So, you just gave birth. Life is…intense. Of course you love your new baby, but the postpartum grind can be as crazy as it is wonderful (maybe even more crazy than it is wonderful, let’s be honest). From the hormones to the leaking milk to the baby who simply refuses to be put down, it’s all just…A LOT. It will take awhile to get the hang of, and that’s ok. But in all the newness, the ups and downs and the burping and the onesies and the overeager grandparents, it’s really easy to lose sight of yourself and your own needs.
I always tell my doula clients that pregnancy self-care is important, but I honestly think postpartum self-care is even more important. You simply cannot do a good job taking care of someone else if you aren’t feeling safe, happy, and cared for. It’s that whole “you can’t pour from an empty cup,” you know? You must fill your own cup. You must!
Below are 17 suggestions for postpartum self-care. Some involve money, some involve time, but all involve the mindful intention to take care of yourself. And hey, they’re just suggestions—you should find the self-care practices that work for you and your lifestyle. Just try to find a few minutes, every day, to focus on yourself and your own happiness. You, your baby, and your entire family will be the better for it!
1.Get some sunshine: Getting outside can clear the mind. You can bring your baby in a stroller or a wrap, but it’s ok to go alone, too, even if it’s just a few blocks. If walking feels like too much, post up in a sunny window and soak up the vitamin D that way.
2.Surround yourself with good smells: Amazing lotion, spicy oils in a diffuser, luxury candles, whatever. Having your home and environment smell good (especially after a diaper change!) will put you in a good mood.
3.Get a massage: Massages are awesome, period. Postpartum? They can feel like literal heaven. A chiropractic or craniosacral adjustment might also be amazing after a long labor or lots of hunched-over time breastfeeding. Some massage therapists will even come to your house, setting up their table in the privacy of your own bedroom. You can also find massage therapists that specialize in postpartum.
4.Limit visits: It’s completely fine if you want to stay in bed or on the couch all day and see no one but your partner and your baby. You are in no way obligated to show off your new baby or entertain anyone, especially in the important first few weeks. Setting clear boundaries in terms of visits can help you rest and recuperate the way you need to. And if people insist on visiting? Do not be afraid to ask them to help in some way. Holding cute babies should come with the price of folding five onesies! #justsaying
5.Or ask for visitors!: Maybe you derive energy from others, from interaction and conversation. So set up visits from your favorite family and friends during times of the day when you know you’ll likely want to see people. Outings with trusted support people are great, too, if you feel up to it! And again, please make sure that anyone who visits you is contributing to your overall well-being, whether that’s through emotional support or more concrete stuff, like errand running, cleaning, and more. Keep the visits relatively short (20 minutes is often the sweet spot!) and be clear about boundaries while visitors are hanging out, too.
6.Hire a cleaner: Have a professional come and clean your house top to bottom. Do not feel one ounce of embarrassment over the dust bunnies or the piles of laundry. When everything is spotless, stand in wonderment at how great it is to be in a clean space that you didn’t actually have to clean. You can also ask that someone else gift you this service.
7.Stay hydrated: I hope you’re already chugging your weight in water, but if not, set up a system that makes it easy for you to stay hydrated. Fill a galloon jug and aim to empty it before the day is out, carry a water bottle with you wherever you go, have your partner make tea you can sip every few hours, whatever works! It can feel more special to fill your fridge with drinks you wouldn’t normally have, like lemonade, kombucha, etc, if you’re having trouble drinking. Herbal teas for lactation and postpartum count, too!
8.Have a babymoon: A babymoon is essentially a period (at least 24 hours) where you have a little honeymoon with your baby, doing nothing but hanging out in bed with him or her, skin-to-skin, cuddling and feeding. It’s amazing for milk production, latching, and bonding on the part of both parent and baby, but can also be restful and calming, too. It’s also a great excuse to refuse visitors or regular tasks.
9.Have realistic expectations: Did you think your first few weeks after birth would be a little sleepless, sure, but mostly lots of gazing at your baby in awe and feeling joyful? Yeah…for most people it’s not like that, and that’s ok. Having realistic expectations for your recovery, including what your body and mind might feel like (hint: often not great!) can help a lot. That goes for baby behavior, too.
HUG Your Baby is a great resource to learn about newborn behavior, as is La Leche League. Yes, it’s normal if you baby wants to be held ALL THE TIME. They truly haven’t even registered that they are seperate from your body yet. Give your little one, and yourself, some grace by learning what’s truly normal for this time—and not aiming any higher.
10. Buy yourself something: Anything! A new bra, a piece of art, a lamp, a blanket, a windchime, a puzzle, a freaking magical crystal…it doesn’t have to be practical. You don’t have to need it. You just have to want it. Small or large, expensive or cheap—if you can swing it— gift yourself. If you can’t, there may be a free group or barter group in your area where you can try to find what you need.
11. Listen to this podcast: I’m always raving about the Birthful podcast, but I think this episode on “Taking Care of You” should be required for pregnant/postpartum people. So many good suggestions on postpartum life!
12. Download the Calm app: This app is mentioned in the above podcast and can put some much-need ahhh into your day. It’s incredibly simple and has many options for mindfulness exercises that take just a few minutes to complete. If this one isn’t your thing, Expectful and GentleBirth both have wonderful postpartum meditations.
13. Dance: Put on your favorite song (or songs), crank the volume and just let go in your own personal dance party. No one is looking, promise. Or the only person looking is your baby, and believe me, your baby thinks you’re beautiful and perfect even when you’re dancing like a banshee to “Wannabe.”
14. Breathe: Make time, at least a few times a day, to oxygenate as deeply as you can, for a full five breaths, in and out. Everyone knows deep breaths are calming, but they also legitimately help stress.
15. Ask for help: Many parents aren’t used to reaching out for help in any situation, especially one that’s supposed to be so amazing and special. But there is no shame in asking your loved ones for what you need…or just asking them to pay special attention to you. You might need someone to bring over dinner, or grab you some more pads, or pick up a new kind of bottle at Target. You might just need to cry and be heard. You might need someone to hold your baby while you shower. But please, don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help, and to be clear and strong in articulating exactly the kind of help you need.
16. Connect with other parents: Social media is great, and has brought so many isolated parents a sense of community and connection. But if at all possible, try to get out of the house and hang out with other real, live, technicolor people who are experiencing the same intense #newbornlife that you are. It might be at a La Leche League meeting or other breastfeeding support group, a hospital group, a playgroup, or another type of meetup–MeetUp.com and local parenting resource centers (including birth centers) are great places to look. You might find a new friend, or you might just find an awesome rec for a pacifier brand or a used Ergo you can try for free. Still, getting out there will probably ultimately be worth it, even if it takes two hours to get the baby gear ready. After all, outing = sense of accomplishment, right?
17. Be kind: The person you should be kind to during the postpartum period is yourself. The most important thing you can do when you have a newborn is take it one day at a time and release yourself from expectations: your own, your partner’s, your family’s, society’s. You are doing what you need to do it. You are doing it. You are enough. Tell yourself this every day and make sure you are treating yourself—the only one you ever get—with radical kindness and forgiveness.
If you’re reading this while you’re still pregnant, more power to you! Thinking mindfully about life after birth while you’re still pregnant can make a huge difference in your experience. Postpartum planning might be an awesome service for you.