The first few months with a newborn are undoubtedly hectic and exhausting. Despite the demands of baby feeding, changing diapers and the desperate need for sleep, getting your body back into shape is clearly important in adjusting healthily to the newborn in your life. Skin care is vital to health as it is the largest organ of your body. Also, the skin is an excellent barometer of health as it displays health imbalances at an early stage.
The transition from pregnancy to postpartum involves enormous changes in hormone levels leading to a number of skin problems such as acne. Keeping your face free and clear of excess oil will help alleviate acne, however internal aids are likely to be most beneficial. Drink plenty of water from a clean water supply and consume dark leafy greens. This is important in supporting your liver that is dealing with the hormonal excesses that may be causing the acne and also helps to counteract fatigue and depression.
Hair loss is another issue associated with hormonal change. During pregnancy, hair loss is slowed down considerably but between three to six months postpartum, hair will begin to shed at an often remarkable rate. There is little that can be done for this, but keep in mind that although it appears that you are losing a lot of hair, in fact, you are mainly losing the excess hair accumulated during pregnancy.
Stretch marks are often the most noticeable of skin concerns following pregnancy. Topically, daily applications of vitamin E oil may help to reduce them. Cocoa butter and olive oil are also considered natural skin care aids.
Be very conscious of the products you use, especially if your newborn is breastfeeding. Check for ingredients that are synthetic and might act as an irritant. Generally. if you have a tough time reading the ingredients and they sound highly chemical in nature, it's more likely they are synthetic and perhaps best avoided.
Dietary supplementation with essential fatty acids (EFAs) is great for stretch marks and has also been shown to be excellent for a baby's brain development. EFAs are found in fish such as salmon, but it's best to use a filtered EFA supplement from the health food store to get the amount needed to benefit your baby without subjecting him (or her) to any toxins that the fish may have accumulated.
During labour, some women will have an episiotomy (surgical cut in the perineum to facilitate delivery), some form of vaginal tearing during labour and delivery, or may have to undergo a C-section. Discomfort, bleeding and sometimes even mild incontinence can be expected for a few weeks postpartum after vaginal births.
Comfrey and calendula are two herbs that when used topically in a sitz bath and/or applied with a soaked clean flannel or cotton compress can greatly speed healing at this time.
C-sections require bed rest and limited carrying of one's child in order for the muscles and tissues to heal.
For both vaginal and C-section births, dietary supplementation with zinc, selenium, vitamins C, E and A is good for the skin and aids in wound healing. Topical applications of vitamin E oil will reduce scarring for C-sections.
Some women experience pain when first breastfeeding. This may be caused by sensitive skin compounded with the baby's extremely powerful sucking reflexes.
When combined with an improper latch, (the baby's mouth latching onto the breast), the pain can be intense and may also lead to physical trauma of the nipple. Signs to look for include bruising, cracking and scabbing.
Early potential solutions include getting and maintaining a proper latch, the use of lanolin cream, and dabbing breast milk on the nipples and leaving them to air dry.
If the pain does not subside, it is possible that you may be suffering from a fungal/yeast infection. If that is the case, gentian violet can be applied topically. If the pain persists, it is important to seek professional advice. Lactation consultants or the La Leche League (www.lalecheleague.com) are good resources for breastfeeding mothers.