I decided at 35 weeks pregnant that I wanted to write about ways to care for yourself while on maternity leave. This little guy’s comedic timing proved impeccable, so here I am I trying to squeak in a few minutes to sit down and write this with a squishy newborn in my arms. The truth is, my desire for a routine is still mostly a pipe dream, but I am slowly and steadily working toward it while following this little baby’s lead.
What I’ve learned so far, a month into this new life, is the importance of being kind to
ourselves as new moms. Whether it is a first or a fifth child there’s always going to be something new to learn. The baby’s dishes and clothing may be the only ones washed, our bodies are still recovering, and it takes time to figure out what our new normal looks like. Combining pre-baby aspirations and my goals from our time together so far, these are the elements of the routine I am prioritizing.
Do something each day that makes you feel “human.”
I’m a realist; every day will probably not involve a shower, makeup, and styled hair. If you were able to pull this off, I bow to your superior energy and agreeable baby! It may be something small like putting on mascara or packing up the car for a trip to the favorite coffee shop with a drive-through (we love Beans and their mini donuts!) Fun fact: did you know that Sandy’s Donuts also has a drive-through?
Don’t forget to eat and pee.
Now I have to admit, this is the one that I struggle the most with follow-through. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the baby’s needs that literally everything else can wait – except a postpartum bladder. Try not to make that bladder wait – you will lose! Eating is just as important and even easier to forget. Personally, I’m most successful when I leave packaged snacks in different locations around the house. I’m reminded that I haven’t eaten in a while as I walk past and can easily grab a snack while I feed him.
Put the effort into prepping for a smooth day.
The day can get off to a great start by minimizing perceived chaos and keeping frequent items close at hand.
- Pick out your clothing the night before: Postpartum clothing can be stressful; most things don’t fit as they used to and no one wants to keep wearing pregnancy clothes. It’s the perfect way to ensure that the nursing bras you like can be used when needed. Taking a couple of minutes to make sure you have clean clothes in an easily accessible location will help start the day comfortably.
- Focus on mobility: I love my IKEA cart. It’s perfect for keeping blankets, burp cloths, food, diapers, and feeding supplies close at hand. The wheels make it easy to bring anywhere in the house and it holds enough to keep me going for a few days. Keeping this cart stocked makes one-handed and/or seated needs so much easier.
- Food, food, food: Packaged foods are great for convenience but usually not the perfect meal. Prep a few more nutritious meals and snacks to off-set the snack bars. I try to have finger foods such as fruits and vegetables with few crackers ready in the fridge.
If I’m being real, this may be the only thing harder than remembering to pee. We put too much pressure on ourselves to keep all of the balls in the air and our well-being is the easiest place to skimp. I’d love to “sleep when the baby sleeps,” but this particular baby insists on being held when sleeping. This makes it pretty hard to do anything, including sleep. My husband and I have found that taking turns napping works for us. I start my night with a nap, so I’ll feed the baby around eight or nine then go right to bed as he gets the baby to sleep. This helps me get out of bed more quickly when I start to hear hunger cues throughout the night.
Utilize passive entertainment that isn’t TV.
Don’t get me wrong, TV is great for mindless background noise, something to focus on when you’re stuck in a chair, or in too much of a fog to process anything beyond who should be blocked on The Circle. I’ve found that I’ve exhausted the shows I saved for maternity leave and want to give my eyes a break. Rather than staring at a screen all the time, I am making a conscious effort to listen to music and podcasts and read books out loud. It’s never too early to expose babies to language and music.
Take a few minutes to reflect on the successes of the day.
Slowing down is hard. It’s easier for others to look at your baby and see that time has passed. Because we are entrenched in it, it’s so much harder to see how quickly they change. Despite its constant needs and challenges, I love the newborn phase. I try to absorb it all, but time has a habit of slipping away. Reflecting on the day is a great time to simply think about what has happened or actively document it. Get a start on that baby book or take a few minutes to look through the pictures you took.
If you’re a new parent or a seasoned veteran with wisdom to share, comment below with your routine!