Sunday, November 10, 2013

Managing Good Self-Care for Yourself- It IS POSSIBLE with an infant

When you have a newborn, you find yourself stuck in a tunnel where you think you will NEVER have time for your own priorities again. An infant has needs. all. the. time. You live on their schedule and their schedule only. Rest assured though, you can still MUST take care of yourself. As a caregiver, you will be the most effective caring for your little one’s needs when your needs are met, too. Here are some tips:

1.   Plan to take care of yourself.

Make sure you know what your current needs are (I need a shower, I need a nap, I need exercise to feel good about myself, you get it). Then, make those needs clear to those around you and ask them for help! Keep in mind, asking goes over much better than telling. BUT, make sure your needs (within reason) are getting met!

2.   Realize you are not alone.

First, you are not the only mother to have ever felt this way! Keep that in mind!

Who are the ones that are there to help you? Write their names down! Sometimes, just seeing a list of those who support you can help you to relax and calm down. Use their help! For me, I always feel guilty when I leave my little one, even for a quick grocery store trip. Learning to be apart, even for short periods of time, is not only good for you but also for your child. 

3. You just had a shock to the system.

Giving birth (no matter how you do it), meeting your child for the first time, entertaining family/friends, and adjusting to a newborn all while caring for a newborn creates a shock to the system! Cut yourself some slack, you aren’t perfect but you ARE doing the best you can.

4.  Sleep is a good thing.

This is common sense, I think?!?! Actually sleeping is much trickier to do in this situation. Babies have their own schedule and pay little to no attention to the social norms of day/night schedules. 

If you are like me, when you do get a window to sleep, you will have trouble shutting your mind down. List after list will be created during quiet, free moments. If you are like my husband, you will get so used to a “stay awake always” routine that you can’t fall asleep. 

I must say that getting some extra sleep makes a huge difference. If someone is willing to get up with your little for one night, TAKE it! Even if you end up getting up, like I typically did, I found that I slept so much better just knowing everything didn’t fall on my shoulders! So go lay down with your hubby for a bit, even just a “rest” can help you feel better prepared to take on that next diaper change!

6.   Calming/Coping strategies are a MUST! 

Think about and write down what calms you down (exercise, walks, breathing exercise, baths, anything and everything). Go ahead, I will wait. 

Now, do those things! Not just one time, make it a habit!
Realize that the way you do those things now may look much differently than the way you did them before baby. For instance, I used to run and work out majority of the week (5-6 times each week). I could have worked out at any time but I almost always ran/walked in the evenings shortly after dinner. Now, that is baby’s bedtime and would never work. I am not a morning person. I also can no longer take leisurely hour walks. So I find compromises… I walk about 40 minutes with the dogs 1-2 times/week before I get my little one from daycare. This is best because the weather in our area isn’t always suitable for being outside with a baby. I also run or use my elliptical about 1x per week; although for much shorter periods than before, I am still satisfied to get a workout in!

7.  Change Environments Regularly.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but I can tell you that it becomes way too easy to NOT leave the house. Travelling with a little one is so hard because so much pre-planning (diaper bag, diapers, bottles or breastfeeding stuff, pacifiers, weather appropriate outfits and blankets, etc) is now involved. I found myself only leaving the house for doctor’s appointments, which was still only 2-4 times a month. 2-4 times A MONTH! That is not very often. 

I don’t particularly love all the prep work that goes into getting into a vehicle with a little one so I found that walks worked best for me. Some days though, I just sat outside (while the little one was napping if it was too cold for her) and listened to music or showed our baby the world. That was just enough change in environment for me!

8.  Take care of yourself.

Are you getting this gist throughout this whole post?!?!? You have to take care of yourself in order to benefit your relationship with your spouse! Make sure you know what your current needs are (I need a shower, I need a nap, you get it). Then, make those needs clear to those around you and ask them for help! Keep in mind, asking goes over much better than telling. BUT, make sure your needs (within reason) are getting met!

9.  Find good family moments.

In the chaos of all the emotions you and your hubby will be feeling, there are soooo many GOOD moments! Take time to note these special moments. For me, the best moments were when we were all (my husband, dogs, baby, and I) together having tummy time with baby on the floor. Such sweet moments! Enjoy those moments wholeheartedly. DON’T think about anything else. Just focus on these special times.

10. Remember those family moments frequently.

See 9. Keep those moments in your mind all the time! Think about them constantly! It will keep you in a positive mindset. Also, make sure you enjoy all aspects of baby time; I already miss some of those moments that have changed. For instance, now that I have been sleeping at night again for about 2 months, I do miss those quiet moments of rocking my baby in the middle of the night.
11.   “This too shall pass.”

Sometimes, I have had to learn this lesson over and over again. As my little one changes, I learn to balance the joys with the challenges. During challenging moments, remind yourself this stage will not last forever. In fact, the stage may be over and done with before you learn to manage the issue. The first time I learned this lesson the hard way, my child was falling asleep every time she was put into the swing, bouncer… well anything that moved or vibrated her. I felt guilty that I was letting her sleep so much and was concerned she would think that was the only purpose these items served. Boy, was I WRONG! 2 months later, after worrisome nights about this issue, I can’t for the life of me get her to sleep in one of those toys now! The problems you face today may not even be an issue tomorrow.

12. Stay Positive and Laugh!
This can be hard to do when you are tired and/or frustrated. Seriously though, can’t you think of one thing that you could say that is nice? Maybe just think of the many things you appreciate in life. What about your child? There has to be oodles of positive things to say! Negativity easily puts us all in a funk. It happens, too easily, but it doesn’t have to be that way!

Commit yourself to staying in a positive mindset. It definitely makes all the difference, I promise! Lastly, laugh at yourself! I can't be the only one that has ended up with baby poop all over me!
What advice do you have that I didn’t think to add?

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