Once you become a parent, your life is likely to revolve around your little one. Their wellbeing is your priority now – your schedule will probably change to suit them, and they’re probably on your mind 24/7.
It’s easy to deprioritise your own wellbeing as you adjust to parenting. Baby’s bath time seems more important than dad’s shower time; baby’s crying seems more important than mum’s nap time. Remember that taking care of yourself is a crucial part of taking care of your family.
Here are some ways to increase self-care for new parents:
As a parent deep in newborn life, now is not the time to be worried about counting calories or restricting food. It absolutely is the time to be leaning on friends and family and asking for help to make sure you are nourishing your body with nutrient-dense foods to fuel your body and brain through this big life change. And this isn't just for the person who birthed a baby - non-birthing and adoptive parents, this goes for you, too!
Becoming a parent is emotionally rewarding, as well as draining and challenging. It’s normal to experience overwhelm, anxiety, or negative thoughts. Speak to someone you trust. This could be your partner, a friend, family member, therapist, or a free online or phone support service.
Speaking your mind can make a world of weight off your shoulders. Admitting your struggles with parenting doesn’t make you a bad parent. Talking makes you strong, human, and committed to improving. You’ll find many new parents are experiencing similar emotions.
Breathing is one of the most simple and effective coping methods. Try the 4-4-4 breathing method: inhale for 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4. Even if you have a crying baby to tend to, you can usually spare 12 seconds. You’d be amazed at what oxygen can do for your mental state and resilience.
Physical activity and fresh air
Time moves differently as a new parent, and you might find yourself inside for extended periods juggling feeds, sleep and nappy changes. It might feel overwhelming to leave the security of home, where you have everything you need, but getting out into the fresh air, even for 15 minutes, can be enormously beneficial for parents and babies.
A gentle walk in the evening light or sitting under a shady tree on a blanket can be just what you need to reset your brain and give your body some gentle movement. And as an added bonus, fresh bubs often love the new sights, sounds and smells of the outdoor world, even if they can't make much sense of it at the beginning.
Your baby doesn’t have to feel separate from your own wellbeing. Me-time is essential, but so is family time. Playing with your baby can ignite your imagination and may release feel-good endorphins. Whether your bouncing baby on your knee, reading a story, tickling, or building blocks together, playtime can be beneficial for parents too.
The newborn days are intense and raw, and often it feels like you're taking it hour by hour, day by day. Whatever self-care looks like for you, it's important to find small pockets of time where you can take a breath and do something for yourself. After all, you can't pour from an empty cup!