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You guys, I’m not going to lie to you. The first six weeks of my sons life were rough. And I’m not talking about the caring for a newborn part. It’s my second time around, and I feel like I’ve got that part down. Rather, it feels like we’ve been plagued with a string of bad luck since we brought our little guy home from the hospital.
With our toddler in daycare, bringing home every germ known to man, both kids have been sick pretty much constantly. The worst of it was a nasty bout of RSV that landed our one month old in the ER. With a very sick baby at home, I wasn’t sleeping much. I got a couple hours of crappy sleep each night while doing my best to keep a watchful eye on the little guy’s breathing. This ultimately wore me down to the point of legit exhaustion and I got physically ill; after all, I was supposed to be focusing on healing from my c-section. I don’t think I’ve ever seen my mom so worried about me, and she’s not the worry wart type.
In the middle of all this, our oldest dog had suddenly become very ill and we ultimately had to make the incredibly tough decision to send her over that Rainbow Bridge. Even though she had a very peaceful transition in the comfort of our home with her family surrounding her, it was devastating for me and my husband.
With all the worrying, the stress, and the heartbreak, it’s no surprise that I’d have a hard time overcoming the “baby blues” that many women experience postpartum. It should also be no surprise that postpartum self care was the furthest thing from my mind. I showered, on average, every five days. Other than doctor appointments, I never left the house. I agonized and cried over not being able to give my toddler the attention she so desperately wanted from me. I didn’t sleep enough, and I spent the majority of my time stress Googling every worry that crossed my mind.
Sound pretty miserable? Well, it was, and still is on some days. Of course I was (and still am) beyond happy to have two healthy beautiful children, but that didn’t make my postpartum struggles any easier.
Seven weeks postpartum and I’m finally starting to feel like myself again. I still have a newborn who needs me all the time. I still get overwhelmed when I’m home alone with the kids and my toddler starts throwing a fit. I’m still not giving myself enough “me time”, but I’m working on that. I still have tough moments and rough days, but mom-life with two under three is getting a little more manageable with each passing day.
We’ve been through a lot since bringing our son home, but I honestly believe that it wouldn’t have taken as great a toll on me had I taken better care of myself. I know that is easier said than done, but postpartum self care is the one thing I would recommend new moms to focus on. It doesn’t need to be elaborate, take much effort, or be terribly time consuming. When it comes to postpartum self care, less is more.
Here are 7 simple acts of postpartum self care any mom can manage:
1. Take a nap.
“Sleep when the baby sleeps” is the typical cliché piece of unsolicited advice every new mom gets. There are so many things you might need to do or want to do while baby is getting some sleep. Heck, I’m 100% guilty of using most nap times to clean, do the laundry, or simply to continue my current Netflix binge. However, when you’re constantly running on empty, you’re not leaving any energy in the reserve tank for true emergencies.
If you’re feeling truly rundown, take a nap when baby is napping. Yes, I’m going to piggy back on that cliché. I mean, it’s not feasible to nap when baby is awake, now is it?
Even if you don’t necessarily feel tired in the moment, go ahead and rest those pretty eyes while your baby snoozes. Hopefully, you’ll be able to get in a good nap to recharge your batteries.
2. Phone a friend.
Maternity leave can feel very lonely, especially in the early days. We spend the majority of our time with an adorable, but rather boring companion. Sometimes I even felt like a prisoner, stuck at home for weeks until my doctor finally cleared me to drive.
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to practice postpartum self care is to have a chat with a friend or family member. Texting won’t cut it. Pick up the damn phone and call your best friend, your sister, or your mom. Aside from treating yourself to an actual conversation with an adult, it can be so therapeutic to talk to someone who’s done the whole maternity leave thing before. Conversing with those closest to you is a great way to make sure you’re getting the emotional support you need.
3. Take a social media hiatus.
By now we all know the negative impact social media can have on our mental wellbeing. When you’re stuck inside the house with a baby all day and every day, you are more susceptible to feeling down thanks to all those pesky postpartum hormones. It’s not surprising that scrolling through everyone else’s highlight reel could make a new mom feel a little (or a lot) depressed.
