Updated: Jun 3, 2020
In the first weeks and months after having a baby, generally the mental and physical wellbeing of mothers goes on the back burner. When you're elbows deep in feed, rock, change, sleep, repeat, it can be hard to take care of you. But it's important to take care of yourself during this time - you can't pour from an empty cup!
It can be hard to find the time to take care of you, but there are some simple tips that can help you feel a little more human. I promise when you're feeling taken care of, you'll have more energy and ability to deal with the newborn days.
Make the most of baby's sleep time
Whether your baby sleeps in a bassinet or in a front pack, make the most of the asleep time. Make yourself a cup of tea and enjoy it hot. Make some toast and wolf it down. Do some laundry if that's your jam. Or just sit and read some stuff online if that's what makes you feel relaxed. Just do something you want to do, not something you feel you have to do. Taking back these little bits of time throughout the day can make a world of difference.
If you have chores to do, pop baby in the front pack and do them. When my daughter was little I did almost everything with her asleep in the front pack. I'd hang washing, do the dishes, prep a meal (not cook though obviously), go get the mail, you get the picture.
My personal recommendation is don't bother trying to sleep when baby sleeps during the newborn days. Because you'll just fall asleep and be all comfy and baby will wake up. And everyone knows being woken up at this stage feels worse than not going to sleep at all. Unless you have a champion sleeper, in which case, get that sleep!
Have a hot shower
I know you're thinking "Umm what?" but hear me out. I discovered early on that I could pop my baby into her little portable bassinet in the bathroom while I showered. She was pretty chill and would happily lie there for at least 10 minutes while I indulged in a hot shower. I'd gauge her mood, and if she was still relaxed after 5 minutes I'd go the whole hog and shave my legs and everything!
The simple act of attending to yourself by having a shower can improve your day more than you'd ever have realised before having a baby. If you've got any kind of baby-holding vessel that's not strapped to your body (bouncy chair, bassinet, baby swing), USE IT. You won't regret it, I promise.
We were very kindly gifted My Food Bag by a lovely friend when my daughter was born, and it was so helpful! But some days I really couldn't be bothered cooking, even a food bag. So we got takeaways. Eating something you really enjoy is a sure-fire mood improver, and it's even better if someone else cooks it!
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Be honest with yourself
We're getting real now. During those newborn days when everything is a blur of rocking, shushing and boobs, it can be really easy to ignore how you're feeling. Feeling a bit blue in the first week after having your baby can be quite common, but if you're feeling down or disinterested in life, feeling angry or struggling to sleep, it's important to be honest about these feelings.
Postnatal depression is common, and not a sign of weakness. Anyone can struggle with postnatal depression, and there are loads of ways you can get help in New Zealand. If you're feeling worried about yourself, have a chat with your doctor, midwife or Plunket nurse.
Postnatal depression can occur any time after having a baby, so it may not happen right away. Keep an eye on yourself and talk to your friends and family, and partner if you have one, about how you're feeling.
There should never be any pressure on a new mother to exercise, but the benefits of the outdoors are immense. If you're a first time mother, leaving the house for the first time with your baby can feel really daunting. Try taking a walk to the mailbox, or up the street to start with if you're feeling anxious.
You may still be feeling sore from the birth of your child, so be sure to take it easy. There's no need to rush back into a strict exercise regime, take the time to care for you. But there is something wonderfully calming about trees, blue sky and fresh air that can give you a whole outlook on life. Plus, most babies will fall asleep from the motion of a pram, so you can get a nap in for baby and some time for you. Win win!
These are a few of my favourite tips for new mamas to help with their wellbeing. What are some other tips you have that you would share with a new mum?