other treatment plans.

Woman lifting her baby above her head during sunset

Mental Self-Care

Whether you have the baby blues or postpartum depression, or even if you feel fine, it’s essential to prioritize your mental health to prevent burnout and worsening mental health conditions. Let’s take a look at where you can start.

Support Systems

The saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” exists for a reason. You can’t raise a child alone without any help. In fact, collectivist societies that prioritize community values often have fewer postpartum depression symptoms in comparison to individualistic societies. This indicates how people helping you after birth can significantly lessen stress and boost your mood.

For parents, making the jump and asking for help can be difficult. They may feel guilty about not being a good enough parent; however, asking for help indicates the opposite. Here are a couple of ways you can boost your support system:

  • Partners: If you have a partner, you must communicate with them constantly about your child, house, and financial responsibilities to avoid resentment. However, your partner is also there to support you if you feel overwhelmed or have other emotions. They may feel similarly, and the mutual connection can boost your mood and build your relationship.
  • Family and loved ones: It’s normal for parents to feel isolated from their family and loved ones after giving birth, but you can reach out to someone to amend this issue. Catching up to vent about your emotions and asking for help with labor around the house can give you the support you need.
  • Childcare: Not all parents have the luxury of having an already established support system that’s physically able to care for their children. Instead of relying entirely on yourself, contact childcare services in your community. Often, you can hire a nanny or a babysitter to care for your baby while you take care of yourself. There are also non-profit organizations and government programs that provide services for low-income families that can’t afford these services.

With that in mind, look at your support system and embrace it as you enter this new chapter.

Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques

A baby crying and needing your help all day can leave your nerves and mind wracked. If you feel this way, you must regulate your emotions. In addition to finding rest when you can, you should also carve out time to quiet your mind and any worries that may be floating through. Many parents find relaxation in a variety of activities, including:

  • A warm shower or bath: A bath or a shower can not only maintain your daily hygiene, but the warm water can lower your blood pressure and release endorphins that indicate relaxation.
  • Hobbies: Sometimes, all you need to relax is to reconnect with your hobbies that spark joy in your life.
  • Mindfulness or meditation: Meditation can be as advanced or as simple as you need it to be. From simple deep breathing and moments of mindfulness to progressive relaxation techniques, you can use various techniques in as little as five minutes.

Ultimately, your relaxation technique will depend on what quiets your mind the most. No one relaxes the same way, so it’s up to you to find what works best.

Counselling and Professional Services

Most importantly, if your feelings of sadness or anxiety persist, it’s essential to seek a professional counselor or mental health professional. Although your support system can help you work through your emotions, a professional is qualified to help you cope. They may connect you with medication that can help regulate your emotions as your hormones adjust during the postpartum period.

How To Boost Your Self Confidence

Even if you’ve done everything you can to boost your mood and take care of your physical self, it can take a while to feel comfortable and confident in your skin. While it may take some time, you can also prioritize these confidence-boosting activities:

Cosmetic Makeovers

Although many aspects of your appearance will change and rebound after having a baby, you can’t always control it. For example, some women are genetically predisposed to keeping more baby weight after birth than others who have an easier time losing it. Even if you’re eating the same meals and exercising just as often as someone with these genes, you may not be able to regain the appearance you had before having a baby. While this is perfectly fine, it can be disheartening as a parent to realize this. However, to aid you in your self-confidence journey, you can look into several cosmetic procedures such as:

  • Coolsculpting: If you have any lingering fat after having a baby and losing weight, coolsculpting can help you remove it to help you achieve your body goals.
  • Botox: Many parents may find new wrinkles as they face the stresses of parenthood, but Botox can help minimize the signs of wrinkles to keep you looking younger.
  • Mommy makeovers: As a mom, your body changes in more than one, and a mommy makeover can be a fix-all solution to challenges you face in your face, body, and breasts.
  • Tummy tuck: A tummy tuck can remove any loose skin from having a baby, giving you a more toned look.
  • Breast implants: As mentioned, many women experience changes in their breasts’ fullness after giving birth and nursing. To restore them to their original state, you can receive breast implants after nursing.
  • Breast lift: Similar to implants, a breast lift can tighten any loose skin you may have after nursing and pregnancy, providing a firm and contoured appearance. In addition, a breast augmentation with a breast lift can address any changes to your nipple position and areola size that may change after pregnancy.

Even though most parents go through the trials of accepting their new body, there is no shame in asking for help to achieve the self-confidence you desire. With it, you can move forward in life and improve your mental health.

Try a New Wardrobe and Style

You may feel low by trying to wear all your old clothes, realizing how much your body and life have changed. However, this can be the perfect opportunity to try a new wardrobe that suits your new life. Research new styles that interest you and make you feel confident.

Don’t restrict yourself, either. Just because you’re a parent now doesn’t mean you should limit your style preferences to something that seems more mature. If anything, this can be a great time to try new colors or cuts that may flatter your new figure.

Be Creative

Sometimes, a lack of confidence doesn’t necessarily sprout from changes in your appearance; instead, you may feel sadness about changes in your abilities. The best way to counter this insecurity is to find new abilities, particularly creative activities. By investing in activities like painting, crocheting, sewing, drawing, journaling, pottery, and more, you can look at your creations and realize you’re much more than a parent: you’re a person with skills and aspirations.

woman with her baby on a hike

Daily Routine Tips

Self-care is easy to talk about but even harder to prioritize as a parent. The key is time management. Time management as a parent, though, doesn’t necessarily look the same as it does for other people. Traditional time management tactics may include planning your day out beforehand, which is not always possible for new parents who can’t predict when their baby will start fussing.

Instead, it’s best to think of your routine through goals. Make it a goal to spend 10 minutes meditating, calling a friend, or working out each day when your baby sleeps. If you have more time, then that’s great! If you don’t have 10 minutes, that’s also okay. Make sure to make more time for yourself later to make up for lost time. These little moments can add up and keep you sane in trying times.

While these trying times may seem like they go on forever, know that this will pass. Soon enough, you may reminisce about this period, and if you don’t, you can rest assured that you survived one of the first trials of parenthood!

Resources for Postpartum Parents

If you’re concerned about your mental or physical health or curious about how to improve your routine while adjusting to parenthood, check out these handy resources.

Mental Health Resources:

Physical Health Resources

Financial Assistance

Self-Care Resources

Contact us to explore your options

Rejuvenate Your Face and Body

Many patients come to see Dr. Sarah Mess from the Baltimore, and Washington DC areas because of her ability to provide their face and body with a revitalized look that appears naturally youthful. For all of your cosmetic needs, please call (410) 559-9468 or use the form below to request a consultation.

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