by Melinda Ferguson
The time after a baby arrives is one of enormous change for the entire family. Relationships shift, priorities shift, many aspects of daily life change, and there is much to learn about the care and feeding of a new little person. All of these transitions happen regardless of whether someone gave birth themselves, just by the nature of bringing a new baby into the family. Most people’s focus and energy goes into care for the new baby or new mother, and non-birth parents are often ignored or relegated to a “support person” role without a great recognition for the significant life transition that they are also experiencing.
Transitions are HARD. This is true when we are talking about trying to disengage a toddler from playtime, moving into a new home, starting a new job or bringing a new baby into the family. When going through a big transition, it’s important to take time for self-care. But many of you may not have much experience in needing to make time and take effort at self-care.
Lucky for you, I’ve got a six point plan that helps many new parents stay on top of the stress and avoid slipping into postpartum anxiety or depression. Non-birth parents can also develop postpartum depression! In fact, nearly as commonly as people who give birth.
- Get 3 hours of sleep in a row- everyday—TWICE! Think of this as a goal to work towards if your baby is very young. Three hours gets you a full cycle of REM sleep—this is more restorative than multiple smaller chunks of sleep. It has been my observation than people who are not breastfeeding tend to have a more difficult time adjusting to disrupted sleep.
- Eat healthy foods. Get plenty of protein, fruits and vegetables. Have people bring you healthy food. Try to stay away from processed or sugary foods.
- Get outside everyday. The fresh air and change of scenery will be refreshing, even if you just walk around the block—plus exposure to sunlight helps your body make vitamin D which is important for brain function. This is important even if it’s cloudy and gray out!
- Get some exercise. Your body will enjoy the activity, and who doesn’t like endorphins?
- Get a break from your baby and other responsibilities. This is NOT the time when you go mow the lawn or run errands. This is your “check out” time. I just gave you permission to play games on your phone.
- Talk about how you feel. Have people you can talk to about how you really feel—people who will accept you and your feelings for how they are without judgment.
You are a team in this parenting adventure—try to help each other in these self-care steps—making time and space available for these things to happen for each other.
One more bonus tip—take time to nurture your relationship. The early days and weeks with a new baby is very full of baby care and household management. Be sure to also enjoy time together and if possible, take a break from baby together.
About the Author
Melinda Ferguson is the Owner of Calm & Confident Doula Care, and a DONA Certified Birth and Postpartum Doula since 2007, attending more than 200 births and assisting more than 100 families in postpartum. In 2011 she became a DONA Approved Postpartum Doula Trainer. She has been training doulas in various capacities since 2007. Melinda continually improves her skills through continuing education, including advanced work on Lactation, Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders, Vaginal Birth after Cesarean, Hypnobirthing, Spinning Babies and much more. Melinda has served on the Board of Postpartum Support International of Washington (perinatalsupport.org), and as President of PALS Doulas 2014-16 (palsdoulas.org). You can learn more about her on her website: CalmConfidentDoula.com