Taking Care of Yourself
New moms quickly learn that self-care takes on a new dimension after having children.
In the early days of your postpartum journey, finding the time to schedule a massage much less taking a relaxing bath, can be pretty much impossible. You discover that it’s not as simple as just heading out the door for a self-care fix.
Adding children to your life, does not reduce the need for self-care (although the time to indulge in self-care activities is greatly reduced). If anything, when you become a mother your need for self-care increases tenfold.
Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First
When you are able to care for yourself, you are in a better place to care the best for your children and family.
Think of it this way: it’s like when you’re on an airplane and the flight attendants are going over the emergency instructions. They actually tell you to put on your own oxygen mask first before putting on your child’s. So, when you help yourself first you can provide better care for your children.
Self-Care the Mommy Way
You still may be wondering how to self-care as a mom when you’re faced with all your other responsibilities.
Caring for yourself is a way to nurture your spirit. It’s a way to feel alive again when you feel so worn out and defeated. It’s also a way to love on yourself.
Solitude for moms is hard to come by. For example, something as simple as using the bathroom, which was once known as a solitary activity, becomes a Mommy’nMe event most times. To get any solitude as a mom, or to even request it, may feel like a fruitless effort.
Or some moms may experience guilt for even thinking it’s acceptable to get time to themselves and away from their children and family.
Often when someone withdraws or isolates, it’s a sign of depression. However, taking time out to withdraw or escape from your children and family can also serve as a necessary form of self-care.
Your solitude may be spent in silence where you get your fill of “quiet time” by reading, meditating, journal writing, or going for a walk.
Or you may sprinkle moments of solitude throughout your day by walking to the mailbox alone, sitting down with a cup of tea while your children are napping, or sneaking outside at night to gaze at the stars after your children have gone to bed.
A basic introduction to aromatherapy can begin by understanding that essential oils provide plants with their fragrance. Think of a fragrant rose or jasmine – their fragrances make up the “soul” of the plant, or essential oils.
Aromatherapy is simply the practice of using the aroma of essential oils.
Although it is not completely clear how aromatherapy works, some researchers believe that fragrance impacts feelings and mood because the nasal passage directly communicates with the part of the brain that controls emotion and memory.
Aromatherapy is a simple and wonderfully smelling way to self-care. Kathi Keville and Mindy Green report in their book, Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art, that lemon’s “clean” fragrance helps maintain emotional balance. Also, lavender has been extensively studied and has been shown to alleviate stress.
Exhaustion is a classic sign of postpartum depression. You may feel so worn out and exhausted that all you have energy for is sleep. In our culture, exhaustion has become synonymous with motherhood, especially for new moms.
Try to make sleep a priority as much as possible. During the postpartum period, you will be up all hours of the night tending to your baby’s needs and a restful night of sleep is often not going to happen. However, naps help greatly!
It is not a sign of weakness to let go of the pull to fold the laundry or unload the dishwasher when you’re baby is napping and instead take a nap yourself. Or maybe reach out for help and ask someone to watch your baby while you nap.
I’ll also point out that many new moms are not able to sleep due to insomnia (difficulty falling asleep or middle of the night wakening), which is a symptom of postpartum depression or anxiety. In this case, getting enough sleep is not as simple as squeezing in a nap.
If you’re having problems with insomnia be sure you mention it to your doctor or counselor.
Joining a mom support group can remind you that you’re not alone. Sharing your fears and worries with another mom who is walking the same motherhood journey can be comforting. Check to see if there are any Postpartum Meetup Groups in your area. Also, Postpartum Support International and Postpartum Progress can connect you with local mom support groups.
Support can also come in the form of a postpartum doula. A doula tends to the needs of the new mom (their job is to “mother the mother”) and the family through education about baby care and breastfeeding, preparing nutritionally balanced meals, and addressing sleep habits.
A baby nurse also tends to the needs of the new mom and provides education. However, a baby nurse focuses on the care of the newborn. They also specialize in sleep and schedule training.
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