o. For Moms: How to take care of yourself

Taking care of yourself after pregnancy is really important. Staying healthy can make you feel good and give you the energy you need to take care of your family.

  • Go to your 6-week postpartum checkup and visit your health care provider yearly or as needed.
  • Get the flu and Tdap vaccinations.
  • Use birth control until you’re ready to get pregnant again. For most women, it’s best to wait 18 to 23 months before getting pregnant again. Ask your health care provider about the best kind of birth control for you.
  • Eat healthy foods, like fruits and vegetables, lean meat and chicken and whole grains, like whole wheat bread or pasta. Stick with low-fat milk products. Limit sweets, salty snacks and fatty foods.
  • Get to a healthy weight. Cut back on sweets and do something active every day.
  • Take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid in it each day. Taking folic acid can help reduce your chances of having a baby with certain birth defects.
  • Don’t smoke, use street drugs or abuse prescription drugs. If you need help to quit, tell your health care provider.
  • Limit how much alcohol you drink.
  • Reduce your stress.
  • Share your feelings with your partner and family and make time to be together.

 Getting help from others:

  • Ask family and friends to help out around the house or with other children.
  • Visit shareyourstory.org, an online community for NICU families, where you can find information, comfort and support from other NICU families and the March of Dimes.
  • Think about joining a support group of parents who have a baby with a health condition like the one your baby has.

Feeling sad and overwhelmed
The baby blues can begin right after you have your baby. Many new moms feel happy one minute and sad the next. Having a baby in the NICU can make these feelings stronger. Postpartum depression (also called PPD) is different from the baby blues. It has more intense feelings of sadness or worry that last for a long time after the baby is born. It’s a medical condition that needs treatment to get better.

Signs of postpartum depression include:

  • Having little interest in your usual activities or hobbies
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Changes in how much or how little you want to eat
  • Gaining or losing weight
  • Having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Having trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • Thinking about suicide or death

Here’s what you need to know about PPD:

  • It’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything to cause PPD. It doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad mother
  • You are not alone. Many women have PPD. In fact, it’s the most common problem for new moms.
  • You can get help, and your depression can go away. Talk to your health care provider if you think you feel very sad for a long period of time.

Leaving my new baby in the hospital after I was discharged was so hard. I was worried that I would miss out on early bonding experiences. I felt so many emotions — but mostly I felt guilty. It felt so wrong to be at home, pumping at my kitchen table at 3 a.m., knowing someone else was cuddling and feeding my baby. I would get up early, race back and forth to the hospital with pumped milk, and try and split my time between my baby in the NICU and my son at home. It was hard.

And then my little guy came home. I snuggled him even more, held his soft body close to mine, and finally felt like my family was complete. Nothing felt better than all of us being under the same roof —

— Meghan, Mom to a 35-week baby boy