Becoming a new parent can be overwhelming, especially during Coronavirus lockdown when access to our friends, family and usual support circles is restricted. You might find your partner working from home with your newborn too, all of which will undoubtedly add extra pressure to an already frazzled home life.
There are lots of things we know we need to do; eat healthy, get exercise, SLEEP, protect our mental health, and so much of this is wrapped up in finding a little ‘me time’, finding time to breathe and focus on our own health alongside that of baby.
We ask Beccy Hands, pre & post-natal specialist, doula and co-author of ‘the little book of self-care for new mums’ for her top self-care tips for new parents during lockdown.
Hello Beccy, thanks for agreeing to a quick Q&A!
One thing I’ve noticed during the Coronavirus lockdown is how the smallest things can feel like an indulgence, like a hot bath in the middle of the day! What small things can new mums and new parents do around the home to lift their mood and take a break from the daily routine?
I think you have hit the nail on the head there actually, because Alexis and I talk about 'the little things' making the biggest difference. When we think we need a break, we often think about a whole day away or big things, but these are often hard to arrange and so we don't do them very often. Actually little and often has the most impact on our self-care, and if we aim for a couple of little acts of kindness to ourselves in a day we will form good habits of prioritising our needs and looking after ourselves better. In the long run this helps everyone in the family because then we can look after them better too.
Quick and easy mood lifts:
Stepping outside and getting some fresh air – it's amazing how much better we can feel after a 10 min cuppa in the garden. If you don't have a garden, sit on your front door step! When I lived in a flat I used to have a cuppa out the front in the sunshine every day. It was a great way to get a hit of vitamin D and a lovely way to catch up with my neighbours too!
Pick a pong – using essential oils can be a fab way to lift your mood. I'm a huge fan of Lavender, Neroli, Sweet Orange and Geranium. You can use them in a diffuser, or add one drop of an essential oil on the palm of your hands, rub your hands together and then cup your hands in front of your face and take 3 deep breaths. Better still, grab some hand cream and add a drop of oil to the hand cream and follow all the previous steps – this way you get lovely moisturised hands too!
Move – movement is such a mood lifter. You can't feel flat once those endorphins are activated so, go for a walk, put on some tunes and have a little stretch or just a dance around the kitchen. Little ones love to dance so get them involved too. If the kids are older, turn it into a proper kitchen disco and let them each chose their favourite tune to have a boogie to. Make sure you get to choose your favourites too and that way you can introduce them to some of your favourite bands at the same time.
Hydrate – This one feels more like a nag than a top tip, but it's so important that I wanted to add it in. Generally we don't drink enough water, and actually being dehydrated, even just a little, can really make us feel tired and grumpy. Treat yourself and make yourself a big jug of fruit water – add oranges, lemons, strawberries and cucumber, think booze free Pimms and then it'll feel more indulgent and you'll enjoy drinking it!
With our social circles restricted and health visitors working virtually, any tips for helping new parents stay connected?
It's so tough at the moment, and we strongly believe that we are not meant to parent in isolation. There's a reason mums in villages thrive – we need our elders and other mums around us, sharing stories and advice. Hopefully things will slowly start to open up again as restrictions ease, but in the meantime here are some ideas to stay connected to other mums.
Use your WhatsApp groups – these can be a great way to share information and ask questions if you are needing some advice. It's also so comforting to go online while you are doing a night feed and have a chat with another night feeding mama, they can certainly make the nights feels less lonely.
Use mum meeting apps such as Peanut or post on social media – you will be amazed how many other mums are in your area also wishing they had a new mum friend to go for a walk with. I had a client who posted an ad on Facebook along the lines of 'mum of 3 month old wondering if any other local mums fancy a walk and a coffee sometime' the mums she met from this ad are now her best friends. Walking with a coffee and the babes in a buggy is a great way to connect. You get your steps in which is great for getting those feel good hormones activated, and it's often easier to talk whilst walking – so you'll probably find the conversation flows and you will get to have a good old natter about all things new motherhood.
Get grandparents helping over zoom – If for any reason you aren't able to bubble with grandparents, get them helping over zoom – if you have older children ask the grandparents to read them some stories over the airways while you have a break or feed the baby.
Whilst we can’t let people into our homes, in what ways can we still ask for help? E.g. asking friends and family to prepare meals to freeze.
Current restrictions do indeed make it a bit trickier for friends and family to help with practical support – however there are a few ways that can still support you.
Arrange a food rota – ask for friends and family to drop food round for you. If you have an organised friend they could organise a rota so that the food is spread out and doesn't all come at once.
Drop by for a doorstep cuppa – sometimes we just need to see a friendly face and have a laugh with our friends. Tell them to bring their own cuppa, and then you can have a doorstep catch up. It's amazing how uplifting a visit from a pal can be when we are feeling a bit isolated.
Send Gifts for the parents – Babies don't need much, and chances are unless the parents have specifically asked for baby stuff, they will have most things handed down or gifted already by the time baby arrives. If you want to send anything, send presents for them, think food parcels, frozen meal vouchers, cooking kits, pamper sets – or perhaps some vouchers for a local restaurant or massage therapist that they can use when things are back up and running.
We wondered, is there anything that you’ve noticed in your work as a doula and post-natal specialist that has been particularly hard on new mums in lockdown? It’s a very strange world to be navigating right now…. What would be your words of advice?
I think the main thing I have noticed in my work with postnatal mums is they are feeling ALL the feels – this is of course really normal for the postnatal period, but I think it's magnified during these crazy unprecedented times. The advice I give my clients is to remember that when you have a baby, the hormones that are at play are the hormones that make us super responsive to outside stimulation. It's like having our sensory input turned up full, and whilst this is evolutionarily amazing, it does means that we can be in a state of hypervigilance. Add a pandemic on top of that and our poor nerves can take a right old pummelling. For this reason we need to be kind to ourselves, we need to rest, eat well, nap, ask for help (be that a partner, support bubble or an online support group) take 5 when we need it and remember not to sweat the small stuff.
On the plus side, one of the silver linings of this crazy old time we have seen, is that some partners are now working from home. Clients have commented that even though their partners are working, just having another adult around helps them to relax a little and feel less like they are the only ones in charge of this new little human. And remember, if partners are working, most of them get lunch breaks...if you are on your knees with tiredness, make lunch (or better still order in) eat yours before your partner breaks for lunch, and then when they are on their break – hand baby over and go and take 5 – be that a nap, a bath, or a quick solo walk around the block, anything that will help you to reset and energise ready for your next post lunch shift.
Thank you for all your words of wisdom Beccy, we've certainly learned a few things. Sending a big virtual hug to all you new mums from us at The Little Art Collection, we hope this has helped.