Take Care of Your Newborn by Taking Care of Yourself
When taking care of a newborn baby, it's hard to take care of yourself, but experts say that taking care of yourself is taking care of your baby too. Here's why.
New moms often forgo self-care to look after their little ones. Even basic things like hair brushing or slapping on some Chapstick become a challenge in the early stages of nurturing an infant. Purses, once filled with makeup and handcreams, now carry baby bottles, toys and pacifiers. But self-care is essential — and possible — even if junior is only days old. These experts remind busy mamás that putting yourself last is not the best thing for you — or your baby.
BYE-BYE BABY BLUES
Chilean mom blogger, parenting expert and TV personality Jeannette Kaplun (pictured) says: "New moms need to keep in mind that having a baby is a huge change in their lives. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed and exhausted. However, check in with your ob-gyn or midwife if you’re feeling helpless, lingering sadness, obsessing over every little detail or dealing with anxiety." She notes that even though over 3 million cases of postpartum depression are diagnosed every year in the United States, it is highly treatable. An estimated 15 percent of women develop postpartum depression, "so please know you are not alone if this happens to you," she says.
Watch what you eat, Kaplun advises. Don't obsess about making your baby's organic mango compote or malanga puree from scratch every day, and make sure YOU have time to eat a healthy breakfast and nutritious meals throughout the day. Your body will not run on cafecito alone, so drink enough water and get the energy you need from well-balanced meals. A chocolate bar on the run isn't a miracle fix. "I learned that a little planning went a long way. Stock up on healthy snacks that are easy to grab, like pre-cut fruits and vegetables, hummus, Greek yogurt," Kaplun recommends.
Put yourself on the agenda. Besides taking your baby to the doctor at the first sign of a sneeze, remember to make — and keep! — your own doctor's appointments to monitor your body. This may include checking in with mental health professionals regularly.
Perfection is an illusion, Kaplun emphasizes: "Focus on the facts, not on your perception of what an ideal mother looks like or does. Focus on what you are doing every single day, instead of what isn’t getting done." The author notes that social media feeds into this. "Always keep in mind that what you see on Instagram or Facebook is a part of reality but is not reality. It’s a curated part of somebody’s life."
SPA DAY ALLOWED
You can still pamper yourself. According to Jill Simonian (pictured), author of The Fab Mom's Guide: How to Get Over the Bump and Bounce Back Fast After Baby, you have to learn to incorporate the baby into activities you enjoyed before giving birth. "The way we think of ourselves is often shaped by what we think we are capable of doing. Successful problem-solving and doing things with your baby in tow will sharpen your confidence and flex your resilience muscles," she writes in the book. So do schedule that manicure and pedicure — at least once a month if you can't weekly— and have a friend or relative come with you and watch the baby while you go shopping for new clothes or get that well-deserved foot massage.
PLEAD NOT GUILTY
Get rid of useless guilt. According to Genevieve Shaw Brown (pictured), author of The Happiest Mommy You Know, self-care isn't selfish. "Many moms think that taking time away from baby for exercise, coffee with friends, a support group or psychotherapy appointment is selfish," she writes in the book. "You must take time to ensure you are as healthy and strong as you can be, both physically and emotionally. You can't help your baby if you haven't helped yourself first."
"The only way you can bounce back is not forgetting about yourself. Your physical appearance can affect, positively or negatively, the way you feel," says Puerto Rican early childhood expert, columnist and TV personality Jeannette Torres-Alvarez (pictured). "Although you are tired, getting up a few minutes earlier so you can fix yourself up —brushing your hair, applying some makeup and getting out of your pajamas — can impact enormously how you feel and your attitude during the day."
Don't go crazy over losing all the "baby weight" right away. Instead, set healthy and realistic goals and stay active. Whether it's doing yoga at home or exercising on a mat when the baby is asleep, what's important is not forgetting to take care of your body. It will boost your energy and confidence levels. "When you have a newborn, even a walk around the block with your baby in the stroller can help you feel better, get some fresh air and be active," Kaplun says.
Moms don't have to sacrifice their style. Ditching the black comfy leggings and oversized baby-stained T-shirts that became your uniform during the baby's first weeks for your regular fashionable and sexy clothes is very empowering. If nothing old fits, go shopping! You will enjoy your reflection in the mirror again.
MOMMA KNOWS BEST
Don't take everyone's advice. "For Latina moms, they might feel even more pressure because everybody in your family will have an opinion. My best tip is to listen and then thank your mom, abuelita, tía and prima for their advice. Then do whatever you feel is best for your baby!" says Kaplun, who is from Chile. "Unsolicited advice is often given with the best of intentions, so focus not on the criticism, but rather the idea that they want the best for you and your baby," Kaplun says. She advises making your own informed choices, and posing questions to your pediatrician.
Get over your superwoman complex. You can't do it all. "Asking for help is crucial but very difficult to do. That’s why if you really care about a new mom, offer to do something concrete for her: cook or bring dinner, watch the baby while she showers, do her grocery shopping or offer to do laundry. This all seems minor, but when you are taking care of a newborn, chances are you’re not sleeping at all and even the smallest chores require energy," Kaplun says. Another tip: Outsource when possible. "Many new moms don’t feel comfortable leaving their newborns, and that is okay. If they can afford it, getting a cleaning lady once in a while, or doing online grocery shopping can allow them to get a break without major guilt."
TAKE A BREAK
"I can proudly say that Latina moms are warriors, it is embedded in our DNA. We can happily multi-task without jeopardizing the quality of what we do. Motherhood is not the exception!" adds family counselor Torres-Alvarez. However, we have to learn to unwind too. "In the morning, sleep when your baby sleeps, this way you can recharge your batteries—yes, those that you used at night!" She suggests asking for help so you can dedicate yourself to something you enjoy. "It does not have to involve hours away from your baby, it could even be as simple as taking a warm bubble bath."
BE KIND TO YOU
Don't be your own worst critic. "I truly feel everybody focuses on judging new moms rather than supporting them during such a wonderful, yet stressful stage in their lives. People, even loved ones, rush to criticize instead of helping," Kaplun says. "We need to keep in mind that we are especially vulnerable after giving birth. Our bodies and hormones change so much! Factor in the physical exhaustion, and you have a mom that can easily feel bogged down by criticism and guilt." She advises new moms to read reputable articles and books, ask actual experts (like pediatricians) about important issues, and trust their own instincts. "Don’t let others define what motherhood is for you."