Taking care of yourself as a parent

Becoming a parent changes your life. It is important to take care of yourself so you can take care of your family. To help your baby to attach with you have your home quiet and calm. Delay introducing lots of people. Keep your days restful in the beginning as your baby gets to know her immediate family.

Especially for mams

Eating well

A healthy balanced diet is always important, especially after giving birth. Use the food pyramid to help you choose a daily balanced diet. Choose three servings of milk, cheese and yoghurt. To avoid constipation, especially if you had stitches or bruising, eat foods high in fibre, such as vegetables, fruit, wholemeal, wholegrain or brown varieties of bread, cereals, pasta or rice. Aim to drink a lot of water each day, at least 8 cups, especially if breastfeeding.

Food Pyramid

Smoking and drinking alcohol

If you gave up smoking during your pregnancy you gave your baby a great start. Try to stay off cigarettes as smoking around your baby can contribute to cot death. Help and support is available on www.quit.ie or talk to your GP.

If you stopped drinking alcohol during your pregnancy now may be a good time to look at your drinking habits. Do you know your limits? Do you know what a standard drink is? Find out more at www.askaboutalcohol.ie.

Postnatal exercises

You experienced many changes in your body during your pregnancy. Now that your baby is born, most of these changes will return to normal. Special postnatal exercises will help.These are important to help you return to your pre-pregnancy weight and prevent future health problems such as leakage of urine incontinence). In the hospital, your midwife or physiotherapist will give you information on how to do postnatal exercises. Do these exercises regularly. If you had a caesarean section the physiotherapist will advise you on a range of exercises that are suitable for you.

Postnatal check

Six weeks after your baby is born, you are due for a routine postnatal check by your doctor, including a breast check. If you have not had a recent cervical smear test before your pregnancy then you should discuss your need to have one with your doctor at your postnatal check-up. Use this time to talk with your doctor about any questions or concerns you have about yourself or your baby. For more information see www.cervicalcheck.ie.

Baby blues

You may feel tired or strained due to lack of sleep and coping with your new role as a parent. Most new mams feel baby blues a few days after the birth. This is mainly due to a change in your hormone levels. As your body starts to return to normal, these feelings pass. Remember that some level of baby blues is natural and common. Often a new mother's best resource is someone nearby she can talk to such as a partner or close friend.

Postnatal depression

Postnatal depression is a term used to describe feelings of depression you may get after you have a baby. About 10-20% of women are affected by postnatal depression in the first few months after giving birth.Leaflet on Postnatal Depression

After the birth you may:

  • Have no interest in yourself or your baby

  • Feel panic, anxiety, dizziness, a fast heartbeat, sick in your stomach or sweaty
  • Cry
  • Be afraid of being left alone with your baby
  • Feel resentful towards your partner
  • Feel tired but unable to sleep
  • Have no appetite or you may over eat
  • Find it hard to concentrate
  • Lose interest in sex

If you or your family notice some of these signs, then speak with your partner, a family member, doctor or public health nurse. Remember, postnatal depression does not last forever and the sooner it is recognised, the sooner you will get better. Get a copy of this leaflet from the publications section of www.healthpromotion.ie

For Dads

Nothing prepares you for being a dad like the hands-on experience you get after your child is born. Being a father is the most special, rewarding and exhausting role you will ever have. You and your partner need to support each other at this time more than ever before.

This includes working out how you will share things like:

  • Getting up at night to feed your child
  • Bathing and feeding your child
  • Discussing who is able to take time off work to care for your child if he or she is sick

The important thing is that you and your partner talk to each other about both of your needs and the things you both like doing best.

For Mams and Dads

Physical activity

Some gentle exercises can help increase your energy levels and help you manage the added work in your life following the birth of your baby. Build physical activity into your daily routine with your baby by:

  • Going for a walk with your baby, inviting your partner or a friend along gives you a chance to spend time together
  • Going swimming once you feel ready

Family planning after childbirth

It is possible to become pregnant again soon after the birth of your baby, even if your periods have not returned. Now is the time for you and your partner to decide on a method of family planning that you are both happy with. You can get information on family planning and contraception from your midwife, doctor, public health nurse or practice nurse. For more information see www.thinkcontraception.ie

Rest and relaxation

Extra rest is important for both parents, especially after your baby is born. In the first few days at home, try to:

  • Limit the number of visitors who call to see you and your new baby
  • Have a rest or a sleep when the baby sleeps
  • Accept offers of help with routine shopping or housework
  • Allow some of the housework to go undone for now and focus on your baby and yourself
  • Prepare and freeze meals ahead of time to cut down on daily housework

Looking after your relationship

Relationships can become strained between parents, especially when you are tired and tense. At times, you may feel that it is hard to cope with your role as a parent and to balance this with work and other interests. Take care of your relationship by:

  • Saying a caring word or doing something for each other
  • Letting your partner know that you appreciate their support in parenting and caring for your relationship
  • Talking openly together and sharing your feelings in a calm and
    listening way
  • Accept offers of help from family and friends

Getting extra support for parents

Being a parent can be difficult as well as a rewarding time. Every parent needs support at some time. It may be more difficult if:

  • This is your first baby and you are unsure of what to expect
  • You do not have a partner or a support person to share the joy and the work of being a parent
  • Your relationship with your partner is in difficulty
  • You feel there is support for your baby and your partner but little to support you
  • You now live away from your home and family

Getting help and support is important. Ask your public health nurse about supports available such as:

  • Breastfeeding support groups; these groups are run by public health nurses, La Leche League or Cuidiú, see www.breastfeeding.ie
  • Parent and baby support groups
  • Parent and baby support groups such as the Community Mothers Programme where local trained parents who have had similar experiences visit you at home to offer support and information
  • The Child and Family Agency provides support to families through their Family Resource Centres see, www.tusla.ie or call 01 6352854

A new brother or sister in the family

If this baby is not your first child, then this is a time of change for other children in your family. It will take time and patience to cope with the extra demands. An older child may go back to baby behaviour for a time, such as wanting a bottle or to be breastfed, wanting to be lifted up or may even be jealous.


There are ways to help an older child adjust to your new baby:

  • If possible, spend some time with the older child, for example by going for a walk or a swim or playing a game. This may help to make your older child or children feel secure and adjust to their new position in their family
  • Encourage your older child or children to become involved in caring for your baby
  • Talk with your older child about when he or she was a baby. Use old photos,books or toys to help you
  • It may be possible to tandem feed for a while. For information on tandem feeding, call your local breastfeeding group, details are on www.breastfeeding.ie

Caring for twins or more

Caring for twins or more is very different. There is certainly a lot more work! You need as much support as you can get. Ask your family and friends for help with the routine baby care or with the housework. The Irish Multiple Births Association offers information and support on a range of topics for parents of twins, triplets or more. See www.imba.ie or call 01 874 9056. Support may also be available from other organisations. Ask your public health nurse, doctor or community welfare officer for details.