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How to look after you

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One mum reflects on the art of self-care under the time crunch of new motherhood.

Almost 18 months ago, my life changed at 6 o’clock in the morning. I walked up an orange-lit street leading to a set of imposing hospital doors and soon after, donned surgery clothes and met my son. It was a day I’d spent nine months anticipating and agonizing over: how was birth going to unfold? Would I be okay? Would the baby be okay?

He was. I was. And for that I’m grateful beyond measure. But the question I spent almost no time pondering was this: how would I cope after leaving hospital?

Sure, I was warned countless times that sleep would be an issue. But I didn’t think that finding time to shower or brush my hair each day would be tricky, or that I’d have to rethink what ‘finding calm’ looked like.

READ MORE: What not to sweat with a newborn

Here are my top 3 learnings to share with new mums – things I’d wished I’d known about caring for myself with a darling new babe in tow.

1. Re imagining sleep

I’d wager a bet that the number one fear most new parents have is the loss of sleep a new baby brings. In a sense, this fear can be overinflated. There are ways to maximize your sleep; they just require you to change up your habits. For starters, during the day, your newborn could have around 4-5 naps, and in the early days, this number could climb even higher.

When things start to settle into some kind of routine, make a journal of your baby’s habits. Does he or she tend to fall asleep at the same times each day, and if so, for how long? When you indentify a longer sleep that happens regularly, get on board. Take a nap while your baby sleeps to catch up on sleep you might miss overnight.

Also make sure your bedroom is a dark as it can be, and consider the use of white noise (there are tonnes of wonderful white noise apps out there) to mask external sounds that can wake your baby and prematurely shorten naps.

2. Nourishing simply

Boiled eggs became my best friends! I’d boiled up four eggs at a time and leave them in the fridge. I didn’t have time to prepare elaborate meals, but I prioritized foods high in protein that were quick and easy. Each meal, I threw in an egg, sliced-up pre-marinated tofu, tuna or red kidney beans from a tin. I also had natural yoghurt, roast almonds, sultanas, apples, bananas and mandarins on hand as simple, nutritious snacks.  

I decided not to give up coffee, but instead to have a weaker brew and just one a day (please note that the general advice is for pregnant women and new mums to cut out coffee entirely). In my case, the psychological benefit of a cup of morning coffee was something I just didn’t want to live without.

A related tip: drink, drink, drink! Water and herbal tea, that is. Breastfeeding mums need a much higher water intake than they otherwise would. I made sure I had a glass of water at every feed. I also housed an enticing, indulgent array of herbal teas in the cupboard for a bit of variety – the nice kind you can buy from the health food store.

READ MORE: Easy nourishment for new mums

3. Joining a calming circle of mothers

At first, I was sceptical about mothers’ groups. Surely, talking about babies every meet-up would get boring? I couldn’t have been more wrong. Mothers’ groups are about so much more than your baby! They’re about you, too.

I popped my head into two mothers’ groups: one run by the local library and another by the local birth education centre. The first group was too big and I found the other mothers had a different philosophy on motherhood to me (mind you, I had no idea of my own outlook prior to having my bub and going with what felt right).

The second group grew my heart. I couldn’t wait to see the mothers each week, sit around drinking tea on a blanket with our babies sleeping or kicking their legs up beside us.

We shared anxieties about sleep, rashes and continuous crying. We shared settling techniques, helpful oils, advice on healing our bodies as well as music to make the day amble along a little sweeter. We found cafés that we felt welcomed in and parks to sprawl inside. We learnt how to reinvent our lives as mothers together.

This explains my final tip: the calm that comes from meshing with a group you click with is worth its weight in gold. Experiment until you find your tribe.