If you’re interested in post-baby self-care, then congratulations are in order! Now that you’ve made it through pregnancy and labor, it’s time to rest, relax, and recover with the newest member of your family.
Read on to learn what self-care is and why it’s so important, as well as discover 4 ways you can show yourself love post-baby.
What is self-care?
Before we get into our top tips for post-baby self-care, it’s important to clarify exactly what we mean by self-care. For a lot of people, it means getting pampered at the spa or going on a shopping spree. And while both definitely count as self-care, that’s not the kind we’re focusing on.
Rather, we’re sharing ideas you can implement on a daily basis to make sure your physical, emotional, and social needs are being met.
Why is post-baby self-care so important?
Charging your battery, filling your cup, whatever you choose to call it, self-care is important no matter what stage of life you’re in. That’s even more important right after you bring a new human into the world.
Leading up to the arrival of your little one, you probably spent hours taking birthing classes, reading about newborn care, and preparing the nursery. But how much time have you spent thinking about rest and recovery? Probably not as much.
It’s totally normal to get swept up in your baby preparations, but it’s equally important to take care of yourself during this exciting time. Pregnancy and labor is hard work. Add to that fluctuating hormones and sleep deprivation, and the necessity to carve time out for yourself becomes clear.
Now that you know all about self-care, check out 4 ways you can show yourself love post-baby.
How you can practice self-care
Be kind to yourself
The most important thing you can do as a new parent is to be kind to yourself. Parenting is a tough job. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed, sad, or angry at times, so don’t judge yourself for having the occasional negative thought. Instead, focus on what you can control and remember to celebrate small victories - like taking a shower.
Part of happiness lies in setting realistic goals. Give yourself a break when it comes to things like planning social events and getting ahead at work. It is ok to say “no” to people, employers, co-workers, and other folks who surrounded you in your pre-baby day-to-day life. It is ok to turn off phone notifications, put an auto-away message up on your work AND personal email, and “silence” text messages from non-vital people in your life.
Finally, understand that it’s normal to experience postpartum “baby blues” after delivery. Having mood swings, hot flashes, feeling irritable, and crying don’t make you weak or flawed—they’re typical postpartum symptoms. That being said, reach out to your doctor if your symptoms last longer than two weeks or interfere with your ability to complete daily tasks. They could be a sign of postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety. While rare, seek help immediately if you begin to experience thoughts of self-harm or harming others.
Take care of your body
Taking care of your physical health is one of the best things you can do post-baby. That includes eating well, getting enough sleep, and when possible, exercising.
In terms of eating, it is the same as always - fill up on whole grains, vegetables, fruit, and lean protein. If you’re feeling constipated, add extra fiber to your diet through prunes or Metamucil - avoid the use of laxatives which can dehydrate you.
If you’re chest-feeding, you’ll want to check in with a lactation consultant or your doctor about eating a diet with protein-rich foods. Keep in mind that drinking more dairy products does not actually help you produce more milk. You’ll need nutrient dense sources like legumes, leafy vegetables, nuts, and if you eat meat, lean sources of animal protein.
Getting a full eight hours of shut eye may be the most difficult part of being a new parent, but do your best to rest as possible. You can try syncing your sleep schedule to your baby’s or asking a family member to babysit once a week so you can sneak in a couple of extra hours.
When it comes to exercise, do the best you can and be sure to check in with your doctor before getting active. You may want to avoid strenuous activity, but feel free to take a walk, use an elliptical, stream some yoga, or head to a “mommy and me” exercise class nearby.
Ask for help
It’s normal to want some quiet time after the birthing process and introduction of your newborn to your world. Once you’ve spent a few days or weeks getting used to parenthood, reach out to the people you trust. Most will be happy to babysit, cook a meal, or run an errand for you if you simply reach out and ask. Anyone coming over to oogle over your baby should also be up for helping around the house, bringing a meal, or simply holding the baby while you go shower.
If you don’t feel like you have the right support system in your life, seek out help from a postpartum doula. These doulas specialize in newborn and new-parent care. Many will also help around the house with dishes and laundry too! Another option is to join a postpartum parenting group. Some midwives, doulas, and medical practices have resources about postpartum groups and you can also search the internet for a virtual group if none are in your area.
Asking for help can be a very hard thing to do. It’s admitting that we are not a superhuman. But, guess what? No one is! That old adage of “it takes a village” is true. And sometimes that means letting that village in the door to help you up off that couch from time to time!
Spend quality time with your favorite people
Having a new baby is exciting, and it can also mean less quality time with your partner and/or the people you love. While it may feel impossible, try to find a time to sit with the ones you love - without your baby in your hands or even the room. It may mean putting on the baby monitor and stepping outside to have dinner. Or it may mean getting creative, and seeing if a neighbor can watch your baby while the two of you take a 20 minute walk.
This piece is important and easily neglected in postpartum life. The people we love will nourish our hearts and remind us of who we are. Having a newborn burst into your life often spurs a loss of identity or an identity crisis. Connecting with those who love us, and those we love, will bring clarity and strength into an often chaotic and confusing time as a new parent.
If you have a supportive family that will watch the baby, take them up on it! It’s easy to feel guilty “leaving” the baby, however you’re not leaving your baby. You’re simply giving them a chance to connect with more people who love them! Remember that old adage mentioned about - ahem it takes a village? Building a network of support for you and your baby early on will pay dividends as you all grow as a family. And it will allow you and your baby to get to spend quality time with the quality people in your life.
Just as every child is unique, every parenting journey is unique. Stay focused on the beautiful, messy, and miraculous moments and try not to worry about being “perfect”. Remember you are exactly who your baby needs!
We hope these self-love tips will give you the fuel you need to manage whatever comes your way. That being said, don’t be afraid to ask for help. And remember, no matter what you’re facing, you’re doing awesome!