Getting a break as a new parent: Village Voices

There's a new thing going here on the 4 Trimesters blog: Village Voices

Here's how it'll go:
It starts with you: my hope is that you will pose questions in the comments (or on our Facebook or Instagram page).
Then, past and future 4T presenters will answer them. It's like an advice column, but you get answers from experts from a variety of disciplines all at once, so you can pick and choose what resonates with you. Fun, right? I hope so!

  When you've been doing some version of this day in, and day out, you need to switch it up every once in a while.

When you've been doing some version of this day in, and day out, you need to switch it up every once in a while.

This week I thought we'd address self-care in new parenthood. It can be a real challenge to get some breathing room when you are the primary caregiver for a tiny new human who is pretty helpless, and pretty attached to you. But it can be vitally recharging.

"Our time to ourselves as new parents comes in moments, rather than hours or days. The more adept we can become at dropping fully into those moments of quietude, the more opportunities we find for meaningful self-care. Your breath is a great place to start, and it's always right there whenever you need it. Taking even 10 deep, rich breaths can change everything. Feel each inhalation nourishing every cell in your body. Let every exhalation clear your mind and cleanse you deeply. If you're having difficulty keeping your thoughts with your breath, anchor your mind with a simple phrase or mantra - "let (on the inhale)/go (on the exhale)", OM or a word like "peace" or "love" work well."

- Rhondda Smiley, doula and yoga instructor, mother of one.
 
"My favourite way to get a break in the early days was to take a really hot shower. My baby was colicky and cried all the time. I would hand her to my husband or my mother for 20 minutes and step into the shower. The water made it so I couldn't hear anything except what was right in front of me. I would take deep, warm breaths and close my eyes. Sometimes I would even take a cup of herbal tea in with me."

- Michelle Kapler, acupuncturist and mother of one.

 

"Because I am a sole parent, and because of the relationship I have with my mum, she came and lived with me for the first postpartum month. Together we learned how to put my kid in a stretchy wrap and buckle carrier, so if I needed extra sleep, my mum would take my kid off my hands after a nursing session. Fortunately she and I are about the same size, so she was even able to use one of my babywearing coats and walk my kid around the neighbourhood till she fell asleep. In this time I would have an eye mask on and ear plugs in so I wouldn't be disturbed when they re-entered the house, and if I didn't wake before I was needed, my mum would just get me up for the next nursing sesh. I'm not sure I would have survived/thrived without that help (if it's not something you have access to though, a postpartum doula and/or some committed friends can really save you!).

It was also nice to do something completely un-baby-related with anyone visiting like play Qwirkle and get filled in on their non-baby life. The most enjoyable easy/fun novel I read during that time (because I was too sensitive to read anything heavy) was It's Not Me, It's You. As my kiddo got older, and bedtimes became more challenging, a wee bowl of Coconut Bliss became my nightly reward for getting her to sleep."

- Jae Steele, postpartum doula, babywearing educator and nutritionist, mama of one.

 

"Masturbate!  If you've been advised  against sex for the first 6 weeks postpartum, that doesn't mean no vulva stimulation. If you feel a tingle of desire for some pleasure, self-pleasure when you have a moment here or there (or locked in the washroom...) is a great way to take a moment for yourself. This is definitely not going to be for everyone, though. If you had a traumatic birth experience, or are feeling devastated by a plummeting disinterest in sex, go slow. Maybe try taking a moment to touch your body somewhere, by yourself, that wants to be touched. Aching feet? Give'm a squeeze. Or try putting some body lotion over certain parts of your body and focus on what feels good about the lotion or how it smells. Developing a new relationship with the body doesn't happen overnight and sometimes take many many small steps first."

- Tynan Rhea, doula, sex educator and aromatherapist
 
"My number one suggestion is to get a good baby carrier/sling/wrap. Once you both get used to using it, baby will usually sleep happily and you’ll have both hands free to do whatever you want – text a friend, go for a walk, prepare some food, write the Great Canadian Novel.
Number two: hire a high school kid for a couple hours a day, a few days a week. You’re not going to leave the house, but you can leave the baby sleeping in a bassinet in the room with your “helper” while you do what you like (nap, prepare food, watch videos, etc.). If the baby wakes, your helper can try rocking and shushing, but bring baby to you if he/she doesn’t settle fast. Then while you nurse, the helper can do some other tasks – sweeping/cleaning or whatever would be helpful to you. It is not very expensive, and this can be counted as volunteer hours if you find a student who needs those to graduate."

- Teresa Pitman, lactation consultant, parenting expert, parent of four.
 

So what about you? How did you get (or are you getting) a break in the early days with your babe? Please share with us in the comments.

Have a burning question related to baby-growing that you'd like to ask a bunch of experts at once? Ask away! Or if you'd like to do so more anonymously, send it in an email.