Tiredness and exhaustion is something all mothers feel at some time in the first few weeks, months, and yes, even years, after their child is born. Here are four simple strategies you can use to help you manage postpartum exhaustion.
1. Grow a Circle
We live in a society of granular families, each in our own small boxes. You’ve just spent the better part of a year focusing inward, creating an entire new person with and within your own body. And now your daily and nightly life has been hijacked by a tiny person’s all-encompassing needs. This is a recipe for social isolation, closely followed by guaranteed postpartum exhaustion.
You need a strong circle of friends and family, now more than ever, to back you up and keep you steady. If your circle is looking thin, put yourself out there again and find your tribe. They’ll save you.
2. Ask for Help
Maybe you’ve already got your circle of love well in place. There’s another hard bit, though—now you have to actually ask them for help. People love to help! They just need specific directions.
Do you need someone to bring older siblings to the park to play so you can rest with the new baby? Was your last shower 4 days ago because baby needs to be held upright and bounced to a specific techno song every 20 minutes? Are you down to your last two freezer meals already? Do you just need someone to talk to? Ask your network for what you need, and provide specifics; give them days, times, and dietary needs, and let your friends and family step up.
3. Let it Slide
Are there visions of clean counters and tidy shelves dancing in your head? Home-cooked meals with ingredients that you bought this morning on your trip to the farmer’s market, looking beautifully put together with baby happily cooing in that spiffy new outfit? Close that Pinterest window, erase that idyllic scene right now and make room for the long, messy view.
If the list of domestic tasks is stressing you out, choose a few and let them slide with zero guilt! Use paper plates. Order takeout. Take 5 minutes to toss clutter in a laundry basket—and then set it aside for someone else to sort. Your job right now is to nurture your relationships and nourish yourself; if you want to avoid falling into postpartum exhaustion, all else is peripheral.
4. Make a Break
Now that baby is on the outside, you look more like two separate people than one giant-bellied one—but remember that the mother-baby dyad is one being with two bodies. This means that your needs aren’t in competition with your baby’s needs; they’re still actually one and the same. Just as when you were pregnant, your baby needs you to be rested, nourished, emotionally supported, and physically functional.
Sometimes this means you need to make some time for yourself to walk around the block, drink a quiet cup of tea, have that semi-regular shower. This phrasing is important—you’re not taking time away from caring for the baby to care for yourself. You’re making room for both of you to get what you need.
Caring for a newborn while recovering from pregnancy and birth is a pretty intense stretch, no matter your situation. But it doesn’t have to pull you under! We hope these four touchstones can help you minimize postpartum exhaustion.