Looking after yourself

To look after your pēpi (baby) well you need to look after yourself too. Eating well, getting enough sleep, being active and asking for help are all things you can do to look after yourself. There will also be physical and mental changes that you need to be aware of.

How you may feel after birth

In the first few weeks after birth, until your pēpi settles into a regular sleeping and feeding rhythm you are likely to feel tired. You may also feel down after having a baby — this known as the baby blues. These feelings usually only last for 1 or 2 days. If these feelings do not go away you may be developing postnatal depression.
Talk to your doctor or midwife (or the midwife working on behalf of your specialist doctor).

Postnatal depression

Changes to your body in the weeks after birth


It is normal to bleed from your vagina after the birth. The bleeding will be quite heavy at first. It will start to become a brownish colour and may last for around 6 weeks. It will start to slow until it stops. 

Talk to you midwife, or the midwife working on behalf of your doctor, if:

  • you are losing blood in large clots
  • the bleeding changes to a bright red colour
  • the bleeding is smelly. 

Use sanitary pads for the bleeding instead of tampons. Tampons can cause infections. Your midwife will let you know when it is safe to use them. 

Your tummy

Your tummy will probably be quite baggy after the birth. Even though you have delivered your pēpi and the whenua (afterbirth), you will still be quite a lot bigger than you were before the pregnancy.

Once you have recovered from the birth you can start doing some gentle exercise to help tighten up your tummy muscles.

Your breasts

Your breasts will feel full about the third day after your pēpi is born — whether or not you are breastfeeding. Breastfeeding parents often have tender nipples in the early days.

Problems with breastfeeding — Ministry of Health (external link)

Wear a bra that supports your breasts well. Avoid underwire bras as they may put pressure on your breasts and could lead to blocked milk ducts.

Speak to your midwife if you are very uncomfortable or for advice about your breasts if you are not breastfeeding.

Going to the toilet

Doing a wee may burn or sting a bit at first because the area around your vagina stretches (or tears) during birth. Drinking lots of water will dilute your wee and should help with the stinging. Some people also find that it helps when they wee to squirt water gently onto themselves using a water bottle. If the stinging lasts for more than a few days, tell your midwife or doctor.

You will probably start to poo again 1 to 2 days after the birth. It is important not to let yourself become constipated (when you have 3 or fewer poos in a week). Eat fresh fruit, vegetables, salad, bran and wholemeal bread, and drink plenty of water.

  • If you have stayed fit during your pregnancy you should be able to return to light aerobic activities fairly quickly. Some people can do so within days of an uncomplicated birth. Others may take a few weeks.

    Start with a gentle walk and try to slowly increase your activity. As you get stronger and fitter, try challenging yourself by:

    • walking or jogging a bit faster
    • going further
    • adding in some hills.

    Aim to build up to at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity activity (like brisk walking) spread over the week.

    If you have had a caesarean section or a complicated birth, check with your midwife. You may have to wait 4 to 6 weeks before doing anything more than simple activities. Try to build activity into your day by going for a walk with your pēpi, or with other new parents.

    • Wear a bra that supports your breasts well. Avoid an an underwire bra, which may put pressure on your breasts and could lead to blocked milk ducts.
    • Some people prefer to wear 2 bras or a bra and sports crop top for extra support.
    • If you are breastfeeding, the most comfortable time to exercise may be just after you have fed your pēpi.
    • Make sure that you get enough to eat and drink.

Eating well

What you eat and drink will have a big effect on how you feel during the day and how well you sleep. When you are eating well you are looking after yourself and your pēpi too.

Your body needs energy to make breast milk, so you will feel hungrier than usual. You will also need to drink more. 

Drink whenever you are thirsty, especially if you are breastfeeding. 

Try not to miss meals. Having healthy snacks during the day is important too. 

Eating for healthy breastfeeding women — HealthEd (external link)

Health care and checks

Your midwife will visit you for 4 to 6 weeks after the birth. They will refer you and your baby to a Well Child Tamariki Ora service. Your midwife will also check that you have chosen and enrolled with a general practice (doctor and practice nurse). 

Referral to Well Child Tamariki Ora

It is important that you join up with a Well Child Tamariki Ora service in the first few weeks. They will see your pēpi when your midwife finishes visiting you. Your midwife can help you to choose a service that is right for you.

Well Child Tamariki Ora visits — Ministry of Health (external link)

Enrolling with a general practice

In the early years you and your tamariki (children) will need lots of help and advice about sickness and keeping healthy.

It is important to enrol them with a general practice as soon as possible so that the doctor and practice nurse can get to know you and give you the help you need. This includes the first immunisations at 6 weeks of age.

Your last midwife visit

At your last midwife visit they will check that you and your baby are healthy and well.

If you have not done it already, you will also review how the birth went, and if there is anything you would like to change for your next birth. 

Your midwife will refer you to other services if you need help.

You can provide feedback about your care during pregnancy and birth. Your midwife will give you a form to fill out. Your feedback is anonymous. 

Providing feedback about your midwife — New Zealand College of Midwives (external link)

Being a new parent

You will be busy with your new pēpi in these first few weeks. It takes time to get to know your pēpi, including learning about what their behaviour means and their needs. You will also be:

  • feeding
  • changing nappies
  • settling them to sleep
  • bathing them
  • spending lots of time cuddling and holding them.

If you have a partner, you may both be feeling tired and possibly stressed as you adjust to having a pēpi in your lives. Take time to be with each other as a couple. You both need to know that you are still special to each other as people, and that you are more than just parents.

Having sex

After you give birth, you may feel that having sex is the last thing you want to do. Some people have sex within the first few weeks after birth, for others it may be several months later.

Sex after having a pēpi (baby)

Your periods

You may get your periods a couple of months after having your pēpi. They are likely to be irregular and heavier or lighter than usual. Your periods may not return to their usual pattern for a few months. For some people, they will not return until they stop breastfeeding.

The bleeding you had after birth should have stopped around 6 weeks after the birth. Talk to your midwife if it has not.

If you have other tamariki (children)

If you have other tamariki they may feel jealous of the time you spend with your new pēpi. The Tākai website has tips on helping your other tamariki adjust to having a new pēpi in the house.

Preparing siblings for the new baby — Tākai (external link)

Getting help

Ask for help when you need it. Try not to do too much too soon. It is okay to get help from friends and whānau and to ask for help yourself. 

Financial support

If you need financial support to help with the cost of raising your pēpi, you may be eligible for help from Work and Income and Inland Revenue. 

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