By Mia Edidin
1. Get up, get dressed, go outside, and walk every single day.
Research shows walking outside for 10 minutes a day will level your blood sugar, increase your positive mood, and decrease symptoms of depression. No shower required! Eat a high-protein, highly nutritious food.
2. Eat often every 2 to 3 hours.
Drink lots of water. This may sound like silly and obvious advice. But the reality is we get stuck on the couch breastfeeding and don’t want to disturb a happy baby. But then they have a miserable mommy. Have easy to eat, fast, nutritious foods within reach.
3. Give yourself a break and give your partner a break.
We are misled to believe that having a new baby will the best thing that ever happened to our relationship. It’s a lie! And yet, no one talks about how hard the first year is on a partnership. Don’t be fooled into thinking that your relationship is flawed if it’s stressful and not so great. We all parent within financial, social, and cultural pressures that often get taken out on each other. We perceive we are the only ones struggling, and so it must be our relationship. It’s not. Don’t forget to take care of each other.
4. Take care of yourself – not your friends or family.
I recently was invited to a friend’s house after they had just had a baby – I called to ask what I could bring, she replied with a very specific menu item that she wanted. She even gave a timeline for dinner and how long to stay based on the bed and bath schedule. It was refreshing for me to feel like I was meeting her needs and not left to figure it out on my own. Even though you’re tired and want others to make the decision for you, we often end up feeling disappointed or let down because they don’t know what we want. Be assertive and communicate your needs. Use this with friends and family no matter how old your kids are.
5. Ask for help.
Consider the last time a friend had a baby. You wanted to help, and you wanted to be a part of it, but you didn’t know what they wanted. So you didn’t intrude, and you left them to have “family time.” Isolation is the leading cause of postpartum depression – and not surprisingly, connecting with our social supports is one of the treatments. In today’s independent world, we forget that we are inter-dependent. It’s hard to know how to manage this period – even for our closest friends. We have been misled to believe that others didn’t need help, so we shouldn’t either. This is a myth! ASK for help. See #9 for more on this.
6. Don’t suffer needlessly.
You do not have to have full-blown postpartum depression or anxiety to warrant connecting with more services. You don’t have to wait. Go before it gets bad. Connect with other parents and hear their perspective and their reality of new parenthood, and you will be surprised at how much you have in common with others. It doesn’t matter if they’re breastfeeding, if they had natural childbirth, or if they had an emergency C-section like you. I encourage everyone to experience the power of being with other new parents and normalizing the difficult transition it is for most of us. You don’t have to wait for your PEPS Group to start – while you’re waiting, find a group that focuses on the emotional transition to motherhood. If you feel like you may be experiencing postpartum depression, call or text the Warm Line 1-888-404-7763 and talk to a parent who has been there – receive support, information, and referrals to specialists.
7. Be kind to other mothers.
We can easily fall into the myth of thinking that we are doing well because of something that we’ve done right. This is how we learn to feel superior to other mothers. Regardless of how things have gone for you, the mother who ended up having a C-section, or the mother that couldn’t breastfeed, or the mother who is experiencing postpartum depression – did nothing to set herself up for these disappointments. Non-judgment can go a long way and may even come back to you when you need it most. Don’t accidentally reinforce the mommy wars. Assume she has a very good reason for everything she is doing and withhold your own judgment and advice.
8. Everyone should have a designated respite care provider before the baby is born.
I learned about this from friends of mine who just adopted 2 young babies. Part of the requirement was to find 1-2 friends who would be the official respite care provider in case of emergency. I was shocked at what a great idea this was and have been referring all families to designate their own respite care provider ever since. It was pre-arranged, and I knew what my role was. So, before your baby is born, or before baby #2- consider who amongst your good friends you could pre-contract with to provide help. Ask them what kinds of things they would be willing to help with, what their schedule is like, and then call on them when you need it. They may be busy, they may say no – but not because they didn’t want to because you have already discussed this in advance.
9. Take care of yourself.
What do I mean by this? Time away from your baby! This goes for every mom, regardless of the age of your child. My daughter is 14, and I still struggle with making time for me that is not about her, my partner, the house, or the dog. Self-care expectations may differ depending on the age of your baby. But even a 1-2 week old baby can be left for 20-30 minutes with a caring family member for you to go do anything except what is needed to be done. I never end a session or a group without asking a new mom what she will do for herself. Often the thought hasn’t even crossed her mind, then a sigh of relief comes across her as she realizes that she is allowed and encouraged to take care of herself for the first time.
10. Partners need self-care too!
Increasingly, parenting and household management are more and more shared between both parents. There are many resources for partners these days – from casual meet-ups to organized classes. Both parents deserve time away at least once per week. This should a balanced and scheduled time that each of you gets to enjoy.
About the Author
Mia Edidin is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker. Mia facilitates, Adjusting to Parenthood, a new parent drop-in group where we laugh and cry about all the amazing and terrifying things about parenthood together. She has a private practice in Wallingford and is the Clinical Director at Perinatal Support Washington.