Going on maternity leave as a first time mom is one of the most exciting and challenging experiences. Here are my survival tips that helped me get through this exhausting and beautiful time!
There is no time that is filled with as many changes as the months after childbirth. Not only are you transitioning to a whole new normal (where, turns out, nothing is normal!) but you are also recovering emotionally, physically and hormonally. This makes maternity leave an intense time. While self care often goes to the back burner when you have a baby, here are the top lessons I learned on surviving this wonderfully crazy, beautiful and messy chapter as a first time mom…
- Allow for help. When you’ve spent your adult life accomplishing both career and personal goals on your own, it can be hard to allow for help. But not only do moms need help, people want to help! Whether it’s asking your partner to take care of the household chores, allowing coworkers to bring you meals, or finding an empathetic ear, it’s true when they say “it takes a village.” I also learned that moms may need more help than what friends or family can provide. Seeking out professionals for breastfeeding support, postpartum depression/anxiety or any other issues you are experiencing doesn’t make you weak. It makes you strong.
- Make meal time easy! Before having my baby, I thought maternity leave would be a great time to try out new recipes. After all, the baby sleeps like 17 hours a day, right?! Well I learned it’s not that simple. Marathon nursing sessions, the “witching hour” which can last way longer than an hour, and a baby that naturally doesn’t want to be put down makes it hard to do anything for longer than 15 minutes. It took me a few failed cooking attempts before I realized the best recipes are the ones that only require a few ingredients, directions to follow and pots to clean. The meals that made my rotation included pasta dishes, stir fries and egg scrambles.
- Get outside. When you are in the trenches of early motherhood, it’s hard to know up from down much less day from night. Getting outside, even if it’s just around the block, can do wonders for your psyche. If you can leave the baby with someone to clear your head for a moment, that’s great. If not, a baby carrier or stroller can allow you to breathe in some fresh air while still caring for your child.
- Carve out time for sleep. There’s no more cringe-worthy advice than a well-rested person telling you to “just sleep when the baby sleeps!” While taking naps throughout the day can seem like an impossible task when you have things around the house to take care of, sleep is still very important. What worked for me was carving out a designated time to nap. I personally chose my baby’s morning nap to catch up on some sleep which helped me feel better about sleeping during the day. While it may not happen daily, prioritizing a nap for yourself can help you cope with the demands of taking care of a newborn.
- Let go of being “healthy.” This sounds like crazy advice to give as a dietitian but the early months are all about survival. I definitely had my fair share of frozen meals and packaged foods during maternity leave. And you know what, I am more than OK with that. Even with my husband preparing many of our meals, the only snack that I craved to get me through those exhausting middle of the night nursing sessions was a granola bar with a diet soda! As soon as I found some semblance of a routine, I was able to cut back on processed foods and add healthier homemade meals back into my life.
Of the most important things you can do as a new mom, it’s to be kind to yourself. Navigating these unchartered waters can be challenging but just know that even when you’re up in the middle of the night wondering if you’re strong enough for this role that you are. And you’re also not alone.
To all the moms out there, what’s the best advice you’ve ever received when you had a new baby? Would love to hear in the comments below!