Motherhood can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to let it get the best of you. Follow these seven steps to find some balance, maintain your sanity and keep on smiling in your new role as mom.
1. Take time to recover from labor and delivery.
Many moms are eager to get back at it following the birth of baby, but it’s important to give your body time to heal before you start tackling those piles of laundry or trying to lose the baby weight. “Even after a ‘quick and easy’ delivery, allowing your- self time to recover is important,” reminds Jennifer Lincoln, MD, an OB/GYN at Bundoo, a physician-run online parenting resource.
It’s not only important for your physical well-being, Lincoln points out: “Emotionally you are adjusting, too, so it’s important to give yourself the time and space to settle into your new role.” She recommends lowering your housekeeping expectations, getting as much sleep as you can and listening to your body’s cues for how much is too much. Not overdoing it will actually allow you to heal more quickly, meaning you’ll be back in the swing of things faster than you’ll be if you try to sneak in a jog before you’re ready.
While recovery time varies from woman to woman and birth to birth, most moms are able to resume light household chores within a week or so (perhaps longer if they’ve had a C-section), and some are even able to begin light exercise, such as walking, after only a few weeks. However, full recovery takes at least six weeks, and you should use that time to enjoy the rest. It’s full speed ahead from there!
It’s no secret that nursing your babe provides her with a wealth of benefits, but did you know it’s also good for you? Moms who nurse run less risk of suffering from postpartum depression, have increased protection against certain types of cancer and enjoy the benefits of prolactin, the milk-making hormone that is reported to have a calming effect on mothers.
Breastfeeding also makes your life easier in other ways. Although it can be tricky in the beginning, once you’ve mastered the art, nursing is the easiest thing in the world. There’s no preparing bottles or calculating how many you’ll need for a day out; baby’s food is always warm and readily available; and it’s extremely cost-effective. If you need a break every once in a while, it’s perfectly OK to pass baby off to your partner for an expressed meal, although some experts recommend holding off on introducing the bottle until breastfeeding is well-established.
3. Embrace the calm.
Life with a baby can be surprisingly quiet. You might not be as tempted to flip on the TV or scroll through your Instagram feed when a wee one is rocking in your arms— and that’s a good thing. A little peace and quiet is good for the soul. In a world that’s buzzing with constant stimulation, being alone with our thoughts—and our babies— can offer moments of peace and clarity that are much needed during the early days of parenthood.
Your baby will also thrive in a calm, peaceful environment. Quiet one-on-one time will give the two of you an opportunity to truly bond, which will provide long- term benefits for your baby, boosting everything from her self-esteem to sense of security. On your end, bonding will help you feel more in tune with your little one’s wants and needs, making you more comfortable and confident in your new role as mom. Also, snuggling with and gazing into your baby’s eyes unleashes the feel-good hormone oxytocin, which will leave you riding an emotional high—and it won’t come crashing down when the moment is over. The connection will simply grow stronger each time.
4. Stick with your healthy eating habits.
You likely adopted a good-for-you diet during pregnancy to make sure your baby was getting the best start possible. Now that she’s arrived, keep eating those fruits and veggies! If you’re nursing, it’s especially important to fuel your milk supply with what your baby needs, but even if you aren’t, staying healthy is imperative for your own well-being.
Busy days with a new baby aren’t ideal for meal planning and market shopping, but try to plan ahead to avoid reaching for a bag of chips every time hunger strikes. For the first few weeks, you’ll likely rely on the kindness of others and any meals you froze while still expecting. Once you’re able to get out and do your own shopping, stock up on easy, healthful foods, and spend a couple of hours on the weekend preparing your eats for the week. Grill a few chicken breasts that you can chop up into a salad or eat with a side of veggies; prepare snack-size portions of fresh fruits and raw vegetables; create a few salad-in- a-jar concoctions that you can simply toss and top off with dressing for lunch. The idea is to make wise choices just as accessible as poor ones.
Eating right gives you more energy, boosts your brain for full functioning capability and kick-starts your postbaby weight loss plan. Although it can take months to lose the pregnancy pounds, sticking to or adopting healthy habits post- delivery is key to getting you on the right track. Keep in mind that skipping meals— whether you mean to or not—will have a negative impact. So, eat at least three times a day, even if you have to set your phone alarm to remind you to grab a sandwich.
5. Get some rest.
It might be some months yet before you begin sleeping through the night, but it’s important to get as many Zs as you can, when you can. That means catnapping during the day (you’ve heard it before: Sleep when the baby sleeps!) and crawling into bed early more nights than not. “The sleep deprivation that comes with having a newborn can make getting through the day hard,” attests Lincoln.
If you absolutely can’t get any shuteye during the day, do your best to rest as much as possible. If you’re a working mom, you might need to stretch out on the couch and do nothing for a little bit when you get home. That’s OK! Every body and soul needs time to relax, and a break will recharge you and make it easier for you to conquer the evening routine: dinner, bath, snuggles and preparing for the next day. Don’t feel bad about napping or resting during the day when you need to. You’ll be a better parent for it when you get up.
6. Breathe in the fresh air.
Step outside on a nice day, and you’ll feel uplifted almost instantly. Soaking up the sun is the easiest way to get your daily dose of vitamin D, which helps boost your immune system, balance your hormones and improve your sleep quality. Although catching your rays while moving (for example, taking a walk to your local park) is the best option, studies have shown that simply gazing at a natural scene activates parts of the brain associated with balance and happiness, making even a short sit on the stoop beneficial.
Need more motivation to get outdoors? A 2011 study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that people who walked outdoors rather than on an indoor treadmill moved at a faster pace, perceived less exertion and experienced more positive emotions. So, if you’re just reintroducing exercise, stroll the neighborhood with your babe a few days a week rather than hitting the gym.
7. Keep it all in perspective.
In the world of parenting, some days are better than others. On the days that you’re desperate for a shower, your teething baby is miserable, and you just don’t think you can survive another sleepless night, try to remember that this too shall pass. Bad days don’t last forever.
Unfortunately, good days don’t last forever either, so take the time to truly enjoy your baby, soaking up her sweet coos and gummy smiles as they come. It’s normal to have ups and downs, so don’t be too hard on yourself when you’re not feeling on your game. If you expect full-time perfection, you’re going to be disappointed. The best way to stay grounded is to keep your expectations realistic. You don’t have to be a supermom. Your baby loves you just because you’re you—and it’s best for both you and babe if you can be your happiest, best self every day.