Self-care for New Moms

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Does the term “self-care” make you cringe? Does it seem a bit lofty? Idealistic, maybe? 

For me, it inspires a bit of guilt and cynicism. Try as I might, I can’t seem to find time to fit in any kind of special pampering. In the trenches with a newborn, it can feel all but impossible to carve out the time (or even the energy!) for a bubble bath, a trip to the salon, or a night out with friends. 

Especially when it involves leaving the baby at home while you go out, you first have to clear the hurdle of getting someone else to watch and feed the baby, or put the baby down for a nap. But even when I do find time to get away, the payoff always feels so fleeting to me. The effect doesn’t last, and I’m back to survival mode the very next day.

So yes, when I see yet another self-care list consisting mostly of small indulgences or an escape from the messy chaos at home, I feel a bit guilty because I hear you say those things are supposed to be good for me but, let’s be honest, I am not going to do those things. And I feel a bit cynical because I suspect that if I really want to feel better, I’m not going to get there with a glass of wine after dinner or getting my nails done at the fancy place downtown.

A different take on self-care

What I’m after is self-care that lasts. I need something to calm my frazzled nerves, refresh my weary spirit, and heal my achy body (at least for a little while!) As a new mom, I want time spent on me to be transformative and make a lasting difference in my experience of motherhood.

Are you as ready as I am to go beyond quick fixes and indulge in some serious self-care that lasts? It's not very sexy and sometimes takes a huge helping of self discipline but the payoff is so worth it!

Here are some ideas for meaningful self-care that lasts that you can start putting into practice today!

When you only have 5 minutes for self-care:

  1. Just breathe. Set a timer, sit, lounge, or lay down. Rest your eyes on something pleasing in your environment. Take a deep breath. Count to 5. Release slowly. Take another deep breath. Count. Release. Take an even deeper breath. Hold, and release. 3 big breaths in, and you’re on your way. Just rest and be grateful for your breathing body for a few minutes.

  2. Have a drink of water. Get up. Take a long, winding path to the cups and glasses. Grab your favorite one, fill it all the way up with cold water. Sit, and drink it. Try not to multitask. Just drink your water.

  3. Dance. Find that song that always gets you going, give yourself a little room, put it on, and turn it up just a little louder than usual. Let that music move you and go ahead and sing along and watch your mood improve!

When you’re ready to give yourself an hour for self-care:

  1. Get moving. Go for a long walk out in nature, or in the city if that’s where you are. Bring the baby! Or don’t! Find a YouTube video of gentle yoga for postpartum women and get back on your mat. Warm up. Stretch. Be grateful for your amazing body!

  2. Reflect. Grab your journal, light a candle if you want, and get your thoughts onto paper. How is your body feeling these days? How is your mood? What is hard about this stage? Who are you so very grateful for and why? What went better than expected this week? Explain in detail. Dwell on all that has gone well with your baby so far! 

  3. Get together with someone who gets you. Take some time to cuddle with someone you love. Just rest together. Or have a close friend over. Maybe they can bring the coffee to fuel your conversation. Connect with someone important to you. Share your heart. Accept any offers for help.

Ready for the deeper work of self-care that lasts? See how many of these you can manage every week!

  1. Take care of your body. If you’re sitting on a referral for follow-up care ever since having your baby, make your appointment already! It’s time! Go get the proper diagnosis and start the treatment. See the specialist, go do your physical therapy, get your hormones tested, sit down with your counselor.

    Or even if this is the part where you know you would feel so much better if you could just get a proper haircut, a nice long massage, some fancy nails, or a shopping trip on your own, make it so! If you have the means, make the time and put yourself and your healing first! You really do deserve it!

  2. Say what you mean. If you know you’re prone to trying to please others ahead of yourself and find yourself saying, “Sure! I’ll come along” when you wish you could say “No thanks! I’d rather stay here and rest.”  or “No, thanks, I don’t need another piece” when you’d really rather say “Yes, please! I’d love another” then consider it a powerful act of meaningful self-care to just say what you mean at least once per day!

    If your day would go so much better if you could just get a shower in the morning, sit down with a coffee, get some quiet time by yourself, or get a hand with the laundry, tell your partner that these things are important. Don’t keep letting little things like this go. If they matter to you, be true to you and honor yourself and your desires by saying what you mean and doing what you’d like, already! You deserve this, too.

  3. Talk gently to yourself. Easier said than done, right? Well, one of the biggest ah-ha! moments I had in counseling this last year was that I can be really hard on myself. I mean, my inner-me runs a super tight ship and expects me to stick with some pretty high standards. Especially with a baby in the house when everything feels kind of out of control, I want to impose order and efficiency.

    Aspirational? Of course! Ambitious? Sure! Unrealistic? Most of the time, yeah! “So,” my counselor said, “go easier on yourself! Talk more gently to yourself!” But the way we achieved that in the end, was to direct my self-talk to my precious, wonderful 10-year-old self, instead.

    And what I found was that I am much more gracious, realistic, and forgiving when I remember that I am as precious today as I was when I was 10, and I deserve just as much gentleness today as I did then. And so do you! You totally deserve it, so do try to go easier on yourself!

In the practice of lovingly pouring all our energy into mothering our newborns and caring for this family we’ve created, we need to try to carve out time and space for ourselves as well, even if it starts with a few 5-minute blocks at a time. And if it feels awkward or selfish to put your preferences first some of the time, don’t give up! It gets easier with practice. Wouldn’t you tell your 10-year-old self she matters too? Because, dear friend, you really, really do!

Before you go, I’d love to hear what your favorite kind of self-care is! What do you do for yourself that makes you feel refreshed and back in business?