As a new mama, you may feel the need to become a martyr to the cause of Motherhood– running ragged from no sleep, skipping showers for days on end, and jumping to attention at every baby sigh and cry. Yes, your baby needs constant care and attention, but so do you! Your physical and emotional health matter, and if you start neglecting your personal needs, you will see that lack of self-care unleasantly manifest in other parts of your life. Take care of yourself. You matter.
(Not a new mama? Share these tips with a mom-to-be!)
You need your Zzz’s. Take them while you can! A quick cat nap here and there while baby is sleeping will do wonders. You’re probably going to be up every 1-3 hours during the night; so take advantage of the daytime naps when possible. (And student mamas, remember that Title IX allows for excused absences when recovering from childbirth.)
No, I’m not kidding. Shower. I’ve heard this over and over again from new and veteran moms who lament that they are regularly skipping out on that sprinkle of bliss and solitude. Ladies, take back your shower time! If you have a newborn, that baby is going to be napping regularly throughout the day. Put her in a safe sleeping spot like her bassinet or crib, and take 5-15 minutes to refresh. If you have a baby monitor, bring it in the bathroom and turn up the volume, or simply set a timer on your phone to make sure that you are in and out in a reasonable time. If you feel nervous about leaving your baby out-of-sight, place her in a secure carseat, bassinet, or bouncer in the bathroom. It’s okay if she wakes up and cries. She’s within sight, and you will be with her in a moment.
#3: Get out
Whether it’s a quick trip to grab a coffee or a light stroll around campus, get out of your dorm or apartment. Fresh air and the company of others will do wonders. Text a friend to meet up for a cup of coffee or some other sweet treat. You may have only 20-30 minutes, but it will be a nice break seeing another adult. It may feel overwhelming at first, but you will get the hang of it. Pack up that sweet baby, and go!
#4: Treat yourself
The first few weeks and months of that post-baby body are awkward and sometimes discouraging. It took 9 months for that baby to stretch you out; so it’s going to take some time to adjust. In the meantime, it can help to treat yourself to a little beauty pick-me-up. Take 5-10 minutes to put on fresh make-up. (You are gorgeous, Mama!) Go out and buy a couple new outfits that you feel beautiful and confident in. Ask your partner or family member to watch the baby to go get a hair cut.
#5: Let others help you
You do not have to be supermom. You just have to be mom. Loving, caring mom. No superpowers required. If your friends or family offer to bring food, accept it. If they offer to hold that delightfully screaming baby, let them. If they say “Go out I can watch the baby.”– go. You are allowed a break. You don’t have to do this alone. (Hint: If you have a Students for Life group on campus, they may be available to babysit for free.)
#6: Make the time
So you may be looking at #1-5 and thinking “Yup. Nope. Not happening!” And I don’t blame you. Sleeping?!!? Showering!?! GOING OUT!?! It sounds too good to be true! Now, hold your eye roll for a moment, and let me tell you this– It is possible. (*gasp*) Like most things, it’s all about prioritizing your time and embracing realistic expectations and outcomes. You can shower. You can put on make up. You can go out for a quick treat or even a whole meal if you make the time and commit to doing it. Baby may cry. Maybe she’ll poop all over that cute tutu. Maybe you’ll end up sitting in your car in a parking lot hugging your fresh cup of coffee while baby sleeps in the backseat. Allow yourself the time to do the little things that make you feel like “you” again.
#7: Trust your instincts
By now, you’ve probably witnessed or experienced the ever dreaded “mommy wars.” These battles of petty and sometimes downright mean comments about others’ parenting decisions can be a real killjoy! It’s funny how everyone seems to ha
ve something to say– even the non-parents! Trust yourself. Don’t become consumed and worried over others’ criticism. You know what is right for you and your baby, and you (more than anyone) will be able to pick up on your baby’s signs and needs. If you’re not sure or doubting yourself, ask your doctor or pediatrician, your mom, or even another mom for advice. Go online or pick up a parenting book. Pause. Take a deep breath. You’ll do fine.
This post was contributed by Beth Rahal, Pregnant on Campus Coordinator. The images used in this post are the property of Beth Rahal. If you would like to contribute to the Pregnant on Campus website blog, email Beth at firstname.lastname@example.org.