When I had my first baby, I was in love with the idea that I would be this earth-mother mom who could handle it all. Sleep deprivation? I wasn’t worried. Infant crying spells? I’m pretty chill. Weathering the physical and emotional effects of childbirth while sleep-deprived? Not a problem!
Well, it turns out I was wrong. All of those things I just mentioned? They did take a toll, and when you factor in that I was resolute in doing it all without any help — housework, laundry and healthy meal prep included — well, I was a stressed mom and in need of some stress relief.
If you, too, find that you are trying to be SuperMom, try to realize that these days as a new mother, with a new baby, are remarkable and something to be treasured. But they can also be stressful as you adjust to your new reality — one in which all semblance of your prior life has disappeared virtually overnight and this adorable little person rules every minute of every day.
So please, make a pledge to yourself — today — that you will go as easy on yourself as you possibly can. Resolve that you will make every attempt to recognize when you are stressed … and then take the time, even if it’s just a few minutes here and there, to give yourself a little TLC. And if you’re at a point where you can’t figure out what to do to de-stress, know that it’s normal, and that we’re here to help. Our guide to stress relief for moms includes nine simple ways you can care for yourself, and your stress levels, during this most momentous time.
1. Focus on the “fourth trimester”
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Many experts have begun to recognize that the physical effects of pregnancy don’t magically disappear the moment you give birth.1 Your body is recovering from a very long, rigorous process — you’ve just grown a baby, then delivered them! — and it takes time to bounce back. You’re also dealing with the unavoidable effects of hormonal upheaval, which can be significant for some women. And then, of course, you’re learning to care for your baby, which can be wonderful and overwhelming at the same time.
Why not follow the lead of so many other cultures and adopt an attitude of “lying in”? This philosophy involves realizing that the primary, if not only, task you are responsible for in the month or two after childbirth is caring for, and learning about, your baby.2 No housework, no laundry, no errands — just uninterrupted, undistracted time with your newborn. Relieving yourself of other duties will go a long way toward heading off new-mom stress while helping with the all-important bonding process, so call on your partner, friends or family members to pitch in during this all-important time.
2. Breastfeeding? Get the support you need
As wonderful as breastfeeding is, it can bring an element of stress as you learn to master the process. (That’s right — even though it’s a natural part of the entire mammal world, breastfeeding can still take time to become proficient at, as is true with any learned skill.) If you’re feeling overwhelmed or experiencing difficulties, consider seeking the help of a certified lactation consultant, who is specially trained to help new moms learn to breastfeed. Not sure where to find one? Check with the hospital or birth center where you delivered. There are even ways to connect virtually online.
Breastfeeding support groups also abound; many hospitals and community centers offer them for free. Not only are these groups a great way to learn tips and tricks from other moms, but the people who run them often are lactation experts and can help you if you’re experiencing issues or feeling stressed. These groups are also a great way to get much-needed support from other new moms — and peer support has been shown to be beneficial for helping women succeed with breastfeeding.3,4
Even if you’re not breastfeeding, new-mom support groups are a great way to meet up with other women to talk, trade ideas and just have a supportive shoulder to lean on. Check with your local community center or the hospital where you delivered to see when one is offered. A quick search online will also bring up a list of virtual options.
3. Get sleep whenever you can
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Sleep deprivation is a thing for new moms — and often a big one, as most newborns wake every few hours throughout the night to eat. Since luxurious, eight-hour stretches of sleep may remain a distant memory for a while, it’s important that you try to grab some sleep whenever you can.
First off, follow the tried-and-true advice to sleep whenever the baby does, or ask your partner or a family member to watch the baby while you grab a nap. You and your partner can also consider sleeping in shifts. This won’t help much if you’re nursing, but if you’re bottle-feeding, you can trade off with the feeding/changing duties.
Getting a little bit of shut-eye will do wonders for heading off — or managing — new-mom stress.
4. Get your body moving
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According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), you can, and should, start exercising as soon as you feel up to it, and whenever your doctor gives you the go-ahead.5 Not only can regular exercise help with stress relief, but it may also help you sleep better and give you a much-needed energy boost.
