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Self-Care Strategies For New Parents

In this blog we’ll be discussing the top self-care tips new parents should prioritize so that they can survive those first few weeks of parenthood. As a new parent you will experience many zombie moments, when you’re like, wait, is this really happening? Who gave this kid to me? Who gave me permission to take him home? How do I function when I’m not taking care of myself? Which is why this is such an important topic. So in this blog we are sharing the top three tips to taking care of yourself as a new parent.

1. The first one is to prioritize your sleep.  It’s challenging to adjust yourself to a brand new baby’s schedule.  Your baby is the one that’s going to dictate, when it’s time to sleep and when it’s party time at two and three in the morning. The first few weeks are not the right time to worry about cleaning up the house while the baby is sleeping.  Catch some zzz’s whenever you can, because otherwise, you’ll be sleep deprived.  Sleep deprivation will make you reactive, even snippy.  We easily lose control over ourselves, and become an emotional mess because we’re just overworked and overtired. This is when it is so important for teamwork. You have to know when your partner is to the point where they totally had it and they need that break.   This is your opportunity to say, go ahead, honey, you go and take a little nap, I got this.  Even if it’s just like half an hour, 45 minutes, that goes a long way. Especially when you’re up constantly every two to three hours feeding a baby and changing diapers.

You may find it hard to communicate effectively, especially when you have gone days without sleep. The first few weeks may feel like an outer body experience. I remember thinking, is that me talking? Did I really say that, what’s happening to me? It’s because you’re just not acting like yourself because your body had just gone through so much. Your hormones are out of whack, etc… Asking for help is so very important and being vocal of your needs.  That’s definitely something that many mothers struggle with.  If you’re a certain type of personality, like myself, I think it makes it even more of a struggle to ask for help because you know how to handle everything and you don’t want to put the stress on other people or feel uncomfortable being vulnerable and asking for help. 

2. The second tip is letting go of some of the expectations. Once that baby comes, things can turn upside down. This is not to scare new parents, but you really don’t know what to expect until you’re in it. Sometimes you have to let go of the expectations and the perfection.  Just worry about taking care of yourself and your baby.  Learn to let go and let be when the house is messy. As long as everyone is safe and healthy, that’s what we want to strive for.  Plan to have support and don’t be ashamed to ask for it.  If you have some friends or family who can help you out and maybe bring over some really tasty meals that would be great.  If you could take that piece out of the equation, it just makes it so much better because you have to eat. A lot of people end up skipping meals during this time. That’s one of the worst things you could possibly do because you don’t want to be sleep deprived and hungry. Then you’re totally “hangry”.  On top of that, if you choose to breastfeed (your choice), you don’t even understand how many calories it takes to keep producing milk. So you find yourself wanting to eat more, and needing to eat more. Establishing that routine takes time, you have to be forgiving with yourself. At the same time, when things happen, give yourself grace and be flexible for whatever life throws at you, because there’s only so much that you can plan for.

3. Let’s move on to number three. Keep connected to yourself and to others.  Your baby will eventually become a toddler and then a child and then a teen and an adult. So you want to make sure that you keep connected in your relationships.  You may struggle to maintain your own relationship with your significant other. When a baby comes into the picture, it’s not easy but it’s so important to prioritize each other, even if it’s just when the baby’s sleeping.   Catching up over a favorite show, or finding time to have conversations outside of the baby is so important.  Trust me, your conversations will turn into, well, how many times did the baby poop today? How much did they eat? When did they sleep? Every conversation should not be baby focused. Make sure to ask each other how are you feeling today? The family report card is a great tool to use to reignite the relationship (you’ll find it in the Dancing Into Parenthood Subscription).  This tool helps the couple focus on each other and have effective conversations.  Friends and family are important too, reach out to them for help, because you will need it.  

One of the most important things that happens when parents all of a sudden become parents is that they forget to take care of themselves physically. Just go outside, move your body, get some sun, get some vitamin D, get some fresh air, take a walk, put the baby in the stroller. Babies love going out for a stroll! 

 Don’t neglect health, keep up on your own doctor appointments. I feel like those go out the window in a second because you’re constantly taking the baby to the pediatrician. Then sometimes you forget about your own doctor’s visits.  I would also add do not neglect your own mental health. That is one of the most important things. Your body suffers when you don’t take care of your mental health.  This is the time of transformation for the mom, and you are becoming a whole new version of yourself. I always say that this is like going through adolescence in a way, because your body has changed, your hormones are fluctuating, and you’re just trying to figure it all out. You’re not feeling like yourself because you’re not like yourself anymore. There is a rebirth of yourself when you become a mother. It’s a huge change. So don’t expect to feel like you should have it all figured out. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you should have understood all of this, because you really don’t know until you get there.  If we want the babies to be okay, we need to take care of ourselves.  Put on some music, dance around, do whatever brings you joy!

The first six weeks are very challenging so be prepared to love yourself through all the learning curves that you’re going through and to forgive yourself and to make time for the things that make you happy. Make time for each other as a couple. Make sure that you’re spending time with the people you love, even if it’s just a phone call, a zoom, or a face time.  Making sure that you’re keeping yourself healthy in addition to making sure the baby is healthy and safe, is not selfish. Enjoy yourself and enjoy all the changes that are happening in your life and embrace it. 

This blog is based off the Dancing Into Parenthood Podcast Season 2 Episode 9 with Therapist Vanessa De Jesus Guzman, LPC.  You can connect with Vanessa De Jesus Guzman, on her podcast and her website https://www.freetobemindful.com/, she offers therapy for moms, therapy for kids, for educators, and professional development. On Instagram you can find her @Counselorvdejesus.