I’m writing this blog from the perspective of being a professional psychotherapist in Washington DC who works with new moms and who is a mom to two young children as well. Here are my top 10 tips to offer new moms:
10. It’s really, really hard: “Aren’t you so in love with your baby?” “Isn’t this the best thing in the entire world?” Yes, and yes. But it’s also really, really hard. Not sleeping, spending all day worrying about your new baby, breastfeeding or bottle feeding – it’s all hard. And we don’t talk about it enough. It’s beautiful, it’s exciting, and it’s overwhelmingly wonderful. But it’s also HARD.
9. Your mood may be all over the place: Postpartum hormones are real. And they’re strong. Pay attention to your moods. Are you alternating between endless joy, sadness, anxiety, fear, happiness, and overwhelming love? It’s normal. But pay attention – if it goes on for more than 2-3 weeks it may be something to discuss with your doctor. It’s common for as many as 1 in 5 women struggle with a postpartum mood disorder. You can get help.
8. It’s normal to never want to leave your baby: Being a new mom is hard (see a theme?). It’s normal to never want to leave your baby. It’s normal to not think anyone can do as good a job as you can. But it’s also normal…
7. It’s also normal to want alone time: You are not a bad mom. You are a great mom. That’s why you need alone time. To re-fuel to be the best mom you can be. It’s also normal to feel guilty about wanting alone time. But try to remind yourself – you need to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. Go for a walk, take a bath, meditate, go to yoga, have lunch with a friend. Do whatever you want, but take time for yourself.
6. It’s normal to feel conflicted and confused: Your world changed in an instant. It’s normal to feel conflicted and unsure about everything and anything. Do you go back to work? Who are you now? Are you “just” a mom? What’s your identity? Try to give yourself time to adjust, and trust that it will all work out.
5. It’s normal for your relationship to hit some bumps: You love your partner more than anything – that’s why you chose to have this baby together. But now what? You’re struggling with postpartum stress – on your mind, body, and soul – and this may impact your relationship. Keep communicating. Talk to your partner. Spend time together, even if it’s a cup of coffee while the baby is napping.
4. Ask for help: I’ll say it again: ask for help. Ask the new grandparents for help. Ask your partner for help. Ask your friends. Ask the guy at the grocery store to bring your bags out. Better yet, get the groceries delivered. The point is: you can’t do this alone. There’s a reason there’s that saying – it takes a village, because it does. Asking for help does not make you a bad mom. It makes you a great mom. (Again – see a theme?)
3. Find support: It’s essential. Find other moms. Go to the park even if your baby is sitting in the stroller. Sit in a coffee shop. Talk to other mom’s at the pediatrician. In fact, talk to your pediatrician about new mom groups. Getting support from other new moms is vital. You never know, you may meet your newest closest friend
2. You’re not perfect. And nor should you be: There is no such thing as the perfect mother, or the perfect person, for that matter. You will make mistakes, you will stumble, but you’ll pick yourself up and keep moving. What better lesson to teach your baby, you may not be perfect, but…
1. You’re doing a great job: What a miraculous, brave thing you’ve done – you’ve brought another person into this world. You have chosen to care for, love, and nurture this baby until he or she is an adult, and I bet you’ll continue caring for, loving, and nurturing that person even then. You’re doing a great job, and you should feel proud.