For the nine months leading up to your baby’s birth, your life was rich with anticipation. Even now, almost everything you think about is framed around your baby. Now that you’re settling into the day-to-day rhythm motherhood, it’s time to turn some of your focus back to yourself and practice self-care for new moms, even as your newborn remains priority No. 1. Here are some tips to help you sharpen your self-care tool kit.
Finding Your Center
There’s no question that being a new mom brings its fair share of stress — but to do the job of motherhood to the best of your abilities, you need to bring the best version of yourself.
There’s actually evidence to suggest taking care of yourself can help you be a better mom. A 2013 study in Midwifery reported that while some mothers focus on self-sacrifice, other mothers prioritize self-care. The latter group stood in stark contrast to those that chose extreme self-sacrifice. The researchers identified barriers to good self-care that included time, money, social support and difficulty accepting help and setting boundaries.
A report in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth found that new mothers often feel they need permission to attend to their own needs. They also need practical support with child care to recover from giving birth, especially when neonates are fussy. To strengthen family health from the earliest stage, postnatal care should establish conditions that enable new mothers to balance caring for their infants with tending to their own needs.
The importance of having a strong social network can’t be ignored, either. Researchers at Penn State reported that a mother’s happiness and level of social support can affect the risk of her baby’s colic and fussiness.
Ways to Take Care of You
No matter what life stage you’re in, you know it’s important to get enough sleep, eat healthy food and enjoy plenty of physical activity — but when you’re a new mom, managing your stress becomes an essential addition to that list.
According to the American Psychological Association, mothers at any age are skilled at juggling family, work and money. When family includes a new baby, that responsibility doubles. Here are a few fundamental steps to keep the stress at bay:
- Understand it. Recognize when you’re stressed, and think about how you feel “now” versus “then,” when you’re not under so much pressure.
- Pinpoint your stressors. Recognize what factors cause you anxiety. For most people, the list includes things like day-to-day family responsibilities, health, money matters, work and relationships.
- Manage it. Bad habits can be difficult to break. Try not to blow your stress out of proportion, and focus on the important things in your life. Decide what’s first on your to-do list, and don’t be afraid to delegate other items to family and friends.
Develop your own stress-reducing habit like taking a walk, working out to blow off steam or having a sit-down with people who mean a lot to you. Small steps add up, and you don’t have to change many behaviors at once.
Consult your primary care physician if you feel you need support. He or she may give you a referral to a mental health provider if they believe you may be suffering from postpartum depression.
There’s no need to rush yourself to return to normal after giving birth — that will happen before you know it. Instead, establish a daily routine that makes you feel more centered rather than adding more stress-inducing items to your to-do list.
can provide the full spectrum of care you and your baby need, from women’s health to pediatric primary care.