With the birth of your baby came the birth of a new woman. She looks similar to you but more tired. She's a little less carefree. She has the same passions as before, but they have all (temporarily) moved down on the ladder to make room for a tiny human.
This is where self-care comes in. Really, a woman should be taken care of by her friends and family after giving birth, but society has a long way to go in honoring new mothers. Many women are left to care for their new child and healing body all on their own. If this is your situation, or even if you are lucky enough to have lots of support from your village, read on for some very simple self-care tips to ease your transition into motherhood. After all, baby can't thrive if mama isn't thriving too!
1. Embrace Essential Oils
I have found essential oils to be a lifesaver. Diffusing them in our living space after a cranky morning always eases tension, and applying them to my wrists and behind my ears with a roller allows me to breathe in Peace (that’s literally the name of the oil blend) throughout the day. Oils have a variety of healing properties, including antibacterial, antiviral, anti-fungal, stress-relieving, mood-balancing, etc. My go-tos for the postpartum period include lavender, chamomile, frankincense, ylang-ylang, wild orange, lemon, peppermint and these four doTERRA blends: Balance, Serenity, Elevation, and Peace.
2. Epsom Salt Foot Soak
Epsom Salt baths are wonderful ways to eliminate toxins from your body, soothe your soul and up your magnesium levels. A simple alternative to a traditional Epsom salt bath is an Epsom salt foot soak. Simply boil a big pot of water, remove from heat and allow the water to cool until it’s just hot enough to be effective without burning you. While the water is cooling, add three-to-five drops of each of your preferred oils to a ½ cup of Epsom salts. Mix together and add to the pot when the water is at your ideal temperature (be sure to allow enough room for the water to rise when you place your feet in). Soak and breathe in the aromas of the oils for 15 minutes. Allow yourself to truly do nothing more than enjoy the warmth of the water, the feeling of your softening skin, and the peacefulness of the moment.
3. Read a Book That Isn’t About Motherhood
A great way to take a “break” when you can’t really take a break is to read a book that isn’t about being a mom or raising a baby because sometimes a mental escape is just as beneficial as physically getting out of the house. I advise doing this instead of attempting to wind down with television or movies. Reading is much more relaxing at the end of a long day.
4. Ignore the Clock
Going with the ebb and flow of caring for a newborn is much better for your sanity and health than setting timers and staring at clocks. If your baby is hungry, feed them. If your baby is tired, help them sleep. If your baby isn’t tired, don’t force them to sleep. Take advantage of the times they are awake to smile at them, talk to them and read them books. They are never too young for storytelling and love to hear your voice.
5. Spend Afternoons Outdoors
One of the best things you can do to care for yourself is to get outside at least once a day to be a part of the earth you are deeply connected to. Be sure to avoid “smart” electronics and either read or truly immerse yourself within your surroundings. No need to do anything fancy or active unless you want to; focus on just being.
6. Maintain Simplicity in Your Home
New parents are often overwhelmed by all of the “things” they have for their baby. Don’t feel pressured to keep everything. Whatever doesn’t you bring you 100% joy or have a very useful purpose, donate or gift to another family. Having only what you need and love in your home makes the biggest difference when trying to lessen the invisible weight of parenthood on your shoulders.
7. Make Time for Your Yoga Practice
Having a baby doesn’t mean you have to give up everything you used to do before another person joined the daily routine. After all, newborns are notorious for staying in one place. Set them down near you in a safe space so that you can include them in your yoga practice at home, or sign up for a postpartum yoga class that allows your baby to be with you. In doing so you’ll be showing them what it looks like to love and care for your body - a valuable lesson to learn at any age. The best part, though, is that you will feel like you again, and that’s important to do regularly.
8. Minimize Screen Time
Designate a place in your home to set your electronic(s) during the times when your mama role is taking priority. In not overwhelming your mind with all of the information contained in social media, you care for your well-being. In being fully present with your baby, you deepen your bond with them and slowly rid yourself of feelings of doubt. Less screen time also means less time comparing your life to others’. When you actually live your life, you notice all of the things about it that are wonderful and stop thinking about all of the things you wish were different.
9. Make Soup
Soup is a deliciously healthy way to care for your body, especially if you take the time to make it yourself. Wear your baby in a carrier as you wash and chop the vegetables. Sing to them as you move about the kitchen, swaying and supporting their tiny head. Pause to kiss them and tell them you love them.
To discover soups that are perfect for new mamas, read The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother by Heng Ou, Amely Greeven and Marisa Belger. This book is full of wisdom and recipes that cater to new mothers and the restoration of their health after giving birth.
10. Call Somebody
During the days that feel a bit lonely, nothing is more helpful than speaking to another adult. Whether it be your partner, your parents, your siblings or your friends, call someone and either ask them to come over or to simply talk to you for a bit. Using your voice to have actual conversations that bring you joy and comfort is another great way of reminding yourself that you’re still a person that others love and care about.
Remember, motherhood is a gift that you’ve been blessed with for a reason. You are still you, you deserve all that you have and you deserve to be cared for. Do what makes you feel good and helps to maintain your overall health. You and your baby will be all the better for it.
Kaitlin Coghill is the founder of Be Always Blooming Birth Services, where she works as a CAPPA-certified childbirth educator and doula. She is also mother to two sweet girls, Lorelei and Isla. Kaitlin is currently taking on doula clients in addition to creating online and in-person childbirth and postpartum classes, which will launch in the coming months. Visit her website to sign up for her mama/baby centered email list.
Portrait Photography by Agostina DiMartino