As mothers, we often prioritize the needs of our families and put our own needs on the back burner. We try to appear capable and in control, even when we're struggling.
While we hear advice about the importance of self-care, it can be hard to prioritize ourselves in practice. But taking care of ourselves isn't just a luxury - it's essential, especially during pregnancy and postpartum.
To help you get started, we've put together a list of 10 easy ways to care for yourself. These simple practices can make a big difference in how you feel and help you stay grounded amidst the chaos of motherhood.
GATHER YOUR SUPPORT NETWORK
After the excitement of giving birth and introducing your new bundle of joy to family and friends, it's perfectly normal to crave some peaceful time as a new family. Once you've settled into motherhood, consider reaching out to your support network of loved ones, whether it's friends, family, neighbors, or coworkers.
Many people are eager to lend a helping hand, even if it's just to spend some quality time with your little one. Let your in-laws or best friend bring over dinner once a week, or ask your neighbors for help with household chores like mowing the lawn or shoveling snow.
A close friend can pick up a few groceries for you, run a load of laundry, or take your dog for a walk. And if you can afford it, hiring a postpartum doula can provide invaluable support with childcare and breastfeeding. Remember, it's okay to lean on your support system and accept help - you don't have to do it all alone.
CREATE YOUR OWN PERSONAL OASIS
Many times, when preparing for a new baby's arrival, we focus all our attention on setting up their nursery and forget about our own needs. It's important to also create a comfortable corner in your home where you can relax and recharge. Rooms with plants and plenty of natural light are great for unwinding, as well as having soothing elements like a fireplace, fountain, bird feeder, or fish tank. Adding a special chair or rug can help create a sense of coziness and relaxation in this space. Let's be real though, sometimes, even the quiet of the bathroom on your own is an oasis.
TAKE BACK CONTROL OF YOUR DAY
Studies have shown regularly engaging in a hobby, such as knitting, painting, playing music, meditating, or any activity that diverts your mind from daily routine, can trigger anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative responses that counteract stress in the body.
Give yourself the time to indulge in playtime. Though it may be tempting to utilize your baby's nap time to catch up on work or chores, taking a few minutes to read, tend to your garden, spend time with pets, bake, sew, paint, dance, sing or any other activity that brings you joy can help you rejuvenate.
Do not underestimate the rejuvenating power of a shower or bath. Enlisting the help of a loved one to watch your baby for 30 minutes so you can enjoy a leisurely soak in the tub or take a shower can have a profound impact on your ability to relax. You can enhance your experience by adding plants, aromatherapy, relaxing nature sounds, or candles to create a spa-like ambiance in your bathroom. If you can't find someone to watch your baby, keep a bouncer in the bathroom, and you can wash your hair while keeping an eye on your little one.
VENTURE OUTSIDE YOUR HOUSE – EXPLORE
Your world can all too easily narrow down to the four walls of your home after having a baby. To break out of this routine, plan time with your friends to step outside: grab a cup of coffee, go for a pedicure, have dinner, take a walk in the park, or catch a movie. Make it a ritual so that it becomes a regular part of your routine.
If your baby enjoys car or stroller rides, make use of that time to explore. Plan a day trip and visit a new place you've never been to or always wanted to see. Or step out on your own. Leave your baby at home with family and take a few hours to go somewhere you've been yearning to go. Take the time to do the things that you enjoyed doing before your baby arrived.
ENGAGE IN A SHARED INTEREST WITH YOUR PARTNER
With our lives being so busy and packed, it's easy to overlook the importance of nurturing our relationships. Healthy relationships require effort, time, and purposeful attention. Communication breakdown can lead to resentment, especially when partners fail to express the qualities they appreciate about each other.
According to psychologist Tracy Dagleish, "…finding an activity that celebrates shared values can be a great way to bring couples closer." If you enjoy cooking, consider planning a weekly dinner date to prepare meals together. Or, if you're fond of physical activities, try learning a new sport together. Even dedicating a night free from screens to focus on each other can make a significant difference.
PRIORITIZE YOUR PHYSICAL WELL BEING
It's important to prioritize self-care as your body continues to go through changes after childbirth.
Nourish your body with wholesome foods and remember that breastfeeding requires extra calories and nutrients. Stay hydrated by carrying a water bottle and adding flavor with lemon or cucumber slices.
Make sleep a priority by syncing your sleep schedule with your baby's and planning for one day a week to sleep in. Consider using an app for ambient sounds and investing in a comfortable sleep bra and breast pads for leaks. Co-sleeping can also be an option for some, but always follow safe-sleeping practices.
Exercise can boost energy levels and mood. If the gym isn't feasible, try walking or jogging with a stroller, biking with your baby, or joining a "mommy and me" exercise class. Online workouts are also a convenient option but remember to start slowly.
SIMPLIFY YOUR MOM ROUTINE
Sometimes, life can feel overwhelming, especially when you're juggling multiple tasks and nothing seems to be getting done. If you find yourself in this situation, don't worry - there are a few things you can do to get back on track.
First, try focusing on one thing at a time. It might feel like you have a million things to do, but picking one task and completing it can give you a sense of accomplishment and help you move on to the next thing.
Secondly, don't be too hard on yourself. It's okay to let some things go when you're feeling overwhelmed. If you're too tired to cook a big meal, order pizza instead. If the laundry or dishes are piling up, take a break and come back to them later. Remember, everything will still be there when you're ready to tackle it.
Another helpful tip is to do a "brain dump." Taking a few minutes to write down everything that's on your mind can help clear your head and allow you to focus on what's important.
Virtual assistant software like Siri or Alexa can also be a lifesaver. Use them to remind you of important tasks or appointments so you don't forget anything.
Finally, find tools that work for you. Whether it's a calendar, a to-do list app, or a baby tracker, using tools that you love can help you stay organized and feel in control.
Remember, it's normal to feel overwhelmed sometimes, but with a little bit of effort, you can get back on track and tackle your to-do list with confidence.
GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO PAUSE & REFLECT
Take a few minutes every day for introspection and mindfulness. Whether it's in the morning before your baby wakes up, during naptime, or at night before going to bed, taking time to reflect on your experiences and emotions can help you grow and learn.
Consider creating a Gmail account for your child. Once a week, send your child an email about what they did that week. It’s a wonderful way to record all those little moments you’ll want to recall in future years.
EMPOWER YOURSELF WITH KNOWLEDGE
At times, the stress of learning how to parent can be overwhelming and taking a break may not always be realistic. In such situations, seeking advice can be beneficial.
Your pediatrician can offer helpful suggestions for books that provide insights on specific parenting topics. Books like “The Happiest Baby on the Block”, “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk” and, “1-2-3 Magic” can offer valuable tips to enhance your confidence as a parent. You may also find these titles as audiobooks at your local library, which can be a convenient option during late-night breastfeeding sessions.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT
Parenting can be challenging, and it's okay to experience a range of emotions. Don't beat yourself up over negative feelings, and instead focus on what you can control and celebrate small wins. Keep in mind that a difficult moment does not define your entire day or life.
Children's needs and behaviors can change rapidly, and it's important to remember that nothing lasts forever. Additionally, try to set realistic expectations for yourself in areas like weight loss, socializing, and pursuing your personal goals. It's okay to delay major life changes until you've adjusted to motherhood.
Each parenting journey is unique, so avoid comparing yourself to others. Remember that you are exactly who your child needs, and you are the most important person in their world, regardless of where you are in your parenting journey. By taking care of yourself, you'll be better equipped to care for your new bundle of joy.