ACOG recommends starting with simple, gentle exercises to help strengthen your major muscle groups, especially your abdominal and back muscles, which were taxed during pregnancy. Good examples include yoga, light weight work, sit-ups and push-ups. Try to get 20-30 minutes of exercise a day, but don’t despair if you can’t fit this much in; even 10 minutes helps.5
Also, focus on getting outside for some movement. Slow walks around the neighborhood can do wonders for stress — the fresh air and change of scenery can help you feel more serene and centered. If your partner isn’t home to watch the baby, take them with you either in a stroller or front carrier. They may enjoy getting outside, too!
5. Spring for help if you can
Postpartum doulas are women who have special training in tending to the needs of new moms, their babies and their families — and they can be a godsend. Not only do doulas offer emotional support to everyone in the family, but they can offer tips on baby care and also may help tend to the day-to-day tasks that come with a household, including laundry, light cleaning and meal preparation.
If you’re not able to meet with a doula in person, a quick online search can help you to find virtual support.
Even better, research has shown that postpartum support may help reduce the risk of developing a postpartum mood disorder, such as postpartum depression.6
6. Ask a friend to organize a food train
Remember, you should be focusing on bonding with your baby, getting rest and adjusting to motherhood — not cooking! If you don’t have a partner who can prepare meals for you, ask a friend or a family member to organize a “food train,” where different people sign up to deliver healthy meals to you.
You can also get ready-to-go, healthy meals delivered — all while supporting your health goals — with Jenny Craig's weight loss meal delivery program.
7. Do some meditation
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It almost goes without saying, but meditation can do wonders when it comes to stress management. But that’s not all: According to the Mayo Clinic, studies have shown that meditation may also help with pain, anxiety and depression, in addition to other conditions.7
8. Get some fresh air
Even if it’s just for a few minutes, stepping outside can help with your stress levels. Do some deep diaphragmatic breathing (also known as belly breathing) while you’re at it: Research has shown that doing this type of deep breathing could have immediate and long-term effects on stress reduction.8,9
9. Ease into weight loss
Sure, you’re eager to fit back into your favorite pair of jeans, but do yourself a favor and don’t stress — you’ve got enough on your plate. Plus, even if you don’t actively try to lose weight, you may lose about half of your pregnancy weight by about six weeks post-childbirth, the National Institutes of Health reports.10
Instead of focusing solely on weight loss, pay attention to eating a healthy, well-rounded diet, one that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat or nonfat dairy. Also drink plenty of water: Your body needs it to replenish the fluids lost during pregnancy, and it’s also important for making milk if you are breastfeeding. Experts recommend to drink at least 8 cups per day.11
Learn more about when — and how — to start losing weight as a new mom.
Always consult your doctor before beginning a weight loss program. The Jenny Craig program is a safe and effective way to meet your postpartum weight loss goals — however, you need to be at least six weeks post-delivery to participate.
We hope this information will help you work some all-important stress-reduction techniques into your life as a new mom. Remember: What matters most during the transition to parenthood is not whether the dishes got cleaned or the laundry got done, but that you were the most present, most relaxed person you could be for yourself, your partner and that precious newborn of yours.
If you’re ready to start your weight loss journey, Jenny Craig can help. With delicious, balanced meals, nutritionist-designed menus and personalized support from a dedicated weight loss coach, you’ll have the tools you need to reach your goals — without missing any time with your little one.
Ready to get started? Chat with a coach today and get meals delivered right to your door!
Carole Anderson Lucia
Carole is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California who specializes in health and wellness topics. Her work has appeared in Parents, Fit Pregnancy, Mom & Baby, Yahoo News, Viv magazine and Lifescript. She's won several national awards for her work including a National Science Award and two National Health Information awards. A frequent contributor to Jenny Craig’s Blog, Healthy Habits, she enjoys gardening, spending time at the beach and adopting far too many rescue animals in her spare time.
Favorite healthy snack: jicama dipped in homemade hummus
Reviewed by Briana Rodriquez, RDN
Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.
Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)
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