Becoming a mum can be one of life’s greatest joys, but it doesn’t come without it’s challenges. Caring for your baby regardless of whether it’s your first, second or even third is definitely a learning curve for every mum. As we go through this profound transition, it is crucial that we learn to identify our support needs, know how to love and care for ourselves more through this period and most importantly, trust our intuition. After speaking with many new parents over the journey and having four kids of our own we've compiled some helpful self-care tips so that you're one step ahead when that life-changing time comes around.
1. Slow down
As a new mum, one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your baby is to slow down. This means taking time for self-care, especially in the post-partum period when your body is recovering from childbirth. Sometimes a good day will be just feeding and comforting your baby, getting out of your pyjamas and having a shower. This is totally fine. Sleep when baby sleeps and don't feel guilty for taking naps during the day. If you can't sleep when your baby is sleeping, try going to sleep early in order to top up your sleep before your night time feeds. Taking a few moments to breathe deeply and relax can also do wonders for your mental health and wellbeing.
2. Lean on family for support
It's always beneficial to have a loved one nearby to support you during that first week/s back at home after having your baby. Perhaps it's your partner, a parent, or good friend. Even if you already have children, it’s still helpful to have your support lined up. Also remember, visitors can be exciting in those first few days, but can often be too much if you’re dealing with issues or just not feeling up to it. Be sure to listen to your body and or your baby and be guided by what your needs are over your guests.
One of the best pieces of advice that you will hear as a new mum is to accept all offers of help. It can be easy to feel like you need to be able to do everything on your own, but that's simply not the case. When friends and family offer to lend a hand, take them up on their offer. When someone offers to cook you a meal, say yes. When they offer to watch the baby for an hour so you can rest, say yes. When they offer to help you with the laundry or grocery shopping, say yes. Every bit of help will make a difference! Most people are happy to help out, especially when there's a new baby involved.
3. Recovery essentials
Pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding have an enormous impact on a woman's body. Regardless of your birth outcome, a period of rest, support and nourishment will allow you to properly heal and recover and help reduce the risk of any future depletion. Aside from these pillars, if I were to handpick some absolute essential products for that recovery period for your body I would say
Large (high) supportive undies. Compression is best achieved through firm, supportive underwear such as these postpartum briefs. These will help support your perineum and lower abdominal muscles, keep giant pads and soothing padsicles in place and assist with postpartum recovery.
Qiara Pregnancy & Breastfeeding Probiotic I swore by this golden product with my babies! Helps prevent mastitis - it's a must have for the first couple of months of breastfeeding. A safe probiotic that supports healthy microflora, vital for you and your baby before, during and after pregnancy.
Multi-Mam Compresses Direct cooling and soothing effect on sore nipples
Lansinoh Lanolin Cream Soothes, heals and protects sore, cracked nipples
Witch Hazel Witch hazel is great for managing swelling and hemorrhoids. You can make your own witch hazel pads or purchase witch hazel wipes to keep at home or carry with you once you’re out and about.
Sitz Bath Salts Some good bath salts to help postpartum recovery and hemmoroid treatment
4. Eat well and stay hydrated
When your baby arrives and you’re feeding around the clock, the days and nights will often begin to merge and feel like a blur. Three meals a day could morph into endless snacks to get through the days, sometimes not quite managing to find that nourishing meal your post partum body is yearning for. It can be hard to find time to cook with a newborn in tow - but don't worry this balance will come with time. So here's a few key food tips for those early weeks:
- If you're in your final trimester of pregnancy, get cooking! Meals in the freezer are a lifesaver!
- Make larger meals when you do have the energy to cook and eat them two nights in a row or have leftovers as mini meals the next day.
- Delegate the cooking! Get your husband or partner to set a few nights aside to cook dinner. Get them to help meal plan for those first few weeks so that there is half a plan about how to get a nutritious simple dinner on the table without too much hassle.
- Research some super quick, easy, nutritious meals - fruit and greens-based smoothies, veggie packed omelettes and noodles or rice are good, simple options when you're not feeling up to cooking. Write these ideas down and post them on your fridge, that way your healthy options are there to inspire you!
- Avoid sugar-laden quick fixes and opt for protein-packed ones that will fill you up
- Order your groceries online and have them delivered. Do this for as long as is required to lessen the weekly workload. If you need something in a hurry lean on your family and friends to help!
- Carry your water bottle everywhere you go! Dehydration can lead to headaches, fatigue, and a decrease in milk production. You should be aiming to drink 8 glasses of water a day, and more if you're breastfeeding or exercising. I kept a large jug of water and cup on a stool next to my nursing chair in the nursery and always made sure of drinking water before and after feeding baby.
