4 pillars of self-care as a new mom
Self-Care is critical for moms especially in the postpartum period. Understandably, most new moms are completely focused on caring for a baby and have very little time and energy to take care of themselves. Being a new mom can be incredibly overwhelming and depleting and focusing on your own needs is challenging, but the truth is that when a mom takes care of herself, she is taking care of her baby too. Here are some tips to consider as a way to implement more self-care into your postpartum life.
First let me clarify what I mean by “self-care.” I’m not talking about a trip to the spa or a fancy facial (though, that’s lovely and if you have time for it—do it!) What I mean by self-care is taking care of, what I believe are the four foundational elements to wellness: sleep, nutrition, exercise, and fresh air.
1. Sleep. I know what you’re thinking… “how am I supposed to get sleep with a new baby?” and I want you to know that I completely understand that getting sleep, especially in the early postpartum weeks is a huge challenge. As a mom to 7 month-old twins, I can tell you, honestly, that I have struggled BIG TIME to get sleep and it is miserable! What we know from research is that when new moms experience significant sleep disturbance including frequent wakings and poor sleep quality they are also more likely to experience symptoms of postpartum mood and anxiety disorders (PMADS). Getting 3-4 hour stretches of uninterrupted sleep at night is a helpful way to improve mood and energy levels during the postpartum time.
Put in place a “shift” system with your partner where you get 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep while your partner is on baby duty (offering bottles, changing diapers, etc). When your 4 hours are done, switch roles so your partner can get 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep too.
Enlist a family member or friend to help out with nighttime care so you can get a 4 hour stretch of sleep.
Hire an overnight doula to do all baby care while you and your partner sleep.
2. Nutrition. It’s probably not surprising that I think nutrition is really important! How we feed ourselves has huge healing and recovery benefits. New moms often have difficulty eating enough food during the early postpartum period. This makes sense because you’re working so hard to learn how to feed and take care of your newborn. And when you have a free minute, you probably want a shower or to brush your teeth, or maybe even get a little nap. But, eating has to be a priority! I recommend that new moms try to eat every time they feed their babies.
Stock a “snack station” where you are going to feed your baby. This will make it easier for you to grab snacks when you have a nursing or sleeping baby on you. Include nutrient-dense, high protein snacks, such as hard boiled eggs, nuts and dried fruit. You can even keep a cooler nearby with sandwiches, yogurt, cheese sticks etc.
Make sure to have full water bottles placed where you will feed baby and throughout the house.
Set up a meal-train, ask visitors to bring food.
3. Movement. Getting exercise is an important element of self-care during the postpartum time. Exercise releases endorphins that can help to elevate mood. To be clear, I don’t mean going back to the cross fit gym or starting to train for a marathon. In fact, it’s important not to go back to intense physical activity too soon. What I’m talking about is moving your body in ways that feel good and honors the recovery that your body needs. Getting out for a walk around the block, going to a gentle yoga class or stretching or swimming are good options for movement in early postpartum period. I also recommend that postpartum women go see a pelvic floor physical therapist shortly after having a baby.
Put baby in the stroller or carrier and walk around the block
Try a mom and baby yoga class
Do some stretching or an online video at home
Pelvic floor rehab with a women’s health physical therapist
4. Get Outside. Fresh air works wonders on our mental health. Just a few mins of fresh air can really reset things. The fresh air is also really good for babies! You might notice that when your fussy baby won’t settle, taking them outside can help them calm down. A change in scenery helps babies just like it helps mom!
Put baby in a stroller or carrier and take a walk
Take baby outside in the yard or on the porch with you.
Go somewhere with beautiful scenery and just sit and enjoy the view
By focusing on these 4 pillars of self-care, you can support and nourish your own wellness as a new mom!