There’s something called a “myth of motherhood” that makes women feel they should be blissful and happy after having a child. If a mother doesn’t feel this way, there’s often a lack of understanding from those around them and from themselves. Women may feel like they are doing something wrong or may be a bad mother.
There is a huge drop in hormone levels after childbirth, not to mention a major shift in day-to-day responsibilities, sleep, and more. Feeling tired, a little overwhelmed, or worrying about your new role is completely normal after giving birth.
8 Tips for Emotional Self-Care After Childbirth
Maternal mental health professionals have put together a list of self-care tips for pregnancy and after birth. The following tips can help mothers keep themselves emotionally healthy after childbirth. Think “SNOWBALL.’
S – Sleep
Sleep is one of the most important things your body needs to recover and regulate mood, and is often the most difficult to accommodate when you have a new baby. You may have rolled your eyes at the “sleep while your baby sleeps” advice, but it really is important. If your baby takes a bottle, ask a partner or family member to take over a feeding so you can get a longer stretch of sleep. If you’re feeling restless or having difficulty sleeping, speak with your healthcare provider.
N – Nutrition
Eating well not only helps your body recover from childbirth, it also has a significant impact on mood and energy levels. Avoid caffeine, sweets, and processed carbs, which can cause mood and energy to crash. Make sure to eat a small amount of protein at every snack or meal, and to balance it with whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
O – Omega 3s
Fish oil can help better regulate moods during pregnancy or after childbirth. Up to 3000 mg combined with EPA and DHA has been proven safe during pregnancy and nursing. Look on the back label to make sure your fish oil contains EPA and DHA.
W – Walk
Walking is one of the best and easiest exercises for your body. It gets your blood pumping, your muscles moving, and even 5 minutes can help your body begin releasing feel-good hormones. Walking outside also helps the body absorb vitamin D which has been shown to affect depression-like symptoms.
B – Baby Breaks
It may sometimes feel difficult to leave your newborn in the care of someone else, even for short stretches of time, but “me time” is essential for emotional wellness in new mothers. Try to get regularly scheduled breaks, ideally a 2-hour stretch three times a week. Use this time to do something you enjoy, take care of something on your to-do list, exercise, or relax.
A – Adult Time
Having a new baby can feel all-encompassing, but it can be detrimental to completely lose yourself into new motherhood. None of us are built to be alone with children 24/7; we need adult interaction too. Reach out to a friend or family member every day. Join a mom’s group—there are several online communities for moms who want to meet up in-person (or just to talk online, if you’re more comfortable with that). Make sure you have adult relationships within which you can regularly share your feelings.
L – Liquids
Even mild dehydration can cause fatigue, frustration, and mood swings, and can affect thinking and concentration. Do your best to drink 2 liters of water a day. If you are breastfeeding, the Office on Women’s Health recommends you drink 3.1 liters of fluids a day.
L – Laughter
It may seem cheesy, but laughter quickly reduces stress hormones. Laughter indirectly stimulates endorphins, and decreases blood pressure and heart rate. Telling jokes and making others laugh can also contribute to social connectedness, helping to decrease feelings of isolation. Watch a funny movie, talk with a friend, play with your children, or find some other way to laugh. If you’re having trouble finding something that makes you laugh, speak with your doctor or a mental health professional, as it might be a sign of a perinatal mood disorder.
If you feel down, depressed, restless, anxious, or overwhelmed for more than a couple weeks, and if your symptoms seem to be getting better instead of worse, contact your doctor or mental health professional as these may be signs of a more serious mood disorder. Professional treatment for postpartum depression and anxiety can help ease symptoms within a couple weeks, helping you to feel “back to normal” in no time.