This is the time to focus on your new baby and yourself. If you notice that the time you’re spending on social media is making you feel sad in some way, it’s time for you to take a step back. To avoid temptation, delete any social media apps from your phone for the time being. Taking a break from social media could be the breath of fresh air you need.
4. Use your beauty products.
I’m not talking about applying makeup. Although, if that’s what makes you feel good, go for it. I’m thinking more along the lines of the handful of products you’ve gotten as gifts, stored under your sink, and forgot about. If you’re like me, you’ve got tons of them – haircare, skincare, bath and body products, etc.
Leaving the house for a spa day may not be conducive in your current postpartum state, so why not use the products you already have to practice a little postpartum self care? Use a body scrub the next time you take a shower. Give yourself a mini facial with a face mask. Try a leave-in hair treatment. There’s no better time to put your unused beauty products to work.
5. Get outside and go for a walk.
Again, it doesn’t take much for a new mom to start going stir crazy when cooped up inside the house for weeks. It’s against the pediatrician’s advice to take your new baby to any densely populated places. Unfortunately, that includes Target. Damn it. Don’t worry. A bit of fresh air is just what the doctor ordered.
Dress the baby according to the season, and take that stroller for a spin around the block. Not only is walking a great way to ease into an active lifestyle postpartum, but studies have shown that going for a walk outside lowers stress and enhances moods. Talk about a win-win.
6. Take a damn shower.
Those of you who have never brought home a newborn baby may be scratching your head at this one. Well, I’m going to let you in on a dirty little secret. Most new moms are so exhausted with round the clock feedings and diaper changes, that they don’t allow themselves the luxury of a shower.
Mamas, take a damn shower. Better yet, take a bath if you can. After the kids have gone to bed and the baby is in a milk coma, turn on the hot water and shower. You may feel too tired to bother with a shower, but I promise that if you force yourself to take one, you will feel refreshed.
In those first few weeks after giving birth, showering will make you feel like a real person again. I know that may sound weird, but it’s honestly how I felt after every shower during that postpartum period. And, when my doctor finally gave me the okay to indulge in a bath a few weeks after my c-section, soaking in the warm tub felt heavenly. Only the recovery from birthing a baby could make the everyday act of showering feel like a special treat.
7. Paint your nails.
I think a lot of pregnant women get their nails done shortly before their due date. Knowing my baby-holding hands would be in a lot of pictures, I did the same. Within a week or two postpartum, those manicured nails started to chip and became unsightly. When I finally changed my nail polish, I felt more ‘put together’ than I had since before I gave birth, even though I’d worn the same leggings for three days straight.
Going to the nail salon may not be feasible in those first few weeks as a new mom, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give yourself a mini manicure. When the baby is good and fed, put him down for a nice long nap and pull out the nail file and your favorite polish. Just make sure someone else is at home with you in case the baby wakes up and needs your attention. I went a whole day with one hand unpainted because I made that mistake. Oops!
Bonus Postpartum Self Care Tip: Ask For Help
When we brought home our new baby, my mom and mother-in-law took turns spending time at our house to help with whatever we needed – cleaning, cooking, entertaining our toddler, or simply holding the baby while I showered or napped. Aunts made us dinner, and friends had food delivered. When our baby got sick, we got even more support from those around us. I’m not sure how well we would have fared had we not had help.
This may not necessarily seem like an act of self care, but it absolutely is crucial for postpartum survival. Postpartum self care is just not realistic without a support system. This is the time to lean on your close family and friends. Don’t turn down help when offered, and don’t hesitate to ask for help when you need it.
[ If you’re suffering from postpartum depression and need someone to talk to, contact Postpartum Support International at 1-800-944-4773. Click here for more information. ]
Click here to learn more about why it’s so important for moms to ask for help.
Want even more self care ideas? Click here for 30 more simple ideas for self care.