Bringing a baby home is an exciting time, but most new moms are so focused on their precious new bundle that they forget to take care of themselves. Moms need time to rest and recuperate post-birth, so here are a few gentle reminders of how to prioritize your own recovery once the baby is born.
1. Rest, rest and rest some more
You’ve probably heard that old, cliché piece of advice that “you should sleep while the baby sleeps.” It’s a great idea in theory, but it can be hard to achieve in practice. A better rule of thumb is to take as many opportunities to rest as you can, whether it’s lying down for 10 minutes after a hot shower or relaxing on the couch and watching TV in between baby duties. Try to resist the urge to rushing back into life as it was pre-baby. Housework, emails, bills and life’s other distractions will all still be there in the weeks to come. This is the time to focus on you and your recovery.
2. Accept offers of help
If friends and relatives ask, “What can we do to help?”, don’t be afraid to answer with specifics. Have your friends make their own cups of tea (and a coffee and a sandwich for you while they’re at it), or ask them to pick up a few groceries for you before they visit. When I had my first baby, for instance, my mom came to my house and did my washing for three weeks straight. Finding those freshly washed and folded piles of clean laundry on our bed each evening was the best present she could have given me.
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3. Ask close friends and family to cook
Healthy, home-cooked meals truly are gifts that keep on giving. At the end of an exhausting day, the last thing you want to do is spend an hour in the kitchen, but the alternative is nutritionally void takeout — not ideal at a time when you need every nutrient you can get. When my second baby came around, I reluctantly (for fear of putting people out) said yes when my close friends arranged a cooking roster for our family. Every night for three weeks, someone dropped off a delicious, healthy, home-cooked meal, often in large enough portions that we could eat the leftovers for lunch the next day. It was absolutely priceless!
4. Run a weekly bath
Set an appointment with yourself at least one night per week — or more if you can squeeze them in — to enjoy a warm, baby-free bath all by yourself. This is your chance to unwind, away from the kids, away from the internet, away from the distractions of life. Enjoy with a cup of tea and a book or a magazine. Even if it’s only 15 minutes that you manage to carve out for yourself, that time can make all the difference in giving you some precious “me time” to unwind and relax while your body recuperates.
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5. Set three small goals per day
For those women who are accustomed to kicking goals in a professional sense, it can be a struggle to acclimatize to the change of pace when going from the structure of a productive workplace to the unfettered chaos of maternity leave. One way to help manage this is to set yourself three small goals per day. One of those goals may simply be showering! Other mini-goals could include responding to emails, returning phone calls, sending photos of the baby to overseas relatives, writing thank-you cards or inking your little one’s footprints for their baby book. Setting a clear agenda for the day will help you retain a sense of balance and accomplishment without pushing yourself to overdo things and running the risk of burning out.
Bonus: How much time will you need to recover?
The accurate answer truly depends on you, your birth experience and the level of support you have at home. Obviously the more support you have at home, the quicker your recovery will be. One new mom, Coralie, spent two weeks in bed after giving birth to her third child. Her own mom helped care for her older children, and her husband catered to all her needs while she rested between breastfeedings and cuddles. She believes this downtime helped her body recover more quickly, and we tend to agree!