Taking care of a newborn can feel like a never-ending cycle of feedings, changings and naps. As moms tend to their babies’ countless needs, sometimes they neglect their own.
“So many moms end up devoting all of their emotional, mental and physical resources toward caring for their families instead of caring for themselves,” said Ella Speichinger, MD, an MU Health Care OB/GYN. “Though their hearts are in the right place, they will likely end up feeling drained over the long run.”
Speichinger said exhausted moms are more likely to experience long-term postpartum depression.
“They might also find it more difficult to soothe their babies, and their relationship with their significant other could become strained,” she said.
Though your newborn is your top priority, it is still important to find time for self-care. Try these three approaches:
- Strategic shuteye: Speichinger said five hours of cumulative sleep is a realistic goal when caring for a newborn. Anything less, and your mood and enthusiasm likely will decline.
“The most common adage is, ‘Sleep when the baby sleeps,’ ” Speichinger said. “But I think you can be strategic about it. For example, if you are breastfeeding, I highly recommend pumping. That way, once your milk supply is well established, your significant other can handle one of the night feedings, allowing you to get a couple more hours of precious sleep.”
Speichinger also recommended sleeping in the same room as your newborn, as this can speed up night feedings and help you get back to sleep quickly.
- Speak up: Don’t try to be “supermom.” Ask for help when your to-do list is overflowing.
“Most people want to help, they just don't necessarily know what to do,” Speichinger said. “When friends or loved ones want to come visit, don’t hesitate to ask them to bring a meal or run a quick errand for you.”
Also try joining a support group geared toward moms, such as Tiger Tot Mommies. This is a great way to receive encouragement, advice and efficiency tips from women and medical professionals who know exactly what you are going through.
- Me time: Step aside from parenting at least once a day and engage in an activity that brings you joy and allows you to recharge.
“Even if it’s just for 10 minutes, do something that is for you and only you,” Speichinger said. “Take a long shower, step outside for some fresh air … do whatever speaks to you. If you have someone in your life who can look after your baby for a longer period of time, head to a nail salon or coffee shop to relax, unwind and take a much-needed break.”