11 Sep 4 Things I Would Do Differently After Having a Baby
As the mother of two children, I can say with certainty that I am done having babies; our family is complete! I look back on those first few months after having each of my children with a feeling of nostalgia and a slight fogginess, caused by the exhaustion and overwhelm every mom feels during this magical time. Though I look back with clear gratitude and joy, there are four things I would do differently if I could. They are not earth shattering or monumental changes, but they are important and would definitely have enhanced my well-being during those beautiful and sometimes challenging early months.
It’s easy to forget to take care of yourself during this time because you are so focused on caring for your new baby; but self-care has never been more important. So, I thought I would share these four tips for other moms as they enter the post-partum months. Whether you’re a first time mom or having your fifth baby, these tips will help you make the most of each day and help you feel your best physically and mentally. By making self-care a priority you are giving your new baby and other children, if you have them, the best possible gift: A happy, healthy mama!
I Would Sleep More:I know, I hated hearing this one too, in fact I ignored it completely. I was told repeatedly by friends, relatives and nearly every parenting book to, “Sleep when the baby sleeps during the day.” The trouble was, I didn’t want to sleep when the baby slept, I wanted to read, drink coffee, and surf the internet while the baby slept. I didn’t want to sleep during that time because I knew it was my only chance to feel like myself again, at least for an hour or so. Don’t misunderstand me, checking in with and having time for yourself, is a very important and necessary part of self-care during the early months. However, looking back I can say with absolute certainty, I needed the extra sleep more. Self-care sometimes means doing things you don’t really want to because they’re good for you and will ultimately benefit you and those closest to you. For me this thing was sleep.
When bedtime rolled around, the same inner battle arose of knowing I should go to bed when the baby did, but not wanting to. I wanted to stay up with my husband, watch Netflix, eat yummy food and, you guessed it, feel like an adult again. This time with another adult friend to chat with! Again, I wish I would have just gone to bed. Those exhausting early months don’t last long and there were too many days that I didn’t feel good because I was overtired. There are so many things you can’t control in parenthood; like when your baby gets sick and you’re suddenly thrown into fear mode, or when they start teething and can’t sleep and just want to be held constantly for comfort. Getting an extra hour or two of sleep each evening (or even just a couple times a week) creates an inner buffer zone for these challenging times, increases your well-being and makes you less grumpy. It’s also the best choice for your overall physical health. Sleep in the early months is vitally important yet so elusive. Your mind and body are exhausted and you are in a state of major transition. Grab some sleep when you can, it will tune you in to the magic more than surfing the internet will. Trust me.
I Would Establish a Mommy Support System:
Another thing I would do differently is, I’d establish a support system with other moms of young children. There are few things more comforting than chatting with a fellow mom who is fully immersed in the same crazy world as you. Finding out you’re not alone in your new world of endless diaper changes, around the clock feedings, and obsession with your new baby’s every move is priceless. Being able to talk about your everyday life with other moms helps you feel supported and grounded in a way little else can.
When my daughter was born, I didn’t know any other women who had new babies or young children. It got lonely. I also think I spent a lot more time second guessing myself than I would have if I’d had a good support system in place. It was only later when my daughter was older and I found support in a mom’s group with kids the same age, that I realized the treasure this would have been when she was younger. It’s also a wonderful way to share parenting tips, ideas and advice. Whether you’re home on maternity leave or a stay at home mom, having the opportunity to chat with other moms during this miraculous time is great for your overall health and sense of well-being.
I Would Exercise
The next thing I would do differently is, as soon as I felt physically ready and had checked with a doctor that it was okay, I would start a gentle form of exercise such as walking or postpartum yoga. The period of time right after having a baby is one of major upheaval in your mind and body. Hormones are shifting all over the place and your body is recovering from the hugely altering experience of having a baby. Though all the changes are a natural part of the postpartum period it can still feel chaotic and strange at times. Gentle exercise works as a natural medicine for your mind and body. It helps balance fluctuating hormones, relieves body soreness from the constant baby rocking and carrying and helps decrease the stress accompanied with new motherhood. Exercise also increases your immunity, physical and mental health, and resilience.
I am absolutely not talking about a strenuous “I’ve got to get my old body back, quick!” type of exercise. Not only is a post-partum body not ready for that kind of high impact exercise, but it also carries with it the message of not being okay with yourself. What I am advocating is an act of self-care; an acknowledging of the miracle your body has just achieved; and a striving to increase your well-being and lower your stress as a new mom with gentle exercise. After having both of my babies, I didn’t get back to an exercise routine until a year or two after the early months. I thought I was too tired and too busy trying to figure things out to make time for it. But the unpredictability and challenging nature of the early months is exactly why exercise is so important during this time. The boost to your well-being that it provides works in a multitude of ways to enhance your physical and mental health.
I Would Eat Better:
Eating well is especially important during the postpartum months when your body is healing and your days are full and tiring with all the new tasks you now have. What you eat and drink directly influences how efficiently you can achieve your tasks for the day and how good you’ll feel while doing them. If you are breastfeeding, what you consume becomes even more important, which I will discuss at length in a future article.
The different types of foods we currently have available to us are vast and varied. If you pay close attention when you eat, you will notice that all foods have a direct impact on how you feel either immediately after consuming them, or within an hour or so. The quality of food you eat has either a positive or negative effect on the quality of your day, depending on your choices. Foods to avoid for optimum health and well-being are, refined sugar, hydrogenated and refined oils, and all processed foods. Healthy foods to include in your diet are: Fresh fruits and vegetables, coconut and extra virgin olive oil, lean meats such as; grass fed beef and chicken and quality fish such as; wild caught salmon and sardines. It’s also important to make sure you drink enough throughout the day to stay hydrated, this becomes even more important if you are breastfeeding. Water and non-caffeinated herbal teas are your best options for keeping your body hydrated. It’s fine to have 1-2 cups of coffee and even the occasional alcoholic beverage, but remember for each caffeinated and alcoholic beverage you consume, you must replace it with one glass of water. Food and drinks act as fuel for our bodies, the better fuel you choose the better you will feel mentally and physically.
YES, SELF CARE IS KEY:
The four changes I’ve spoken about all have one thing in common, they are acts of self-care. Becoming a mom is one of, if not the biggest, changes a woman will experience in her life. Most of us enter into it having no idea what we’re doing. The physical and hormonal changes, the exhaustion, the fears, the joy, the vulnerability, the sense of empowerment, the impossible to describe unconditional love you have for your baby. Most of it is brand new to us and we stand humbled by the experience of it all. Practicing self-care is a great way to boost our happiness, wellness and resiliency. It’s also the best way to ensure that we show up as our best selves to this amazing new chapter!
What would you do differently to take care of yourself after bringing your new baby home?
About the author
Sarah Oxley is a writer, devoted student of life and lover of psychology and poetry. She is mother to two beautiful children who remind her each and every day of how to live more mindfully. She is motivated by a desire to inspire others to live their best lives and believes that life’s most important lesson is learning to be kinder to ourselves and others. Sarah is a contributor to KachyTVblog.