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By: Courtney Powell
Having a baby is arguably one of our biggest life adjustments. All the excitement of picking out a name, decorating the nursery, and daydreaming about snuggling your sweet baby culminates in that wonderful moment when the baby finally arrives. While the miracle of new life is beautiful and exciting, there are certain realities that come with this change that are often unexpected and challenging. Between changes your body goes through after giving birth, hormone shifts, breastfeeding (or formula –you do you, mama!), sleep deprivation, pressure to return to work after maternity leave (or not –again, you do you!) adding a new little person to your family is an adjustment that takes time and patience.
During this time when so many changes are happening it is important to prioritize your mental health so that you can show up as your best self for you, your baby, and the rest of your family.
Here are 8 tips for caring for your mental health after having a baby:
1. Make time for basic hygiene.This may sound crazy, but something as simple as taking a shower/bath, brushing your teeth and hair, and putting on fresh clothes each day can do wonders for your mood. Have your partner, parent, or trusted friend watch your baby for a few minutes while you do this–you will be so glad you did!
2. Reach out for support regularly.The first few weeks after having a baby can feel pretty isolating. Between feeding baby every 2-3 hours, changing diapers, sleeping when you can –it is easy to isolate yourself without thatnecessarily being your intention. Try and set a reminder on your phone to call or text a family member or a friend.
3. Do something small for yourself.Have your partner or someone you trust watch your baby and get out of the house for a minute! Grab a coffee, see a movie, meet up with a friend, or go for a walk. It may be just the refresh + reset that you need to fill your tank and get back to mom-ing!
4. Exercise once you are cleared to do so.Most women receive the go-ahead to resume physical activity fromtheir OB/GYN after their six-week postpartum follow-up appointment. Try and work in 30 minutes of exercise each day if possible. Take baby for a walk in the stroller or try an online workout class while baby sleeps –this will boost energy levels and release endorphins (feel-good chemicals)!
5. Focus on good nutrition.It is difficult to overstate the importance of eating healthy foods for good mental health. Eating nutritious, healthy foods regularly will help you feel more energized, regulate your mood, and contribute to overall improvements in mental health. Try to focus on adding a few healthy foods to your diet each day rather than overhauling your entire diet at once.
6. Get as much rest as you can.I know, I know –we’re all tired of hearing “sleep whenbaby sleeps”, right? Well, it’s true. Your baby will be eating every few hours during those first months which means getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep every night is most likely not realistic. However, your body still needs rest in order to function properly. During at least 2-3 of baby’s naps each day try to sleep at the same time
7. Know when to seek professional support. While it is normal for postpartum mothers to feel the baby blues in the weeks following birth, if you feel persistently hopeless,sad, isolated, irritable, worthless, or anxious for more than two weeks postpartum it is time to talk to your doctor. You are so not alone! An estimated 1 in 4 new moms are affected with postpartum mental health concerns.
8. Remember that this is just a phase!If you ask most moms with older kids, they can’t even remember a lot of what went on during those first few months. No matter how difficult this season may be right now, remember that it is just that –a season. It goes by so fast! Try to remember that things will get easier and just soak up all the good moments from this time!
Taking care of your mental health is important not only for yourself but also for your baby and family. You can do this! Be patient with yourself, take it one day at a time –you will get through this!