As you think about self-care in the postpartum period, think of a car taking you to all of the places that bring you meaning in life. You will need to stop to fill the car up with gas to continue on your journey and make it to meaningful destinations along the way. The car needs regular oil changes and you want to be mindful and take care of the car so that it doesn’t break down on the road.
Similarly, it is so important to take time for yourself so that you have the physical, mental, and emotional resources to be present for yourself and, in turn, your baby. For example, as a new parent and you are beginning to bond with your baby, it may feel hard or even impossible to set your baby down at times especially if they are crying. You can, and that’s ok. Give yourself permission to take the time that you need. Here are some ideas for taking mini pauses or “pit stops” and also for taking longer breaks (like stopping for the night on a long road trip):
- Place your baby in a safe location near you (e.g., baby seat, bassinet) and narrate what you are doing. Such as, “I’m right here. I’m making myself breakfast and I’m going to eat it right here with you.” This will allow you to fuel yourself and also your baby to learn that they are safe and cared for even if you aren’t physically holding them.
- Set your baby down near you, put on your favorite music, and take a bath or shower
- Engage in a physically soothing and relaxing experience - rub lotion on your hands and feet, light a candle, or splash cold water on your face.
- Pause for a moment and take deep belly breaths (also called diaphragmatic breathing). As you inhale, imagine that your stomach is blowing up like a balloon. As you exhale, gently as if flickering the flame of a candle, imagine your belly button being pulled by a string back toward your spine. Your breath is always with you - you can take this break anytime, anywhere.
- Look around the room and ground yourself in the moment: Name 5 things that you can see, 4 things that you can touch, 3 things that you can hear, 2 things that you can smell, and 1 thing that you can taste.
Give your baby to someone so that you can engage in pleasurable and meaningful activities. It can be challenging for some new parents to ask for help, but have courage and communicate your needs to your partner, friends, or family. Here are some ideas for longer breaks:
- Go for a walk - whether it be around the block or a longer outing
- Watch a movie or TV show
- Spend time with a friend outside of the house
- Read a book
- Exercise or move in whatever form feels best to your body and mind
- Create - paint, doodle, garden, knit, bake. Think about what hobbies make you feel at ease and/or give you a sense of accomplishment.
Taking pit stops and longer breaks can be hard, and can be very helpful. Congratulate yourself for making time to take care of yourself. You deserve this time.