Getting older changes you. Once you have your baby in your arms, you are no longer just your name. You are now a parent.
In 2022, The New York Times asked readers for their best advice for new moms. The article, published on Mother’s Day, featured some of the 3,000 responses they received from readers, including:
“Let it go.”
“Choose your battles.”
A woman in Pakistan said, “There is an Urdu saying in our culture: Suno sab ki, karo apni. It means: ‘Hear everyone, but do what you want.’”
With that in mind, here’s some curated advice. Hear it, but do what’s best for you and your family.
Think of your health
You have just had an incredibly taxing physical experience. In fact, you’re still going through it. You have more on your plate than ever before, and taking care of yourself can feel like another item on a very long checklist. It is very important to prioritize your health – for your baby, your family and you.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has a great resource for new moms on their website (cdc.gov/hearher/pregnant-postpartum-women/index.html), with a list of urgent medical concerns for postpartum women and a guide to help you start the conversation with your doctor to get the help you need.
In addition to physical problems, the source also touches mental health problems. According to the Mayo Clinic, most moms experience what’s commonly referred to as the “baby blues” two to three days after giving birth. It resembles mood swings, anxiety, crying spells and trouble sleeping. This can take two to three weeks.
Indiana University Health offers new moms free in-person and online postpartum support groups. Visit their classes and events page (iuhealth.org/classes-events) for a detailed schedule.
If the “baby blues” are more severe or last more than three weeks, it’s important to talk to your doctor. If you are having suicidal thoughts, seek help immediately. In the US, you can call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline (988lifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now). It is open 24 hours a day and ready to help.
This is hard for some of us. You are not supposed to take care of yourself and your baby alone.
In China, the concept of the 40-day rest period, “zuo yuezi,” or postpartum, has been around for over 2,000 years. The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nursing the New Mother by Heng Ou, Amely Greeven and Marisa Belger, is an engaging guide to rest and recovery that explores the traditions of “zou yuezi”.
Another resource is the MOMS Helpline, provided by the Indiana Department of Health. This free support system for new and expectant mothers can be accessed at momshelplineeindiana.com or by calling 1-844-624-MOMS. Parents can have a confidential conversation with an experienced professional who can help with everything from breastfeeding to help with the bill.
Rest, rest, rest
Remember when you took a nap whenever you wanted? Or sleep in on the weekend? Those days will return, but you have a few years to get through first. I promise you the day will come soon when you drag your 13 year old child out of bed so he doesn’t miss the bus.
In the meantime, a newborn’s sleep schedule is quite erratic. This means that your sleep rhythm is also quite erratic. So it may help to keep these things in mind:
1. Sleep when the baby sleeps.
2. Divide and conquer with your partner.
3. Improve your sleep hygiene.
4. Meditate every day.
5. Exercise every day.
Becoming a new parent can be an overwhelming experience full of challenges. It is important to remember that every parent’s journey is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Seeking support from family, friends, and professionals, and taking care of yourself both physically and mentally, can help you face the challenges of parenthood and enjoy the joys that come with it.
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