It seems like there's so much to do when your newborn baby first comes home. You've got to learn how to care for the baby, handle sleep disruptions, and adjust to life with a bigger family. You want to make sure your baby is healthy and happy, but don't forget to look out for your own health and happiness.

You've probably just spent the last nine months avoiding certain foods and beverages, not overexerting yourself, and trying to reduce stress. Now that the baby's here, it's tempting to discard all those good habits. Don't give in.

The postpartum period, which usually lasts six to eight weeks, is the time when new moms need a lot of care. Consider just a few of the physical and emotional changes associated with becoming a new mother: learning to care for a newborn, handling sleep disruption and fluctuating hormones, and adjusting to life as a full-fledged family rather than a couple, for starters.

New mothers don't spend enough time thinking about how they feel, says Karen Kleiman, co-author of This Isn't What I Expected: Overcoming Postpartum Depression. It's understandable that new moms devote most of their energies to caring for their newborn, but they shouldn't ignore their own physical and emotional well-being.

Why? The first several weeks can be overwhelming, and it's easy for new moms to feel emotionally drained and physically exhausted. That's not good for you, your baby, or your new family unit. Moms need to give themselves permission to relax and to sometimes put themselves first.


7 Ways to Recharge

If you have trouble doing that, here are some tips:


  • Nurture yourself. It doesn't take much to recharge your batteries. Read a magazine, paint your toenails, watch a chick flick, or write in a journal. It's okay to indulge.
  • Sleep. Lack of sleep may be the hardest adjustment for new parents to make, but it's important for moms to be rested. So nap when your baby naps, even if it's only for 20 minutes a few times a day.
  • Eat well. Maintaining good nutrition doesn't end the day you deliver your baby. Moms, especially if breastfeeding, need to fill their diet with fruits and veggies, lean protein and plenty of whole-grain and complex carbohydrates. Don't crash diet to lose the weight gained in pregnancythe weight will come off in good time.
  • Exercise. Try to get outside for a few minutes every day, whether to walk with your baby or just take in some sunshine. It's a great way to avoid feeling cooped up, and it will help burn calories.
  • Accept help. This is not the time to be superwoman. Every new mom needs help. If friends or relatives offer to cook your family dinner, clean your bathroom or babysit, take them up on it.
  • Say no. Your friends, extended family, and other well-wishers will want to come by and meet your new bundle of joy. But this is not the time for you to be a constant hostess. If you're not up for company, say so.
  • Stay in touch. It's easy to feel isolated with your baby, especially if you don't know many other moms. This might lead to feelings of loneliness and even depression, according to Kleiman. If you can, spend time with friends, and maintain a support network.