Self Care for New Parents

White adult's hands holding white infant's feet 

White adult's hands holding white infant's feet 

You’ve probably heard the saying “sleep when the baby sleeps.” LISTEN TO IT. Sleep deprivation can be one of the most intense experiences for new parents, but there are ways to limit it. At first, your baby will only sleep in few hour chunks. (In fact, letting a newborn sleep for more than three hours consecutively is dangerous.) So you’re thinking, okay well if my baby only sleeps for 2 hours and then is awake for an hour to feed and then sleeps for two more hours, that’s maaaybe four hours of sleep. CORRECT. BUT. If you were used to waking up at 7 before your baby was born, and you got 7.5 hours of sleep a night pre-baby, now you’re going to stay in bed snoozing until you’ve hit the 7 hours of sleep. That might mean that you don’t get out of bed until noon, but you’ll eventually get close to enough sleep.

Complication, you have another child and your partner only had two weeks of parental leave, so you can’t keep sleeping all morning because you’ve got a toddler to take care of, or get to preschool. Go to bed earlier. The second your older kid is asleep, you get in bed too. Eat dinner with your preschooler at 5pm and go to sleep at 7pm. Sure, you’ll be up with the baby in an hour, but you’ve already got an hour of sleep for the night. I know this schedule sounds nuts, but it’s unbelievably worth the wonky schedule to get those extra hours of sleep in.

Okay, so you’re sleeping, kind of. How do you eat?? And shower? And leave the house occasionally? What about groceries??

Before your new baby arrives, meal prep! Make as many easy to warm freezer meals that you can fit into your freezer. This will get you through a few of those hazy post-partum weeks. Try a meal delivery service! There are enough services with free trials that you can piece together a few weeks of free meals, just plan them ahead. Because you don’t know when a baby is going to arrive, maybe ask a friend to sign you up for the immediate week post-partum, or wait until week 3 when your freezer is depleted and sign up then. Bite the bullet and get groceries delivered! There sometimes is an additional cost, but having groceries delivered is still cheaper than desperately ordering take-out every night.

Now let’s talk personal hygiene! Taking a shower, or even a bath (!) is absolutely necessary a few times a week. Many new parents are nervous to leave their baby in the other room sleeping while they go shower, but it’s okay to give yourself a minute to wash your hair. What if you finally get in the shower and the baby starts crying though? You can get out and go tend to the baby if you don’t feel comfortable leaving them to cry for a few minutes, or you can get in the shower, turn on the water and rinse your body. Neither choice is wrong, it’s just a decision that is up to you.

My number one tip for maintaining some sort of sanity is babywearing!! This allows you to get stuff done, like cook breakfast, or walk the dog, or play with your older child, while staying close to your newborn and keeping them relatively content. More on babywearing in another post, but suffice it to say it’s a huuuuge help, and a wonderful way to bond with your infant.