Postpartum care: looking after yourself after birth

Baby blues? Sore breasts? Expert advice & reassurance on speeding up your recovery after the birth…


What if… I've got the baby blues.

"I’m completely in love with my two-week-old baby, but I’m so emotional. The silliest things make me blub – I wept at a documentary about turtles! What’s up?"

Our health visitor says…

Talk to the experts. "Few of us are prepared for the emotional rollercoaster that hits us after having a baby. Your hormones are in free-fall, and the responsibility of caring for a small baby can be overwhelming. What’s more, sleep deprivation can turn even normal activities into a challenge."

"Weepiness and oversensitivity are not unusual. They are a common part of the ‘baby blues’, a temporary mood state that affects over half of new mothers. The good news is, this feeling only lasts for a couple of weeks after giving birth. Baby blues is not to be confused with severe mood or anxiety symptoms combined with feelings like hopelessness or difficulties bonding with your baby, which could signal postpartum depression. Chat to your health visitor or GP if you’re concerned."

"Trust me, you’re not the only new mum to have a wobble. Your health visitor can offer plenty of reassurance, too, so don’t be tempted to pretend everything’s hunky dory. Support is out there, ready and waiting for you," says Angela Davy, Boots Parenting Club health visitor.

What if… I wee when I laugh?

"Ever since my baby boy was born five weeks ago, I’ve been unable to stop a little bit of wee coming out when I cough, sneeze, or even laugh. It’s so embarrassing. I had a long labor and ended up with an episiotomy and forceps delivery. What can I do?"

Our pharmacist says…

Strengthen your pelvic floor. "This is a very common problem! Known as stress incontinence, it can affect a third of women in the three months after childbirth. Your challenging labor is probably why your bladder is playing up. A lengthy ‘pushing stage’ and/or the introduction of forceps or a catheter during delivery can all lead to bladder weakness, which means it’s very easy to leak urine when you laugh, sneeze or cough. Not what you need with a five-week-old to look after!"

"The key to helping fix it is strengthening your pelvic floor, so those exercises you’ve been taught are more important than ever. If you’ve forgotten the drill… sit comfortably, breathe out and clench the muscles between your vagina and back passage – up, then in (as if trying to stop a wee mid-flow). Hold but don’t clench your buttocks or tummy muscles – then relax. If you’re struggling or not noticing a difference, talk to your GP or health visitor, who can recommend a specialist to ensure you’re doing it right."

"Build up to a few sets of 10-15 repeats of each exercise. Be careful not to overdo it, and always have a rest between sets of squeezes. And don’t be tempted to reduce your fluid intake – you still need six to eight glasses a day – but avoid tea, coffee or fizzy drinks, which can irritate the bladder, so may make you need the loo more often," says Boots pharmacist Angela Chalmers.

What if… my breasts are too big for my baby?

"My breasts are huge, tight and painful and my four-day-old baby is finding it hard to latch on."

Our breastfeeding expert says…

Try expressing a little extra. "When your milk first comes in it’s not uncommon to have so much milk that your breasts become engorged, and you end up feeling like Dolly Parton! This can be painful for you, and make latching more difficult for your baby, so it needs sorting quickly."

"Try placing warm flannels on your breasts to soften them and aid milk flow, then gently squeeze them on either side of the areola to help your baby get a bigger mouthful. If they’re still finding latching difficult, try expressing a small amount of milk by hand, or pump immediately before the feed, which will help make your breasts less firm and easier to latch onto." 

"Another option is to try using nipple shields for a few feeds, but you will need to check that your baby is feeding effectively and getting enough milk (talk to your health visitor about how to use shields properly). Are your breasts softening, is your baby settled after each feed, and do they have a wet nappy every time? If not, shields are not working for you."

"Although bottle feeding expressed milk is not recommended until breastfeeding is well established (up to six weeks), it can be a helpful last resort if your baby is not getting enough milk. Try expressing and feeding your baby with a bottle until your breasts settle down and latching becomes easier, which can take anything from one to three days."

"And as a final note, please be aware that mastitis can occur if breasts remain engorged for too long, so consult your GP or health visitor if either breast develops a hard, red and painful area, as you may need to take antibiotics if your GP thinks it’s caused by an infection," says Boots Parenting Club breastfeeding expert Clare Byam-Cook.