- Monika La Nuez, LCSW
Prioritizing Self-Care for Postpartum Moms
One of the most difficult aspects of postpartum life and new motherhood is the ability to engage in your own self-care. Having a new baby naturally uproots the order and routine you once had while your priorities shift to the care and nurture of your child. You may eventually notice that you are fully focused on the needs of your baby and that your own physical, emotional, and mental health needs have been relegated to the backburner of your life. Over time, you may notice yourself feeling drained, depleted, disconnected from yourself, and possibly depressed or anxious.
It can feel overwhelming or impossible to even begin to figure out how to reconnect with yourself and re-engage in your self-care when your life is completely different than it was prior to the birth of your baby. In today’s article, I’d like to share some ways in which to prioritize your self-care as a new mom, in order to feel connected to yourself again and be able to show up in the best way you can for yourself and your family.
Challenge limiting beliefs
If you struggle with your self-care, a good starting place may be to build awareness of any beliefs that are stopping you from getting the care or rest you need. While there are often very real obstacles that can make self-care difficult, such as being a single parent or having a partner who is often traveling for work, it is possible that some of your beliefs may also be getting in the way of asking for help and advocating for your needs. Limiting beliefs can look like:
“It’s weak to ask for help.”
“I should be able to do this by myself.”
“Everyone else’s needs come before mine.”
“It’s selfish to take time for myself. It makes me a bad mom.”
“I’m neglecting my baby and my family if I take time for myself.”
“I have to be 100% focused on my baby at all times.”
By identifying any limiting beliefs you may be holding onto, you can begin to challenge and dismantle these beliefs, replacing them with the belief that you are worthy of a break and that by showing up for yourself, you can actually be more able to meet the needs of those around you.
Work on communication and limiting beliefs within your relationship
It can also help to look at limiting beliefs that may be occurring within your relationship, partnership, or marriage that are making it difficult for you to prioritize your self-care and your needs. For example, are there beliefs about who should be in charge of household responsibilities or who should be primarily responsible for caregiving? Research shows that women tend to spend two more hours per day than men on unpaid household chores and labor. It can be very difficult to advocate for your needs if you and your partner are unaligned with regard to how to share or split household and caregiving duties. Figuring out the obstacles that are getting in the way of finding a better balance between you and your partner can make a huge difference in being able to prioritize your self-care. At times, it may be helpful to speak with a therapist or counselor as a way for your partner to build empathy or understanding about your need for balance and to identify a middle ground that works for you and your partner with regard to parenting and household duties.
Ask for help
Identifying limiting beliefs is a vital factor in asking for help. After identifying your beliefs around asking for help, you may observe that you have strong thoughts and feelings about what it means if you ask for help. By reframing and shifting these beliefs, you can work toward becoming more comfortable with asking for help. This can include the support of family, friends, babysitters, and your partner. The support of your larger community can be especially important if you are parenting on your own. Joining local postpartum support groups, facebook groups, and mom groups can help you expand your support circle. It’s important to state your needs clearly and directly, so that your friends, family, and loved ones can give you the help you truly need and are craving.
Let go of perfection
As a new mom, you may experience a desire to do everything perfectly, make balanced meals, keep your home neat and tidy, run all the errands, keep track of all family members’ tasks and activities, and do everything in your power to keep your children and family happy. This can result in an immense amount of pressure on you and a sense of disappointment when you find yourself struggling to do everything and do it all perfectly. It can help to look at your beliefs around perfection and what it would look like if you allowed yourself to let go of certain expectations. How much more flexibility and freedom would you have? How much less pressure would you feel? How much more time would you have to possibly rest or engage in something you enjoy? Letting go of the need for perfection can result in releasing so much of the pressure that you may be experiencing, allowing you greater self-compassion and kindness toward yourself, along with time and the chance for a much needed break.
Part of letting go of perfectionistic beliefs around new motherhood is the ability to identify urgency. When wishing for perfection, you may want all things to be done to completion at all times. By identifying whether a task is urgent or can be handled later can give you some time and freedom in the present moment to rest, take a break, or engage in other restorative and reenergizing activities.
Meet your physiological needs
The early postpartum days and new mom years can be a whirlwind of putting out proverbial fires, starting tasks that often go unfinished, managing meltdowns, and meeting your children and family’s emotional and physical needs. This can all lead you to forget about or neglect your own physical health needs, such as getting enough sleep, moving your body, feeding yourself at regular intervals, or setting up doctor’s appointments for yourself. These imbalances often lead to emotional vulnerabilities and an increased chance of developing postpartum depression and anxiety. I invite you to check in with yourself to see if you are experiencing any of these physiological imbalances. What might be some ways in which you can begin to get your physical health needs met?
I hope some of these tips and ideas are helpful. Remember, you are worthy of prioritizing your self-care. You can focus on your personal, emotional, and mental health needs AND still be a good mom. You can take time for yourself AND be a generous and giving person to your family. I hope you’re able to give yourself the time and attention you wish for - you deserve it.