Parenthood, Pandemics, and Priorities: How to care for yourself and your baby during hard times
We’ve all heard it a million times: 2020 has been quite the year. A worldwide pandemic, people in various states of unrest, wildfires and hurricanes ravaging cities…it threw everyone into a state of constant anxiety, isolation, and fear. But what isn’t talked about nearly as much is that as new parents, we are already knee deep in all these feelings even without the extra layers this year has put on us. Having a baby creates a huge shift in your reality that often leaves new parents feeling alone, overwhelmed, and afraid of anything that could harm their baby. Throw in the rest of what this year has given us, and most new parents are in desperate need of some self-care. Of course, caring for your baby is priority number one, but caring for yourself is equally important. Finding time for self-care may seem impossible with a baby in the house, so I am here to give you some simple ways to fit it into your routine.
Clear the air
Many places recently have been inundated with heavy layers of smoke from wildfires, leaving the air smoky and hard to breathe. While things may have cleared up a bit, this tip for helping clear smoke particles from your house is also useful for everyday air impurities/odors and can have secondary benefits of a calming effect as well! First, find the herbs you are going to use. Lavender, chamomile, thyme, rosemary, and eucalyptus are all great choices and you can mix and match however suits you. Then just pour hot water over them in your crockpot and leave it on low with the lid off for a few hours, refilling the water as needed. The air (and your head) will feel clearer before you know it.
Go for a walk
This one is especially nice because there are so many options to choose from. You can go alone if there is someone to watch the baby or take baby with you in a stroller or carrier. You can go for a few minutes around the block or walk for an hour or two. You can stay close to home or drive to a favorite location. Personally, I love walking because I get the endorphin benefit of exercise, but it still feels like relaxation instead of work. If the weather is bad, you can even walk around a mall (I’ve even done it several times in a mask!). Talking to your baby about all the things you pass by can be super fun for both of you as well. Walking has tons of benefits; all you have to do is lace up your shoes and step out the door! You’ll be glad you did.
Ahhhh. Just hearing the word makes me feel a little bit better already. Caring for a baby at any age is physically taxing on the body and it seems like any free moment you have a new parent is used up with something else you have to use your body for: cleaning, working, cooking, the list is endless. All of these things leave us hunched over and tensed up for much of the day, which is why it’s important to find time to stretch those tired muscles. But when? The trick is short bursts! Sitting on the floor with baby? Lean forward and stretch out those legs. Waiting for water to boil on the stove? Lift an arm and do some side bends in the kitchen. Can’t sleep? Roll to your side and stretch out your glutes. If you have a bigger chunk of time, I suggest doing a 10-15 minute online yoga video. Yoga with Adriene has some great ones and you can search based on what you need! Sometimes doing an activity for only a minute or two can feel pointless, but it can be just the reset your body needs. Give it a try.
*during pregnancy and after birth, all physical activity should be cleared by your physician
Take a bath
Oftentimes when we think of taking a bath for self-care, we picture bubbles and candles and a glass of wine, but this isn’t usually possible when you have a baby. My suggestion is to take a bath with your baby! If your baby is old enough to sit up safely on their own, you can get in there together and play. The water will be cooler and shallower than you’re used to, but this can actually be a really fun way to bond with your baby while getting a necessary “chore” done at the same time. Plus, if someone else is home to dry and dress baby afterwards, you can follow it up with a shower on your own. I’d consider this a win for everyone!
Make (and eat) some easy homemade soup
Once babies start eating solids, it can be overwhelming to figure out what to feed them for every meal. Try making a delicious and easy soup that the whole family can enjoy! We often spend so much effort making separate meals, especially when baby is first trying new foods, that we forget there are meals we can easily share with them. Your baby will love eating the same food as you and you get to have a meal all to yourself that you don’t have to share off your plate! Here is one simple recipe to test out this week https://masandpas.com/chicken-soup-for-babies/ and for a simple, healthy chicken stock, check out Family Tree Doula Services’ blog: Bone Broth Made Easy.
Do a quick guided meditation
There is a misconception about meditation that you must be good at it before it can really benefit you. This isn’t true at all! Even a two minute guided meditation can help calm your nervous system in times of stress. Use it first thing in the morning while you’re getting ready, to help you fall asleep at night, or to take a quick break while baby is napping. I even love to meditate while my baby is sleeping in my arms (only short ones of course- so I don’t fall asleep!). Headspace and Calm are two of the best meditation apps and both have a wide variety of options for any situation you find yourself in– pregnancy, moments of anger, waking up in the night, and many more. Eventually you’ll become a pro and will have techniques you can use to take 10 second breaks whenever you need them throughout the day. What an awesome skill to have!
Call your doula
When all else fails and you just really need some help, call your postpartum doula, and schedule a shift or two. Whether you need a few hours of assistance during the day or a whole night of better sleep, we are always ready to be at your side. Your doula can give you precious time to nap or shower, make you a home cooked meal, or just be an unbiased ear to listen. Sometimes, allowing someone else to take care of you is the best way to take care of yourself.
When you’re a parent, self-care isn’t always manicures, massages, and reading full chapters of novels at a time. When those things are possible, that’s great! But now when all you have are fleeting minutes between naps and diapers, you have a list to pull from then too, because as your doulas,