Self-care has become a hot topic in the past few years. Self-care practitioners urge us to be as kind to our own selves as we are to others, with an emphasis on holistic well-being. Self-care is about identifying our needs and allowing ourselves the time and space to address those needs and nurture ourselves.
All of that sounds great, but for new moms and parents, taking time to nurture yourself can feel indulgent or selfish — or bring on a big old wave of mom guilt. It’s important to remember that the well-being of your newborn is closely intertwined with your own well-being. Even if taking an hour for yourself seems unnecessary or downright impossible, taking small steps toward caring for yourself can go a long way for you, your baby, and your family. Try a few of these suggestions to take the first steps toward postpartum self-care.
Take a walk
Sunshine, fresh air, vitamin D, movement, and a change of scenery — there are so many elements of a leisurely outdoor stroll that can boost your spirits and help you feel relaxed and recharged. Leave the baby with your partner or a friend, or bring her along — walking is a great opportunity for babywearing.
Connect with other moms
Between diapers, feedings, and the new parent exhaustion, it can seem impossible to make time for friends, especially new friendships. But by connecting with other new parents, you’ll have the opportunity to bond over shared experiences, share your struggles, and enjoy the therapeutic benefits of a supportive environment of other moms who are in the same place. Try researching a new mom’s group or attending a local La Leche League meeting. If you don’t feel comfortable with a particular group or meeting, be brave and try again. The first one isn’t always the right fit.
Take one hour for yourself, away from the baby
Take a hot shower. Schedule a haircut. Sit down with a cup of tea. Go for a walk alone. Whatever it is, let it be something for you and you only. It might feel strange and uncomfortable at first, but set a timer and stick with it.
Ask for help
Yes, we know that we’re always saying this — because it’s important! Friends and family that offer to help want to be helpful, just as you want to be helpful when your friends and family members need a little extra support. When someone asks “What can I do?” let them know that your sink is overflowing with dirty dishes or the load of laundry in the dryer needs to be folded. If people ask “What can I bring?” let them know that you’d love dinner!
You are under no obligation to host visitors in the first weeks of your baby’s life — there will be plenty of time for friends, family, and neighbors to meet and bond with the new baby. Create an exit strategy to keep visits short for those that come to visit: try mentioning that you’re tired and would like to take a nap, and visitors will get the hint.
A postpartum doula is there to provide resources, evidence-based information, and nonjudgmental support to help you and your family adjust to life with a new baby. In addition to helping you understand newborn care, offering breastfeeding support, and demonstrating soothing and sleeping techniques, a skilled and experienced postpartum doula can provide you with overnight care that allows new parents to get valuable hours of sleep.
Allowing yourself time to take care of yourself is instrumental to the well-being of yourself, your new baby, and your new family. And if it feels selfish to spend time away from your baby, remember: self-care allows us to be grounded, confident, and ready to nurture our children and families.
How did you take care of yourself during the postpartum period? How have you taken care of friends or family during their own postpartum period? Leave a comment below with your tips.