Having a new baby is a joy but can also be stressful. You are learning how to care for your baby and adjusting to this new way of life. It can be a lot, emotionally and physically. Often moms are so focused on their babies and getting through each day that they forget to take care of themselves.
Getting rest when possible, eating healthy foods, and taking some time for themselves helps new moms regain energy and strength. In turn, they are better able to care for—and enjoy—their new baby.
Since babies often wake up every 2-3 hours to be fed and changed, it's no surprise moms get tired quickly! Here are some good ways to get more rest:
- Sleep when your baby sleeps. It's tempting to use your baby's naps to catch up with chores, but sometimes getting rest is more important. Set an alarm if you're worried about sleeping too long.
- Go to bed early. Try to go to bed really early a few days a week.
- Share the nights. Ask your partner, mom, sister, or other family members to help. For example, they can change diapers or put your baby back to sleep for you.
- Ask friends and family for extra support. Try asking a friend or family member to come sit with your baby while you have a nap. Or see if a friend or relative could stay with you for a few days so you can get more sleep. They can also help with chores and errands.
- Exercise. Exercising is probably the last thing you feel like doing! But, once your doctor says it's okay, regular exercise can help you feel less tired. Try to get out for a walk every day with your baby, even if it's just around the block. You can also fit several 10-minute mini-workouts in your day. Try doing jumping jacks, sit ups, or pushups, or you can jog in place, jump rope, or lift weights.
- Try relaxation techniques. As little as 5-10 minutes of deep relaxation may help you feel refreshed. Try a bubble bath, deep breathing, meditation or massage. You can learn relaxation techniques online, download relaxation apps to your phone, or go to the library for books or DVDs.
Remember, this phase when baby wakes several times a night won't last forever. As your baby gets older, they will sleep for longer stretches, and you will, too!
While there is no special diet to follow when breastfeeding, it's important to focus on making healthy food choices. Here are a few tips:
- Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
- Make at least half your grains whole grains.
- Move to low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt, or cheese.
- Vary your proteins.
- You need more fluids while you are breastfeeding. Be sure to drink enough water to quench your thirst.
Mental and Emotional Health
After having your baby, you may feel sad, worried, and overwhelmed for a few days. Lots of new moms have these feelings after giving birth. Changing hormones, anxiety about caring for your baby, and a lack of sleep all affect your emotions.
Go easy on yourself. These feelings are normal and usually go away in a week or two. If your feelings are extreme or interfere with your ability to care for your baby and yourself, talk to your doctor. You can also call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or find help and other resources online.
Here are other ways to take care of yourself:
- "Me time." Taking care of a baby 24/7 is challenging. Rest when you can, eat healthy, and squeeze in some time for yourself.
- Talk to someone. Talking to your partner, friend, or family member lets you express your feelings and can help you feel better.
- Connect with other moms. WIC peer counselors can give you support and talk to you about your ups and downs. They may be able to connect you with other moms who can share their similar experiences and cheer you on.
- Accept help and do less. Don't be afraid to ask others for help. They can care for your baby, do chores around the house, or run errands. That way you can rest or spend time on yourself. If chores don't get done, that's okay, too. Time spent caring for yourself and your baby is more important than a perfect house.
- Go outside. Sunshine and a change of scenery can help brighten your mood. You can walk with your baby in a stroller, so you both can enjoy some fresh air.
- Do something you enjoy. Take a few minutes each day to do something you enjoy, whether it's chatting with a friend, listening to music, or watching a favorite show.
- Be realistic. Don't worry about being perfect. Just do what you can and leave the rest for later.