Becoming a parent changes you. Once you have your baby in your arms, you are no longer just your name. You are now a parent.
In 2022, The New York Times asked readers for their best advice to new moms. Published on Mother’s Day, the article featured some of the 3,000 responses they received from readers, including:
“Let it go.”
“Pick your battles.”
A woman in Pakistan said, “There’s an Urdu saying in our culture: Suno sab ki, karo apni. It means, ‘Hear everyone, but do what you want.’”
With that in mind, here is some curated advice. Hear it, but do what is best for you and your family.
Take Care of Your Health
You have just been through an incredibly taxing physical experience. In fact, you’re still going through it. You have more on your plate than ever before, and looking after yourself can feel like another item on a very long checklist. It is very important to prioritize your health — for your baby, your family and you.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has a wonderful resource for new moms on their website (cdc.gov/hearher/pregnant-postpartum-women/index.html), which features a list of urgent medical concerns for postpartum women, and a guide to help you start the conversation with your doctor in order to get the help you need.
Besides physical concerns, the resource also hits upon mental health concerns. According to the Mayo Clinic, most moms experience what is commonly referred to as the “baby blues” two to three days after delivery. It looks like mood-swings, anxiety, crying spells and difficulty sleeping. This might last between two to three weeks.
Indiana University Health provides new moms with free in-person and online postpartum support groups. Visit their classes and events page (iuhealth.org/classes-events) for a detailed schedule.
If the “baby blues” are more severe or last longer than three weeks, it is important to talk to your doctor. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, you should get help immediately. In the U.S., you can call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline (988lifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now). It is open and ready to help 24-hours a day.
This is hard for some of us. You were not meant to take care of yourself and your baby alone.
In China, the concept of the 40-day period of rest, “zuo yuezi,” or after delivery, has been around for more than 2,000 years. The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother by Heng Ou, Amely Greeven and Marisa Belger, is an engaging how-to manual for resting and restoration that explores the traditions of “zou yuezi.”
Another resource is the MOMS Helpline, offered through the Indiana Department of Health. This free support system for new and expecting moms can be accessed at momshelplineindiana.com or by calling 1-844-624-MOMS. Parents can have a confidential conversation with an experienced professional who can help with everything from breastfeeding to bill assistance.
Rest, Rest, Rest
Remember taking a nap whenever you wanted? Or sleeping in on the weekends? Those days will return, but you have a few years to get through first. I promise there will soon be a day when you are dragging your 13-year-old child out of bed so that he doesn’t miss the bus.
In the meantime, a newborn’s sleep schedule is fairly erratic. This means that your sleep schedule is also fairly erratic. So, it might help to keep these things in mind:
1. Sleep when the baby sleeps.
2. Divide and conquer with your partner.
3. Improve your sleep hygiene.
4. Meditate every day.
5. Exercise every day.
Becoming a new parent can be an overwhelming experience filled with challenges. It’s important to remember that every parent’s journey is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. By seeking support from family, friends and professionals, and by taking care of yourself both physically and mentally, you can navigate the challenges of parenthood and enjoy the joys that come with it.