Becoming a new parent can feel overwhelming. Here are some simple tips to help you create a sustainable self-care routine while caring for a new baby
CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Happiful
Eat well to feel well
Ensuring you have a balanced diet isn’t just good for you physically; it can do wonders for your mood and energy levels, too. Make sure that you’re having plenty of protein (eggs, yoghurt, quinoa, nuts, seeds), iron-rich foods (spinach, chicken, turkey, fortified breakfast cereals, beans), and omega-3s (salmon, mackerel, nuts and seeds, plant oils) whilst minimising your sugar and caffeine intakes can all help you to feel more energised.
Sleep is key
You’ll have heard ‘Hah! You think you’re tired now – just wait until the baby gets here.’ more times than you can count. But now baby is finally here? The lack of sleep really starts sinking in. Even if you’re not a ‘nap person’, try to grab sleep where you can. It’s tempting to try and catch up on housework and life admin when baby finally falls asleep, but taking the time to rest and recharge will help you to feel more prepared in the long-run.
If you can, try to let friends and family look after the baby when they visit so you can have an uninterrupted nap. And if possible, dividing the night-time duties with your partner can help you to both feel like you’re getting the chance for a few, uninterrupted hours of sleep.
On average, we should get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, but after baby is born, women lose over an hour of sleep per night compared to just 13 minutes for men. Unfortunately, sleep doesn’t tend to return to pre-pregnancy levels until your child is six. That’s a lot of interrupted rest, which can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, irritability, and even increase your likelihood of having accidents or injuries. Ensuring you practice good sleep hygine through adjusting the temperature and removing digital distractions from the bedroom can help to lessen the impact (at least a little bit).
Change your outlook and reinforce positive habits with self-hypnosis
Most commonly used to help reinforce new, positive habits, change your outlook on life, or to break unhealthy behaviour patterns, self-hypnosis is a form of deep relaxation which you can try yourself at home. If you find yourself feeling particularly anxious, stressed, or lacking confidence in your parenting techniques, self-hypnosis could be worth exploring.
Particularly good for helping to decrease stress and anxiety levels, as long as you have an open mind, there’s no right or wrong way to try self-hypnosis. Hypnotherapist Linda Mortimer explains more.
“Self-hypnosis is a highly effective way of bringing about change at your own convenience. It can be used anywhere, at any time. Just keep practising it until it becomes natural and easy, and enjoy the benefits.”
Get outside and keep moving
We all know it’s good for us. Regular exercise boosts our mood, keeps us healthy, gives us energy, and even help us to sleep better. Whether you strap on your baby carrier or pull out the pram, getting outside for a walk with baby or together as a family can have a multitude of benefits. Moving your regular walk further afield into woodlands or parks can provide a number of additional benefits for both you and your relationships.
Make time to connect
Becoming a parent can feel stressful, overwhelming, and all-consuming. It’s easy to forget that you and your partner are in this together. Take time to focus on eachother and your family’s foundations, even if that’s just talking about your day and creating the opportunity to bring up any concerns.
Prioritising intimacy through touch (hugs and foot rubs count!) can have a significant impact, as it stimulates the production of the love hormone (oxytocin), can increase our levels of happiness, all while promoting connection and relaxation.
If you can, reach out to your support network of friends and family, and try to have some time together just the two of you outside of the house regularly.
Making time for your friendships is just as important. Keep in touch with friends over a cuppa or even a text conversation if you’re struggling to fit anything more in. While your relationship with your friends may naturally change, ensuring you stay connected with others outside of your immediate family unit can help prevent loneliness and increase your sense of belonging.
Have some me-time
Self-care isn’t selfish. Taking time out for yourself is good for your mental health and overall wellbeing. While it can be tough to fit in around everything else, ensuring you have time to do even one thing for yourself can help you to feel refreshed and more prepared for any challenges that might arise.
Take time to flick through a magazine, relax in the bath, or even just have a cuppa by yourself for five minutes. Have time to breathe and just let your mind rest. Why not try and build in self-care for the whole family. By learning how to plan in self-care time, everyone can develop health, sustainable habits you can encourage each other to keep up with.
Let others help
In the early days, you’ll have no end of offers from others to help. Frustratingly, these offers can feel vague and, when self-doubt rears its head, you may be left feeling like you can’t really reach out and ask for support. When someone offers, ask for help with specific tasks. Maybe you could do with someone watching baby while you take a nap, or could really use a hand picking up some shopping or even doing a load or two of washing. The chances are, friends and family really do want to be there for you – they just might not be sure what’s the best way to get started.
If you’re worried about your emotional wellbeing or mental health, speak to friends, family or loved ones. If that feels like too much, reaching out to an impartial third party may feel easier. Whether you’re struggling with stress, new parent anxiety, or are worried you may be experiencing postnatal depression, there are expert counsellors and therapists who can help you work through any problems you might be experiencing.
Since the pandemic began, new mothers have become twice as likely to have post-natal depression with nearly half (47.5%) of women experiencing PND during lockdown. Previous research has suggested that new fathers are just as likely to experience PND as mothers. You are never a burden for asking for help, or for admitting you might be struggling. Talking about how you are feeling is the first step towards getting the help that you need.