Congratulations momma on your new little bundle of joy! You’ve made it through 9 months of pregnancy. You’ve left the hospital and now you can settle down at home with your newborn.
You may quickly come to find that the first few weeks and months postpartum can be a very difficult time. If you’re a first time mom you are navigating life with a newborn for the first time and second guessing yourself most of the way. If this is your second, third, or even fourth baby you’re trying to juggle taking care of your older children while caring for the newest little member of your family. To make matters more difficult you’ll be doing all of this while dealing with fluctuating hormones and little sleep.
With a new baby in the house taking care of yourself becomes one of the lowest priorities. It seems almost frivolous to take some time to focus on yourself. It’s easy to prioritize yourself last in order to make sure everyone else in your family is taken care of. Something I cannot stress enough, especially during this season of life is that the better you take care of yourself the better you will be able to take care of others.
I once heard someone say that you cannot pour from an empty cup. This is the perfect metaphor to describe the importance of self-care for mothers. If you aren’t taking care of yourself and you are constantly giving to others your cup will eventually run empty.
Below are 5 practical self-care tips that postpartum moms can easily do during their day to help relax and recharge. These self-care tips might seem simple or pretty self-evident but you will find that these are the very things you put off or sacrifice in order to take care of your new baby. Even if you’re only able to find 10 minutes during your day to practice self-care it will go a long way in helping you fill your cup.
Although we all know that sleep is a key component of both physical and mental wellbeing it can be difficult to impossible to get a good nights sleep as a new parent. During the first few weeks and months of your baby’s life, it’s easy to find yourself becoming sleep deprived. Your baby might have their days and nights mixed up, they might have colic, or just be a poor sleeper.
Remember that you need to make sleep a top priority. If you don’t you will quickly find yourself sleep deprived and burnt out. Which will affect how well you can take care of both your baby and yourself.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institue “sleep deficiency alters activity in some parts of the brain. If you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change. Sleep deficiency also has been linked to depression, suicide, and risk-taking behavior.” All of which makes caring for your new baby even more difficult.
It’s easy to find yourself falling into the trap of using those precious moments of quiet time when your baby finally falls asleep to knock items off your ever growing to-do list. That load of laundry or those dishes in the sink can wait. If you’re tired, sleep when your baby sleeps.
If your spouse is able to help, develop a rotation that allows you to both sleep. Even if that means one of you is sleeping on the couch or in the guest room for a few hours a night. You can also ask family or close friends to watch the baby while you catch a quick nap. If you have older children try to align everyone’s nap schedule so you can catch some shut-eye.
Meditation is one of my favorite ways to relax when life starts to get stressful or hectic. Taking as little as 10 minutes a few days a week to meditate will pay off immensely. Meditation has been proved to help reduce stress and anxiety. It improves the quality of your sleep, helps you concentrate better, and increases resiliency. I find that on days that I meditate I am better able to handle a crying baby and a needy toddler pulling at my leg.
Meditation does not have to be complicated or take up a lot of time. It’s as simple as finding a quiet spot where you can sit with your eyes closed for 5 – 10 minutes. My favorite method is to count to 7 while inhaling through my nose, pausing and counting to 7 while exhaling through my mouth. Any thoughts that I have racing through my mind I try to ignore by focusing on my breathing and counting. It can take a little practice but before you know it 10 minutes will fly by. You’ll find yourself feeling relaxed and ready to take on the day.
Headspace and Stop Breath Think are great apps for beginners and have basic guided meditations that are great for those people who are just starting. Insight Timer is what I use to time my meditations and is better suited for those who have a little more experience with meditation.
For those of you who don’t think that meditation is for them or are hesitant to try, taking a few minutes alone to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee in quiet can be beneficial as well. The important thing is that you are carving out a few minutes of time to yourself. Away from the demands of motherhood and the distractions of technology to allow yourself to unwind and decompress.
Accept help from others
As a mother its easy to find yourself trying to take on the task of caring for a baby without asking for help from others. Many mothers feel like they should be able to handle everything on their own. It’s especially easy for new mothers to feel that if they need to ask for help they are failing.
Remember that asking for help is not a sign of weakness. No one person can shoulder the burden of taking care of a child all alone. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, it takes a village to raise a child. We all need or want help from others at one point or another. Admitting you need help does not make you a bad mom or mean you are failing.
Help can come in all different forms. Whether it’s someone holding your baby so you can have a few minutes to yourself. Having your husband cook dinner. Having family help you with chores around the house or even hiring a housekeeping service.
If someone offers to help you, take them up on the offer. Even something as small as someone emptying the dishwasher or running a load of laundry can go a long way in helping you reduce your stress level.
Nutrition is just as important postpartum as it was during pregnancy. Your body will go through a lot of changes in a very short period of time. If you’re not eating well you won’t be able to maintain the energy levels required to care for a newborn. This is especially true if you are breastfeeding. You’ll need to be consuming enough calories during the day to maintain both your energy levels and your milk production.
Do not fall into the trap of quick and convenient empty calories. What you put into your body is going to directly affect how you feel. Although it may be tempting to eat the chicken nuggets leftover from your toddlers’ lunch it’s not going to provide your body with the fuel it needs.
Plan out lunches and snacks in advance and keep your fridge and pantry stocked with healthy snacks. I usually make enough dinner to pack the leftovers for the next day’s lunch for myself and my husband. This way I am not scrambling to find something to eat when lunch time hits.
It’s amazing how something as simple as taking a shower can go so far in helping you feel relaxed and recharged. Sometimes you’ll find yourself putting off showering in order to get other things done during the day. You may feel that you don’t have the time. Or that when you do have the time you don’t have anyone to watch the baby.
Ask your spouse or a family member to watch the baby for you. If they are unable too, you can place the baby in a swing or even in their car seat in the bathroom while you shower. If you have older children put on cartoons or a movie to distract them so you can get a few minutes to shower in peace.
Remember that this season of life is only a short one. In a few months, those sleepless nights and long days will become a distant memory. It’s important to enjoy this time with your little one while they are still small. Because one day soon you’ll blink you your baby will no longer be a baby. I hope that you can use these 5 self-care tips for postpartum moms to help you relax and enjoy this time in your baby’s life.