How To Not Go Insane Whilst on Maternity Leave
5 ways to keep your mental health strong in the midst of dirty diaper pails, infinity bottle washes, and baby hiccups
Sip Sip is a weekly newsletter dedicated to making moms feel SEEN in the realm of mental health. As the editor, I’m committed to easing your mom woes — one newsletter at a time — through advice, lessons, and humor on how to live your life right.
Reee-er, Reee-er, Reee-er, Reee-er.
Do you hear that? That’s the glorious sound of the breast pump. If you’re breastfeeding and/or pumping, you know the horror I’m speaking of — raw nipples and ‘round the clock milking.
Ah, motherhood is beautiful. Isn’t that what they say? While that may be true, it’s hard to see that new mommy glow when you’re in the throes of newborn caretaking — enduring sleepless nights, unconsolable crying, and unpredictable mood swings — on top of the mental and physical toll you’ve endured with labor and delivery.
Becoming a parent, whether it’s your first, second, or fifth time around, is an experience like no other. While it isn’t my intention to complain about motherhood, it is my aim to tell it like it is — because If I’m feeling this way, I’m confident other moms are, too.
THAT SAID! Here are my tips for surviving (and semi-thriving) when caring for your newborn. Because let’s face it — the days of maternity leave, while precious and short-lived, are also long and boring.
#1 Have something to look forward to every day.
There are going to be days where you look at the clock thinking it’s time to make dinner only to see it’s barely hit 10 am. Having things to look forward to every day (I call them “little wins”) makes a HUGE difference in your mood and overall happiness.
For me, it’s watching The Today Show, enjoying a fancy latte, listening to a good podcast episode, having a phone call with a friend, taking late morning walks, cooking a new dish while the baby sleeps, and, my favorite , savoring a glass of wine with dinner at the end of a very long day.
#2 Get out of the house AT LEAST once a day.
I can’t stress how crucial this one is. Even if you are leaving the house in your college sweatpants and breastmilk-stained t-shirt, YOU. HAVE. TO. GET. OUT.
Take your baby for a stroll, go for a coffee run, or hit up a local shop (like a market or bookstore) for a welcome change of pace and scenery.
The fresh air is good for both you and your baby, and you will come back to your house feeling refreshed and grounded.
#3 Make plans with friends once a week.
Just because you have a newborn doesn’t mean you need to pause the rest of your life for the next 3 or so months.
Meeting up with a friend for an hour or so (for coffee, wine, a walk in the park, a sit on your back patio, etc.) is always worth it. Invite someone over for an afternoon so they can hold the baby while you do the dishes. You need the company (and the break).
Socializing is self-care, and friends are medicine. Don’t forget it, and don’t underestimate it!
#4 Tell your support system what you need.
Is it pasta? A shower? A few hours to go to your workout class and get your nails done?
Whatever it is, don’t feel bad about asking. People want to help, despite you thinking you’re being a burden.
Those little pockets of Me Time are sanity savers, and you need breaks in order to function properly.
#5 Keep a sense of normalcy.
If Friday Night Date Night is a non-negotiable in your relationship, don’t stop just because you have a new baby. Your kids should be adjusting to your schedule, not the other way around.
If you don’t feel comfortable leaving your baby yet, have a sitter come over while you and your partner eat takeout on the back patio.
Routine is your friend in this sense. It provides a feeling of safety and structure, and keeps your sense of identity strong.
Moms need support when they’re powering through the fourth trimester and all its postpartum glory. The exhaustion, irritability, physical pain from the aftermath of childbirth, stress headaches, not feeling good about your body yet, etc. are all contributors to poor mental health UNLESS you do things to prevent the poor mental health spiral — like continuing to workout, eat healthy, and have a life outside of momhood.
Being proactive about your mental and physical health is EVERYTHING during this life transition, which all moms deserve the respect and resources to stay sane and healthy.
Whether you’re a new mom yourself or you have a friend who just had a baby, remember that keeping young humans alive is a job — a job we need frequent vacations from.
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