6 Ways to Unplug After Having a Baby
Be honest — did you laugh when you read that Nikki Reed and Ian Somerhalder were planning to take a "month of silence" after their baby was born? If this is news to you, they weren't planning to ignore each other for a month. "After the baby arrives, we’re doing one month of silence," said Reed. "Just the three of us, no visitors, and we’re turning off our phones too, so there’s no expectation for us to communicate."
But hold on a minute. Isn't unplugging after baby a pretty good idea? It's actually something that's been around much longer than everything we now need to unplug from. "The idea of unplugging for a month or more right after giving birth is an ancient one," explains doula Monique Cowan. "Many cultures practice a period of isolation that usually lasts about 40 days (or six weeks) postpartum. This time of isolation is all about the new mother. She is able to relax and be nurtured and nourished while she does the same for her new baby."
And it doesn't have to be an entire month of shutting out the world. In fact, despite their best intentions, Reed and Somerhalder didn't quite make it to a month of silence. Neither could resist sharing their new-parent excitement at daughter Bodhi Soleil's arrival on their respective social media accounts. But even taking a few days to get to know your newborn without any interruptions can be hugely beneficial. "Being a new parent can take a toll on one's mental and physical health," says Kimberly Hershenson, licensed clinical social worker. "It is a big change, and it becomes even more important to take care of yourself. Focusing on self-care and time bonding with your child/quality time with your partner will help make the transition easier."
Here are six simple, effective ways to unplug post-baby.
1. Get naked
No pressure. We're talking G-rated nakedness here. Specifically, skin-to-skin contact with your newborn. "So many moms come to me asking what can I do to be successful at breastfeeding," says doula Liza Maltz. "Provided there are no underlying issues, I say relax! Lay back and enjoy this precious time of skin-to-skin and rest." Even better, Maltz is totally giving you permission to binge on Netflix (although that does contradict the whole "unplug" attempt). "Get cozy in bed and watch all the shows you’ve been saving up while snuggling skin-to-skin," she says. "Your body will thank you. This time after birth is so crucial for mom-and-baby bonding and breastfeeding." Of course, this advice is just as applicable for formula-feeding moms.
2. Make time for family time
It's important to have "alone, together" time in those early days. "Plan time with just you, your baby and partner to do something you enjoy," says Hershenson. "Go for a walk in the park, to the zoo or a museum. Enjoy your time together as a family without feeling the need to invite others to join you." If you plan to keep guests to a minimum, Cowan suggests letting friends and family know as soon as you make that decision. "I make cute cards for my clients to send to their friends and family with a poem that lets them know how loved and valued they are and simply asks that they allow bonding space for parents and baby," she says.
3. Do your own thing
Bonding with your baby is important, but you have to make time for yourself too. Hershenson suggests having a simple morning self-care routine — something you can do every day without fail. "Whether it's going to the gym, having your daily coffee while reading the newspaper or stretching for 10 minutes, doing something just for yourself every day is crucial for your mental well-being after having a baby," she says.
4. Yoga with baby
Combine relaxation and baby bonding by practicing yoga with your little one. You don't need to leave the house: Hershenson suggests checking out YouTube videos for parent-and-baby yoga. Make this part of your morning routine or something you can rely on whenever you need to de-stress. According to Karma Kids Yoga, the practice of yoga asanas can improve babies' sleeping patterns; relieve gas, colic and constipation; and help develop gross and fine motor skills.
5. Go offline, literally
Yes, so far we've suggested Netflix and YouTube yoga videos. But if you really want to unplug post-baby, you've got to take a technology break. Turn off the TV, computer and cell, and enjoy family time free from digital interruptions. "Technology stimulates the brain, causing our minds to stay active and unable to wind down," explains Hershenson. "Turning off technology allows us to slow down and be present."
To keep phone calls to a minimum, advanced planning is key. "Your phone can be set to various settings, from airplane mode to blocking numbers not in your contact list," says Cowan. "It may also be helpful simply to let your 'village' know that you will only be responding to texts and emails on certain days of the week. Leave a cute voicemail response or set your email to an auto-response, letting everyone who contacts you know that you are currently enjoying family time."
6. Ask for help
It's great to focus on your newly expanded family, but letting other people in can make postpartum life a lot easier. The key is to do it on your terms. "Let the laundry go," says Maltz. "Don’t worry about entertaining. Guests can help themselves — and they can help you too. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. Instead of (another!) blanket, ask for meals."
All in all, your unique approach to "unplugging" in new-parent life is yours — and yours alone. "It is a good idea to unplug in the first days or weeks after baby is born, and having limited times of being connected can be helpful, but it does not have to be a total blackout," says La Leche League leader Leigh Anne O'Connor. "Many parents do need a lifeline — a select group of helpful people to reach out to. Perhaps one parent can be the 'gatekeeper' to the outside world?"
Whether you love the idea of going completely tech-dark after your baby is born or hope to simply cut back on socializing, the most important takeaway is not to stress about it. The last thing you want is to beat yourself up for not doing things the way you originally planned.