Becoming a parent and raising your child can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. The love you feel for the tiny human you and your partner bring home is unreal. And while your love and happiness may be at an all-time high, your stress and fatigue likely match them. Raising a kid is hard, and parenting requires a lot of work and energy.
When you bring a child home, your world changes in an instant. You no longer are the master of your own schedule and sleep. While learning to navigate this new stage in life, it’s important to take care of yourself. In order to give your child the most of yourself as mom or dad, you need to be whole yourself. Keep reading to learn ways to maintain your energy and be there for your young baby.
1. Prioritize Nutrition
Food is on your mind constantly as a new parent — though it’s likely your baby’s food that absorbs your thoughts. So many opinions fly your way regarding this topic. You likely will hear the phrase “Breast is best,” while others insist “Fed is best.” Whether you choose formula or breast milk, you’re doing just fine. Making sure your baby is getting the nutrition they need in the amounts they need is what’s important.
Speaking of nutrition, a healthy, well-balanced diet is essential for mom and dad, too. It helps with many factors like mood, weight management, and overall health. If you’re a nursing mom, what you feed yourself feeds your baby. If you’re having trouble finding time to cook and eat well-balanced meals, try making smoothies with protein or super greens powder.
2. Protect Your Sleep
Guard your sleep like a mama bear. If you’re a new parent, this tip might have made you roll your eyes at first, but it’s vital. You’re likely the most exhausted you’ve ever been in your entire life. If you’re the mom and just gave birth, your body is as tired as your mind. If you’re the partner, you’re likely filled with anxiety making sure both mom and baby are OK at all times.
The laundry and dishes can wait. Writing thank-you notes and getting everything perfectly organized in the baby’s room can wait. It’s fine to say no to guests visiting some days. Rest and be together as a new family unit. It might sound trite, but really do nap when the baby naps. And take turns allowing one another to squeeze in a few hours of uninterrupted sleep at a time.
3. Exercise Daily
Try to work in a little exercise each day. Don’t overdo it, especially if you just had a natural birth, but do get up and move. Take the baby for short walks in the stroller — the fresh air will do all of you good. Even gentle exercise gets the blood pumping and circulating in your body, causing you to feel better physically.
Being a new parent can feel overwhelming. Combine that with all the hormone surges you experience as a mom, and you might come down with the baby blues. Getting some movement in and going outside can also help with your mental health. Yoga is another activity that can center and calm you. It might help stretch out some of those sore muscles, too.
4. Schedule Adult Time
Becoming a new mom or dad can produce a huge identity shift. All of a sudden, you have to keep this tiny thing alive, and you have no idea what you’re doing. You used to be a capable professional who, within limits, could arrange your days as you saw fit. Now you’re bound to your baby’s eat-poop-sleep routine. This can leave you with the sense that you’re in the movie “Groundhog Day,” where everything is the same.
While the new babyhood period is a wonderful time of bonding with your infant, it’s easy to feel a little isolated as well. Make time to get out of the house solo and see your friends. Try to work in some date nights if grandparents, friends, or family can babysit. It can recharge you to feel like you are an individual during this time. Time away gives you a break from the fatigue new parenthood causes.
5. Carve Out Some You Time
Time as a family unit, with your partner, and with friends and extended family is important. But it’s equally important to get some you time. You have to be able to spend a couple guilt-free hours doing what you want to do without anyone needing you. It’s not selfish — it helps you fuel your soul so you’re able to give of yourself more freely after.
You time can take the form of self-care or shopping or even napping solo; whatever you need it for. A 20-minute bath while listening to your favorite podcast could be glorious. Physically leaving the house for a couple hours to go read at the coffee shop might be your calming activity. Heading into your man cave to play video games with your headset on for a while might be your meditation. Whatever you need for your time is perfectly valid, so work with your partner to give this to each other.
Adjusting to Parenthood on Your Own Terms
Bringing a baby home is a huge adjustment. In today’s world of social media and photo shoots for every life event, it’s easy to compare your new parenthood experience unfavorably with others’. Remember, what you see isn’t always the full story — other new parents are likely posting their highlight reel. Run your own race, and take care of your little family as you see fit.
Being in the throes of new parenthood is beautiful, love-filled, and sweet. It’s also exhausting, scary, and filled with so much more poop and spit-up than you could ever prepare for. Following the tips above can help alleviate some of the fatigue. And if you start these healthy habits now, they will serve you well throughout your child’s development.