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This post is based on personal experience and not to be taken as medical advice. Consult with your doctor when making medical decisions.
Having a baby is a big deal. In fact, while I was pregnant I didn’t give much thought to the things I shouldn’t be doing after giving birth because I was so eager to make it through my pregnancy and meet my baby. But, believe it or not, there are some things you’ll want to keep track of – things you definitely want to avoid after giving birth.
Do not take a bath or swim after giving birth
Until you get clearance from your doctor, which likely won’t come until you’re approximately 6 weeks postpartum, you can’t take a bath or swim after giving birth to your baby. Keep in mind that your body has just been under a significant amount of trauma. Giving birth is no small feat, so you need to give your body the chance to heal. And swimming or bathing before obtaining a medical exam and subsequent clearance from your doctor could open you up for infection. So, play it safe.
Don’t try to do everything
I think a lot of us face unrealistic expectations, either from others or self imposed. And unfortunately, this doesn’t necessarily stop just because we recently pushed a person out of a very tiny area of our body. Nope. Sometimes you’ll still feel like you need to tidy the house for guests, be a good host, tackle baby duty at all hours of the day and night, and manage a myriad of other tasks.
Please don’t do this.
If you have people who are willing to help you out, take them up on it! Let people know what you need. Lean on your spouse for support and make sure you’re checking in on each other so that taking on too much doesn’t foster resentment.
It’s fine if the dishes pile up for a bit. Or if takeout and freezer meals are staples for a while. It’s totally appropriate for you to kick your guests out when you’ve had enough socialization.
Your world has just been turned totally and completely upside down. So provide yourself with a lot of grace. Nothing lasts forever, and this new season is tough. There’s no need for you to make it harder on yourself by trying to do more than you can handle.
Don’t’ forget to relax/sleep/eat
Time moves in really bizarre ways in those first days and weeks after bringing home a new baby. So don’t forget to take care of some of these basic needs after giving birth. Sleeping, relaxing, and eating aren’t luxuries, they’re necessities. And they’re hard to come by.
Don’t give yourself a hard time if breastfeeding is hard (or just doesn’t work for you and your baby)
There is an enormous amount of undue pressure on moms to feed our babies in a specific way. I felt it. And to be honest, I’m anxious about how breastfeeding will go when our second baby arrives. Breastfeeding was difficult for me, and for most new moms that I know. This isn’t to say you should quit if you really want to breastfeed, but really, to cut yourself some slack. And don’t do it just because you think you need to. Your baby can be perfectly healthy whether you breastfeed, exclusively pump, or formula feed.
Don’t forget to follow-up with your doctor if you have any concerns
If you have any concerns – physical or otherwise, communicate those to your doctor. And if feel like something isn’t right and you’re disregarded – make an appointment anyway.
It can be really hard to know what’s normal and what’s not, so check in with your doctor if you’re worried.
Don’t assume you can’t get pregnant
Once you’re cleared for sex by your doctor, make sure you take precautions if you don’t want to get pregnant right off the bat. There is an old wives’ tale about being unable to get pregnant while you’re breastfeeding, but its not true. You can absolutely get pregnant without having gotten your period, while breastfeeding, and in those initial weeks after giving birth.
Don’t overexert yourself
Even if you were in amazing shape before having your baby, keep in mind that your body just went through an intense experience.
Not only was the birthing process a hit to your body, but your body just did a lot of work to grow your baby over the prior 9 months and is now in the process of recovering from that experience.
So whatever you want to do that is a potential strain on your body – think twice. And talk to your doctor before going ahead with anything strenuous.
And keep in mind that this point does not exclusively mean “don’t do intense exercise,” but overexerting yourself can extend to doing things like vacuuming and walking the dog.
So take things easy. And if in doubt, check with your doctor.
Don’t forget to establish boundaries (and enforce them) regarding visitors
Well meaning friends and family may want to visit. Some will come for the sole purpose of snuggling the new family member, whereas others will helpfully bring a meal or offer to tidy up for you.
This is not a time for you to “suck it up” and be a smiling, gracious host.
