Self Care

Taking Good Care of Yourself Postpartum

It’s one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your child

Most new parents are shocked by the amount of time and energy it takes to care for a newborn, far more than they realized. It’s all too easy to get burned out during the postpartum period by devoting all your time and energy to the baby and neglecting yourself. One of the important things to remember is that parenting is a marathon, not a sprint, so you need to pace yourself. There are several key areas of self-care that can help new mothers sustain the intense work of parenting rather than burning out and becoming overwhelmed early on.

Remember the metaphor of the oxygen mask. When explaining to travellers about what to do if the cabin in an aircraft depressurizes during a flight, attendants always say “If you’re travelling with someone who depends on you, put on your own mask first, before trying to help them put on theirs”. This is also true of being a parent. If you devote all your time to taking care of your child and none to yourself, you’ll collapse and not be there to help them when they need you. This is why taking good care of yourself is also the best thing for your child.

Sleep

Relaxation

Expectations

Be realistic about what you expect of yourself. There are many ideas and beliefs in our society about motherhood that can lead women to be overly critical and have unrealistic expectations of themselves. These unrealistic expectations can set you up to feel like a failure when you are actually doing just fine. See Myths of Motherhood for some examples.

Time for Yourself

It might seem like an impossible task, but try to set aside a bit of time for yourself every day, even if it’s just 15 or 20 minutes. Use that time to do something you find relaxing and that you enjoy for it’s own sake. Even a short break devoted to something you enjoy, like a warm bath, a cup of hot chocolate, or reading, can help you feel recharged and more able to cope. Do not use that time to accomplish tasks that need to get done, like loading the dishwasher or folding laundry – those things can create a positive feeling of accomplishment, but will not help to recharge your energy day to day. Having a short break daily to do something you enjoy will help you to not burn out over the first 2-3 months, which are often the most difficult of the postpartum period as they are the steepest learning curve. This is one way of pacing yourself.

Stop comparing!

There are many different ways to be a good mother, not just one. Just because someone else is doing things differently doesn’t mean your way is wrong. Because there’s so much to learn when you become a mother, many women doubt themselves and question what they’re doing, leading to uncertainty and anxiety. One of the big problems with comparing is that you’re comparing how you feel with how others look outwardly, which is comparing apples to oranges. Those other mothers may have just as many doubts and worries as you, but they cover it up (just like you probably do) because they might also be anxious about what others think of them.

Seek and accept support

Make sure to notice the positives.

Negative thinking can wear anyone down emotionally over time. Try to make sure that in addition to noticing all the challenges you face, you also notice the positives. When feeding, bathing, or settling the baby to sleep goes well, take note of it and give yourself a pat on the back.

Nutrition

 

Exercise

Mindfulness

Mindfulness refers to a state of mind in which you focus on what is happening in the present moment and accept it for what it is, without judgment. This is in contrast to focusing on things from the past or on possible future scenarios and judging yourself or others. Thinking about regrets from the past, or worries about the future, can distract from enjoying the present and can increase sadness, anxiety, and anger. Many people find that mindfulness exercises help them to enjoy their lives more and live in the moment, rather than living in the past or worrying about the future. For more information about mindfulness, check out the following link http://perinatal.anxietybc.com/new-moms/mindfulness

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) in Winnipeg runs courses on mindfulness. See http://www.cmhawpg.mb.ca/mbsr.htm for information about course registration.

jamie.isfeldSelf Care