Having a baby changes everything. Your routine, finances, relationships, and health are transformed in less than a year, presenting new challenges amongst immense joy. One of the biggest shocks to new parents is the swift return home after childbirth. Suddenly, you’re away from the baby experts, on your own to figure out your new normal. As you navigate your new life as a parent, follow these tips to support your physical and mental health.

1. Prioritize Balanced Nutrition

When you put good in, you get good out. But when you’ve just welcomed a baby, a balanced diet is the last thing on your mind. Instead, you’re focused on feeding frequencies, tracking diapers, and just trying to keep up. However busy you may be and however reasonable your excuse, there’s no replacement for a balanced diet. Fill your plate with proteins, carbohydrates, and fats that’ll refuel your body for your new role: parent. 

Strive to eat at normal meal times at a proper table or countertop. Resist the urge to catch up on social media, watch television, or read. Instead, focus on the taste of your food, chew it fully, and use this time to reset. Incorporate plenty of water to stay hydrated and support your postpartum healing process. If you’re breastfeeding, you’ll need even more water to manage your milk production.

Support your food-based nutrition with supplementation that fills the gaps that modern diets can’t keep up with. Most physicians recommend women maintain their prenatal vitamin regimen as pregnancy tends to demand a lot of your body. Support your urinary health with a UTI supplement, which helps reduce the likelihood of an infection. Individuals birthing vaginally may find this especially helpful as birthing can cause tearing, introducing more bacteria to the area. 

2. Make a Plan for Rest and Sleep

Sleep deficits can cause physical and mental problems for even the healthiest individual. For new parents, sleep can feel like an old friend who’s never coming back. No matter how demanding your newborn may be, it’s imperative that parents get at least seven hours of sleep. Typically, newborns spend their days sleeping, eating, and dirtying diapers. This monotonous routine can keep you on your toes, but it can provide a structure for rest. 

Collaborate with your partner to divvy up care responsibilities to establish rest periods for the both of you. If you’re parenting solo, ask a friend or family member to help you, especially during the first few weeks. Strive to close your eyes for naps of 20 minutes or less, which help you avoid getting into deep sleep. While deep sleep is restorative, if you don’t have time for a full 90-minute REM cycle, you can feel worse. 

Nighttime feedings can be tricky, as your body naturally wants to rest during this time. Establish a routine that helps you find wakefulness so you can confidently feed and change your baby. If your baby is sharing your room, set up a chair, table, and lamp as your feeding spot. This will give you a separation from feeding and resting, which can reduce grogginess and the risk of dozing off. 

3. Restore Your Pelvic Floor 

Postpartum care is one of the biggest gaps in healthcare that can make a big difference to your life. Pregnancy transforms your body in a beautiful yet dramatic way. Internal organs shift, change, and make room for your growing baby. After birth, your body works to return to its original state, but the impact of child-bearing has been made. 

The weight of your baby during pregnancy presses on your pelvic floor, an already neglected component of female anatomy. Those having vaginal births experience the trauma of contractions, the thinning of the cervix, and the birth itself. Beyond ensuring the placenta has exited completely and that any bleeding or tearing are resolved, little attention is paid. Most women are examined six weeks after birth to ensure general healing is taking place and to assess mental concerns. 

Ask your provider about safe exercises you can do to support pelvic floor and core healing. If you had a cesarean birth, you may have different instructions for core work. Generally, light movement like walking and simple exercises can go a long way toward helping you heal. Consult with a physical therapist for focused support and guidance as you learn safe movements and restore strength. By supporting pelvic floor health you can reduce urinary leakage, improve your posture, and reduce pain.

4. Make Time for Relationships

The postpartum period can be a lonely time. While you’re always with your baby, you’re also disconnected from much of the world. The mental toll of parenting and the whirlwind experience of birth may make you want to disconnect. Although protecting your space and relishing in spending time with your newborn are important, so are your relationships. 

Be open to accepting help from others with the baby or with household tasks. A friend can help clean the kitchen and you can catch up while feeding the baby. Allowing others to help you gives them a way to support you and gives you the gift of time. Plus, the opportunity to blend social time with caring for your baby can help you ease into this new phase of life. 

Facilitate solo time with your partner while a grandparent watches the baby, even if you’re in the same house. Take your date night outside or to the basement, setting a faux boundary while being nearby if you’re needed. Reconnect and spend time with one another doing something fun. You’ve been through a lot and making time to be relaxed and joyful can help strengthen your bond and spirits.

You’re in Your Parenting Era 

You set the tone for your parenting experience, but it does take work. When you care for your body, mind, and relationships, you’re also caring for your baby. Establish a foundation of self-care as a new parent, and you’ll build healthy habits as your baby grows.