How to: Maintain a healthier diet
In theory, eating well sounds like a great plan. Fresh fruits and veggies are delicious—why wouldn’t they be your go-to snack of choice? Well, their short shelf life definitely puts them at a disadvantage in a new mom’s diet (those grocery trips are suddenly few and far between), and honestly, it’s just a lot easier to grab a bag of chips than it is to slice up a melon. But that doesn’t mean you should give up hope of a well-balanced diet—small steps can make a big difference.
1. Plan your meals. Take a little time to come up with a meal plan for the week (or the month), and make your grocery list accordingly. Eating from a set menu takes the guesswork out of what you’re going to have for any given meal (which often leads to poor choices) and helps you stay on track so your entire family can benefit from a balanced, healthy diet.
2. Don’t graze. You eat a lot more when you don’t take the time to sit down and have a meal. Whether you opt for three meals a day or prefer more mini-meals to keep your metabolism going, make sure you take the time to stop what you’re doing and eat so your day doesn’t consist of an endless parade of snacking.
3. Make a day of it. Dedicate one day a week to getting your family’s food needs in order for the next seven days. (Sunday is a popular choice.) You may want to prepare meals for each day of the week and freeze them, so all you have to do is pop them in the oven when the time comes. Packaging healthy snacks—think carrots and grapes—into small, single-serving-size baggies or containers makes it easier to grab a nutritious choice.
How to: Get more sleep
What new mom isn’t exhausted? Give yourself a break and use these tips for getting a little shut-eye.
1. Accept help. If your partner offers to get up with the baby at night, let him. If your neighbor says she’d be happy to mind your little one for a few hours so you can grab a nap, take her up on it. A well-rested mom is a happy mom, so never turn down an opportunity to snooze. And if nobody’s offering any help? Ask for it!
2. Turn to a baby expert. Books advising parents on baby sleep methods abound. Different methods work for different families, so before you add Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems by Dr. Ferber to your Amazon cart, make sure you’re comfortable with the idea of your baby shedding some tears in her bed. If you’re looking for a more baby-friendly approach (read: less hysterical crying), you might want to opt for a choice like The Baby Sleep Book by Dr. Sears. Do a little investigative work and read parent reviews of different methods before settling on the one you think will best suit your family. If the first strategy you attempt doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to keep trying—all children learn to sleep through the night at some point!
3. Try co-sleeping. By co-sleeping, we do not mean sleeping with your baby in your bed. The safest method of co-sleeping—and the one recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics —is putting your baby to sleep on a separate surface, such as a co-sleeping unit or bassinet, in the same room as mom and dad. Many parents find that they’re able to respond to their infants’ needs during the night but still get some rest when they share a room. And quite frankly, many of us just rest easier knowing our babies are nearby.
How to: Spend time with baby
How exactly do you bond with someone who does nothing other than eat, sleep, poop and cry? It’s all about spending time getting to know the little person that she is.
1. Turn off the TV. Spend a little quiet time snuggling with your baby without the noise and drama of the news in the background. If you’re the kind of person who just can’t stand a deathly quiet house, play soft music during the times you’ve dedicated to baby bonding.
2. Get on her level. To better connect with your baby, get to know the world from her point of view. Imagine how you would feel if you were thrust into this loud, bright world unexpectedly, fresh from the cozy warmness of a mother’s womb. Recreate feelings of security by swaddling and cuddling, and slowly introduce your tiny babe to all the wonderful things this new life has to offer.
3. Talk like she knows what you’re saying. Granted, your baby might not understand a thing about the importance of folding daddy’s work shirts just so. But she’ll no doubt appreciate the commentary as you talk to her about all the little things you do throughout the day. The sound of your voice is soothing, and the more you talk, the more you teach. You will be surprised with what your baby will pick up from a one-way conversation. And when you’re stuck at home all day with an infant, it’s nice to have somebody to talk to … even if she won’t be talking back anytime soon.
How to: Connect with your hubby
It’s likely that the guy in your life has taken a backseat to your new arrival. Here are some tips for reconnecting with the person that got you into this mess in the first place.
1. Schedule date night. It’s important to spend some time with your partner sans baby, and sometimes putting it on the calendar is the only way to make it happen. Whether it’s a couple hours a week or a day away once a month, set aside a little bit of time for the guy in your life. (And yes, we know it’s terrifying to leave your little one with someone else, but she’ll be fine.)
2. Talk about something other than the baby. If your kiddo’s bowel movements have become a common topic of dinner conversation at your house, it’s time to broaden your focus. As hard as it might be—after all, your world consists of all things baby at the moment—try to chat about things that don’t have anything to do with the fact that you’re now parents.
3. Have sex. At first, you might not feel like it (and you definitely shouldn’t do it until you’re healed from labor and delivery), but eventually, rekindling your sex life is a necessary step in connecting with your partner. Intimacy is an important part of any relationship, and you might be surprised by how happy it makes you to be back in the game. (Less of a surprise: Your guy will be really happy also.)