Motherhood can feel overwhelming, especially in the beginning. As a new mom, or a first-time mom, it can seem like you have so much to consider and so many new responsibilities, and you’ve likely heard countless opinions about the best way to care for your baby and begin your motherhood journey.
With everything on your plate, taking care of yourself — a key part of a healthy, fulfilling life — can fall to the bottom of your to-do list. But self-care doesn’t have to be elaborate, time-consuming or involve fancy products. Because, let’s be honest: Most new moms don’t have time for a relaxing bubble bath with essential oils, and that’s OK.
As a new mom, you get to redefine what self-care means in your life as you navigate the thrilling, exhausting, tough and wonderful journey that is motherhood.
Redefining Self-Care as a New Mom
“Everything changes when you become a mother, so it’s only natural that your self-care habits change, too,” says Minyon Outlaw, DNP, CNM, WHNP, a certified nurse-midwife with nearly a decade of labor and delivery experience and a special interest in physiologic birth support.
If you’re a new mom, self-care matters because when you bring a new baby home, every part of your daily life changes, and with it, the rhythm of your mental and emotional health. “Some days you might feel overwhelmed and exhausted, just wanting to sleep, and other days you might feel more energized and productive, checking off a couple more to-dos than the day before,” Minyon says.
But as Minyon knows, society’s definition of self-care doesn’t often apply to new moms. Taking long walks, using expensive beauty products or getting eight hours of sleep all sound great, but can be unrealistic in the first year of motherhood.
Self-care for new moms can be simpler — and more significant. It can mean taking a moment for yourself, but instead of booking a massage, it could mean checking in with your emotional or mental health.
Simple Yet Significant: Realistic Emotional Self-Care for New Moms
It’s worth your while to practice self-care as a new mom, but in a way that makes sense for you. And sometimes the most realistic self-care tips include remembering basic truths: that you’re loved, that you have support and that it’s OK to not have all the answers right now.
Take a minute for your emotional and mental health, starting with these three tips.
1. Say Yes to a Helping Hand (Without Guilt)
Sometimes, asking for and accepting help as a new mom can feel embarrassing, frustrating or something you secretly feel guilty about. If that’s you, remember that every new mother needs a lot of support.
“Accepting help isn’t a sign of weakness, and it doesn’t mean that you’re a lazy or clueless mom,” Minyon adds.
Your friends and family want to surround you with support because they care about you, not because they’re looking for favors in the future. When they bring over casseroles or offer to watch the baby while you nap, they aren’t holding it over your head, expecting you to pay back their kindness when you regain your strength.
With this in mind, let yourself say yes to help, in whatever form it may come to you. Give yourself permission to let go of any guilt you may feel, knowing that helping hands aren’t loans of kindness; they’re heartfelt gifts that you don’t have to repay.
2. Take Motherhood One Day at a Time
Motherhood can feel like a series of long days and sleepless nights. So, as a new mom, self-care can mean taking small moments for yourself whenever you can — whenever the baby’s asleep, honestly — to just take a breath.
“Motherhood is a tough job, whether it’s your first kid or not. Feeling overwhelmed is normal, and it’s frustrating to feel like you don’t have everything under control, or feel like you’re forgetting things,” Minyon says.
But, take a breath, mama. You might not have enough energy for everything you want to do, and you may not have all the answers to everything you want to know right now. That’s normal, and it’s OK. No one expects you to be a picture-perfect mother, and you shouldn’t hold yourself to that standard. Self-care as a new mom can mean giving yourself permission to take it day by day.
You’re allowed to take life one day at a time, and it’s OK to take motherhood one day at a time, too. Yesterday might have been a good day, or it may have been tough and today might have been the same, but maybe tomorrow will be a little better. Take it one day at a time, and trust that it takes time to adjust to motherhood.
3. Remember That Tough Times Are Temporary
Just like all the little moments that make it wonderful, challenges and tough times are part of motherhood. Sleepless nights, feelings of anger and sadness, dishes overflowing in the sink and numerous other troubles can weigh you down as a new mom. But remember that tough times usually don’t last.
Sometimes, self-care as a new mom means reminding yourself that tough times are just times that are tough. They don’t mean that things will always be this hard, or that you’re going to struggle forever. In your self-care, remind yourself that you’re capable of weathering both bad times and good. Motherhood might have a big learning curve, but you will get the hang of it.
Above All, Be Gentle With Yourself, Mama
You’re kind, nurturing and gentle with your new baby. You deserve the same care and attention that you give to the people you love. Be gentle with yourself as you find your way through all the emotional experiences of motherhood — especially if you have the baby blues (temporary feelings of anxiety or sadness) or postpartum depression.
“Postpartum depression can occur up to 12 months after childbirth. It’s something that so many new mothers face, and it’s OK to speak up about it and ask for help,” explains Minyon.
And at AdventHealth, postpartum depression care is part of mother and baby care. “Your care doesn’t end after your baby is born. We know how common postpartum depression is, and we’re here to see you through it with the support you deserve,” Minyon says.
Your Personal Care Coordinator
Doreen Forsythe BSN, RN, our Women’s Health Navigator, is an experienced health care advocate who can answer your questions and offer you unparalleled guidance and support for your whole health as a new mom. Learn more about personal health care coordination with Doreen.