Taking Care of Yourself While Taking Care of Your Baby

Taking Care of Yourself While Taking Care of Your Baby

Find time in your hectic schedule to care for your new baby, your marriage and yourself.

Having a baby changes everything: your schedule, your relationships, your energy level — and your priorities. From remembering to take time for yourself to keeping those date nights with your spouse, here are six tips to help you care for your newborn.


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1. Prioritize the "shoulds."

Many of today's moms set expectations for themselves that go beyond the realistic. According to Trisha Ashworth and Amy Nobile, authors of the book "I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids," "We're all trying to live up to this image of what we think a 'good mom' looks like, and it's virtually impossible to fulfill.” You may have so many "shoulds" it can leave you feeling overwhelmed and guilt-ridden. For example, "I should keep the house looking good for guests who drop by to see the baby." First, be honest about how you feel. Then list all of those "shoulds" and prioritize them, eliminating items when you can. Remember, there's no perfect road map for mothering.

2. Learn to say "no."
With a new baby in the house, this may become one of the most important words in your vocabulary. Ashworth and Nobile explain, "It may sound easy, but learning to say no is one of the biggest lessons any new mom needs to learn. We grew up with this notion that we should and could 'do it all.'" Saying no is empowering, and makes room for things that are important to you. And according to Ashworth and Nobile, "you don't need an excuse every time you say no, either."

3. Take time for yourself.
Your baby needs you. Your spouse needs you. But you need you, too! "Nurturing yourself in the midst of having a new baby is really tough, but imperative for both the baby's sake and yours," Ashworth and Nobile say. "Make time for yourself, even if it's a short break during each day to put your feet up and read a book, or take a bath." This is something you need to carve out and inform the whole family that it’s a priority. You may have to ask for some help, but in the long run, you want your children to see that nurturing oneself is important. So insist on some time just for you.

4. If your marriage feels strained, realize you're not alone.
"Odds are you need a good night's sleep and a quiet walk together, not a session with a marriage counselor," say Stacie Cockrell, Cathy O’Neill and Julia Stone in "Babyproofing Your Marriage: How to Laugh More, Argue Less, and Communicate Better As Your Family Grows." Relationship hiccups are completely normal at this stage in life, they explain. “Parenthood changes us in ways we could never anticipate, and it takes everyone a little while to figure the whole thing out.” You’re normal. Relax.

5. Try a dad-training weekend.
When it comes to the post-baby division of labor, most couples struggle with who will do what, explain Cockrell, O’Neill and Stone. "Sometimes new moms feel like their husbands 'just don’t get it.' " So how can you bridge the gap? They suggest a trial-by-fire approach. "Take off for 48 hours and let dad man the kid-and-house ropes on his own (no calling 1-800-Grandma). He'll gain new respect for what it takes to keep a baby clean, fed and happy, but he'll also get a chance to do things his way and bond with the baby on his own terms." This way, you get a chance to recharge, and to learn that it's OK to let go of the reins once in a while.

6. Remember your marriage is the center of the family.
The baby needs you, of course, but it's very important to take care of your marriage, too. Explain the authors of "Babyproofing Your Marriage", "No matter how daunting finding a sitter and leaving your precious little one behind may seem, regular date nights with your spouse are one of the best things you can do for your kids." Keep it simple. Take a trip to the corner pizza place by yourselves. It doesn't have to be a weekend getaway — but that's a good idea too if you can! 

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