There was a time in my life when a 5-minute shower was a luxury. All the other minutes in a day were filled with caring for a tiny bundle. There was definitely no yoga, no green smoothies or relaxing afternoon teas with friends. Once I finally got in that shower…I felt immensely guilty. I even heard fantom baby screams. Sound familiar?
We have all been there: feeling guilty, inadequate and egoistic. and how could we not? If we stepped into the shower, perhaps we heard the baby screaming from the carrier cot. Or because we scrolled Facebook while breastfeeding and dropped our phones on their heads (true story).
We all want to be the best version of our self to our little ones.
It is easy to forget: happy mum = happy baby.
Self-care is not selfish. Not now, not ever.
Let’s start with the research. Stuart Shanker, (“Self-Reg” book) states that babies (and young children) aim at limbic homeostasis. In simple terms: if you try to lull your infant to sleep while being very stressed yourself… most likely, it won’t work. It appears that our brains “talk” to each other. No matter how calm you try to appear, your baby will
sense how you actually are. Worse still, they will endeavor to match that state. The result? An overtired, stressed, angry mum (or carer) equals an un-settle-able little one. What does it mean for us? Yes, you’ve guessed it: Self-care, and taking a break from caring for others so you may care for your self, is vital.
Many of us practice attachment parenting. In the early days, it means almost non-stop carrying and breastfeeding. While I do not argue with its principles (in fact, I am an attachment mum myself), but where did the idea come from? Of course – from tribal cultures! There’s a simple catch, though. In most tribal cultures, the ratio of an adult per baby is 4:1. And babies spend an average of 60% of the time away from the mother, in other tribespeople’s arms (as per E. Aron, “Highly Sensitive Child’).
Thus, the need for time alone spent napping, reading, staring into space or doing yoga is of paramount importance to mothers. But how on earth can you carve out this time? Enlisting your “village” to help is the key. In the beginning, even 30 minutes of “off time” can be a lifesaver. Can a friend come over? Great! Plop the little miracle in their arms and go have a bath or eat a meal that the friend brings over. Are grandparents available? Do you have good neighbors? Would it be possible to have a sitter over for an hour every second day if your partner is working long hours or you are a single mum? Certainly, hiring a nanny costs money but sanity and well-being are priceless.
5-minute self-care hacks for newborn mums:
- Fix yourself a berry, oatmeal, almond milk, and banana smoothie, with chlorella or spirulina
- Take a Vitamin C tablet and/or a probiotic
- Sit or lay down and take 10 deep breaths. Inhalation equal to exhalation
- At a countertop or table, do 10 “cat and cow” movements, ensuring 90-degree angle between hips and belly
- Sit in the sun for 3-5 minutes. Close your eyes. Roll the head left to right gently.
5-30 minute self-care hacks:
- Have a soak in lavender-rose oil
- Do a session of sleep yoga, Yoga Nidra
- If your energy allows, move. Go for a walk — even around the block
- Complete a maximum of 5 yoga poses
- Order in, or cook a simple hot meal. Eat slowly, no baby on your lap
- Attend a gentle yoga class of your own choosing
- If you are advanced enough in your postpartum, having a swim is a great idea
- Walk in nature, spend some time in the sun
- Talk to a supportive person
- Have a massage or acupuncture session
It may not be easy to take this time out. You may hear phantom cries and be convinced your baby is suffering. Remember, however, even the tiniest break will make appreciating and caring for your bundle much easier. It will allow your stress levels to regulate faster. You will be able to process the tiredness, hard or unexpected feelings better. This, in turn, will — as science tells us — help your baby to regulate more effectively. Who knows? Maybe they will even sleep more and better. Self-care is not selfish. It is a right.