I’m just going to say it: self-care is absolutely essential for a new mom with a newborn baby.
Bringing home a baby for the very first time is an experience like no other.
It’s wonderful – your home is now a family home, where millions of memories, big and small, are about to unfold.
It’s scary – you’ve never in your life had such a vulnerable little person be so dependent on you.
It’s beautiful – you’re learning to love in a new, fierce way.
And it’s exhausting – nothing can prepare you for it.
Those first few weeks at home with your newborn will be surreal. You may not even remember most of this time when you try to recall it months later. And yes, your baby will never need your care and attention more than that very first day – but do you know who else will be in desperate need of serious care that day?
Though you will be tempted to just crawl under the covers and sleep in between each painstakingly long feeding session, there are a few simple self-care rituals that you can – and should – do for yourself in those early weeks with a newborn.
I still remember that shell-shocked feeling of bringing Jackson home. I was so sore from my emergency cesarian, so disappointed that we hadn’t finished our nursery renovation in time (I was induced at 38 weeks due to pre-eclampsia, but had been planning on making it to 41 weeks!), and I was adjusting to my brand-new sleep-deprived state. Most of all, I was so scared for this tiny, vulnerable slip of a thing in the cot at the end of our bed.
Like most new mothers, I simply went into survival mode. I walked around my home like a zombie, I hardly ate, I chose sleep over showering. When I look back at that time, I can only remember snippets – the garlicky smell of the spaghetti bolognese my best friend made for us, the Spring sunshine filtering through the living room window and dancing on the freshly washed baby clothes on the airer, the episodes of How I Met Your Mother we binged while I suffered through long, and unbeknownst-to-me fruitless breastfeeds, and hearing our dogs snuffling outside our bedroom door and wondering how on earth I would ever have it in me to give them attention again.
My focus was on caring for my newborn – that was it. He was totally vulnerable and needy – and I was simply a vessel for those needs being met.
If I could go back to that time, I would strive for a slightly different balance. One in which I met a few more of my own needs without taking away from his.
I wish I had considered the idea of self-care as a new mom of a newborn baby.
Feeling a bit stronger in myself may have helped my physical healing from the cesarian. It may have helped our feeding issues and my lack of milk supply. It certainly would have helped me cope emotionally with my sleep deprivation. And maybe I would have some stronger memories from that precious, once-in-a-lifetime season with my first baby.
Self-care can truly be the difference between surviving and thriving in the first few weeks with a newborn.
If you are (or are about to become) a first-time mom, make sure you understand how to care for yourself in those early weeks. Self-care for new moms is absolutely essential. It isn’t selfish to implement a few sanity-saving measures. It doesn’t mean that your baby is any less important to you. It simply means you’re striving to be healthy, capable, and mentally strong in one of the strangest seasons of your life.
Self Care Tips For New Moms
1. Eat something warm – regularly
You may be in the throes of breastfeeding super-hunger, or food may be the last thing on your mind. Either way, a couple of rice crackers snatched on your way back to bed will not suffice. Now, more than ever, your body needs fuel. A bowl of porridge with a cup of tea, re-heated pumpkin soup with some apple juice, Chinese take-out with a tall glass of water – at least once each day, resist the urge to pass out on the couch, and get something warm in your body. Need some simple dinner ideas? Check out my big list of quick and easy weeknight dinners.
2. Drink a ton of water
If you’re breastfeeding, you’ll probably have an unquenchable thirst and wouldn’t dream of being without your water bottle. But whether or not you’re breastfeeding, water is such an important (and easy!) self-care measure to implement. Staying hydrated when your body is healing from a birth/cesarian, as well as adjusting to sleep deprivation, is absolutely essential. Plus – smashing that water is simply one of the easiest strategies of self-care for new moms.
3. Take a hot shower with an amazing soap
Again, it’s tempting to skip a shower altogether when you’re on a strict 3-hourly feeding schedule and feeding the baby takes 1.5 hours of that time. But it will make you feel more human if, before crawling back under the covers for an hour before the cycle starts again, you take a few minutes to stand under the hot water, lather up with some delicious soap, wrap yourself in a soft towel, and dress in fresh, clean pajamas.
4. Set up a ‘feeding nest’
Whether you’re breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, newborn babies feed very slowly in the first few days until they get the hang of it. You’re going to want to be comfortable. Whether that means binge-watching Netflix, reading a Kindle or listening to music, take a few minutes to set yourself up a designated space for feeding. Have snacks and water (SO. MUCH. WATER.) within reach, stockpile a bunch of pillows and cushions, and keep the space free of unnecessary clutter.
5. Banish most visitors in the first couple of days
There is going to be plenty of time for friends and family to meet your precious new baby. The first day or two at home isn’t that time, unless it’s your Mom or sister popping in to wash the dishes or drop off some groceries. Social interaction and sleep deprivation will be a draining combination for you, plus newborns can get overstimulated if they’re being handed off to an endless stream of visitors for cuddles. Wait until things are settled in a few days or even a couple of weeks before inviting your friends over.
6. Have a clear idea of how you want to handle guests
Once the first couple of days have passed, and you want to start considering bringing guests into your home, be clear about what that will look like. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries, such as:
- How long are you comfortable with guests staying for?
- Are you comfortable with guests holding the baby?
- Would you prefer your guests don’t bring their children?
- Have you requested that guests are up-to-date with their vaccinations prior to visiting?
- Will your guests be willing to do something to help, such as hang a load of laundry or wash some dishes?
How you handle guests is up to you – just ensure it’s on your terms. The last thing you need is people pouring into your home and adding to any feelings of overwhelm.
7. Stay off your phone
Once all your feeding alarms are set, put the phone down. We all know what time-suckers our phones can be – there’s no such thing as a quick 30-second scroll through Facebook, or a nonchalant glance at Pinterest. Take a social media hiatus, leave your texting for another day, and avoid Googling anything baby-related. Your brain doesn’t need that extra noise, plus staring at a screen actually reduces our sleep quality – and you need all the quality Z’s you can get.
8. Be clear with your husband about how he can support you
Your husband is probably going to be overwhelmed and uncertain about your needs at this time, so be sure to keep him in the loop. I have a terrible problem of internalizing my thoughts and expecting Chris to read my mind – don’t be like me!! Your husband is no doubt willing to be there for you in any way he can – so ask. He can warm up food and make cups of tea. He can change nappies and cuddle the baby while you shower. He can take your phone and reply to messages on your behalf. He can do so many things to support you – but he might not think of all of them himself. Just ask!
9. Get out of the house (and not just for a doctor’s appointment!)
Seems crazy. Feels impossible. Totally necessary, though. Your home might feel like a sanctuary, but it can also be secretly stifling and cave-like if you spend too much uninterrupted time in it. Get yourself and your baby out of the house – even just to sit on a park bench with a takeaway coffee for twenty minutes. Yes, packing that baby bag the first couple of times is intimidating, and it can feel downright scary to leave the house with your unpredictable little baby, but that’s exactly why you should do it. The sooner you can get yourself out of the house with your baby, the more empowering it will be for you. You’ll see that you’ve totally got this – and you’ll get in a little fresh air too.