Giving birth is a huge event and it can affect you in lots of different ways. We share some simple tips to help give you a boost if you need it.
The big sleep
We all know this one, and it’s easier said than done. Hard as it might be, try to get enough good quality sleep. Being rested will perk your skin up and make you feel happier.
And when you do make it to bed in the evening, take off your make up (if you managed to get some on) – no matter how exhausted you are. You may not have had a night on the tiles (though you might have been up half the night feeding!) but the same rule still applies. You’ll be more comfortable in bed and your skin will look much better for it.
If having to lather up and wash it off sounds too much like a hassle when you just want to drift off, invest in some eau micellaire that you can just wipe over your face and eyelids with a cotton wool ball (at least you’ll have plenty of those lying around!) and you don’t have to rinse. Or for a more luxurious feel, use a good old fashioned cold cream on your face and eyes – again no need to wash off.
For those mornings when you just couldn’t get enough sleep, dab on some concealer under your eyes and rub it in over your dark circles. It’s something Fiona Doyle, volunteer at NCT Haringey and mum to Ciara, swears by!
Nourish your body
Yes, by all means attack that tin of homemade flapjacks that your mum brought around. And indulging in a slice of cake over a natter with friends now and then will probably do you the power of good.
But balance it out with plenty of easy-to grab-fruit and veg as other snacks. Cheese and crackers washed down by coffee might be the quickest option to hand, but try to eat proper meals to give you energy.
Of course, no one is expecting you to cook from scratch, but perhaps suggest to visitors that a family meal that they’ve prepared for you in a disposable box might be a more welcome present than another baby toy!
Set up an online delivery so you don’t have to keep on trekking out to do a big food shop. It can take a little time to choose your items (if you can set it up while you’re still pregnant it’s one of the best time investments you can make), but then it only takes a minute to reorder the groceries.
And remember to keep yourself hydrated. Especially if you’re breastfeeding, drinking plenty of water every day has never been more important.
Beauty on the go
Having a baby can make you time efficient and resourceful in a way you’ve never been before. One NCT member recounts how she brushed her hair with a fork in hospital after having her daughter as she couldn’t reach the brush and didn’t want to disturb her baby who was asleep on her!
Every new mum knows that if she only has to do something once rather than twice, that’s a clear win. That’s where the BB creams or tinted moisturisers on the market are so brilliant – in one fell swoop you’ve got moisturiser and foundation on. A swish of powder from a compact and a couple of strokes of mascara and you’re good to go. Add a touch of tinted lip gloss and you barely have to look in the mirror to check it before you’re out the door.
Having said that, if your skin is looking dull and tired from lack of sleep and changes in hormone levels, it could be worth applying a rich moisturiser at night. Even better, you could combine it with a very DIY mini facial.
Melissa Smith, mum to Henry and Daisy and from Leeds NCT branch, says: ‘When I put on my moisturiser, I gently apply it with upward movements of my fingers and then make soft circles around my eyes with my forefinger. It sounds weird but it’s like a very mini massage and feels nicer than if I’d just slapped it on.’
Feeling body confident
For most mums, the simple task of keeping everyone fed, watered, clothed and rested takes up all their time. Worrying about thigh wobble or dressing up can seem like a self-indulgence. And of course it doesn’t matter – if you and your baby are happy that really is what is important.
But if weight gain is making you feel uncomfortable or not like yourself, then you could take small steps to manage it. Keep your fridge stocked with healthy snacks, like blueberries and pre-cut carrot sticks and hummus, that are as easy to grab when you’ve got your hands full as a bag of crisps or biscuits.
Joining a mums and babies work-out group can be a great idea to help keep fit and meet other mums. Likewise getting out for a stroll around the park with friends or going swimming with your baby can make you feel just as positive and healthy.
C-section scars and stretch marks can make some mums feel self-conscious. A really good way of helping reduce their appearance is a specially formulated oil which you can rub on them a couple of times a day. If you can start during pregnancy, then so much the better, as this can help them becoming so prominent.
A passion for fashion
The last thing you need to do is splash out on a whole new wardrobe after you’ve had your baby – most mums wouldn’t have the money or the time.
But after the birth, you can find yourself in a strange no man’s land where your pre-pregnancy clothes still don’t fit and your pregnancy clothes are too loose or unsuitable for breastfeeding.
If you do want to get a couple of pieces to make you feel special, bear in mind that your shape might have changed.
One NCT mum says: ‘Even though the baby weight pretty much went away after having a baby, I was left with a couple of rolls on my tummy that I never had before and I just can’t shift.’
Tailored tops that are loose around the tummy are perfect, and it helps if they’re long enough to cover your waistband and hips. You might find yourself wearing fitted maternity jeans well into your baby’s toddlerhood – and with good reason as they’re often just as trendy as the non-maternity version! Just make sure your top is long enough to cover the adjustable waistband.
A good rule of thumb is that if your top is loose, wear leggings or skinny fit jeans, or if you want to wear boot cut jeans or a maxi skirt, pair it with a more fitted (but not clingy) upper half.
Dressing for breastfeeding
It might be a good idea to buy a couple of new breastfeeding tops that you can combine with clothes you have already. One or two vests with breast feeding panels are great to wear under looser tops so you don’t have to expose your whole tummy when you feed.
Or you could even use vest tops you have already under other clothes. Rachel Belcher, mum to Pippa and volunteer at Witney & District NCT branch, says: ‘Stretchy, non-maternity, non-feeding vest tops under normal tops are great for breastfeeding in – pull the top one up and the vest down.’
Nursing bras are also a good tip for discreet feeding, so you don’t have to pop out your whole boob when your baby is hungry. Lots of mums like breastfeeding covers, so they can wear their old clothes but don’t have to worry about how much everyone can see.
The mane attraction
Higher oestrogen levels during pregnancy might have given you lustrous locks, but after your baby is born, your hair could start falling out. Don’t panic as it usually is just what happens as your body returns to normal hormone levels. It probably looks worse than it is!
If you are worried about your hair looking thinner, there are a few natural shampoos on the market which can make it appear more voluminous. Make sure you check that they’re safe to use while you’re breastfeeding.
Many mums don’t have time to get out to the hairdresser, in which case a mobile hairdresser who will come to your house could be a great idea. Also, unless you have friends or parents on hand willing to babysit while you get your hair done, a lower-maintenance style or colour could be best for the moment at least…
A daily wash might become more like a weekly wash for a lot of mums, but if you can’t make it, you can fake it. Erin Lee, mum to Elizabeth and Catherine, and volunteer at NCT Peterborough branch says: ‘I use dry shampoo when I don’t have time to wash my hair, it works really well.’
The best medicine
Above all, laughter really is the best way to help you feel better if you’re having a bad day – and even if you’re not. Meeting friends for a chinwag can help put worries into perspective and make you feel happier and more confident. And they might even have some quick beauty tips up their sleeves, too!
Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.
You might find attending one of NCT's Early Days groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.
Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.