No one talks about what a mother needs to do for herself when the baby is actually here. Sure, they tell you to sleep when the baby is sleeping, but is that really all that you need in order to survive this new journey of adjustments you’re about to embark on?
So many new moms dedicate all their energy to their newborn and neglect their own needs, myself included. There were days I felt like I didn’t have time to shower or to even eat. “I don’t have time.” I kept thinking to myself.
When you don’t take care of yourself physically and emotionally, you won’t have much energy to care for your newborn. You’ll find yourself more anxious and stressed, as well as less patient and happy.
Here are 10 tips that will help you survive these beautiful yet challenging months ahead:
1) GET OUT of the house and get some FRESH AIR & SUNLIGHT!
After having my baby, I was at home for 10 days. I can’t tell you how amazing it felt to step out into civilization. I was terrified of leaving her home and terrified of taking her out in the germ-infested world. But I did it. I wrapped her up, took the stroller out, and took her to the park to watch my husband’s football game. I came back home and felt so rejuvenated! Feeling the breeze outside and the sun shinning down helped me feel relaxed and melted away my stress. Sunshine gives us a boost of serotonin, a hormone that makes us happy and prevents depression! I came back home ready to tackle whatever a new mother had to.
A 2017 study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that people who sat for at least 15 minutes in both the park/forest had a sense of feeling psychologically restored. Cortisol levels (stress hormone) significantly decreased in both nature-based settings.
A 2015 Stanford University study found that people taking a walk in a natural setting had decreased activity in the brain region associated with repetitive, negative thoughts which seems to be aiding as a weapon against depression.
2) Just NOD & SMILE
The "baby blues" are a less severe form of postpartum depression that cause mood swings and negative feelings. They affect 70-80% of women according to the American Pregnancy Association. The hormonal changes that occur after giving birth may produce a chemical in the brain that causes depression.
SO taking that into consideration, apparently everyone is an expert on YOUR baby. You find people telling you what the baby needs, what you should be doing, and what you're doing wrong. I remember this one time at an event, I had four people tell me my baby's feet were cold. "Aw poor baby, her feet are cold! You don't have any socks for her?" First off, it's 90 degrees outside, I think she's okay. And no, I didn't think of carrying socks with me. So here I am, getting more and more irritated as a new person mentions her feet. A part of me knows she's okay and another part feels like I'm neglecting my baby.
The point is, you're already emotional so it's very likely you'll get easily irritated, anxious and overwhelmed. You may begin to question everything you're doing. Just remember, you are the expert on your baby, trust YOUR instincts. People mean well and sometimes it's useful information, other times..well not so much. Listen to what they have to say and politely nod and smile.
3) Free mom support/lactation groups
It’s a wonderful reason to get out of the house with your little one and have a sense of community where moms are going through the same thing you are. These groups make you feel like you are NOT alone! Write down questions you have, things you’re unsure of doing, or anything at all! I remember one mom breaking down and crying because she only had 45 minutes of sleep every night for the past week. I felt bad for her but I felt SO grateful for being able to sleep 4 hours each night!
Nursing is especially hard, and Shady Grove Hospital has a wonderful free group that meet for support (if you gave birth there, if not there's a small fee) AND a 24/7 hotline! That woman became my best friend. You'll want to quit every single day, but it gets easier 6-8 weeks later!!
Depending on which pediatrician you choose for your child, they may have free classes/groups as well. For instance, I know Potomac Pediatrics has wonderful free support/classes for new parents.
4) Wear Pretty Pajamas
Sounds silly right? Think of how GOOD you feel and how your mood is ELEVATED when you dress up, have your hair done, or like the way you look one day. You are going to spend A LOT of time in your pajamas the first few weeks. Comfort is going to be a top priority. And if you’re nursing, you’ll want the baby to have easy access. You’ll have plenty of visitors and while you may not have time or feel like doing your hair/make-up, you’ll feel good about yourself if you’re dressed in some cute pajamas. But most importantly dress in a way that makes you feel good about yourself, in clothes that fit you at the time being.Feeling down about your body image affects your self-esteem—and your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It makes it hard to feel good about your self as a whole. Low self-esteem may even lead to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Something as simple as wearing cute pajamas can boost your self-esteem and brighten your day just a little!
5) Do something you’re good at!
BOOST your self-esteem and beat stress by doing something you’re good at! Concentrating on a hobby or activity can make you forget your worries for a bit and change your mood. So ask yourself...What activity could you lose yourself in? Cross word puzzles, painting, anything!
6) Eat, Eat, Eat!
I cannot begin to tell you how hard this becomes! I was so wrapped up in taking care of my newborn, that when I had a second to myself, the last thing I wanted to do was cook or think of what to eat. Hours into the day I’d finally think to myself, “Well, I really should find something to eat”.