Medically Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on March 16, 2023
Your Needs Matter

Your Needs Matter

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A new baby brings more joy and more stress than you’ll feel at just about any other time in your life. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. Your baby’s needs seem endless -- and it’s up to you to meet them. But to be your best as a parent, you have to take care of yourself, too.

Eat Well

Eat Well

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Good nutrition keeps your energy up and boosts your mood. Get plenty of protein, iron, and omega-3s, and go easy on the sugar. That’s especially important if you’re breastfeeding and your body needs extra fuel. Try to limit caffeine to the first part of the day. Before the baby comes, stock up on healthy snacks and fill your freezer with your favorite good-for-you meals. Afterward, take full advantage of all the delivery options out there.

Get Regular Exercise

Get Regular Exercise

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It boosts your mood, keeps you healthy, gives you more energy and better sleep, and helps you manage your weight -- everything a new parent needs. So strap on the baby carrier and take a walk, or hop on the stationary bike at nap time. Or, ask your partner to take care of the baby while you exercise. Another option is to check if your gym offers child care, or find a way to exercise with your baby, like a mommy-and-me yoga class or baby boot camp.

Guard Your Sleep

Guard Your Sleep

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It’s hard to come by in the first few months, so grab it whenever you can. Resist the urge to jump on chores when your baby falls asleep. Instead, catch a nap yourself, or just rest. When friends and family come to visit, hand off the baby and go lie down. At night, divide baby duties with your partner so both of you can get a few hours.

Keep Your Connection

Keep Your Connection

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When you’re both stressed, it can be easy to forget that you and your partner are in this together. Take time to focus on each other and keep your family’s foundation strong. Share the highlights of your day, and talk through your concerns. Find someone to watch the baby so you can get out of the house together at least once a week. Don’t neglect intimacy: Even hugs and foot rubs will help keep you close.

Find Some Me Time

Find Some Me Time

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Forget the notion that it’s selfish to take time for yourself. It’s important for your mental health. Spend some time every day doing something you enjoy. Read a magazine or scroll through your social media feeds while you soak in a hot tub. Have a cup of tea, or play with your pet. You’ll feel refreshed and show your children what healthy parenting looks like.

Enjoy the Great Outdoors

Enjoy the Great Outdoors

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You might be surprised by how much fresh air and sunshine can lift your mood. Strap your baby into a stroller or carrier and head to the park. You may not have to go anywhere to spend time outside. A porch swing or rocking chair can be good, too.

Refresh Your Spirit

Refresh Your Spirit

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What brings you inner peace? Take time to find it every day, whether it’s meditation, prayer, or quiet reflection. Start a journal where you record your experiences and feelings as you go through this major life change. It could become a special keepsake for your child one day.

Maintain Your Friendships

Maintain Your Friendships

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It helps to remember you had a life before your baby came. Keep in touch with your friends, even if the relationships have to change a bit. Maybe for now it’s a quick coffee date instead of a long lunch, or a text conversation rather than a phone call. Your friends are a great source of support and perspective.

Let Others Help

Let Others Help

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Now isn’t the time for independence. Your family and friends care about you and want to be helpful, and you’ll return the favor when it’s their turn. When someone offers, be specific about what you need. Give them your grocery list or a takeout order. Hand them a basket of laundry to fold, or show them where to empty the trash. And remember, it’s OK if they don’t do things exactly the way you would.

Know When to Say No

Know When to Say No

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Everyone wants to see the new baby, but your rest and recovery come first. If it’s not a good time for a visit, say so. If that makes you feel guilty, ask your partner or a good friend to be a gatekeeper. Put your work, social, and volunteer obligations on hold until you and your baby get on a predictable schedule.

Be Flexible

Be Flexible

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Maybe you had a picture in your mind of how parenthood would be, or you just like to know how your day is going to go. Well, your baby has a mind of their own, even at just a few days old. If you try to force them to stick to your plan, you’ll likely end up frustrated. Let go of your expectations and go with the flow. Savor the special moments and know that family life won’t always be this crazy.

Cut Yourself Some Slack

Cut Yourself Some Slack

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It doesn’t matter if your house is dirty or you haven’t posted any new baby pictures on social media. You have permission to let things slide while you focus on yourself and your baby. The dishes and laundry will still be there when you (or better yet, a friend) get around to dealing with them.

Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression?

Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression?

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Your emotions may swing wildly in the days after you bring your baby home. You may find you can’t stop crying or you have trouble eating or sleeping. All that’s normal, and it usually works itself out within a few days. But if you feel so bad you can’t function or you can’t shake it after a few weeks, make an appointment with your doctor.

When to Get Help

When to Get Help

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Postpartum depression affects 1 in 9 women, and new dads can get depressed, too. Talk to your doctor if you:

  • Feel sad, worried, or angry for more than a couple of weeks
  • Have no interest in the baby
  • Feel worthless or hopeless
  • Think about harming yourself or the baby

Postpartum depression is treatable, so don’t put off getting help.

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SOURCES:

United Way: “How to Decrease New Baby Stress,” “Ways to Practice Self-Care as a Parent,” “Feeling Blue?” “Beyond The Blue: Recognizing Signs of Postpartum Depression.”

Program for Early Parent Support: “Self-care for Parents,” “Self-care for Parents of Newborns.”

Stop Child Abuse Now of Northern Virginia: “Self Care for Parents.”

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research: “Newborn care: 10 tips for stressed-out parents,” “New parents: Getting the sleep you need.”

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: “Breastfeeding Your Baby,” “Exercise After Pregnancy,” “Postpartum Depression.”

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition,” “Recovering from birth,” “Postpartum Depression.”

CDC: “Depression Among Women.”