I believe the single most important thing new mums can do is set themselves reasonable expectations for what can be achieved each day. Most of us have full lives before we have a baby and it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking we can just carry on as before. Eventually we can, but in the early days we have other priorities.
...because you will be awake when baby is awake and for most families this includes periods during the night. Rest is important for our health throughout our lives, but when our bodies are healing, learning new things and supporting our babies' nutritional needs as well as our own, rest becomes essential for our physical and mental wellbeing.
Good food is essential for new mums, but it's not always easy to eat well. The nutrients we need after birth are greater than at any time during pregnancy, but we can find ourselves with little time or energy for preparing good food as new mums. Before baby is born, prepare some of your favorite dishes, foods you know you'll be excited to reheat and eat, and put them in the freezer. Once baby arrives, ask friends and family to make you good, healthy, nutritious food.
It's always an important selfcare strategy, but maintaining hydration is essential for supporting your body to heal and to ensure adequate breastmilk production. Hydrate by drinking water. Our skin undergoes a lot of stretching during pregnancy and hydration is key to helping our skin retain its elasticity and to relieve dry and irritated skin.
There are so many benefits to keeping our bodies moving. Depending on the circumstances of your labour, there may be a period of time where exercise is not advised. Always follow your healthcare providers recommendations. But most women can start gentle walking as soon as they feel ready after birth. Exercise helps your body heal, it restores muscle strength, improves your mood, relieves stress and can help prevent postpartum depression.
And say yes to offers of help – people don't offer unless they genuinely want to help you, so you are not being a burden. Take them up on their offers. It's wonderful to have people around who care, let them do it, but be specific about the help you need.
Ask yourself each day, "how do I feel today?" Being a new mum is hard, but it's not meant to be so hard you fall apart – be aware of how you feel, if you feel yourself struggling, tell someone, seek support and help.
Touch, talk and eye contact are the pillars of communication with our babies and should start immediately after birth. Be the one who knows your baby best. Observe their movements, notice their preferences, find the spots on their body that are most sensitive to touch, find the patterns in their behaviors, differentiate between their cries. In being so observant you'll pick up anything new, notice anything suspicious and be in tune with your baby and her needs.
Do something just for you once each day - Read, watch, listen, move. Whatever it is, do it for you and shake the guilt and worry. We can only be the best version of ourselves for everyone else when we are looking after ourselves.
And finally, remember to enjoy this precious time with your little one. The newborn months are fleeting, and with our time so often spent getting the job done we can't always see the joy that surrounds us.