When a baby is born, the whole family’s attention instantly shifts from mother to child. Meanwhile, as the new mother goes about life, sleep-deprived and with a recovering body, she is unwittingly bombarded with images of slender models, advertisements promising weight loss miracles and celebrities back in slinky gowns mere weeks after giving birth.
For a new mum, the effect is often demoralising, negatively impacting her mental well-being at a time when she is already very vulnerable.
“We tend to be at our healthiest during pregnancy because that’s when we focus on our well-being for the baby’s sake, but then tend to let ourselves go due to exhaustion and overwhelm following the birth,” wellness coach and holistic nutritionist Corinne Zaffarese Elbourne says.
“It’s also easy to feel bad about your body when there is so much noise around you telling you what you should look like.”
Through MIVERBO, her wellness programme, Zaffarese Elbourne helps women regain control over their bodies and health. Her own experience with childbirth gave her a deeper insight into the psychological struggles women face during this delicate period.
“The steps I followed are the same ones I recommend to my clients,” she shares.
“In a nutshell, I prioritised eating balanced meals and started exercising gently as soon as I had the go-ahead from my gynaecologist and physiotherapist.”
Zaffarese Elbourne is a firm believer in balanced meals that nourish the body with the nutrients it requires.
“The focus after giving birth should be on getting all the nutrients and fluids we need,” she says.
“Now is not the time to skimp on food, nor is it a time to resort to comfort eating, which can be easy to do when you’re spending long periods sitting with a baby in your lap while feeding them.”
She suggests thoughtful planning to make healthy eating easy. Apart from organising the week’s meals, she strongly recommends investing in preparing the ingredients needed ahead of time.
“If done well, chopping the vegetables you’ll need throughout the week will only take about 20 minutes but will save you so much time when eventually cooking,” she says. “It also means that you are less likely to eat junk food because you’ll be able to create a balanced meal in no time.”
When it comes to snacks, yoghurt with some fruit, carrots and hummus, or rice crackers with tuna dip, are all easy options which provide complex carbohydrates and protein.
When planning meals, she suggests keeping two things in mind.
“Make sure you have enough protein, carbohydrates and fat,” she says.
“The other thing to remember is that the more colourful the meal, the wider the variety of minerals and vitamins, which are important to maintain a healthy gut and strong metabolism and to fight bloating.”
For most, the second pillar to a healthy recovery – exercising – is more challenging. The thought of exercising is hardly appealing when new mothers are already dealing with so much.
“Just going out for a walk with your baby is already a great start. Being outside will help you feel better mentally, it will get you moving, and your baby will likely sleep better,” the wellness coach explains.
“It can be daunting at the outset, but once you’ve done it a couple of times, you’ll love it.”
“Allow yourself time to recover and rebuild, and don’t rush the process. This is a time for self-care and patience”
She suggests waiting for the gynaecologist to give the go-ahead before starting more targeted exercise, and she also advices seeing a physiotherapist to check for diastasis recti.
“I strongly suggest consulting a qualified fitness instructor who can tailor your workouts to your needs, but even doing squats while holding your baby can help at the start,” she points out, “and don’t underestimate the benefits of being more active, even just by walking instead of driving, taking the stairs or doing housework”.
It can be easy to lose sight of what truly matters when there is so much pressure on new mothers but Zaffarese Elbourne has some final words of advice.
“Motherhood is a marathon, not a sprint. Allow yourself time to recover and rebuild, and don’t rush the process. This is a time for self-care and patience. Your strength will return and your body will change, but above all, remember: you’re not just a woman getting her body back; you’re a woman who has brought new life into the world – and that is a strength that surpasses all else.”