Self-care can feel like a foreign concept or an impossible feat when you are a mom or dad of a young baby. Babies require so much time, effort, love, and giving that it’s easy to feel depleted at the end of the day. The extra challenging part of raising young babies (or toddlers) is the day never really ends… especially when you have a sleepless baby. Maybe you haven’t started or just started sleep coaching and you have a ways to go. Or maybe your baby is going through something that you can’t solve immediately (e.g. illness). Even if your young baby is sleeping “well” at night, if they still need night feeds, you’re dealing with fragmented sleep. It can be exhausting and difficult to care for yourself when you’re dealing with the demands of a baby, especially when you are sleep-deprived.
I can tell you all day long how self-care makes you a better parent. But practicing what I preach is a different story. I don’t do it perfectly, or even every day. It is a balancing act; caring for the needs of my children, as well as finding time for me. What I can say is that I see a big difference in how I feel and what I can give, when I take small steps towards self-care. It doesn’t need to be monumental. Some days, brushing my teeth and taking a hot shower is a win! Here are some suggestions we have to help you fill up your well:
- Enlist your “village”- We often hear “it takes a village to raise a child.” Honestly, it takes a village to raise a parent! Without a support system of some kind, raising a child can be too much. If you have local friends and family who are able to watch the baby while you take a nap, use them! Use a trusted neighbor to entertain the baby while you take a long shower. If you don’t have local family, build your village. Hire a baby sitter or join a babysitting co-op so you can have some time to refresh yourself. Join a mom’s group so you can connect with other people who can relate to your situation. Everyone’s village will look different. While you may need the help today, someone in your “village” may need help tomorrow. So accept and give help freely!
- Find a stress relieving outlet – Find something that helps to reduce stress, and try to do it as often as possible. Some people exercise, or read, or listen to music. I love yoga; there is nothing quite like a warm, calming yoga class that fills me right up. But it’s hard for me to carve out the time for a long class, several times a week. So, once my little guy is asleep, I try to find a stress reducing activity to do daily. I’ll unwind with a funny book (even 5 minutes, if that’s all I can manage) or work on a crochet project.
- Get support – I tend to be a talker and I often find a great way to release some of my tension is to talk it out with a close friend or family member. Stay connected to a friend or family member who you can go to when life is tough. Tell them how hard life is right now; you may even share a good cry. Letting your emotions out is a great release. I often find if I can talk out all of my stress, I feel a little better, even though my situation may not have changed. Let all of your feelings out, and then let it go!
- Eat well and stay hydrated – I’ve read that sleep deprivation causes you to crave carbs. Of course, right!? This is why it is especially important to eat well and often. When you feel depleted physically, eating well can help maintain the little energy that you have. Drinking 10 ounces of water first thing in the morning, even before you drink your coffee or eat breakfast, is a great way to start your day off right.
- Find fun ways to connect with your baby – The weight of sleep deprivation can be heavy. I often found when my son was going through a sleep regression, my inclination was to stay in the house and try to have a low key day. I quickly realized the best thing to do for the two of us was to get out of the house and find something fun to do to connect. This could be going to a park or for a walk or even to a store. Find little ways to find daily joy. I would often take my son for a walk in the carrier at a local park, having him snuggled so close to me and being outside always made me feel better. Fresh air seems to help enhance my mood. Find whatever helps you feel energized and connect with your baby.
- Trust this is only temporary – I know I tend to get overwhelmed during times of sleeplessness, and I have a hard time reminding myself how temporary it all is. A friend once told me, age cures most things with children. Looking back, this is very true. Sleep regressions will pass (though unhealthy sleep habits likely won’t!), illness will come and go, new milestones will be met, and though it might not feel like it now, all of their teeth will eventually come in. Most things will pass. Trust that things will get better. Have a plan with sleep coaching, if that’s what you need to do. Having a plan instills hope. Take it one day at a time, one hour at a time. What happened yesterday won’t be the same as today. Nothing lasts forever (e.g. crying/exhaustion), so remember that this too shall pass.