You spent 9 months taking care of yourself so you could grow a healthy baby. You ate all the right things, took all of your supplements, etc. Why is it that as soon as baby is born, it seems like all of that stops? Does taking care of a baby mean you can’t take care of yourself? Of course not! But, finding the time to fit it all in, can seem like an insurmountable task when you’re not sleeping through the night and you feel like your baby is nursing all the time. How do you find balance?
- Get a shower before your husband or partner goes to work.
If you have a husband or partner, no matter how tired you are, make sure you get a shower and get dressed before you are alone with the baby on your own for the day. If you wear makeup, put your makeup on. Do your hair. Wear real clothes (not just yoga pants and a t-shirt). Will your baby cry while she’s away from you? Maybe, and that’s OK. She has TWO parents, not ONE, and both of you need to figure out how to soothe her. Even if you don’t have a partner to hold her, she won’t starve while you take 30 minutes to get ready for your day. Taking that short bit of time for yourself helps you start your day with a clear head and a sense of being more in control of your life. Pajama days are great, once-in-a-while, but not on a regular basis.
- Get out of the house every day.
It is easy to fall into the trap of staying in the house every day with a new baby. At first, you need to stay home to rest and recover from the birth. But after the first couple of weeks, it is important to go out for a little while every day. Take it slowly at first. The work involved in getting you and your baby out of the house often seems like a monumental task. But, getting out of the house is very necessary. At first, you might try putting the baby in a stroller or a carrier and going for a 15 minute walk. After that feels comfortable, bump the time up to 30 minutes. Even if all you do is go for a walk or go window shopping, get out of the house every day and see that there is a world beyond the four walls of your house. Getting out of the house is like hitting the reset button.
- Get moving!
Getting physical activity every day needs to be a priority. Go to Mommy and Me Yoga or even just run up and down the stairs several times throughout the day. When you find your energy fading, getting up and moving can give you a quick boost. It may not be practical to get to the gym every day, and that’s OK (for now). Just going for a walk with your baby every day is a huge step in the right direction! It is good for you to get the vitamin D boost from the sunshine, and getting some fresh air recharges your batteries for the rest of the day.
- Establish a routine
Establishing a routine is a good thing for you and your baby. Rigid schedules are not the goal. A routine helps your baby regulate his or her sleeping and nursing patterns. Sometimes, when you have a baby who has no pattern, you can begin to feel overwhelmed by trying to meet your baby’s needs. One of your baby’s needs, though, is consistency. She needs to know what comes next. Wake up at the same time every day, eat meals at the same time every day, run errands at the same time every day, etc. By doing this, your baby will naturally fall into a pattern, and this predictability will make your life feel less crazy and out of control.
Breastfeeding moms need calories. You will need about 300 calories more per day than you did when you were pregnant! But, just like when you were pregnant, you need to eat good, nutritionally dense food. When your baby’s needs seem so urgent, it is easy to fall into the carb trap. It is so quick to just grab a few crackers or pretzels here and there, rather than take the time to eat something good for you. It will require some planning, but having nutritious snacks and quick meals ready to go can help a lot. Eat a real breakfast (not just cold cereal) before your partner leaves for the day. Try making my Veggie Frittata ahead of time so you have a nutritious meal you can just heat and eat. Always have some salad greens ready to go, and keep quick protein boosts on hand – hard boiled eggs, cheese, grilled chicken strips, quinoa, nuts, beans, etc. Besides being better for you nutritionally than a handful of crackers, a protein food will help keep your blood sugar levels more even and will help you feel more energetic.
- Get involved
Your baby is great company, but connecting with adults is really important. You may feel isolated as a new mom, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can connect with a local La Leche League or Holistic Moms Network group. If you attend a house of worship, your spiritual family probably has groups you can connect with, too.
- Make time for your relationship with your partner
Oh yeah, my partner! Yes, you need to make time for this relationship. The two of you didn’t bring a baby into this world so you could live separate lives. Babies should unite you, not divide you. While it may not be practical, especially in the early weeks, to go out on a date night, you can probably carve out a little time for each other. The two of you can take turns with the planning, which can make it more fun, and feel less like one more thing on your to-do list. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. Simply planning a meal where the two of you actually sit together at the table can be a huge step forward! Even just having a particular television show the two of you like and can watch together once a week can be a time to connect. The point is to make it purposeful. Make your time together a priority. When you do this, you give your partner the message that your relationship is important and valued. Connecting physically is important, too. Even if neither of you is interested in sex at the moment, just cuddling together and talking is very intimate and strengthens your relationship.
- Guilty pleasures are very necessary
Don’t feel guilty about so-called “guilty pleasures.” Your needs are important. Your identity is not only “mom.” You have hopes and dreams and goals, and while your baby’s needs may seem urgent, your needs are not unimportant. Do you play a musical instrument? Do you love to write? Are bubble baths your thing? What thing that you do is just yours? Hand the baby off to your partner or your mother or your BFF or whoever, and go take a half hour to do your thing.
As the flight attendant says during the airplane safety demonstration, you need to put your oxygen mask on first, before you can help your baby. Making your needs a priority and taking time for yourself will not only help you to feel better about your own life, but it will help you be a better parent. Your baby learns from the behavior you model for her. She needs to see her mom as someone who loves herself enough to take care of herself. After all, when she grows up and becomes a mother, wouldn’t you want that for her, too?