The CDC estimates that as many as 1 in 5 women suffer from postpartum depression. The fact that 4% of new fathers also experience depression suggests that more than hormonal changes could be at play.
As a new mom, I also experienced postpartum anxiety and depression. While the the rigors of caring for an infant were difficult, they was nothing compared to the overwhelming feeling that I no longer existed as an individual.
Does this sound familiar?
Taking the time to care for your emotional and mental needs is just as important as caring for your newborn. Faithfully integrating “me time” into your daily schedule improves your mental health and allows you to love your baby to your fullest capacity. The tips below will help you add structured relaxation time to your day and minimize your workload.
The early days of parenthood are precious. Let’s get you in the right state of mind to enjoy them.
Create a Practical Routine for Your Baby
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, like your baby’s needs command every minute of your day, beginning a flexible routine can alleviate much of this stress.
Integrating a flexible baby sleep schedule not only ensures that your baby will be well-rested, but it allows you to pencil in time solely dedicated to self-care.
If a baby sleep schedule sounds a little too rigid for your lifestyle, don’t worry. Just follow these basic guidelines:
- Follow an Eat-Play-Sleep cycle- Feed your baby immediately once he wakes, begin an age-appropriate activity, then put your baby back to sleep once he shows sleepy cues. Your “me time” falls within your baby’s sleep time.
- Establish baby’s wake time and bedtime- In the beginning, there’s a very good chance your baby will wake too early or won’t want to sleep at night. That’s okay. This is just a goal to work towards. As your baby gets older and these times are established, they’ll solidify your unwind time.
- Be flexible but consistent- Obviously you should adjust for your baby’s needs, such as hunger or sickness, but try to keep bedtimes and feeding times as consistent as possible.
Clean Smarter, Not Harder
If you’re cleaning during your baby’s nap time, you’re not unwinding. Endless cleaning is exhausting and will erode your mental state. It’s absolutely critical that you set boundaries, organize effectively, and create realistic expectations for managing your home at this stage of life.
There are several ways you can clean more efficiently, but I found these guidelines most helpful:
- Do not devote an entire nap to cleaning- Hold your “me time” sacred. As a new mom, I spent a maximum of a half hour cleaning during naps. The rest of that time was devoted to unwinding or working at home. Including baby in your (chemical-free) cleaning regimen can greatly alleviate some of this pressure.
- Focus on only one organization project a day- As a new parent, you’ll discover that many things are vying for your attention. To prevent more messes, start and finish one project per day until you can handle more.
- Organize realistically- To prevent messes, ensure that everyday objects are easily accessible and store rarely-used items. If these items just collect dust, don’t feel bad about donating or tossing them.
- Create a cleaning schedule- Writing your tasks on a calendar can make them more manageable.
Go Grocery Shopping Once a Week Or Not At All
It takes roughly two hours to complete a grocery run; that includes getting the baby ready, driving to the store, shopping, and driving back home.
If you’re going to the grocery store multiple times a week, there’s a good chance you’re eroding your free time, compiling unnecessary stress, and expending precious resources.
Instead, plan your meals ahead of time, write a detailed shopping list, and go shopping once a week. Better yet, take advantage of big retailers’ new grocery pick up or delivery services. This can free up another 45 minutes of your time every week.
The newborn phase is short. Being in a healthy state of mind will allow you to treasure these precious early parenthood moments. Don’t worry if your house is a little messy or your to-do list isn’t complete. Focus on “me time” and enjoy the newborn phase to its fullest.