Giving birth and what happened afterward was a total shock to me. Well, I kind of expected the worst in regard to giving birth and having a baby, but the slow and frustrating days that followed were nothing I was prepared for.

Some women are in great spirits in the first few days of postpartum, but I was completely exhausted and beat. I was looking for any way in which I could take care of myself and heal, while getting familiar with the rollercoaster of caring for a newborn baby.

In this list of how I tried to stay healthy after giving birth, find out how I tried my best in my new “postpartum life” to find health, rest and mental sanity.

Get rest and sleep

If you’ve just given birth, then you know that this is obviously the hardest thing that anyone will tell you. In the days after I gave birth, I was the most tired I have ever been in my life.

Resting and sleeping is what I needed, and what I was aiming for, and this is my recommendation to any new parent in the first days: try to sleep WHENEVER you can. I outline how to get sleep when you have a newborn for some basic tips that can help.

Say no to visitors if you feel like it

I said no to visitors until I really felt ready. This was my way of staying healthy mentally: having visitors over made me too stressed. I was too stressed about making sure the baby didn’t catch the flu or a cold from anyone coming over, and I was too stressed that I’d have to put myself together to entertain guests instead of resting.

If you are ready to have friends and family over, go for it! If you need to put a foot down and say no, then say it, and tell your partner why you feel this way.

It’s most important to prioritize your health first. Everyone will get to see the baby eventually.

Join a postpartum support group

My unfortunate story is that I found out about my postpartum support group too late. When I needed it the most, I was a few days and weeks postpartum, and felt alone, isolated, confused and just plain tired.

I found out about a postpartum support group sponsored by the hospital while I gave birth, and this was around 8 weeks postpartum. I joined, and during my first support group, I felt heard, and surrounded by women who felt what I felt.

To take care of yourself emotionally while in the postpartum phase, I recommend seeking out a group. Many of them are free. Ask around in your networks if any moms know of one that you could join as a new parent. You might even make new mom friends who live relatively nearby.

Helpful Tip

My support group is run by a psychologist, and because of the laws surrounding therapy and psychologic practices, only women in the US state where she is certified are able to join. Keep this in mind if you’re receiving support group referrals from someone in another state.

Ask for HELP

One thing that was hard to do, because it was hard to verbalize at the time, was to ask for help. I’m typically a highly independent “do-it-myself” kind of person, and asking for help when I needed it most was challenging for me.

In order to get rest, and have time to do all the other self-care tips in this list, ask for help from your partner, or a nearby friend or neighbor. If you have family nearby, that is even better.

If you’re in such a position where you really need help to get things done and care for the baby, ask people you trust to take shifts and come for several hours, to do things like housework while you’re feeding the baby and getting the baby to sleep.

Stay in touch with your doctor

A lot of the paperwork I left the hospital with told me to reach out to my doctor if I experienced anything from excessive bleeding, to an abnormal body temperature to extreme anxiety or depression. Everyone’s postpartum experience is very different, and while some women will breeze through the postpartum phase, some women will have a lot of difficulty and may experience concerning medical occurrences.

As a disclaimer, I am not a doctor; however, writing this from my perspective as a woman who went through childbirth, I suggest reaching out to your doctor if you experience anything that seems out of the ordinary. Getting medical help is the best help you can get, and I suggest monitoring your symptoms and your recovery in notes or on paper if you can’t remember them day to day.

Eat nutritious meals and enough protein

I love eating healthy food, and I knew that eating well and having enough fiber and vitamins in the days and weeks after giving birth was crucial.

It was essential for me, in my recovery, as well as for my baby, because of nursing. I was lucky that Dan offered to cook all my meals — really, all of them, and it was the best thing he could’ve done to be a supportive partner for a nursing mom.

A few of my favorite meals were brown rice pasta with eggs and veggies, quinoa bowls, rotisserie chicken brought over by my parents, egg sandwiches with my favorite bread and lots of fruit and vegetables for snacks.

Lay off caffeine

As I mentioned above, rest is one of the most important ways to take care of yourself in the postpartum phase. For me, this phase lasted about 12 weeks, and I’m not kidding.

I love caffeine, but in my moment of postpartum, I knew that I shouldn’t be having my favorite addictive “upper” because of how much sleep I was losing and how much I needed my body to focus on resting.

After a few weeks, I got into having a decaf coffee in the morning or at some point during the day, and in the photo below, I got out for a “self care” walk to get a decaf latte at Starbucks down the street.

Scrap the alcohol

While it’s also one of the things you can’t do while pregnant, having alcohol in the early weeks of postpartum may do you in for a few reasons.

First off, your body is tired from giving birth, and all the physical labor that goes into caring for a newborn 24/7. Second, your tolerance is way down, after 9 months of not drinking alcohol!

If you’re up for it, a drink now and then is fine, and this is totally up to you. For me, I was so exhausted and felt so unlike my prior self, that I didn’t get around to enjoying wine until I was 3 months postpartum and nearly out of the newborn phase.

Try a mocktail! It’s what I drank at parties while I was pregnant and it can make the mood way more fun when you’re at home for so many days. I also discovered non-alcoholic wine, which hit the spot.

(If it’s your second child, you may feel very different about this topic!)

Get outside

Getting outside was how I found time for myself as a new parent. Some days, even though it was cold, I would bundle up and go for a walk, even if it was just 10 minutes. I felt like my baby always needed me, and that was stressful and kept my anxiety through the roof.

Having a baby in the dead of winter was DIFFICULT, as the days were short and mostly dark, the outside temperatures were cold and sometimes there was snow. I felt trapped, at home with my newborn, not knowing day from night.

On as many occasions as I could, I got outside. It was nice to remember that life was going on, and that the sky was blue. I appreciated all the joys of being outside, like getting steps, getting my legs moving and seeing the hustle and bustle of my city.

Go for convenience

If it lets you take care of yourself more or let you get some time back, opt for convenience. Order meals on Uber Eats or Grubhub, order groceries from Amazon Fresh or InstaCart and order baby essentials from Amazon.

If you need to pick things up like extra diapers from another mom friend, or you’re craving a coffee, ask a mom “who’s been there” to help out. She will understand how bogged down you are by the newborn days and postpartum recovery.

Avoid engaging in work

One thing not to do is to engage in your work, or your job. This is hard for many people, because if you just open your Slack app on your phone, boom: there’s your work, and all your coworkers, chatting and posting in all the channels.

To let go of work and to not be tempted to check my messages or emails, I deleted my work email off my phone and I deleted the Slack app. This let me focus on my baby and my recovery.

If your work is not “work from home”, this is probably easier!

Indulge a little!

If it’s going to make you happy or feel “normal” again, indulge in something you love. For me, this was good old-fashioned Oreos dipped in milk. Enjoy what brings you back to normalcy, and savor every moment!