With the upcoming second lockdown, now more than ever our mental health matters, Dr Victoria Khromova shares 5 tips for self-care for first time Mums.
Change your perspective
Self-care might feel like a total luxury when you’ve just have a baby and you’re getting to grips with everything that needs to get done. The important thing is to make sure your baby’s needs are met, right? Well, kind of… but it’s not the whole story. One of the most important things you’re doing in your baby’s first year of life is helping them build that secure attachment style, and what’s crucial for attachment? Sensitivity – that’s basically just how easy it is for you to pick up your baby’s cues and do what he needs you to do. And what affects sensitivity? How well you feel in yourself, how rested you are, how much sleep you’ve had, whether your own needs are met. Looking after yourself is not a luxury – it’s an investment in your babies current wellbeing and emotional future.
Create your team
What was I talking about in point number one? Your basic needs being met. That’s right – getting enough sleep, getting enough to eat, having some social contact… This can be pretty hard to do with a baby. So you need to assemble your team – people who are willing and able to help you with those pretty basic things. It’s okay to need help at this time – just remember, you’re getting what you need, so that you can be at your best so that you can support their emotional development. If you’re still pregnant – it’s a pretty good time to start chatting to people about what you would like from them. If you have already given birth – definitely get chatting to people, reach out, be blunt about what you need.
Your partner is your key player
If you do have a partner or a spouse – they are an absolutely key player. There is so much research showing that the relationship you have with them is so important for both your and your baby’s wellbeing. Partners can feel very left out of what’s going on, or not be sure how to best help, or might feel that they can’t really leave you to enjoy some adult time with friends or family. Of course, every family is different, but it’s definitely worth having an open conversation with them about what they need to be at their best for you. If your partner can have what they need, they’ll be in a better place to provide you with time and space for self-care too.
Automate as much as you can
When you have a baby, your brain can feel quite overloaded with needing to be constantly ‘on’ deciphering cues, having to make decision about what to do now (often in the absence of very clear information). If you start adding other mental loads on top of that it can start to feel like your brain might explode. One of those things – that can take up a lot of unnecessary brain space – is mundane decisions. Decisions about what to cook for dinner, what to wear out, where to go… The constant process of deciding… If you find yourself on the verge of tears at the thought of having to decide what to get our of the freezer tonight, it probably means your brain has reached its limit. One of the things you can do is just make those decisions in advance and create a rolling timetable for yourself. It doesn’t have to be something you do forever (especially if you’re not very keen on things being too structured) but in those early days it will free you from having to make constant small decisions if you know that on Mondays it baby sensory in the day and spag bol for dinner. Similarly automating any small tasks such setting up direct debits just helps free up your brain.
Remember – not all babies are the same
Part of self-care is having kind thoughts about yourself. One of the things mums often end up thinking about is how useless they are, how they’re getting it all wrong because the other babies at group seem to all nap regularly and have no trouble feeding or some other comparison we end up making. The reality is – babies are different, and what works for one doesn’t work for another and it’s nothing to do with you ‘being good’. Comparing is the sport of choice for many mums, but, if you can, stay away from it. Hold onto the thought that you are good enough – and that’s good enough.
Article by Dr Victoria Khromova, Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist, parent coach and educator, founder of Emerging Parent