Struggling to recognize yourself in the mirror? Constantly wondering when things will go back to normal? Asking yourself: I love my baby but … what about me?
These thoughts don’t make you a bad mom or a bad person. They simply make you human. Because now that your baby has arrived, people seem to focus on them and forget that you have needs, too. Accepting your feelings, understanding your needs and ensuring those needs are fulfilled is an empowering place to be as a new mom.
It’s time to give yourself a break and learn to lean into some self love. We’ve rounded up some ways to cultivate sustainable self care for moms that will keep you healthy, sane and grounded.
Sink Into Acceptance and Patience
Giving birth and becoming a mother is a life-changing experience. Your hormones are out of whack. Your brain, body, emotions, nutrition, sleep and activity levels are all completely different to your norm.
Accept that you are on a long road to recovery. You will get stronger and healthier, but it will take time. Try to worry less about the end result. Instead, focus on what you can do to feel good today.
Let’s Reframe Self Care
Before even becoming a parent, our society tends to condition us to believe that good mothers always put themselves last. Whether it’s eating the scraps off the kids’ plates because you don’t have time to make a proper meal or finding it hard to carve out five minutes to shower off the baby goo, the message to new moms is clear: any time spent on yourself rather than your new baby is selfish.
And very few of us have the resources for the pampered version of ‘self care’ peddled by the wellness industry. Like, what new mom has time to go to a day spa?!
But psychologist Joy Harden Bradford says self-care doesn’t need to cost anything. Instead, self care should be redefined as everything you need to do mentally, physically and spiritually just to keep going.
Simply ask yourself: what do I need to do to feel human today?
Make Life Easier For Yourself
Hands up if the red mist descends when you’re advised ‘to sleep when the baby sleeps’. What if your baby doesn’t sleep well or needs to be held constantly so you can’t actually lie down for a snooze? What if your mind’s racing so you can’t drop off anyway? And what if you have other children to care for?
Self care for moms in this instance means going with the flow – and if standards have to be lowered, so be it. Stock the freezer with ready meals so you don’t have to cook and sit the other kids in front of a screen so you can sleep on the couch.
You could even try an automated rocker to snatch some you-time. We love the new 4moms RockaRoo Baby Rocker 2023 – perfect for some hands-free parenting.
Leave Guilt At The Door
Ever squeezed in a 20-minute nap and then felt terrible about it because you should have been more ‘productive’? So many new moms feel guilty about looking after themselves.
In 2020 Dr Pooja Lakshmin founded Gemma, a digital education platform focused on women’s mental health. She has also published a book entitled Real Self-Care. Dr Lakshmin recommends ‘building up resilience against the guilt’. ‘You can’t make decisions based on the feeling of guilt, because guilt is always going to be there,’ she explains.
That looks like not ignoring your own needs. It could be as simple as stopping to sip a glass of water after you’ve fed your baby before you realize you’re parched at the end of the day. Or ensuring you have a bag of nuts or oatcakes in your bag to munch on if you’ve forgotten to eat breakfast. Eventually, this could be spending five minutes reading instead of rushing around cleaning up.
Little by little, you’ll teach yourself to rest and reap the benefits of a calmer mind and healthier outlook.
When the guilt flares, remember that self care isn’t a reward once all your hard work is done – it’s essential to keep you inching forward through the storm of early motherhood (and the inevitable ups and downs parenting can bring later).
Keep It Real
Given the very real time constraints of being a new mom, keep your self care goals realistic.
Finding time to eat, hydrate and bathe are musts.
Putting on clean PJs and brushing your hair are also major wins. Plus, a dab of hydrating tinted moisturizer, a bit of mascara and a slick of lipstick may just be the pick-me-up you deserve.
You could also set aside a brief pocket of time – literally one or two minutes – either at the beginning or end of the day to listen to a short meditation track, focus on your breathing or practice gratitude for the small things.
Taking just one minute regularly throughout the day to make a connection with yourself can calm that frenzied feeling.
Get Some Fresh Air
We’re not advocating a return to your pre-baby gym routine. But just getting outside and soaking up some light will help you feel and sleep better. Take a slow walk around the block every day and drink in that fresh air. Only once you’re up for it, though.
Pop your baby in a Nuna CUDL Carrier – being hands free means you’ll be able to take a coffee with you or call a friend.
Forget Balance – Think Support
When you think of someone balancing something, it’s usually a juggler or tightrope walker. Not a new mom. It’s impossible to ‘balance’ a stroller, a cup of coffee, a crying baby, a dirty diaper and possibly another child, along with getting enough sleep, staying on top of the laundry and cooking meals.
The ‘mom juggle’ is a way for society to tell us we’re just about keeping it together but that we’re on the cusp of failure.
New moms can’t do it all alone. So, feel free to draft in all the support you can get from your partner, family, friends and neighbors, particularly in those first few bewildering weeks. If you don’t live near your family and if you’re able, consider employing a mother's help or a cleaner.
Ask for help if you want it and try to do so before you become overwhelmed. Text, call or voice note to connect with a supportive loved one when you need it.
Don’t Fall Into The Trap Of Being Responsible For Everything
During the first few weeks, particularly if you’re breastfeeding, everything seems to fall to mom. But as soon as you can, delegate: everything from night feeds to food shops.
Looking after your baby at home when your partner returns to work can also mean more domestic chores land on your plate. Don’t fall into the female trap of taking responsibility for everything. Define your priorities and have the courage to stick to them, so both parents feel they’re having a fair deal.
Learn To Say No
Having a baby takes up a lot of your time and energy. So make sure that the time you do have to yourself is spent doing what YOU want.
If you feel tired and would prefer to spend the afternoon on the sofa while your baby naps, do that and put off those well-meaning visitors. They’ll understand, and you can always reschedule for when you’re feeling ready to entertain guests.
It’s better to say no than to burden yourself with more activities than you can handle.
Make Your Needs Clear
A parent who practices self care is a great role model. First, you’re going to be a way better parent if your own needs are fulfilled. And second, seeing you take good care of yourself will mean your baby will grow up to prioritize their own health and wellbeing.
If you always hide away your needs they might start to believe that mothers only exist to serve others.
So go ahead: be lazy, have fun and show them who you really are: talk about the book you want to read or the TV you’re going to watch. They may not understand what you’re saying, but it’ll remind you that you have interests, hobbies and likes.
Self Care For Moms: The Bigger Picture
None of the baby books prepare you for becoming a mother and the identity crisis it can bring. You do lose a part of yourself in the process. It’s essential to grieve the person you were but recognize there are opportunities for growth, too.
At a basic level, self-care means paying attention to your nutrition, sleep and health. But it’s also about creating a life that works for you now, as well during future stages of motherhood and beyond.