As joyful as having a new baby can be, it also has its challengesWhen you have a new baby, the lack of sleep and a demanding schedule can leave you feeling worn out. One important way to help protect yourself from emotional fatigue is practicing self-care.
“Becoming a parent is a time of intense transition,” Katie Turner, a registered psychologist, says. “Our identities, roles and relationships often go through a period of massive upheaval and change. It is important to be compassionate with yourself, to adjust your expectations and to make time for self-care.”
Here are 5 top self-care tips for new parents:
- Create a postpartum plan: It can be helpful to think about those first three months as the 4th trimester. Newborns sleep and feeding schedules are intense and demanding. Plan for what will best support you and your family during this time. Let friends and family know how they can best support you. Be loving, yet firm and direct with your boundaries. This can range from when you would like visitors to what type of support is most helpful (and what is not so helpful).
- Adjust your expectations of yourself: Focus on bonding and caring for your new baby. Allow time for your family to adjust and make sure you’re getting enough rest, sleep, nutrition and recovery time. Focus on your self-care essentials and let go of expectations to have everything else done. It is not a time to worry about entertaining others or having a spotless house.
- Stay connected: Take time for family and friends and meet other new parents with similarly aged children. Schedule time to connect with family and friends, and be flexible in planning social activities. This might mean asking people to come to you. Or you can have a phone or video chat date when it is hard to connect in person. It can also be helpful to build connections with other new parents. Look for community programs and parenting groups to get out of the house and to connect with other parents.
- Treat yourself: Do smalls things as a part of your self-care practice. In the early weeks to months, self-care might be taking shower and brushing your teeth that day. When the baby gets older (and everyone is getting more sleep), self-care may be taking some “me” time. You could get out with friends, go to a yoga class or even do something nice for yourself at home. For example, scheduling a virtual personal training session or taking a long bath.
- Try to get your ducks in a row: To prevent stress as a new parent, try to get health information and resources organized as soon as possible. Ask friends, family or health care providers to recommend nearby perinatal supports for your baby, yourself and your relationship/family. It is a good idea to have a list of resources handy. You can use them if you run into any medical concerns or stressors as you transition into parenthood. This may include:
– perinatal mental health supports
– help with childcare or household tasks
– sleep consultants
– community support and social supports for new parents
– breast/bottle feeding supports
– recovery from labor and delivery (such as pelvic floor physiotherapists)
“Remember that we have evolved as a social species,” Turner says. “It is also essential to be open to receiving support as a part of your self-care plan during the postpartum period.”