CONGRATULATIONS! You’re a new mom. Growing your family is such an amazing experience and an awesome blessing. Your smile is huge when people ooohhh and aaahhh over your new little one and your heart swells when you look into that beautiful face as he/she peacefully sleeps.
Now let’s talk reality!
You’re exhausted. Breastfeeding is frustrating. You have no time to yourself. Eating healthy now consists of anything you can pop in your mouth in between changing diapers, feeding and burping another human being, doing laundry, and taking a sponge bath in the sink because you have no time for a real shower.
It’s okay to feel overwhelmed at times. It has nothing to do with the amount of love you have for your baby and it’s not a reflection of your parenting skills. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, M.D., medical director for The National Center for Children and Families, in Bethesda, Maryland says it perfectly:
“The happiest event of a parent’s life is difficult? You bet. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed even about something as positive as a new baby. Stress is a reaction, a physiological and emotional adjustment to change.”
Whether this is your first child or fourth child, the fact is you now have a new normal. In the blink of an eye, your former schedule and daily routine has been thrown for a loop. That means adjustments are going to have to be made to create a new flow and you need to accept that the flow will change on a regular basis for the next 12 months as your new baby’s needs change.
It is very common for new moms to forget to include their own health and wellness into the new normal. Not including it from the onset will make it much harder to add it in later on. Here are a few tips to help you get in some much needed time for your mind, body, and soul.
Don’t skip sleep! It is so tempting to use nap time as a time to catch up on all the things you want to get done but that is a really bad idea. Being sleep deprived is not going to help you or your family. Lack of sleep is also known to push you towards eating unhealthy comfort food options and slows your post-baby weight loss. So, for the first few months, sleep when the baby sleeps.
Get outside! I know you want to stay in your stretchy yoga pants with your hair in a ponytail and no make-up. So, I say go for it! Grab those yoga pants, ponytail holder, skip the make-up, AND grab your stroller. Post-baby exercise doesn’t have to mean hours in the gym. It simply means moving your body and not becoming a couch potato. In the beginning, simply get outside and enjoy the fresh air as you walk around your neighborhood. In a few weeks, consider adding a more challenging terrain such as some hilly streets or non-paved nature paths. You can also work up to adding your own workout routine route. Walk two blocks; stop for 10 squats. Two more block; 20 jumping jacks. Walk one block at a power walking pace and another while doing stroller lunges. But, don’t get stressed about it. For now, just grab a bottled water, the stroller, your baby, and enjoy the walk.
Drink! Water, that is. Sometimes just remembering to drink water feels like a chore. You may want to set a timer on your phone that reminds you to take a minute and hydrate. While we know that staying hydrated is important for every man, woman, and child, Breast-feeding Nutrition: Tips for Mom by Mayo Clinic stresses the importance of water for nursing moms. Also consider adding water-rich fruits and veggies to your snacks and meals such as watermelon, peaches, grapes, tomatoes, and lettuce.
Feeding time! Bottle or breast; feeding time is one of the best bonding times for mom and baby. It is a time that forces you to sit down and focus on one thing and one thing only – feeding your baby. But what about feeding yourself (and I don’t mean food). Once you sit with your baby, start by simply taking a few deep breaths to help you relax in the moment. Your baby can feel your tension so let the to-do list go temporarily. Put your feet up. Use this time to help your body work to mend itself from the pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Feeding time is a great time to meditate, pray, or whatever practice you use to get grounded. Try this for the next 7 days and you will be amazed at how much better you feel after each feeding.
I would be remiss if I didn’t say that not all feelings of being overwhelmed can be helped with a hot bath. Many new moms benefit greatly from professional counseling. To quote Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, M.D. again, “Women sometimes don’t seek support because they’re afraid that it makes them a horrible mother to feel stressed or depressed after childbirth. Instead, think of it as getting the help you need to be an effective parent.”