When our new babies arrive, it can be easy to become caught up in the need to make sure everything we do is for our precious little one. It can be so easy, in fact, that we can entirely forget one key aspect of caring for a baby – looking after ourselves. Self-care is an oft-overlooked part of parenting, but it’s essential to try to remember as new parents. While what works will vary from person to person, here are some self-care ideas that could be of interest to new parents.
First up: the things you’ve probably already heard. Number one on that list is that good health starts with good nutrition. This is especially important in those first few weeks and while breastfeeding. HealthEd recommend eating a variety of foods each day, including plenty of vegetables and fruit, along with wholegrain breads and cereals, milk and milk products, nuts, seeds, fish, eggs, and meat. If you have dietary requirements such as allergies or prefer a vegetarian or vegan diet, discuss these needs with your lead maternity carer – they will be able to help you work out what would work best for you.
Another key aspect of self-care with a new baby is sleep. As new parents we often find ourselves exhausted from a lack of sleep. Sleeping when the baby sleeps is great advice in theory, but it is often incredibly difficult in practice. One thing that we can do to help ourselves is to keep our bedrooms as a dedicated sleeping space – that means avoiding keeping things unrelated to sleeping in there, including work and phones. This way, when it’s time for bed, we’re less likely to let ourselves get distracted by these other things and instead just sleep. Another potential option is to ask friends and family when they visit if they can watch bubs for an hour or two, so you get an uninterrupted nap.
As important as these two things are, though, there’s more to self-care than just healthy eating and sleep – sometimes the ideal thing for our emotional wellbeing can be some true pampering. Putting together a postpartum self-care kit is something you can think about doing even before the baby arrives. Here at Haakaa, we believe in the benefits that a little alone time and aromatherapy can bring, which is why we have things our Eye Pillow & Shea Butter Soap Gift Set. The Eye Pillow is filled with a mixture of brown rice, botanicals and essential oils of rose, lavender, ylang-ylang & bergamot. This makes for a calming, soothing aromatherapy experience, while the eye pillow creates light pressure on your eyelids, blocking out light as you rest. In combination, these two aspects can help relieve stress – and the pillow smells great.
The Shea Butter Soap included in the gift set is ideal for a range of skin types, giving nourishment whether your skin is normal, dry, sensitive or mature. . Made with all-natural ingredients – including shea butter, coconut oil, olive oil, lavender oil and manuka honey - this bar gently cleanses and moisturises while leaving behind a delicate floral scent.
You can also try out our divine Belly Bliss Lotion Balm. Its floral scent – courtesy of essential oils of lavender, ylang ylang, mandarin and frankincense, mixed with rosehip oil, coconut oil, shea butter and beeswax – is calming, especially if you deal with nausea. The all-natural ingredients enrich your skin, easing the emergence of stretch marks while leaving your skin feeling soft and smelling heavenly.
Sometimes, however, it can be the little things that help bring us back to ourselves. Engaging in a small activity or relaxation technique that helps centre you can be a moment of calm in the bustle of day-to-day life. This could be something like meditation or reading a chapter of your favourite book. It could even be taking the time to write down a few words in a journal, giving you a record of your journey to look back on in the years to come. It can be any activity, no matter how simple, that helps you to remember yourself as your own person and not solely as a parent. In this same vein, remember to not be too hard on yourself! Sometimes that pile of dirty laundry can just stay there to be done tomorrow while you enjoy cuddle time with your baby instead. You can ask friends and family who come to visit to help – you’d be surprised at how willing they can be to try to make life a little easier for you. Remember, you don’t have to do it all alone. Part of looking after yourself and your baby is remembering when you can ask those around you for help, whether with childcare and chores or just to listen over a cup of tea.
Of course, pampering isn’t the only other option when you’re thinking of your self-care list. Some of us are active relaxers – that is, we feel more relaxed when engaging in an activity that leads to stress relief. For some, that might be leaving bubs with your partner and going for a walk or a jog to clear your mind, while for others, it may be painting, cooking, playing music, or some other more active hobby. Becoming a parent doesn’t mean you have to give these things up, and they are activities you may be able to enjoy with your wee ones as they grow older. Just remember to return to exercise in line with your LMC/health care provider's advice after you've had your baby.
Self-care, especially postpartum, can look very different from person to person. As a result, your self-care checklist might look very different from someone else’s. It’s important to know what works for you instead of trying to make others’ suggestions effective when they aren’t things that help you relax.
Research supports the importance of engaging in self-care - particularly the “Universal self-care” needs of sleeping, eating and taking care of personal hygiene, as well as physical and mental health needs. A study in Midwifery cited the importance of enabling postpartum self-care agency in the weeks following delivery1. If possible, try to take advantage of the offers of help from your partner, friends and family – they can help not only with your new baby, but can help you to look after yourself, as well.
1Lambermon, F., Vandenbussche, F., Dedding, C., & van Duijnhoven, N. (2020). Maternal self-care in the early postpartum period: an integrative review. Midwifery, 102799, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2020.102799