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Adding a new baby to your family is challenging. If you are a first-time parent, you are learning what it means to care for a newborn for the first time. If you are adding a new sibling to the family, you are learning what it means to care for a newborn plus your other children.
We often get so fixated on making sure we are doing everything we can to care for our children that we forget to take care of ourselves.
When my second daughter was born, there were some days where I would be so focused on taking care of her and keeping my toddler entertained that I would make it to dinner time and realize I was starving because I hadn’t eaten anything all day.
Sometimes I would use the time when my baby was napping and my older daughter watched a show to clean up the house instead of taking a break and having some quiet time to myself for a few minutes.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that something needed to change. I was exhausted and struggling to find a balance between caring for my children and caring for myself. It just wasn’t working to put my own needs to the side while meeting every single one of my children’s needs.
I realized that if I was using 100% of my time and energy to take care of my newborn and toddler, I was leaving nothing for myself. I needed to remind myself that to take care of my children, I needed to take care of myself.
You need to take care of yourself to take care of your children.
If we give all of our time and energy to our children and leave nothing to care for ourselves, eventually, we will burn out, and we won’t have enough energy left for us or our children.
We can take the hour where our baby is sleeping and our toddler is watching a show to sit down and relax.
When a friend comes for a visit, we can ask them if they would mind watching the baby for a few minutes so we can take a shower.
We can sit down and eat lunch with our older children.
Just taking a couple of minutes during the day to tune in with your own needs and think about what you need to get through the day can help you avoid burning out and not being able to care for your children or yourself.
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Here are some simple, practical ways that you can use to take care of yourself.
Prepare meals and snacks.
If you are expecting a baby, it can be beneficial if you can find time to prepare some healthy meals that you can put in the freezer so you can just pull them out on a night where you know you are not going to have time or energy to make something for yourself.
If you didn’t have time to prepare meals before the baby came, you could try to make some extra to freeze whenever you have a chance to make a meal. If friends/family ask if there is anything they can do to help, ask them to help you do some meal prep or help you watch the children so you can have a chance to do this yourself if it is something you enjoy!
Check-in on your NESTS.
It is hard to mentally be in a good space when we aren’t taking care of our basic needs. Taking a few moments to reflect on how you are doing during the day can help you take care of yourself and your family.
- Are you eating during the day?
- Are you eating fruits and vegetables?
- How can you nourish your body?
- Are you doing physical activity?
- How are you moving your body?
- What movement feels good?
- Have you been getting at least 4 hours of consecutive sleep each night?
- Has your body been able to rest?
Time for self
- When did you last do something just for you?
- What does time for self mean to you?
- Who is in your village?
- Who is someone you can go to and share how you are feeling?
Be gentle with yourself.
If you have moments where you start to doubt yourself and feel like you have no idea what you are doing, or you are struggling to support both your new baby and your older children, be gentle with yourself. Remember that this is an incredibly difficult transition to make. It’s okay if it takes a bit to figure everything out. You are doing a fantastic job!
Tune into your feelings.
Becoming a first-time parent or becoming a parent of multiple children can bring on so many big feelings. It’s super common to feel bitter. You might be missing some friends who you haven’t had a chance to visit with the children; you might be feeling angry about never getting a whole night of sleep; you might be disappointed about missing one-to-one time with your older child. Tune into these feelings and remember that it’s okay to have these feelings, and things will get easier!
Remember: Bonding Takes Time.
It can be hard on parents when they don’t bond with their new baby right away. It’s common for it to take some time for parents to connect with their new baby. There are so many changes happening that it can be challenging to build that bond with the new baby. Be patient and remind yourself that bonding takes time, and you are doing a fantastic job supporting your baby!
You are not alone
You’ll notice that many of these tools are about changing your mindset and recognizing that this transition is hard. Sometimes, when parents are struggling, they really need to hear that they are doing an amazing job, things will get easier, and they are not alone.
I hope these tools help support you and help you take care of yourself during this challenging transition. Always remember that you can’t take care of your children without taking care of yourself.
Having a new baby can bring up so many different feelings, and I want you to remember that it’s okay to have these feelings, and you are not alone! Check out our course, Calming Anxiety in Motherhood, for practical tools to understand and calm anxiety so you can enjoy the early years of motherhood.
If you are struggling with this transition, I would encourage you to reach out to a mental health professional who can provide you with more personalized support and resources!