Transitioning to motherhood is challenging and despite all the well intentions, we can often feel increased pressure from the advice and “encouragement” of others. Whether it’s your best friend, sister, mother, coworker, or someone else – we’ve almost all heard “sleep when the baby sleeps!” usually in discussion of how the transition is going or preemptively as we near our due date. In reality, this advice may make you feel frustrated, hopeless, or like you want to scream at them (don’t worry – that’s normal!) because with it comes the undertone that this “should” be an easy thing to do. For many new moms, this notion of sleeping when the baby sleeps may feel impossible – maybe your baby is struggling with sleep, or it’s your time to eat/shower/respond to that email, or you have other children who need your attention while baby is napping – whatever the reason it’s not always feasible to just snuggle in and rest while baby is snoozing.
So WHY on earth is this advice still so prevalent?! I believe at its core this advice gets at what we ALL want new moms to remember – TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF! The concept of self-care is becoming increasingly popular to discuss (yay!) but still remains a topic that can feel far off or difficult to fit into your life, especially with a brand new baby. So we default, “sleep when the baby sleeps!” However, self-care is never as important as when you are a parent caring for tiny humans. It is easy to get lost in the haze of feedings and diapers and laundry and so on, but taking time to attend to your own needs will allow you greater reserves to not only care for your little one, but to enjoy those moments as well!
Self-care for new moms (and dads too) can come in many ways – what is important is taking time ON PURPOSE to do something for yourself. When working with new and expecting moms I encourage them to create a written list of activities focused on doing something for themselves. Having this list written down allows you to tap into self-care without having to put thought into coming up with an idea (which is crucial when you’re tired and only have small chunks of time). Some common items for self care that moms have created in our sessions include – taking a hot shower, sitting in a bath, watching a favorite show or movie, going for a walk, taking a yoga class, meeting a friend for coffee or dinner, ordering in a favorite food, sitting to eat a meal WHILE IT’S STILL HOT, taking a nap while someone else cares for baby, polishing your nails, having a “date” with your partner… you’ll notice many of these tasks require very little effort or resources but what they do require is being intentional to take time to do them for yourself.
So I challenge you – whether you are an expecting mom, a new mom, or a seasoned mama who is realizing your self-care tank is running low – take a few minutes today to start your self-care ideas list! Your list can include items that take a few minutes here or there as well as larger more involved tasks (like getting a massage or pedicure). Or maybe your list will mean challenging yourself to take that age old advice and snuggle in today and sleep when the baby sleeps.
Written by Allie Hutchins, MA, LPCC
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