5. Love your amazing body
It’s important to remember that everyone’s body is unique and will change differently. Instead of comparing yourself to others or to an ideal, focus on accepting and taking care of yourself.
Take time to appreciate the incredible feat your body has accomplished and remind yourself that you are strong and capable! When you stare at yourself in the mirror during the postpartum period and beyond don't forget to say 'thank you'. Thank you to your body for doing something so hard. Thank you to your curves for carrying the weight of your precious baby. Thank you to your skin for stretching right along with your heart. Thank you to YOURSELF for making it all happen.
Surround yourself with people who uplift and encourage you, and try to avoid those who criticise or pressure you. Practice self-compassion and avoid negative self-talk or unrealistic expectations. Most importantly, be patient and kind to yourself as you adjust to postpartum changes.
6. Get outside!
Getting out into the fresh air can really help improve your mood and energy! Even a short walk outside can make a big difference in your day. Of course, you should always listen to your body and take care not to overexert yourself after baby arrives. When it comes to getting outside, you can take your baby for a walk in a stroller or baby carrier. Not only will you get some fresh air and sunshine, but your little one will benefit from the sensory stimulation of being outside as well.
7. Make time for yourself
Take a long warm shower or bath, or get your partner to watch over baby so you can chill out in front of some Netflix. Just relax and enjoy your time and be present. It should be your reward for getting through the days and each week.
8. Write it down!
Baby brain (or becoming forgetful and foggy) can be a real thing when sleep deprived! When it comes to tackling any issues that arise, take one step at a time. Writing your mental notes down on paper (or digitally) is absolutely essential. It’s also a great way to record shopping lists and other daily essentials you might need to buy or record anything you may need to relay to your Obstetrician, Doctor, Midwife or Maternal Health Nurse.
9. It’s okay not to be okay
Seek help and talk to someone. There is lots of support out there if you need it! For breastfeeding problems, you can get help from your midwife or maternal health nurse who has been assigned to your local area. There's also lactation consultants who can be called upon for a fee to help you at home (it's always good to ask around before you have bub so you have these contacts on hand should you need) or you can contact the National Breastfeeding Helpline Australia on 1800 686 268 for advice. Sleep and settling experts are exist for those who need it too. I even visited a free breastfeeding workshop when I was having troubles that our hospital referred me onto.
Many new mums will also often experience a mild depression during this life changing stage after birth. In fact, it’s such a common occurrence that it has it’s own name, the baby blues. Having a baby can be an emotional time, when your hormones are going through dramatic change. The baby blues is commonly related to hormonal changes following the birth of your baby as well as being related to adjustment and general stress following pregnancy and birth. Baby blues usually resolves itself within the first two weeks of adjusting to your new baby’s arrival, however this is a personal and individual experience and sometimes can extend itself depending on your physical, emotional and personal situation.
Seek support from counselling groups to see that you are not the only one feeling this way, this may about building new friendships and connections for you and your baby. Some groups may have a focus particularly in relation to your relationship with your baby.
See the following support below should you need to reach out for further help in this area:
Pregnancy, Birth & Baby A government run hotline where you can talk to trained specialists about anything from pregnancy to preschool on 1800 882 436 or book a video call.
PANDA (Post and Antenatal Depression Association Inc.): Provides free telephone support, counselling and information on antenatal and postnatal depression on 1300 726 306 and helpful information on their website.
Tresillian: An early parenting service offering guidance in the early years of a child’s life. Support includes around topics such as breastfeeding and settling baby, as well as dealing with postnatal depression and nutrition. Tresillian can be reached at 1300 272 736 or via online support.
ForWhen - provides new and expecting parents—mums, dads, and guardians—with a caring, supportive mental health navigation service, to guide you and your family throughout your perinatal journey, from conception, up until your child is 12 months old.It’s a national support line that connects you to the right service that can help you understand what you’re feeling and provide the guidance and support you need at the right time. 1300 24 23 22 9am to 4.30pm Mon to Friday.
Gidget Foundation — online and telehealth support — 1300 22 4636
10. Be present in the moment!
They’ll tell you this time will fly by, and it’s 100% true! SO our number one tip is to savour every moment you can with your little one. Enjoy the cuddles and snuggles! Take your time when feeding your baby and revel in the moments when they look up at you with those wide, curious eyes. Marvel at their tiny toes and fingers, and the way they grasp onto your hand so tightly. Take photos and videos to capture these special moments that you’ll treasure for years to come. It’s also important to relax and not stress too much about getting everything done perfectly. It’ll be okay if the laundry piles up or the dishes sit in the sink for a little longer than usual. Take some time to just be present with your baby, whether it’s singing to them, playing together, or just cuddling on the couch.
Some good reading resources on this topic in our Design Kids bookstore: