While it may be called maternity leave, and you are not at work, being a new mom is a full-time job. However, as much as you are responsible for the needs of your children, you also need to take care of you. Your wellness is important.
It may seem impossible to prioritize your wellness, between the changes to your body, the sleep deprivation from late-night feedings and diaper changes and possible postpartum mental health issues. It’s easy to feel angry and isolated and that every day is a struggle, but taking a little time to take care of your wellness can make your life as a parent better and easier.
What Is Wellness?
While wellness includes being physically fit and healthy, there’s more to it than just that. It’s taking care of your social, mental and spiritual health as well.
The choices you make for your wellness affect your family as much as they do you. They affect your ability to cope with day-to-day problems, and they directly affect your child and his or her development. For example, two lessons I learned the hard way:
i) What you eat will go into your breastmilk. I love hot sauce and spicy food. I didn’t realize it would go into my breastmilk until I had to deal with a screaming baby and the resulting diapers.
ii) Babies learn their reactions to different stresses from you. If you cry, they cry. If they are upset and your reaction is to scream back, you can end up in a very bad cycle.
Your wellness is just as important as your children’s wellness, if not more, since their wellness depends on your own.
The first thing that springs to mind when you say wellness is exercising. Ironically, it’s the toughest part of a wellness routine with a baby. But looking after your physical health as a new mom is important for a variety of reasons:
• Your body changes a lot during pregnancy. Your hips have softened and separated, and your abdominal muscles have moved apart to accommodate your growing baby. Starting a new-moms’ exercise routine will help get everything back into its proper place.
• Regular exercise and staying hydrated also have important benefits for mental acuity and recovery, which are important when you are fighting sleep deprivation.
• “Healthy body, healthy mind” is more than a cliché; exercise is one of the best ways to fight stress and depression.
With a new family, getting to the gym will be almost impossible. However, there’s a lot you can do at home with a little clear space and just a few minutes. I’ve found YouTube to be a great resource for short at-home workouts. There are a ton of YouTube fitness channels out there, even ones that cater to moms specifically. My favorites are CafeMom Studios and Moms Into Fitness. If you’re unable to access any of the videos, try a Virtual Private Network, and you’ll be able to work out anywhere, even with your baby! Of course, be sure to get your doctor’s approval before starting any exercise routine.
It’s scientifically proven that our brains change when we become mothers. This means it’s especially important we consider our mental wellness. We all do our best to stay calm and to make all the right choices, but it’s not always easy. Remember to be kind to yourself. Baby brain, or Momnesia, is real, and you will have bad days. But a little mindfulness, like remembering to breathe properly can help you keep calm and better handle any problems.
I’ve also found that a little planning, preparation and routine can help. I have a checklist for before I leave the house (keys, purse, phone, diaper bag), I make a shopping list before I go to the store, and, in case of emergency I have a small bag in the trunk with some diapers, wipes, a change of baby clothes and other essentials. These things won’t stop every crisis, but they put you in better place to cope.
Keeping Baby Calm
The most helpful thing I have found for my wellness has been babywearing. There are so many benefits to babywearing. Whether it was a wrap, ring sling or a buckle sling, baby carriers were a lifesaver for me. For your baby, it’s like being back in the womb. She can hear a heartbeat, she’s warm and enclosed and can feel herself moving with you. I’ve lost count of the times my baby got upset and started crying and stopped the moment I popped her into a sling. She relaxed and snuggled in. Best of all, the closeness promotes oxytocin, increasing the parent-child bond.
A calm baby means I’m less stressed and more able to fight off baby brain. This means my baby is also less stressed and less likely to get upset. The extra bonus is I don’t have to wrestle a stroller, which has given me a lot of my freedom back.
It’s easier to go out, and I’m not constantly checking a stroller to make sure my baby is okay. I have both hands free if I need them. More freedom has meant it’s easier to socialize with other moms, which reminds me I’m not alone. I get adult interaction, a support network and a chance to share advice and experiences with other moms, which is key to my mental and social wellness.
Why Wellness Is Important
Taking a little time to look after yourself physically, spiritually and emotionally is not selfish.
It has amazing benefits for you and your children. Remember, as a new mom, your baby relies on you for a great many things, not just food, cuddles and safety. You are a walking, talking example to your baby. Making good wellness decisions means you will feel better; you’ll be more confident and able to deal with any problems more easily. By seeing your example, your child will grow to be calmer and happier. So, be sure to look out for your wellness, not just for your sake but for your whole family.
What are your favorite mommy wellness tips? Have any funny baby brain stories? Share them below!
About the Author: Diamond is a health and wellness enthusiast who frequently writes about fitness and now shares her experiences as a new mom.