To all the new mamas – you’re amazing. You put so much love and time and care meeting the round-the-clock needs and demands of the new tiny human you’ve created, giving up (lots of) sleep along the way.
In doing so it’s all too easy to put your own needs to the back of the queue. Carving out little bits of time to look after yourself too is really important and could actually make both you and your baby happier.
Try these tips for new mums to keep yourself balanced and happy.
Self-care is important for maternal mental health
From the very first moment you hold your newborn baby in your arms your whole world and your place within it changes forever. That is the moment when you go from being a woman to being a mum.
It’s life changing in a profound way but especially in the first few weeks and months, in a very practical way too. Your sleep is interrupted as you get up time and time again to feed your newborn. By lunchtime your baby can be fed and changed and dressed in freshly laundered clothes but you’ve not had the chance to grab a shower. By 3pm you can still be in your pyjamas, having eaten only half a slice of cold toast.
As for making any time at all to do things JUST for you – well – that all seems to have become a distant memory. It may seem impossible but the best way to stay happy and healthy as you transition into your new role as a mum, is to make a little time for self-care.
These tips for new mums can help you reset the balance and remember a little bit who you are as a woman as well as a mum. After all it’s true what they say that a happy mum makes a happy baby!
Sleep when baby sleeps
This is one of the most common (and possibly the most confusing) tips for new mums. It’s well-meaning but if you nodded off every time your baby took a nap then how on earth would you get any time to do anything else?
There are always a heap of household chores that you need to get done just to feel more on top of things. You might just want to take the time to grab a hot cuppa, to phone a friend or to just sit and curl up for a while. Often, even though you’re exhausted, you’re too wired to just fall asleep every time your baby does.
If you DO manage to grab a nap, then it’s a win, but don’t stress if you don’t.
Escape those four walls
Looking after a newborn means that you will probably spend vast swathes of time cocooned indoors. Especially in the first weeks things are so much easier at home, where you have everything at hand to feed, change and entertain your baby.
After a while though, it can easily feel like the four walls are closing in. If you can escape into the big wide world it can make you feel a lot more human.
Our tips for new mums include making it a priority to get out of the house each day, even if it’s just to walk your baby around the block in the pram. The fresh air and change of scene will do you the world of good.
If you can plan your walk so that there is a café at the end of it then all the better. You can then pop in once your baby has fallen asleep and treat yourself to a cuppa and a slice of cake that you can enjoy without interruptions!
Snap up any offers of help
Family members, lovely friends and your partner will no doubt offer to look after your baby for a while to give you a break. It’s not always easy to accept offers of help, especially if you worry that your baby will need you when you are not around.
DO take up any offers of help and support and use them to take a little time out for you. Even if it’s only half an hour to head out for a walk by yourself or to have a lie down, or an hour to go to a yoga or craft class once a week. Accepting help is one of our most important tips for new mums. Your baby will survive (and thrive) for a short time without you.
Chances are, you will feel a whole lot better for getting a bit of time just for you and will feel re-energised when you return to your mummy duties.
Oh – and if nobody offers – ask!
Find your mum tribe
It can be lonely looking after a newborn. If you can find one (or two or three) other mums with babies the same age, that you really connect with it can make all the difference.
Perhaps you have a friend or relative who has recently had a baby. Maybe you’ve met some mums in your local NCT classes. If so get in touch and make some time to meet up with them and with the babies. You can go for a quick coffee or walk and you can chat and exchange tips with each other.
If there is no one that you already know then meeting other mums can feel as daunting as online dating. You have to be brave and put yourself out there. Sometimes you have to meet a lot of mums before you find the ones you feel a connection with. If you’re shy and introverted then it’s scarier still. But, one thing’s for sure, you won’t meet other mums by hiding within the safe four walls of your home. So find out where your local baby groups meet, be brave and go along. You could also go online and see if you can find local mums or local meet-a-mum groups.
If you feel shy about meeting mums face-to-face, then you can get a lot of support online by posting in forums and start to gain confidence in speaking to other mums and building a support network.
Give yourself a break
One of the hardest adjustments after having a baby is how little free time you have to do your usual jobs.
The cooking, cleaning, organising life in general, and any bits and pieces of work that you were hoping to get done, become difficult or impossible to keep up with. If you try to do everything that you did before having a baby, you could end up stressed and exasperated. Caring for a newborn is a full time job on its own and they rarely sleep like clockwork!
So take it easy on yourself. See what chores you can eliminate for the next month or two and only do those that are strictly necessary.
You could also think about whether there is anything that you could change that might save you time. For example if you are bottle-feeding but you’re struggling with all the bottle washing and sterilising every day, maybe consider getting disposable bottles that you can throw out after each use.
If cooking every day is becoming stressful to manage, see if your partner or relatives can help out with the meals. Alternatively you could look up some 5 minute express meals and enjoy those for a few weeks.
By lowering your expectations of yourself, you will be more relaxed and ready to enjoy this magical (albeit sleep-deprived) time with your baby.
Happy mamas make happy babies!
Follow these tips for new mums to help you adjust your life around the demands of your new little miracle, while also feeling sane yourself.
Remember that it’s not selfish to make yourself a priority.
What to do if you feel like you’re struggling
If you are feeling exhausted, down and anxious and just not at all like you then remember that it’s OK to not feel OK but it’s also really important to ask for help. Many women feel tearful and anxious in the first week or so after birth, but if your feelings last longer or don’t go away then you could have postnatal depression. Don’t struggle alone and hope your feelings will just go away. Speak to your health visitor or GP as soon as possible so you can get the support you need. Find out more about the signs and symptoms of postnatal depression here.