How to Practice Self-Care with a Newborn
New parents have one of the hardest jobs on the planet. Taking care of a squalling, squirming bundle of joy can leave you drained mentally and physically. That’s why it’s so important to take some time for self-care even while you’re focusing on your newborn. In fact, taking care of yourself is as much for the benefit of others as it is for you. If you don’t make an effort to keep yourself in good mental and physical condition, you won’t be able to perform well at home or at work. Here are a few tips on how to take care of yourself when the days are long, the diapers are many, and the feedings just won’t stop.
Sleep is Vital
While varying theories exist on how to sleep with a newborn around, one thing is sure: you must get some sleep to feel like a person. There’s nothing quite like the sleep deprivation you experience as the parents of a newborn. You can survive on adrenaline for a few days, but eventually, you’ll have to settle into a routine.
One of the most common suggestions is to sleep when the baby sleeps. You might have to force yourself to do this, especially if it’s during the day. Don’t stress about other tasks that you’re skipping to get your sleep in -- they will still be there when you wake up. Another way to handle this is for spouses to take turns with feedings and taking care of the baby. If Mom needs sleep, Dad can handle a late-night feeding to give Mom a long stretch of uninterrupted sleep, for example. There will always be occasional situations where you’ll both have to be awake with the baby, but sleep is the foundation of self-care, so do everything you can to maximize your sleep.
You will also sleep better if you make your bedroom a soothing environment. Babies come with lots of paraphernalia, but if you can, declutter and organize everything, as that will lower your stress level and help you sleep better each night.
When you can’t change another diaper, take some time to get out of the house and move your body. This doesn’t mean you have to exercise vigorously, but it will help your overall mood to get some fresh air and sunshine. Even just talking a walk around the block can work wonders. If it’s cold or rainy, you can head to the mall or a store to just walk around the aisles for a while. Another option is to try a postnatal yoga program that will help stretch you out and give you more flexibility. Once you are able to move more, you will start to feel better.
It’s easy to isolate yourselves when you have a newborn. While it’s natural to huddle away at home for a bit after your baby is born, at some point, you’ll need human interaction. Too much isolation can lead to depression, and we all need the support we find from others, whether we realize it or not. You can often find parents’ groups for new babies through churches, hospitals, libraries, neighborhoods or even online.
If you were part of a pregnancy support group, you can get the group together again after you have had your babies -- you’ll need support more than ever. Maybe there’s a group of moms in your neighborhood who could get together or a group of young families at your church. Or, you can take turns letting the other go out with a friend for a few hours.
Parenthood is one of the most rewarding -- and hardest -- things you will ever do. You will find yourself a much better parent if you take care of yourself in the midst of all the stress, so follow the tips above for a good start. Enjoy parenthood -- and get some sleep!
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