You’ve waited nine months for your bundle of joy to arrive and now that they’re here, motherhood — especially if this is your first time — isn’t exactly what you expected. Yes, babies smell wonderful, their little clothes are adorable and you could spend all day staring at the miracle that is your baby. But what’s also true is that you haven’t had a shower in three days and you’re so tired from lack of sleep that you don’t know how you’re even functioning right now.
As a new mom it’s normal to pour everything into your baby’s well-being. But it’s also important for you to take some time to take care of yourself — especially in the first few months when it’s easy to feel frustrated, irritated and exhausted.
The great thing is that you don’t have to spend a lot of time and money on self-care. You decide what self-care will look like for you and then set realistic goals.
Here are a few self-care ideas to get you started — with your baby in tow.
1. Sleep when your baby sleeps
This isn’t the first time you’ve heard this but there’s a reason why everyone from your mom to the stranger at the grocery store tells you this. You NEED to sleep.
Adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep a night. During this time our bodies repair muscle wear from the day and “cleans away harmful plaques and waste that are produced in the brain.” All of these processes work together to keep your mind alert and sharp.
But let’s be real for a minute, your baby probably isn’t sleeping through the night and when they do sleep it’s for short bursts of time. So chances of you getting hours of uninterrupted sleep are low.
You might be tempted to use your baby’s short breaks to do some laundry, do the dishes or put away some toys. But listen to me…those things can wait. Don’t worry about the growing stack of dishes or all of the other things on your to-do list.
Give yourself a pass — at least during the first few months of adjusting to having your little one — and take a short nap when your baby sleeps during the day. It’s amazing how a short nap can leave you feeling revitalized and ready for the rest of your day.
2. Take a shower…with your baby
When your baby wakes up in the morning (or maybe they’ve been up since 3 am and you’ve given up trying to lull them back to sleep) that’s your cue to get your day started. And from that moment on, your baby gets about 99% of your attention all day.
They get fed, bathed, played with, and much more. But what about you? When do you get a chance to do little things for yourself…like take a shower?
Let’s face it, the days when you could linger in the shower washing your hair, shaving, doing a facial and scrubbing your feet are gone…for now. Even though showers have to be quick now, there’s no need to miss a bunch in a row, you’ll feel so much more refreshed afterwards.
I remember my first shower after I got home from the hospital. I felt so much better afterwards, renewed even, and a little more like myself.
One way to make showers work when you have a baby in tow is to take your baby into the shower with you. Yes, you read that right. If they won’t nap and they want to be close to you, take them with you. Just put them in their baby bathtub in the tub with you and have your shower…maybe even wash your hair. This way you both get clean and it’s a new way to spend time together…it’s non-conventional but when it comes to showers, this method is an easy win.
Just keep an eye on your baby while you’re in the shower!
3. Drink lots of water and eat right
Eating right is an important part of staying healthy as your body recovers from childbirth. Plus, the right foods give you the energy you need to keep up with your baby. Eating right is also very important when you’re breastfeeding. Your body’s burning lots of calories as it works to produce milk so you need to eat at least 1,500 – 1,800 calories to stay healthy.
Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, grains and meats to supply your body with the nutrients it needs. Also drink lots of water to help keep your energy levels up and maintain a good milk supply.
A few self-care ideas to keep in mind are to:
- Keep a full water bottle close by during the day so that you drink up to 2.7 liters (about nine cups) every day.
- Pack snacks ahead of time so that they’re handy — instead of something sugary or salty — when you need a quick bite to eat. For example, pack snack bags filled with grapes, blueberries, crackers, almonds or cheese cubes.
- Get creative with what you drink. If you want something more than water try infusing your water with fruits, drink non-caffeinated tea like green tea or even coconut water.
- Prep meals beforehand to save you time in the kitchen. Better yet, sign up for a meal kit delivery service so that all you have to do is pick the meals you want every week, get the ingredients delivered and spend no more than 30 mins in the kitchen making something healthy and delicious.
4. Ask for help when you need it
You’re at home with your baby all day but don’t forget that you don’t have to do everything on your own. Self-care doesn’t mean that you have to do some activity on your own. It can be as simple as having someone with you to share in all of the new experiences you’re having with your baby.
Spending time with family and friends has a great way of boosting your mood and gives you a chance to have real conversations.
Another option is to think about all the things you’d like to get done and schedule some time with your family and friends so that they can help. For example, ask for help with jobs around the house or to take care of your baby.
5. Get dressed up
There’s a reason why yoga pants and t-shirts are the standard mommy uniform — they’re comfortable!
One way to pamper yourself is to try something different once in a while. I’m not talking about anything fancy but the next time you head out to a social event, the mall or grocery store, change things up a bit.
