Caring for a toddler can be challenging enough, but once you add the exhaustion and discomfort of another pregnancy, the stress can be compounded.
Self-care is important for all parents. A focus on personal needs can help keep us physically and mentally fit while decreasing stress. Even those of us who have included self-care into our daily routines often abandon good habits once we become moms. While you may think that moms are supposed to sacrifice her time for her children, it’s not healthy. In fact, self-care can actually make you a better parent, not less engaged.
It may be difficult to carve out even one uninterrupted hour to decompress while caring for a toddler. The trick is to be creative and take multiple shorter breaks throughout the day. Self-care is not just about mental relaxation, but also a commitment to practicing healthier habits, such as daily heart-healthy exercise, eating well, and getting enough sleep.
Here are some tips that I recommend to my patients:
- Plan to get heart-healthy exercise as you spend time with your toddler. Put her in the stroller and walk around the neighborhood or at a local park, or, since toddlers often have seemingly limitless amounts of energy, encourage her to join you in an activity that gets you both moving. Toss the ball back and forth, or challenge her to race and see who wins.
- Make a mom-friendly meal. Toddlers often make the same dietary choices. Sometimes they will insist on eating the same things almost daily. And moms often adhere to these same eating choices because “it’s easier” than making two meals. However, it’s okay to plan and prepare meals that are designed for you: full of healthy proteins, vegetables, and fruits. The little one will see those amazing food colors and will often choose to enjoy these foods as well.
- Take a nap when she takes her nap. It’s tempting to use that “free time” to get chores done or start the preparation of the next meal. Don’t; take a nap, too. We need to recharge, and it’s okay. The laundry can wait and you may need this extra rest. If you have trouble napping during the day, perhaps use this time to read a good book or write in a journal.
- Change the conversation. Of course, moms love to spend time with the little ones watching and talking about the latest episode of “Paw Patrol” or “Blaze and the Monster Machines,” but adult conversation is important. Many times, the only conversation you may have is with your spouse at the end of an exhausting day. Peer-to-peer social interaction is important, so make time to meet up with a friend or another mom for an early morning or mid-afternoon chat.
But I’m So Tired!
Fatigue is common during pregnancy. During the first trimester in particular, the body produces higher levels of the hormone progesterone, which generally creates those feelings of fatigue and sleepiness.
However, there are ways to help combat fatigue during pregnancy:
· Try to get eight to nine hours of sleep daily. Yes, it may be difficult, but this is an important goal to strive for most days.
· Eat energy-rich foods, including lean protein, heart-healthy carbohydrates, fruits, and vegetables.
· Get the recommended two and half hours of exercise a week.
Most importantly, take it easy. Slow down. You can decrease the stress of a pregnancy while simultaneously caring for a toddler by reprioritizing your responsibilities. During this time, it’s important to acknowledge that you probably aren’t able to handle everything. You may need to delegate some tasks, like housework, and accept help with other obligations at home and at the office. It’s okay—and even healthy—to enlist help or hire someone to watch your child to build in some time for yourself.
It’s important to remember that a mom who is mentally and physically healthy is better able to help and nurture those around her. Take the time to recharge and enjoy this new phase of your growing family.
Casandra Autry, MD, is a board-certified, fellowship-trained obstetrician/gynecologist on staff at CentraState Medical Center. She can be reached by calling 866-CENTRA7.