Self-Care as a New Mom
When I became a mom, I was amazed how often I neglected taking care of myself. Sleepless nights, and long days of caring for my children often left me with little time or energy for basic needs such as taking showers, sitting down to eat nutritious meals, cooking, and sleeping. Activities that I once enjoyed, and allowed me time to myself to collect my energy such as meditation and exercise, were initially discarded as I chose to completely focus on my children. Whenever I would neglect my own needs, I found myself feeling resentful, more tired than I already was, run-down, easily agitated, and more negative.
Yes, focusing on a new baby IS more important than one’s own needs initially. A new baby is completely dependent on his/her mother/caregiver, and the babies needs cannot be neglected because their survival depends on it. However, I found that once I developed a self-care routine that I was able to balance with the essential duties of parenting, I actually had more energy to take care of my children’s needs while feeling happier and more content. Incorporating a self-care routine allowed me to develop and maintain a more optimistic mindset as a new mom, giving me more energy for often sleepless nights of breastfeeding, playtime with my babies, and enjoying all of the precious time I had with my children.
These are my top choices for self-care that made a huge difference in my quality of life and sense of wellness after having children:
When I was given the green light to start exercising after both of my C-sections (which was about 8 weeks for both of them), I started an exercise program. It began as a 10 minute walk, and slowly over months turned into quick 20-30 minute weight training and aerobic sessions. Whatever you are able to do as a new mom, and whatever you enjoy for exercise, my suggestion is to start. I was amazed how even after ten minutes of some type of exercise (such as walking, yoga, weight training, rebounding, any type of movement preferably with fresh air), I always found myself, less agitated, less angry, less anxious, and more patient when interacting with my children and family as well as clear-minded afterwards.
There are many different ways to meditate. Even having 5-10 minutes to just “take a break” from the long hours of parenting as a new mom can be a very effective way to feel better. Whether it was lighting a candle, religious prayers, yoga stretching, silence, mindful intention exercises, going for a walk, taking time out to just breathe and focus on having a positive thoughts always makes a huge difference by allowing me to feel more positive afterwards. I found all of these methods very nourishing and effective at allowing me to feel more peaceful, calm, patient, and patient when interacting with my children as a mother.
Your body, especially after having a baby, needs sleep to recover from pregnancy and birth. After having a newborn, sleep can feel difficult to attain. Initially, my sleep schedule felt completely dependent on my baby’s sleep schedule. However, once I set the intention to get sleep WHEN I could, I found that my body responded well to feeling more well rested over time. I found asking for help when I needed it helpful. If you have help at home, whether it is from family or friends, ask for help. If you are breastfeeding and can pump, or using formula, allow your family to take a night feeding while you get some more rest. Or have a friend hold the baby while you can get a little power nap during the day. As your baby gets older, you are able to get more sleep. After having my first baby, I did not ask for help as often as I needed, and I was often left feeling tired and irritable more often than I would like to admit. After the birth of my second child, I did not have this issue simply because I surrounded myself with more people that were supportive.
Drink of Choice in the Morning. This one may sound strange, but I find taking the time first thing in the morning to rehydrate and reenergize is a very helpful and meditative way to start my day and focus on my intention for the day. Whether your morning beverage is coffee, a breast-feeding approved energy drink, morning juice, tea, collagen drink, milk, taking the time to enjoy a drink in the morning after feeding my baby is a time when I can gather my thoughts, check in with my body from a long night of baby feedings, quietly set my intention for the day of what I want to accomplish, and gather my energy for being the best mom possible for the day. My drinks often contained a breast-feeding approved safe amount of caffeine and various nutrients that gave me energy and improved my sense of wellness after imbibing.
It amazing what an Epsom salt bath with some essential oils, or a relaxing shower can do for your mood and well-being. When I was able to start taking baths again, I used “bathtime” as a soothing time of decompression. I was not able to take a bath where I submerged my C-section incision for quite some time (6-8 weeks) after having my babies, so be sure to check with your doctor about bathing and when you can start taking baths. Picking out various essential oils, salts, and lighting candles turned into a self-care ritual that greatly improved my well-being and mood, where I felt lighter and mentally clear afterwards.
Paying attention to the foods that you eat are important. Whatever diet is best suited for your health and body, making a conscious effort to pay attention to what you are ingesting, and prepare foods that nourish your body and make you feel good helps with recovery, and mood. I remember feeling so much better after taking a little time every week to prepare foods and have foods on hand that I easily eat and nourished my body during my busy schedule. Eating healthy foods for my body helped me have more energy, helped my body feel stronger more quickly after the C-section, helped me feel more empowered in my body as I felt like I as making efforts to “reclaim” my body and self-confidence.
Thoughts and words are powerful. After having both of my children, I often found myself awake at strange hours of the night during various stages of their development (such as newborn and teething to name a few). I found being awake at these hours particularly difficult for my mental health at times, and sometimes would have some negative self-talk due to just being tired or feeling frustrated (for instance frustration that my baby was in pain and was having trouble sleeping because a tooth was coming in.) To combat these challenging thoughts, and improve my mindset right away, I would speak to myself in the mirror, or even while holding my children and just repeat to myself some positive and simple, yet effective phrases such as “I am doing a good job taking care of my child,” “Things are getting easier day by day and I am learning more everyday,” “Great job,” “I am getting the hang of things”, “You look beautiful and your body just made a baby,” “my body is amazing,” “things will feel more manageable in time and you are doing a wonderful job.” I remember saying these things to myself. These are words of encouragement that I would have given my best friend in times of need when she was tired, yet doing her very best. Speaking to myself with words of encouragement helped me feel better about myself and was a way that I could nourish myself in times of need (such as late night feedings when I was exhausted) rather than turning to other people for encouragement. I found that after consistently and habitually speaking to myself with positive language and affirmations, I found my mood and mindset consistently became more positive towards myself during times when I feel frustrated or tired. Having a more positive mindset allows me to feel that I am able to give more energy to my children and take better care of them, while also taking care of my own wellness.