One of the mistakes we made with our firstborn was to simply let people hang around, without helping, for as long as they wanted. We were tired and resentful. And we still caught backlash for the things we asked people to do. So don’t make the same mistake my husband and I made. Instead, have clear boundaries and stick with them. You do not need to accommodate the preferences of others during this time. That time period after giving birth is hard – it literally feels like you’re fighting for survival some days.
So feel free to tell people they can’t come over. Or can only stay for a few minutes. If someone asks to come see the baby, let them know if there’s something you need them to bring.
If people want to come visit the sweet new baby, you are not required to play hostess. And expecting you to do that is unfair. And if they don’t get it, you can show them this post about how to help a new mom.
Don’t wear your nice underwear/pants
Let’s face it – you’re going to bleed for weeks after giving birth. Don’t waste your nice pants or underwear.
After giving birth, you definitely don’t want to be sticking things in your vagina.
This means no tampons.
Nothing. Goes. In. Your. Vagina.
I doubt you really relish the idea of sticking anything near, much less inside of, your vagina in those initial days and weeks after having a baby. And that’s for good reason. Not only does your body need time to recover from stretching enough to birth a bowling ball, sticking things into your vagina after giving birth can potentially introduce harmful bacteria. So its best just to skip sex and tampons until getting clearance from your doctor.
Avoid straining when pooping
After giving birth, many women find themselves terrified of that first postpartum poop. It’s a totally normal, unspoken, but very common fear. And it makes sense it would be intimidating – you just went through a traumatic event.
But when it comes to pooping in those first days, and possibly even weeks, you need to be mindful not to strain. Because its only going to cause pain, and possible complications with your stiches.
So take that time to yourself. Don’t strain in an effort to get back to that crying baby (who should be in a safe place anyway while you’re in the bathroom); or because you have a toddler ramming down your door for help with their blocks.
Take that time for yourself. Really.
And your doctor will probably have suggested that you take stool softeners when you left the hospital. If that’s the case, don’t disregard their suggestion. Take the stool softeners, and don’t strain yourself after giving birth.
After giving birth, don’t expect to look like you did pre-baby
I knew that I was still going to look pregnant after my son, but still, I was surprised that first time looking in the mirror after birth. I mean, I really didn’t look like I had just birthed a nearly 10 pound baby. It was surprising – and to be honest, a bit discouraging.
And even after my uterus had shrunk, along with my stomach, I still didn’t look like I did before my son was baby.
And you know what, that’s ok.
Keep in mind that your body just did something amazing. Maybe it will look like it used to, with a lot of work, but maybe it won’t. Embrace that. And don’t give yourself a hard time because this body is different than it used to be.
Don’t stop taking your prenatal vitamins (if you’re breastfeeding)
I know the name can be deceiving, but you do want to continue to take your prenatal vitamins, even after your baby is born. Mainly because your new baby receives all of their nutrients from what they’re drinking, which means they come from you if you’re breastfeeding. Continuing to take your prenatal vitamins ensures that your baby is getting the vitamins that they need.
Don’t forget/ ignore your need to speak with someone about how you’re feeling
Whether it’s a spouse, therapist, friend, or family member, please don’t disregard how you’re feeling postpartum. Even if you feel great emotionally, sometimes just having someone to speak to regarding how tiring being a new mom is can really help you get through those tough first days, weeks, and months.
And if you are feeling bad – whatever that may mean in your particular circumstance, the sooner you start speaking with someone then the sooner you may be able to feel better.
Postpartum depression and anxiety are very real, and very common. So if you feel like you’re struggling through this transition into parenthood then you’re not alone. And I would hate for you to feel that you are.
Avoid walking the dog and vacuuming after giving birth
This one may sound odd, but you should not be doing anything that could potentially jerk at your body (like walking a dog) or moving your abdominal muscles the way you would with a vacuum in those first days. It can put undue strain on body, even if it doesn’t seem like it would.
You may want to check out:
Unfortunately, there are quiet a few things you’ll want to avoid, such as sex, baths, swimming, tampons, overexertion, and more. If in doubt, check with your doctor.
Typically it will be around 6 weeks after birth, but that information should be given to you before you leave the hospital following delivery.
Relax and sleep when you can. Nourish your body with healthy foods and don’t skip meals. Establish healthy boundaries with visitors. Accept help from friends and family. These are just a few things you can do to take care of your body after giving birth.