In some traditional cultures, women take the first 30 days after the birth of a baby to recover from pregnancy and childbirth and learn how to care for their new baby. However, in many modern cultures women are expected to bounce back and return to managing their jobs and households almost immediately.

Ten to 15 percent of women experience postpartum depression. Why? Women with new babies are often on their own when recovering from childbirth. Their lives are no longer based on regular schedules, but rather on baby’s empty or full stomach. Isolation from social interactions with adults can bring a loss of identity that women had not experienced at work. New mothers may never have been responsible for another human being 24 hours a day and the learning curve is steep.

Reach out for help, give yourself time to recover, and enjoy the time you have to bond with your baby.

10 Tips to Help You Create a Happy and Healthy Postpartum Period

1. Get help

If you have extended family, they can help with household chores, cooking, and even holding the baby while you catch a catnap. Utilize the paternity leave available in Canada so your husband can help at home. Join a mom’s support group. We are not used to reaching out, but humans are interdependent, not independent–think tribal!

2. Get organized

Take a class in the prenatal period on breastfeeding and caring for your baby if you have no previous experience. Cook and freeze nutritious meals before your due date.

3. Get rest

Many moms are so busy entertaining friends and family who want to see the new baby that they become exhausted. Take a few days to recover before you start receiving visitors (unless they are there to help). Rest when the baby sleeps, so you have energy for night feedings.

4. Get exercise

Research shows that exercise aids in relieving depression. Just 10 minutes a day moving around with your baby in the living room to music is a great start.

5. Breastfeed

Breastfeeding has been shown to increase the maternal/infant bond. Hormones in breast milk help mother cope better with stress and induce sleep.

6. Nourish your body with good foods

Eat small meals and snacks frequently throughout the day so your blood sugar does not crash (leading to more periods of depression). Smoothies are great options (and can be frozen into popsicles). Make up big pots of soup to last a few days.

7. Get your essential fatty acids

In a study of omega-3 supplementation, 500 mg provided a reduction of 50 percent in postpartum depression symptoms. Enjoy raw nuts and seeds and cold pressed omega-3 and -6 oils on steamed veggies, grains, and salads; these also help your baby’s brain and neurological development.

8. Get your iron

A 2005 study showed decreased maternal/infant bonding and an increase in postpartum depression in mothers who were iron deficient. Take 20 to 30 mg of liquid iron for at least the first six weeks.

Dark leafy greens are also rich in iron.

9. Take a few moments to relax

Have a bath with essential oils of rosemary and lavender, which both help with mood elevation.

10. Get help early

Tell your health care professional if you are struggling during the postpartum period. Ask about natural remedies such as St. John’s wort, homeopathic remedies such as Sepia, counselling, and support groups. Resources are available in your community.

About the Author

Cathy Carlson Rink, RM, ND, is a mother of two, licensed naturopathic physician, and registered midwife with a focus on pregnancy and womenâ??s and childrenâ??s health.