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Thursday, November 24th, 2011

By Rachel Neppes
Guest blogger and new mom

Day out in Coronado with Susannah

Me and my little girl, Susannah @2 months old

If you are a new mom like I am, you probably realized very quickly after bringing your baby home for the first time that even with all of the baby classes, books and advice from friends and family, you could never have been ready enough for motherhood.

While becoming a mom is an amazing, joy-filled life experience, it also comes with quite a bit of surprise and challenges.

With all of the changes and responsibilities that come with caring for your new baby, it’s essential that you also find time to take care of yourself. Though, this is probably a lot easier said than done when you are waking up every two hours in the middle of night for feedings, running back and forth to the changing station a dozen or more times a day, coordinating with family members who are in town to see the new baby, cleaning your house, doing the laundry, preparing meals, etc., etc.

So how do you make sure that your own physical and emotional needs are met during the postpartum period? While it is a challenge, here are some strategies and tips that can help.

Assign tasks to family members and friends: Whether it’s helping with grocery shopping, cleaning the dishes or sweeping the floor, your family, friends and loved ones are likely happy to help out wherever they can. Don’t be afraid to ask favors of them. That’s what they are there for during this time. Even help with small tasks, can really make a difference.

Don’t second guess yourself: Try not to second guess yourself every time the baby cries or if you can’t constantly hold your baby: Am I a good enough mom? Why is the baby crying since I just changed her? Her diaper isn’t wet? What am I doing wrong? Don’t worry. You are doing a great job. Babies cry because it’s the only way they can communicate. Instead, try to replace these negative thoughts with thoughts of positive self-reinforcement. It can also be helpful to write it all down in a journal, so you can refer back to your thoughts later.

Create a personal calendar: When you are taking care of a baby, your time is very limited. So good time management becomes extremely important. Things like watching your favorite show, checking your email and spending time with your spouse or loved one are no longer convenient luxuries. To help manage my time better, I have found creating a personal calendar to be helpful. A calendar of events also gives you a sense of clarity and direction for how you will spend your day.

Make sure to get enough rest: Probably the biggest challenge for me during the postpartum period was sleep deprivation. Getting adequate sleep can be really tough especially at the very beginning weeks when your baby probably is not yet sleeping through the night. To make sure you get adequate sleep, you need to make it a priority. Use baby’s nap time to take a nap yourself, hire a baby nurse (if you can), so you can get more rest at night, ask dad to take one of the midnight feedings (if you are bottle feeding), and incorporate massage and relaxation techniques into your daily routine. Even just a 15 minute massage and simple breathing techniques can help you improve your sleep quality by allowing your mind and body to relax, so that you can get to sleep and stay asleep.

Don’t forget to nourish your body: Keep your body nourished with healthful foods so that you have the energy you need to take care of baby and your day’s tasks. When caring for a newborn, finding time to get to the grocery store and cook meals is probably difficult. So I have found it to be helpful to prepare a couple of dishes in advance, and then freeze individual meal portions for the week. Also, keep healthy snacks on hand, such as trail mix, fruits, raw vegetables, and cheese and crackers.

Get outside and keep moving: Even if it’s just a brief walk with the baby in the morning or at lunch time, getting outside and staying active is extremely beneficial for a number of reasons: to reduce stress, improve blood circulation, increase energy levels, and help your body get back to its pre-pregnancy shape.

Join a mommy group: Don’t confine yourself with baby in the home all day. Find a mommy group in your community where you can participate in fun activities and connect with other new moms. Socialization is important for you and your newborn.