30 Jan 5 self care activities for when you’ve had a baby
The motherhood journey
As a woman journeys into motherhood for the first (or subsequent times), the self-care of pregnancy is replaced with a bubbling melting pot of pressure, hormones and lack of sleep. So if she manages to eat a chocolate hobnob by lunchtime, that feels like progress! Sitting down to drink a cup of hot tea is but a distant memory. And preparing to go for a dog walk often looks like you’re relocating to another country (and you still forget the dog!).
So how can a new mum, find that ever elusive balance, while adjusting to a new family dynamic and routine and stay moderately sane while the postnatal body surprises us with leaking parts we didn’t even know existed? Here is how.
Will the pre-baby perfectionist please sit down! Taking the pressure off will create a sense of hibernation, surrendering to a time for bonding and getting down with the no-routine, routine. Welcome to the Fourth Trimester; space for Mum to be nurtured and nourished too. Accepting that our hormones resemble a pinball machine, while our energy levels are next to zero, can take that extra weight off our shoulders, helping navigate this new terrain with a little more patience and tolerance.
There are the Delia wannabe’s on the one hand, and those still familiarising themselves with an egg timer on the other. Getting the right nutrition at this important time is imperative. If mum is nourished, healing and recovery are quicker, and there are bigger reserves of energy. Now is not the time for shifting ‘baby weight’. Consider online deliveries, order Cook meals or ask friends and family to leave home cooked meals on the doorstep. A postnatal doula can be a huge asset, preparing smoothies and family food, keeping things ticking over. There is no shame in calling in reinforcements, so wave that white flag.
Resting when baby rests is not easy but baby’s routine is now your routine, so milk it (pardon the pun). Reacquaint yourself with your slippers, cuddle up with baby and siblings, and when they sleep, don’t wash up or count how many muslins you have used. Go to bed or curl up with a favourite blanket, book or DVD. Just be. The body is healing, recovering and working hard to feed and nurture baby. It is a total mind body experience that can be draining and exhausting. Make a soothing warm drink before sleep, take a bath when baby goes down or when someone else is around and keep a notebook by the bed for scribbling lists and concerns down to help empty the mind.
Let’s park Davina’s six-pack for another few months! Exercise post baby should be gentle and slow. After the first month, simple stretching keeps aches and pains to a minimum and helps posture, keeping blood flowing, relaxing muscles and giving a hit of some much needed oxytocin. Gentle yoga can release tightness, and walking is a great way to get outside. Invite a friend, load the pram and walk to a nearby pub or sling up and wonder around the block. Getting the body moving and deep breathing is hugely beneficial for lifting the mood.
We all know how good we feel after a good chinwag with friends, but having a long chat over the phone is no longer the guilt-free activity it was before bubs showed up. Keeping visitors to a minimum at first can help keep the pressure off but soon the need for some adult company (rather than Phil and Holly every morning) may be necessary. Talking to a partner opens communication, addressing ways they can best support you. Planning a few date nights, subject to change, means quality time and connection are not lost. Book an early table and ask friends or family to babysit.
Confiding in female friends and talking through any frustrating or upsetting areas, is imperative for mums’ mental health. Joining a local baby activity or toddler group adds structure and knowing there are others feeling the same normalises feelings like vulnerability and frustration. NCT groups, location and physical ability after childbirth can be limiting, but small outings and short lunches out, peppers the week with activity. An hourly social event can soothe the soul, feeling like a real achievement.
AUTHOR: SAM REYNOLDS
POSTNATAL DOULA, SURREY
Sam is currently a mentored postnatal doula who feels passionately about nurturing mothers during the fourth trimester. She has a deep understanding of pregnancy and the transition to motherhood alongside cancer treatment and the far reaching effects of a diagnosis. Sam also runs Samspaces, a support group for anyone recovering from treatment and adjusting to life again afterwards.