As you lose any baby weight you gained, treat yourself to something new. Maybe a new pair of jeans, top or shoes
6. Make time for a workoutI’m not talking about packing a gym bag and hitting the gym. With a new baby at home this isn’t realistic — at least not for everyone. The good news is that you can get in a workout with your baby.
Here are some fitness self-care ideas to get started:
- Go for a walk. If it’s warm outside, walk around your neighbourhood or head to a park and walk around there. Get your baby comfortable in their stroller, pack a bottle andhit the road. You can discover new neighbourhoods and try new trails every time you go out. If it’s too cold outside for long walks then head to a gym close to home with an indoor track. If they don’t allow strollers then try a carrier.
- Walk up and down the stairs in your house. You’ll get your heart rate pumping, burn calories and lose weight. Plus your baby might fall asleep from the motion if they’re in a sling or carrier. Everyone wins!
- Do some light stretching or yoga. There’s no need to head to a studio, just jump on youtube to find videos to follow while you work out. Another option is to download a yoga app like Down Dog that will let you decide how long your practice will be, areas of your body that you want to focus on and the level of difficulty.
- Use your baby. One exercise I used to do and my daughter loved was the curl-up and reverse curl. I’d lie down on the floor on my back and put her either on my tummy or legs and do ab curls to strengthen my core. She loved it because she thought it was a game and I loved it because I could workout quickly and easily.
- Sign up for a mommy fitness class. This was one of my favourites for a few reasons. It was a chance to get out, meet and connect with other moms and I got a workout specially designed for new moms. Check out your local gym or community centre. They might have classes starting soon.
- Splurge and get a fitness tracker to make sure your activity levels stay up even when you’re at home. Why not count steps as you walk around trying to calm your baby? Or count the number of times you head upstairs to get something? You’re exerting energy all the time so why not track it to see how all of that activity is contributing to your fitness. And better yet, you can compete with yourself to see if you’re walking more or burning more calories.
7. Make some time to read
If you’re a first-time mom you might have spent a lot of time reading books like “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” or “Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting” by Pamela Druckerman.
After baby arrives leisurely reading takes a backseat to everything else. I know it’s hard to find time to read but if you’re finding it hard to sleep while your baby’s napping, then use that time to read.
Read anything from fiction to your favourite blogs. The point is to learn something new, stimulate your mind and improve your memory.
Some popular books to read this year:
- Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown
- The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin
- The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
Blogs and newsletters that keep you up to date:
- Medium – “a place to read, write, and interact with the stories that matter most to you.”
- Flipboard – a platform designed to “curate the world’s stories so you can focus on investing in yourself, staying informed, and getting involved.”
- theSkimm – a daily newsletter that covers “all the news and info you need to start your day.”
- Postanly – a newsletter “of the best productivity, psychology, and neuroscience posts that will challenge you to think, learn, and be a better version of yourself.”
8. Connect with other momsWhile you’re on mat leave you’re doing a lot for your baby. But you have to find the time to make connections too. Just sitting and having a conversation is a form of self-care. You get to talk about things that are important to you and strengthen your relationships.
A few places to meet other moms include:
- Fitness classes
- Community centers
- Church groups and ministries
- Social meetup platforms like Circle of Moms, Meetup and Facebook
9. Give yourself a mani and pedi
Remember how you don’t have to spend a lot on self-care? Well that means that you have to get creative with how you pamper yourself.
One option is to give yourself a mani and pedi. No need for an expensive trip to the salon!
Do your nails the way you normally would but here’s what you’ll need for your pedi:
- A small bin (from Walmart or the dollar store)
- Epsom salts
- Foot scrub
- Pumice stone
- Your favourite nail polish
You can get the majority of these ingredients from your local dollar store to save money. Once you have everything you need, start with your feet. Here’s what to do:
- Fill your tub with hot tap water and add about half a cup of epsom salts.
- Let your feet soak for 10 – 15 minutes then scrub them with your pumice stone.
- Cover both your feet in the scrub and let them air dry for five minutes.
- Rinse off your feet, dry them off and massage some lotion onto them.
- If you want, you can wear a pair of socks to bed to lock in moisture so that your feet feel extra soft for a few days afterwards.
Then wash and moisturize your hands then do your mani.
Do this after your baby goes down at night. You’ll hopefully have at least two hours to get through everything before your baby wakes up hungry.
And there you have it. 9 self-care ideas to help you pamper yourself as a new mom. This is an exciting time in your life, just make sure to make time for yourself so that you stay healthy — physically, mentally and emotionally — during this time.
If you’ve tried something that hasn’t been shared on this list, please add it to the comments for other moms to give a try. Thanks!