Why Self Care is Crucial
By Justine Robinson
There is a reason the famous airplane analogy exists: “put your oxygen mask on before assisting others with theirs”. It can be difficult to heed this advice in ordinary adult life — while trying to build a career, go to school, and keep up with family and other social demands. When you’ve just had a baby, the typical self-care routine can be close to impossible. Many new parents find themselves searching their memory for the last time they have eaten, taken a shower, or had something to drink. This is problematic for many reasons, one of the biggest is that neglecting one’s own health can increase the risk and severity of postpartum depression.
In the days and even weeks after a newborn baby’s arrival, it is essential to try to maintain as many self-care rituals as possible. The definition of a person’s typical self-care routine varies from person to person, but as a general rule:
1. Drink plenty of water. Under normal circumstances, it is okay to drink to one’s own thirst in order to take in enough fluids for the day. However, for busy new parents, it is advised to keep water nearby at all times for convenience. This is especially true for mothers who are nursing: The Institute of Medicine recommends around 13 cups of fluid for people who are lactating.
2. Make sure you are eating enough. Again, for those who are nursing, this cannot be overstated. Most healthy breastfeeding women consume 1800-2200+ calories in order to maintain an adequate milk supply.
Even mothers and partners who are not breastfeeding will benefit from eating regular, nutritious meals. If sleep deprivation was not hard enough, low blood sugar can add to energy loss and brain fog. No one wants to be sleepy and “hangry”.
3. Bathe. This one seems kind of ridiculous, right? After all, being told to take a bath is something that most people haven’t experienced since they were kids. It is such a simple thing, feeling clean. Some people opt for showers, some people prefer baths; Either way, the quickest method can feel like a luxury retreat when your newest perfume is eau de baby spit-up. After a quick soak or rinse, you may find yourself feeling like a completely new human.
4. Ask for help. Ask family, friends, or your local Stars and Stripes Doula. Ask them to do a load of laundry, or to finish loading and running the dishwasher. They can help care for the baby so you can sneak a nap in, or eat a meal/take a shower uninterrupted. Tell them how you are feeling.
Seek professional help if you are not feeling like yourself. Research has shown that a significant barrier in seeking treatment for postpartum depression is the reluctance of the mother to ask for help. You’ve just gone through an extraordinarily life-changing event. There is no shame in asking for help in order to cope. After all, it does take a village—even if you have to assemble the village yourself.
The major takeaway from this is that in order to adequately take care of the newest member of your family, you have to take care of yourself first. If you are not eating or drinking properly, there is a good chance that you will quickly run out of strength and energy in order to enjoy the little, fleeting moments of parenthood that will be cherished forever.
Justine Robinson is a Labor Doula and Postpartum and Infant Care Doula with Stars and Stripes Doulas, LLC. Justine represents the Washington DC chapter. You can learn more about your favorite Stars and Stripes Doulas at www.starsandstripesdoulas.com