If it was up to that little bundle of joy you just brought home, your every waking moment would be spent taking care of baby. And as a new mom, you’re probably completely on board with the idea. In fact, the thought of inserting yourself into the care-mix may seem just plain selfish.
Consider what you need to take care of your new baby:
- Emotional stamina to withstand the demands of a little human being whose whole world pretty much revolves around you.
- Mental energy to focus on your baby’s needs, even if it’s just to follow instructions to put together a new infant toy.
- Physical strength to carry your newborn, change diapers, provide food and wake up any time you’re needed.
That’s a call for self-care if there ever was one, because self-care isn’t about self-indulgence. It’s about deciding to treat yourself with kindness and healthy choices, for your sake and your baby’s sake.
Is something keeping you from self-care?
No, it’s not the baby. What may be keeping you from self-care is what you’re telling yourself. It may be years of negative self-talk that’s getting in the way of your physical, emotional and mental self-care. A new, dependent baby will bring those beliefs to light like nothing else. Are these some of the things you think about when you think about self-care?
- I have a new baby. There’s no way I can find time to do anything else.
- I’m sure I’m healthy enough without self-care.
- It’s selfish for me to do something for myself.
- My job is to take care of other people.
- Other people may not like me or will be angry with me.
- Other people’s demands are more important than my needs.
After years of repeating these thoughts, they can’t be banished instantly. But there’s a simple way to start replacing them. Get quiet for a moment by going into a room alone and closing your eyes. Breathe in and out deeply and repeat to yourself as you do it: “Caring for myself is good for the baby, too.”
There’s nothing mystical or magical about it. But repeating positive new things to yourself has been shown to make a difference over time. It’s certainly worth a try!
Take baby steps toward self-care
Meanwhile, start taking time to do little things that help you care for yourself. They don’t have to take a lot of time from your baby-busy days, but they can make a difference in your energy level, outlook on life and, most importantly, how you care for your new little one.
Give your body the fuel it needs by eating healthy, simple meals and drinking fluid to stay hydrated. Whether or not you’re breastfeeding, what you put in your body will make you stronger and give you more energy. And don’t think you have to do anything fancy—just sit down to a bowl of healthy cereal, a plate of scrambled eggs or a cup of plain yogurt with fruit.
Another way to care for your body is to get moving. Once your doctor gives you the go-ahead and your body has healed from the triple whammy of pregnancy, labor and delivery, try a little exercise. But make sure you do it your way and not because you feel you should be doing the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest. Try taking short walks, doing a few yoga moves or simply dancing with your new baby in your arms.
While it may not be as obvious as the physical and mental side of self-care, treating your emotions with compassion and kindness is just as important. Try to ground yourself by making a list of things you’re grateful for. Or add prayer, deep breathing, meditation or writing in a journal to your day. They can help center you and connect you to the things that matter most.
(If you find yourself feeling emotions like sadness and emptiness for longer than two weeks, you may be dealing with more than the baby blues. You may have postpartum depression. This is a serious medical illness. Please call your doctor right away.)
Splurging on yourself may feel like a huge leap in the self-care department. But it doesn’t have to be too big a leap. For instance, buy the most luxurious lotion you can afford to enjoy after the usual hurried shower. Subscribe to a streaming service so you can binge for a bit while you’re caring for or feeding baby. If you can swing it, buy a cozy and comfortable new rocking chair to support you when you’re feeding and cuddling your newborn.
While your partner or a grandparent watches the baby, engage with the world of grownups by meeting a pal for lunch. Laughter is also great for your mental health: Snatch a few moments every few days to watch a funny video or call your most hilarious friend or relative.
You are worthy of self-care
When you care for yourself—your body, mind and emotions—you’re better able to care for your new baby. That’s a worthy goal, and you’re worth every bit of self-care it takes to make it happen.