The first few weeks and months after baby arrives can be very intense and may feel like a roller coaster of emotions and exhaustion. However, it IS possible to thrive and really enjoy this time with your new little one in spite of the huge adjustment it is. If you can think of building your NESTS as priority you will set yourself up for success: Nourishment, Exercise, Sleep, Time for yourself, Support
Nourishment is so important to your well being, especially at this stage of your life. You are using extra energy to feed and care for your baby as well as recovering your own body from pregnancy and childbirth. Your digestive juices and enzymes will be diminished and your digestion will be sluggish. Some adaptations in your diet will help with this such as eating nutrient dense, easily digestible foods like chicken, sweet potato, bananas, eggs, salmon and oatmeal. Warm foods are generally recommended to increase circulation in your abdominal cavity and will promote healing. Think soups, stews and bone broth. Extra warmth can be attained by using pepper, ginger, clove and cardamom.
Exercise not only helps physical health but your mental health as well. However, I am not talking hard core gym workouts or training for marathons here especially in the first few weeks. A gentle walk outdoors, postpartum yoga or pilates can be very beneficial. And do remember, lifting your baby, wearing your baby, bouncing your baby (gently of course), running up and downstairs to the laundry room all count for movement so give yourself some credit for those activities.
Sleep and nutrition together are so important for hormone regulation, energy, mood regulation and overall sense of wellbeing. It's hard to get the 7-9 hours sleep you need when you have a newborn waking every 2-3 hours to eat but you still need it. Getting enough sleep for new parents is challenging but vitally important. Baby will wake you to feed during the night. You may be tempted to stay up late to get the household chores done after the little one is in bed. This means daytime naps are in order. You will need to decide what things do not need to be a priority right now so that your sleep IS a priority. Here is a list of some things that you may find helpful in getting enough sleep:
Give yourself 2-3 hours of electronic device free time ie no blue light before bed.
Have a cup of tea that contains chamomile, lavender, valerian or a combination.
Use magnesium externally in a bath or spritz it on your skin.
Quiet, relaxing music. Singing or humming to your baby can be beneficial to both of you.
Meditation: there are many guided meditations and yoga Nidra practices available online that are useful in emptying the brain and relaxing the muscles.
Journaling can also be used as a brain dump to quiet the mind before bed.
When Wakened in the Night to Attend to Baby:
Keep the lights dim.
Avoid verbally interacting other than to calm baby.
Be as efficient as possible with feeding and diapering.
Studies show that both moms and babies get more sleep when they are in the same room. You will awaken sooner to meet their needs and therefore will spend less time soothing them and walking down the hall.
Time for Yourself. When caring for an infant, it's easy to start to feel touched out or overwhelmed with all that needs to be done. It's absolutely essential for your well being to have a few moments to yourself EVERY day. This is not only good for you but for your little ones as well. A happy, healthy mother will have happier, healthier babies that one day will be adults who know how to take care of themselves. Self care may look different than it did before baby but it is still essential. It may look like sitting down with a cup of herbal tea with your feet up, it may be taking 5 minutes to do some deep breathing or meditation or taking half an hour to meet a friend at a coffee shop, without children. Whatever it looks like for you, DO IT.
Support. Having a newborn in our society can be very isolating. Unfortunately for the most part, gone are the days when moms and aunties and sisters come over to cook and clean while you rest and care for your child. Many times extended family lives long distances away. Friends are at work. And you are alone at home sore and leaking from many orifices, with a newborn. We are in a culture of independence and without children we generally can do most things on our own. This makes it difficult to ask for help. But ask you must. And you will be surprised at how much people do want to help, they just don't know what needs to be done. Most people would be happy to do a load of laundry when they come over to visit, or give the counter a wipe. It won't seem like a big task to them but it will help you immensely. Set up a meal train or instead of getting 57 million onesies at the baby shower, ask people to give gift certificates to your favorite restaurant and then do take out. Another option is to hire a postpartum doula, someone who is trained in the nuances of postpartum and can help with all these details as well as help with breastfeeding and reassuring you about newborn care.
Here's to happy nest building.