Taking care of yourself during your baby's first months

Taking care of yourself during your baby's first months

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Note: This article is adapted from Life Will Never Be the Same: The Real Mom's Postpartum Survival Guide, by our site medical advisor Diane Sanford, PhD, and Ann Dunnewold, PhD.

Ways you can take care of yourself

If you're like most new moms, it may seem nearly impossible to find time for yourself with a new baby in the house – but only by taking care of yourself can you give your baby the best possible care.

Try to carve out a few minutes each day for caring for yourself. Not only will that help you be less easily frustrated, irritable, and self-critical, you may even protect yourself from postpartum depression.

Here's a list of suggestions for self-care. You may not be able to follow every single one, but simply reading through them may help you recognize all the ways you need care, too.

  • Take care of yourself physically. Rest, eat right, exercise.
  • Develop a support system. Make sure you have other new parents to talk to and make a point of talking to them or seeing them at least once a week.
  • Express and accept your negative feelings. It's normal to feel bad sometimes when you're adjusting to a new baby.
  • Focus on your positive feelings. Look for ways in which you do feel good and pay attention to those, too.
  • Take breaks by yourself, with your partner, or with another adult. No one can work at a job nonstop without some time off every day.
  • Keep your expectations realistic. No one can do it all, let alone do it perfectly. Work toward reasonable, achievable goals, whether dealing with feelings, doing housework or losing your pre-baby weight.
  • Nurture your sense of humor. Try to laugh daily, whether at yourself, your situation, or something outside of all this.
  • Structure your day. Plan loosely how you'll spend your day, designating time for all the items on this list. Keep the plan flexible and realistic so you can stick to it.
  • Postpone other major life changes. Avoid taking on a new job, a new home, or a new partner until you feel more settled in your new role of mother.

Why it's so hard to put yourself first

Unfortunately, most of us didn't learn to practice self-care while growing up. We often worry that making our emotional health a priority will interfere with taking good care of our children, partners, families and friends.

In fact, the exact opposite is true. The more you care for yourself, the more energy and peace of mind you'll have and the less resentful and stressed you'll feel.

Here's a list of beliefs and habits that may be getting in the way of taking care of yourself, emotionally or physically. You may recognize some of them from the brain chatter, or self-talk, that bubbles up when you even think about taking time for you.

  • Other demands are more important than my needs.
  • My role is to take care of other people. It's what women do.
  • I can't find the time to do anything extra.
  • I feel selfish when I do something for myself.
  • I don't deserve time for myself to do what I want.
  • I'm afraid other people won't like me or will be angry with me.
  • My mother never did anything for herself, so why should I?
  • Nice girls always put the other person first.
  • It takes all my time to do everything that needs to be done the "right" way.
  • I think I can be healthy without doing this.

Once you're aware of your roadblocks, you can replace the negative ideas that get in the way of your ability to take care of yourself.

How to reprogram your self-talk

One effective way to defeat counterproductive beliefs is to repeat new phrases to yourself. Try this exercise:

Find a quiet place, and close your eyes. Practice slow, deep breathing, so slow that your abdomen rises and falls. For two minutes, repeat to yourself with each exhaled breath, "Taking care of me benefits the baby."

When you take care of yourself, are you filling your pitcher, building your bank account, or recharging your batteries? Pick the metaphor that works best for you. Picture that image in your head while you repeat the phrase.

Each time thoughts weasel into your head and tell you that something else is more important than taking time for you, take a deep breath and practice this exercise. It may feel silly or strange at first. You may doubt that it can work. Try it for a few days before you judge its value.

Note: For more info from Dr. Sanford about motherhood and emotional health, visit

Being a new mom is hard! Treat yourself to our favorite comfy-cozy indulgences.

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