Here are some tips for little ways to take care of yourself as a new mom. These are simply suggestions meant to encourage you, but if anything makes you uncomfortable or clashes with your "parenting style," you do you! You are the best mama for your baby, and we are just here to cheer you on in case you're in the thick of it (cue baby crying on the bathroom floor in a DockaTot while you try to take your first shower in three days).
Note: If you are concerned about postpartum depression and/or anxiety, jump straight to this post.
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Consider creating a sleep schedule with your partner that allows you both to have uninterrupted sleep. For example, one person could sleep from 8P-2A and the other from 2A-8A.
Or, try to find 2-3+ hours where you can have uninterrupted sleep:
If you are handling night feedings/wakings mostly on your own for any reason, talk to your partner about 2-3 hours each night when you can sleep, uninterrupted, knowing the baby is in your partner's care. This time can be in the evening (for example, after baby's evening feeding until 10/11P), during the night, or in the early morning (for example, starting after a 3 or 4A feeding until your baby needs to eat again or your partner needs you to take the baby).
If possible, use this time to sleep in a place where your baby won't wake you. Move to a different room, turn on some white noise, and have confidence that your partner can handle baby's needs. Having some time when you don't need to feed your baby and you can sleep without worrying that baby is stirring or waking for another reason can help you feel (slightly) more rested.
Work with your partner to extend this little sleep window to get you (both) as many consecutive hours of good sleep as possible, especially if and when you (and your doctor) feel comfortable weaning baby from some or all night feedings.
Learn about newborn sleep* to help you set expectations for baby sleep patterns and to feel empowered with tools to help improve sleep.
Consider one of Taking Cara Babies' Online Sleep Classes (we can't say enough good things about how helpful Cara's classes were for us!! Not sponsored, not a partnership, just our favorite resource for new moms!)
Here are some free or inexpensive sleep resources that are a great starting point: 5 Things Every Expectant Mom Needs to Know About Baby Sleep by Taking Cara Babies Taking Cara Babies Blog or Taking Cara Babies Tips & Support or Instagram (lots of free tips!) Taking Cara Babies posts with sample (flexible) schedules to help with sleep: Newborns & Naps / Nap Schedules: 5 to 25 Months Mom's on Call Book Tips for Getting Your Baby to Sleep from healthychildren.org 8 Solutions to Get Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night and Newborn Sleep Schedules from Nested Bean
*If your baby isn't sleeping through the night or getting long stretches of sleep, you are not a failure. Keep trying, keep learning, and (as long as everyone is safe) keep doing what feels right for your family's situation - maybe a different approach is working for you or feels better for you! No matter how you get through it, remember, this phase doesn't last forever - you will sleep again!
Find shortcuts for every day.
Treat yourself to paper products (and no dishes) for a few (or all) of your meals.
When it fits into your family's budget, splurge on cooking shortcuts (stock up on frozen meals (Trader Joe's has great options!), say okay to an extra night of food delivery, pull the trigger if you've had your eye on a Keurig or an Instant Pot or a Crock Pot).
Find little ways to make parenting tasks easier, like choosing sleep and play outfits with zippers (like these from Burt's Bees) or swaddles with velcro or zippers (like the Ollie Swaddle or SwaddleMe).
Physical & Mental Health
Call your doctor or your baby's pediatrician if you are concerned about something.
Instead of going deep into google search results and/or reading comment section horror stories from other moms that may increase your anxiety (guilty!!), find out how to contact your family's health provider(s) for questions or concerns about your baby's health or your health postpartum. Your health care provider can give you direction, advise you if you need to be seen by a doctor, and/or make a note to discuss a specific concern at your next appointment.
If you are concerned about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (anytime during pregnancy or through the first year postpartum), including postpartum depression or anxiety, read this post or call the Postpartum Support International HelpLine at 1-800-944-4773(4PPD) for help finding local resources.
WTFTM Tip: Here are our suggestions for Questions to Ask the Doctor Before Leaving the Hospital and Questions to Ask the Pediatrician at Baby's First Visit
Have a code word that you can use with your partner to say...I’m at the end of my rope and need a little help here (for example, if it’s your turn in the middle of the night, but this particular time you just can’t handle another second of it). We used this as our family SOS signal to ask for help without having to explain if/why/etc.
Forgive your spouse. Forgive your spouse quickly during any exhaustion/stress-induced arguments when you get home. It will get easier just when you think you can't take anymore. Give yourself some grace. Expect some good moments and some difficult ones. Let go when you can - it's okay if you don't set up a "one month old" photo on exactly the right day (or ever) or if you couldn't handle tummy time this time or if you dozed off while you were feeding baby. No new mom has ever done this perfectly...we promise our FTM fails are just as bad (or worse) than yours!
Recognize if you are falling into a comparison trap...and stop your Instagram scroll.
While social media can be a fun way to connect during a pandemic and share your little one with loved ones (I could watch your baby giggle all day!!), acknowledge when you might need to disconnect. There were times when the running-on-empty-first-time-mom-fog made us feel way too overwhelmed by how Vanessa gave birth *four times* and still has great hair or what milestones were checked off on other babies' really cute chalkboard charts. Even though we're cheering for all the mamas who showered today, and all the littles conquering milestones, and even Vanessa and her fantastic hair, it is okay to need a break sometimes. Scroll through your camera roll instead and focus on all that makes your little one perfect as-is.
Have options for easy, mindless, uplifting activities to fill the too-tired-to-be-productive moments. Listen to a podcast. Escape into a good book. (I hadn't read for pleasure in years, but I dusted off the kindle my MIL had gifted me and looked forward to reading, even in 3-5 minute increments). Reach out to someone who makes you laugh (even if you haven't responded to other texts all week).
Find little ways to indulge that make you feel like yourself.
Take 10 minutes to do something that helps you relax. Neglect the laundry. Light a candle. Turn on some music. Take a bath. Try out some eye masks.
For me, setting myself up for a (simple) victory looked like pouring myself a hot drink in this Contigo Travel Mug tumbler which is impossible to spill. No hot drink tumbling on baby. No stain next to the spit up stain on my shirt. Pure joy when I’d forget to drink the coffee I made for 3-5 hours but it was STILL HOT when I finally took a sip.
For more ideas, check out our Gift Ideas for New Moms. Treat yourself!
Even for 5 minutes. Even in your robe. Even if the weather is bad. If you and your baby can safely go outside, fresh air can feel so good. If you can’t get outside, open your blinds to let in some natural light. You could even try an artificial source of light (like this light therapy lamp) - of course, consult your doctor or your pediatrician about products you chose and how often to use them.
Bonus: In a Journal of Sleep Research study, 6-12 week-old babies who slept well at light were exposed to more light during the day (Source as noted in this blog from Taking Cara Babies).
At the end of your rope?
Put your baby down (somewhere safe).
If you are at your wit's end, and you know all of your baby's needs have been met (food/diaper/burped/etc.), put baby down somewhere you know they will be safe and walk away for a few minutes. If your baby is safe, it is okay if they cry, it is okay if they wail. Let yourself cry / take a breathe / say a prayer / call a friend / do whatever it takes to make you feel a little better.
If you are in a crisis:
NATIONAL CRISIS TEXT LINE: Text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the USA, anytime, about any type of crisis.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline and Website:
www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org Call for yourself or someone you care about; free and confidential; network of more than 140 crisis centers nationwide; available 24/7
Call the Postpartum Support International (PSI) HelpLine at 1-800-944-4773(4PPD). Note that this is not an emergency hotline, but someone from the HelpLine will return your call as soon as possible to give you information, encouragement, and names of resources near you.