The most common feeling women experience after childbirth is a loss of their own identity due to pain, loss of routines/an unstructured environment, and a lack of knowledge about early motherhood and postpartum. A helpful starting place after having your baby is establishing a routine. If you thrived on routines prior to having a baby, this may help to calm your mind and keep you from becoming overwhelmed too quickly. It also reduces mental load because you know exactly what you need to do every day.
With my first baby, my mind was in a constant state of chaos. I was recording all her feeds and diaper changes, taking my meds and paying attention to my physical postpartum care, while neglecting my feelings and emotional needs. I wore whatever clothes I had on from the night before, shoveled food into my mouth quickly, and took care of the dishes and laundry whenever she took naps. This left me uneasy, feeling like I didn’t recognize the woman staring back at me from my mirror, wondering who I was or what I was supposed to be doing. I was overworked and exhausted every single second of the day.
During my second pregnancy, I knew what to expect. I purchased everything I needed to make my postpartum life easier. I knew that changing my clothes and showering would improve my self-esteem, and having multiple feeding and changing stations for my baby throughout the house would make my life easier. I knew that I needed to relax while the baby napped, and enjoy her while she was awake.
When the baby came, I felt ready. After her first feed of the day, I would take care of my needs. I showered, put on clothes that made me feel happy and comfortable, ate breakfast and pumped. I even had a nice cup of coffee while watching TV or reading a book before the sun came up and everyone was awake. I could count on my morning time to refresh my mind and energize my body, just enough to keep myself going.
What I learned from my second baby is simple, let all rules go out of the window. Luckily my family offered a lot of help in terms of babysitting and meal prep, so I was free to focus on what was best for me, while keeping my baby’s and toddler’s needs met. I spent extra time cuddling and doing tummy time with the baby, and did the chores when my toddler was occupied with an activity or watching a quick show. I did the minimal responsibilities to keep the home moving along. I took one day at a time, which kept me in a better head space. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your duties, however it’s important to remember that your needs matter just as much.
Below is a sample morning schedule I used during those first few weeks. It’s important to remember that every baby is different, and every mom is different. The schedule that worked for me, may not work for everyone. It’s also important to note that I live on one level.
4:30am – Feed and change the baby
5:00am – Swaddle the baby, place her back into the bassinet next to the bed
5:15am – Gather items for the morning routine (underwear, nursing bras and outfits are all placed in the nightstand next to the bed for ease). Postpartum basket is waiting in the bathroom.
5:45am – Finish morning routine of using the peri bottle, taking meds, taking a shower, combing hair, etc.
5:45am – Turn on coffee pot (it was preset the night before), gather pumping items, bring breakfast to the living room to pump and eat
6:15am – Enjoying some “me” time
7:15/7:30am – Toddler wakes up; Toddler morning routine. Husband takes toddler responsibilities until his work day begins (during paternity leave, husband took full responsibilities until her nap time, and my family assisted after nap time while he helped with the baby).
8:00am – Baby wakes up; feed and change the baby.
During the rest of the day, I fed on demand. I made sure to have activities ready for my toddler while I breastfed. I did chores when I had time, and relaxed when I was tired. I was lucky to have a lot of help, but someone wasn't available every single day so I needed to make the best of the situation on the days I could. My mom came over to help with my kids and housework when she could, bringing lots of meals to keep in the fridge for easy access. Then, I had an evening/bedtime routine to set myself up for the next day and prepare me for nighttime feedings.