There’s no doubt about it: being a mom is hard, hard work – which is why it’s so important that you take care of yourself, as well. You need to make sure your cup is full, before giving or sharing with others – including your kids and/or partner. The fourth trimester, or the first 12 weeks postpartum, can be overwhelming. You’re coping with sleep deprivation, the explosion of your typical routine, (possibly) colic, healing physically from birth, dealing with what feels like near-constant feeds, and adjusting to your new role as a mother. And somewhere in all of that, you’re supposed to shower, get dressed, and eat.
That tiny human might be small, but it’s very easy to start putting your needs to the side. Don’t get me wrong – parenting comes with sacrifices, but it’s also important to nurture yourself, so you can nurture others. When we’re on airplanes, we are told to put on our own oxygen masks first, before helping other people. The same idea applies here, too. Read on for some ways to practice self-care as a new mom.
Shower Every Day
Or at least try to. It might seem really small, but believe me – it can make such a difference. It’s super easy to let this one slide – after all, how do you find the time to shower when your newborn is constantly eating/pooping/crying/fussing? Many people put their baby in something like the Rock n’ Play and bring it into the bathroom, or they strap their baby into a swing and take a quick shower, or ask a friend or family member to come over. You might be surprised how rejuvenating a shower can be.
After the first week or so, it made me feel a lot better to get dressed every day, instead of lazing around in my pajamas or sweats. Granted, I was wearing maternity jeans and tops, but just putting on “real” clothes made me feel more presentable and like part of the outside world.
Try to leave the house at least once a day, either alone or with your baby. Take a walk, go to the store, meet up with a friend, get some coffee – those early weeks of motherhood can be isolating, and it’s easy to get buried in the day-to-day tasks. A change of scenery, even for a short time, can provide you with a sense of connection to the larger world, recharge your senses, and reduce that stir-crazy feeling that both of you might have.
If at all possible, try to take some time each day, even if it’s 15 minutes while the baby sleeps, to sit quietly and do something you enjoy. Read a book, call a friend, watch some television, or just sit and relax. The dishes can wait, chores can be postponed, laundry can sit. You need some time to regroup and focus on you.
If you’re used to being independent, or always the one helping others, it can be hard to ask for and accept help – but if there was ever a time for it, it’s postpartum. When people come to visit the baby, they generally want to be helpful. Let them know what they can do – picking up food to bring over, throwing in a load of laundry, watching the baby while you catch up on sleep, etc. Now is not the time to act like you have everything under control, when really, you could use some extra hands.
Motherhood, especially the first weeks and months, can be lonely. It’s important that you seek out connections for both you and your baby. Birth centers and hospitals often have Mommy and Me, or Postpartum/Lactation Support groups, and if there are any local stores that sell baby products, sometimes they also have mom groups that meet there. Meetup.com has mom group listings, and social media can be a good place to find other local moms. If you’re finding that anxiety or the “baby blues” are becoming a problem and interfering with daily life, talk with your provider about it. Postpartum mood disorders are treatable, and there’s no shame at all in seeing a therapist, counselor, or getting treatment. Your baby needs you to be healthy.
What are some ways that you nurtured yourself while postpartum? What did you find most helpful?