While there are many surprises and challenges that await you in motherhood, the biggest shocks may be time management (since you will never have enough time to do what you plan), or the feeling of being overwhelmed (every mom feels this way at some point). No matter how happy and fulfilled you may be as a new mom (which may or may not happen right away – and it’s totally normal either way), if you don’t take time out of your busy day to take care of yourself, you’re not giving yourself the self-respect you deserve and giving your precious baby your best self. Ensuring that you practice self-care might seem like the lowest of your priorities, but being rested and cared for yourself is an essential part of being a mom. It’s extremely hard to do, so don’t beat yourself up if you can’t even remember the last time you did something for yourself. Welcome to motherhood!
While it is challenging, it’s not impossible to make sure you are also getting taken care of. Below are some pointers that can help.
Get Some Sleep
Let me be straight about this one: if you are breastfeeding exclusively you can’t sleep for more than a maximum of 5 hours at a time (and that only once in any 24h period) for the first 10 to 12 weeks, or else you risk losing your milk supply. What does that mean for you? You will be sleep deprived for sure, even if your little one is an exceptionally good sleeper (don’t count on it – if it happens, it’s a bonus). So what are you supposed to do? Sleep when the baby sleeps. Forget the unnecessary chores. Redefine what’s necessary. You can even forgo a shower once in awhile (but maybe not too often 😉 see below).
Make Time to Shower
If you neglect the simple routine of taking a shower on regular basis, it could take a toll on your mental health. Make sure you shower at least somewhat regularly. Ideally, do it when somebody else is home but at the worst, it’s ok to bring the baby next to you in a safe bouncy seat or a swing. It will make you feel refreshed and more ready to take on the challenges of your day. It will wake you up without extra caffeine and that’s a bonus if you’re breastfeeding and you don’t want your baby to be affected by the caffeine in your milk.
While it’s tempting to wear your maternity clothes out of convenience and to save money, it will help you feel your best to have new comfortable clothes that fit. Get a couple of outfits in your size to wear until you get back to your pre-baby weight. You should always dress the body you have and not the one you hope to have in the future. If you care what you look like (and most of us do) well-fitting clothes might make you feel like you are not just more attractive but also more in control and that’s very important, especially when there is so much out of your control these days.
Whether you’re single or have a partner, trying to care for your baby alone (or just the two of you) is very hard and hoping it will always work the way you want it to is simply unrealistic. You’re setting yourself up for a lot of stress, disappointment and fighting within the couple. And then guilt that you somehow failed your own unrealistic expectations is sure to follow. Don’t do this to yourself. You may be uncomfortable asking for or accepting help, but raising a baby is a lot of work and this is an essential skill of every parent. By recruiting help, you can make sure you have enough time to not only take care of the baby, but to take care of yourself (and your couple – if applicable). It’s important to ask for and accept help not only when you need it, but also when you just wish you had it. That’s really enough of a reason to ask for help.
Early parenthood can be quite an isolating experience, unless it just happens that many of your friends have babies at the same time and you put an effort to stay in touch. Spending your days with a newborn alone means that you may miss an adult conversation after awhile. Make sure you make time to see other adults with whom you enjoy spending time on regular basis. If you don’t know any other women in your situation, meet them! Use facebook groups, meetup and “mommy and me” classes (yoga, baby sign language, swimming, etc.) to meet other new moms. You may become friends for life but that’s not even the goal. Just talking about your daily struggles and successes with somebody who gets it is very validating, lowers stress, puts your difficulties in perspective. Additionally, you cannot even begin to understand what a wealth of wisdom other women can be until you experience their support first hand. Don’t miss out on that.
Are you a new mom looking for parenting support, guidance and a safe space to just talk with others going through the wonders and challenges of early parenthood? There are local support groups for moms just like you and I know some in Montreal that are free. Contact me if you’re interested and I will send you the info.