Self Care – 7 Tips For New Mums
Self care – you’ve probably heard that term before! As new mums, it’s easy to feel our needs aren’t as important as everyone else’s, starting with that beautiful squishy baby you just gave birth to.
We’ll put ourselves last a lot of the time, making sure everyone and everything else is taken care of, before we think of ourselves.
While we’re told to reach out or ask for help, often we just put on a brave face and keep going, even when we feel like we’re failing.
Many new mums hear the advice ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’ but don’t take it seriously until they’re struggling. The hardest part is changing our mindset from – self care is an indulgence to self care is a necessity.
Your emotional, mental and physical well being is so valuable and worth taking the time to look after. It’s not just you who benefits – your baby and your family do too.
Here are 7 self care tips, ensuring you thrive as a new mum.
#1: Gather your village
Many new mums notice after the flurry of visitors to see the baby, they’re left to sort of muddle their way through things.
It’s natural after the birth to want to take some time getting to know your new baby and becoming familiar with how motherhood feels. But this is also the time to reach out to trusted family, friends or neighbours for support whether practical or emotional.
Family or friends can organise dinner one day a week, or pick up your groceries. Maybe a neighbour can walk your dog or mow the lawn, or even mind the baby while you have a shower.
Connect with the people who never show up empty handed, always ready to sit with you and listen, who really want to know how you are. These people might be long time friends already on the parenting path, a close family member, or new friends from your mums and bubs group.
If you’re far from family and friends, not connected to anyone in your area, and it’s in your budget, hire a postnatal doula, cleaner or housekeeper. If you don’t have a local group of mums to meet with, you might like to join Nurtured Birth’s Pregnancy & Postnatal Mothers Group.
This is held in a supportive online space where you can connect with other mums. Click here to find out more.
#2: Create your space
You probably spent quite a bit of time preparing the house for your new baby but you didn’t carve out a space for yourself. Which might not seem so important until one day you realise the entire house is littered with everything baby and you can’t find one place where you can relax.
Create a space for yourself and go there when you need a tap out, even if it’s just drinking tea from your favourite cup. This might be a cozy nook in your bedroom or a sheltered spot in the garden.
You might choose to listen to a special playlist just for that space or read a book. It might be somewhere you can retreat to spend some time on your hobby, such as painting or knitting.
Regularly engaging in something that breaks the train of daily thought and process can reduce stress in your body, according to this research.
#3: Ignore the chores
The old adage ‘sleep when baby sleeps’ is a wonderful suggestion. Not too many new mums actually follow through and grab some rest because there’s washing to fold, floors to vacuum, or dinner to cook.
The seemingly endless chores derail the opportunity to actually take care of your own needs. Many new mums feel like they’ve lost themselves in some way, often because what they loved doing before they were pregnant has gone to the wayside.
Grab a few of those precious minutes when your baby is sleeping and do something that fills your bucket, whether that’s a hobby like painting or sewing, playing an instrument, or dancing and singing to your favourite tunes.
Play and fun are integral to our inner sense of self worth and we feel much more centred when we break the daily routine with an activity that we enjoy.
But don’t forget to get sleep too – see tip #1 about enlisting your village to help you get more rest.
#4: Get out and about
All new mums wake up at some point and realise their world has shrunk to the confines of their house. Getting yourself out into the world as often as you can will make all the difference to your mood and keeps you from falling into the trap of staying home because it’s easier.
Meet a friend in the park or have a coffee, go see a movie, or explore a local nature reserve. You could even go further and check out that art display you’ve been meaning to see, or take a drive to the beach.
You can choose to go solo, with you baby or with your family. Do something out of your house as often as you can, to remember who you are beyond nappies and babygros.
Sunshine has been shown to improve levels of serotonin, which is responsible for regulating moods and lowering anxiety and depression. Plus 15 minutes a day in the sun helps you to make enough vitamin D to lower depression too. So get out in the fresh air and sunshine as much as you can!
#5: Take care of your body
After birth, your body is going through all kinds of changes. It won’t ever be the same as before you were pregnant and it has done some huge work to grow and birth your baby. Taking care of your body is as much self care as taking a relaxing bath.
Eat a nutritious diet, to fuel you through the tired days and the long hours of breastfeeding. Whole foods that nourish you include a rainbow of fresh vegetables and fruit, lean good quality protein, healthy fats, whole grains and legumes. Try to avoid processed foods as much as possible, as they can make you feel sluggish and tired.
Drink plenty of water, as poor hydration can really make you feel flat and tired. Keep a water bottle with you at all times, as you can get really thirsty just sitting down and breastfeeding or watching TV. It’s a good way to keep track of how much you’re actually drinking too.
Sleep might seem a little tricky to come by with a new baby. Ask your partner or your village to help here, by making it possible for you to have a sleep in or a few naps every week . Cosleeping can also help you get more rest, but always practice safe sleeping practices.
Moving your body can definitely make you feel good and give you more enthusiasm. Exercise doesn’t mean a full gym workout, it can be that walk in the park with a friend, pushing bub around in the pram while you check out local sights, or mums and bubs yoga.
There’s no limit to how you get your movement – push the chairs back and have a disco session in your living room if that’s how you want to roll! Just get those endorphins flowing and connect with your amazing body.
#6: Offload the busy mind
It’s pretty usual for new mums to feel like they haven’t achieved one single goal, instead just going from unfinished task to unfinished task. It’s exhausting and overwhelming doing more than one thing at a time, without the sense of achievement at the end.
Try starting your day with a mindfulness moment. Stop and breathe deeply for one minute to clear your busy mind so you can start fresh. Reach for a notepad and pen and list what must be done and what could be done and then go from there. Focus on one task, finish it then move on to the next.
Give yourself permission to let go of doing everything. You don’t need to be on top of everything all the time. Organise meal delivery services if planning, shopping and preparing meals is overwhelming you. Set up a calendar on your phone or on the fridge and delegate tasks to your partner to take over (paying the bills, organising the dog groomer, scheduling medical appointments etc).
Journaling can be another excellent way to get things off your mind and help you untangle the busyness so you can find a balance. Writing can be very therapeutic, allowing you to get things onto the page and help clear space for the things that really matter, like enjoying your new baby.
#7: Be kind to yourself
I know, this doesn’t seem like self care but it’s the very foundation of all these other tips. Setting yourself the expectation you will nail it all day, every day is not self care.
Motherhood is an amazing and rewarding job, but it’s also tough and can send you the extremes of your ability to cope. It’s normal to have hard days, feel angry, sad or even negative.
Don’t be hard on yourself when you don’t get it right all the time, or even some of the time! Whatever you do, be kind to yourself as you navigate the night wakings, the tiredness, the breastfeeding sessions that last for hours and the piles of washing to fold.
Like pregnancy and birth, parenting is a unique experience so don’t judge yourself by how others are coping. You are exactly who your baby needs, no matter how well you think you’re doing.
And remember, if you’re really not coping or worried in anyway, seek reassurance and support from your doctor or midwife, or someone you trust to listen and not dismiss your concerns.