Being a mom is amazing, isn’t it? There’s nothing quite like newborn baby snuggles, or looking into that little girl’s eyes and knowing that you grew her inside of you.
But WOW does motherhood come with a lot of challenges, am I right? Who knew that a 7 pound bundle of joy could be so much work?
In the midst of adjusting to making sure all of your baby’s needs are met, it’s hard to remember to take care of yourself. You might even feel like you’re SUPPOSED to ignore self-care in the weeks and months postpartum. After all, the idea of new mom who hasn’t showered in a week and is surviving on two hours of sleep is practically cliche, right?
Just because that’s the picture our culture presents of what new motherhood is like, doesn’t mean it has to be that way for you. In fact, you need to remember to take care of your own needs in order to be able to take good care of your baby. So in a way, postpartum self-care is still all about the baby. You don’t have to feel guilty about it!
Having said that, here are some simple ways to take care of yourself in the midst of raising a newborn.
Take a shower every day while you’re recovering postpartum.
Like I said, an unshowered new mother is basically a cliche of our culture, but there’s no reason for you to have to embrace other people’s ideas of what your life as a new mom should look like.
Maintaining some level of personal hygiene will help you to feel human again after having a baby. You’ll feel better and feel more confident in your ability to tackle whatever challenges the day may bring. Not to mention that if you had any tearing or an incision from a C-section, it’s important to keep those areas clean!
So do you what you have to do to get that shower in. Ideally you’ll have some help at home for the first week or two, so it shouldn’t be too hard to pass the baby off to your husband/mom/postpartum doula or whoever. If you can’t manage to get away for 10 minutes to shower, your help isn’t doing their job!!
If you’re a few weeks in and your mom has gone home and your husband is back at work, it’s a little more challenging. I found that putting my babies in the swing after they’d been fed and changed was the easiest way to take a quick shower. That was when they were at their happiest and most likely to accept not being held for a few minutes. Even if your baby does fuss a little, you don’t have to immediately jump out with soap in your hair and water dripping everywhere to console her. I promise: she’ll be fine for 2 minutes while you finish up. Remember, you’ll be able to take care of her better if you take care of you first.
DON’T get dressed, do your makeup, or try to act like you have your life together.
In fact, its ideal if you can stay in bed for several days to a week after you give birth. I know this sounds like the reverse of my previous point about showering, but trust me on this. Support for new moms is already super limited. The moment that you start getting out of bed, getting dressed and generally looking like a human being who can function, what little support that you do have is going to disappear.
When you come downstairs wearing makeup or answer the door wearing a cute outfit, your husband, friends and relatives are going to subconsciously start to think that you’re capable of managing a lot of things that you shouldn’t have to manage on your own yet. When you’re up and moving about the house and look great, too, they’re going to think ‘Wow, she looks awesome, so she must be feeling awesome! I think I’ll go back to work early!’, or ‘I don’t think I’ll bother to drop off that lasagna I was thinking about making!’ and ‘She looks like she can totally manage the laundry now, no need to offer to help with that!’
When I had my babies, I remember going back to doing chores within just a few days after giving birth because I felt bad about not helping out and I felt like I had something the prove to people around me. I wanted people to be amazed at how well I was recovering.
At the same time, I was secretly hoping that someone would tell me to stop and go back to bed while they took care of it. No one did. Everyone assumed that if I was doing it, I must be well enough to be doing it.
So don’t try to be a hero. Just taking advantage of this time of rest, and don’t feel guilty about it. You aren’t being lazy: it’s what you need to recover well.
There’s no need to impress anyone with your ability to bounce back quickly after childbirth. You do not want to give the impression that you’re managing quite well. Because if there’s any time in your life that you need help, it’s now. So embrace the idea of wearing your pajamas all day every day for the next few weeks, because you need all the help you can get, mama.
Self-care is about accepting help when you need it.
If someone offers to help, say yes! Again, there’s no need to try to give people the idea that your adjustment to parenthood is going along perfectly. There’s no shame in admitting that it’s hard and that you need help!
It’s nice when people offer to do something specific, but even if someone just gives you a general offer of “let me know if there’s anything I can do to help” don’t feel shy about replying with “WELL ACTUALLY my dog hasn’t had a walk in three weeks would you mind taking him out for a stroll?”
Most of the time people like the opportunity to help someone and enjoy being needed, so you’re doing them a favor, too!
Drinking a ton of water is an easy way to take care of yourself postpartum.
OK, not a ton, but a lot. Aim for half your bodyweight in ounces. So if you weigh 200 pounds, drink 100 ounces of water a day. There are so many benefits to drinking lots of water. You’ll feel more awake and alert, have more energy, and it can even help with the constipation that is so common in those early postpartum days.
It’s especially important to drink a lot of water if you’re breastfeeding. I hear so many women say they quit breastfeeding because their supply was too low, but one of the best ways to keep your supply up is to stay hydrated! So here we are again: taking care of yourself by hydrating helps you take better care of the baby when you’re able to continue breastfeeding!
Eat food that’s good for you to help make your postpartum recovery faster.
I’m not saying you should go on a diet or worry about losing the baby weight at this point in time, but do try to pay attention to what you’re eating and choose foods that are full of nutrients and vitamins, not empty calories. Think carrot sticks instead of potato chips.
I know this can be hard because you probably aren’t cooking or grocery shopping very much right now, but there are healthier takeout options than french fries. Here’s a great article about healthier choices at a number of fast food restaurants.
Prioritize sleep during the postpartum period.
Lack of sleep is probably the hardest thing about being a new mom. Everything is more difficult when you’re exhausted beyond belief. On the other hand, if I’ve had a good night’s rest, I usually feel like I can take on anything.
Do what you can to make sleeping a priority. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Forget about cleaning, cooking, or doing laundry. Someone else can and should be taking care of those things for you in those first few days, at the very least.
If you have trouble sleeping at night even while the baby is resting, talk to you doctor, as that can be a sign of postpartum depression. Otherwise, diffuse some essential oils (lavender and Gentle Baby are great ones), take a bath, or whatever else it is that helps you to relax and get into sleep mode!
Take care of yourself by spending some time moving your body.
Obviously you’ll need to spend some time right after birth just recovering and resting. I’m not suggesting you get up and go for a jog 5 days, or even 5 weeks, after you’ve given birth.
But once you’ve been home from the hospital for a week or two, it can be really beneficial to incorporate some mild exercise into your routine. Walk up and down the block a couple of times or wander the backyard a bit if the weather is nice. Even just sitting outside and getting fresh air can boost your mood and help you feel a lot better.
If it’s colder weather or you don’t feel up to getting outside, here are some exercises you can do indoors that won’t be too strenuous for your postpartum recovery.
Remember to take care of you.
Your well-being is just as important as important as your baby’s. She needs you to be at your best so that you can be the best mom you can be for her. You won’t be able to do that if you shove your own needs onto the back burner. So rest, drink your water, and take all the help you can get for this season of life, mama. Your baby needs you to!
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Melinda worked with children for years in a professional setting before becoming a full-time stay at home mom. She currently has three young children, and enjoys sharing tips and ideas about parenting and how to manage a home with excellence. She’s been featured on Heathline and Her View From Home.