The First Six Weeks: Taking Care of You

The First Six Weeks: Taking Care of You
by Jess McCarthy


The first six weeks after you have a baby can be rough. You are most likely emotional,
exhausted, anxious, lonely, stressed, fearful...the list of feelings goes on. There is a lot to learn
about your new baby and so much to do. Most of the six weeks will be spent nursing/feeding,
changing diapers, cuddling with this small human you love beyond comprehension, and trying
to get said human to sleep. During these six weeks, doctors advise parents to limit baby’s
exposure to crowds so his immune system has a chance to strengthen. While your first priority
is certainly going to be your baby, this is an important time to take care of yourself too. Taking
care of yourself is one of the best ways to care for your baby. Here are 10 ways you can care for yourself during the first six weeks postpartum.

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1. Go for walks. Getting fresh air will benefit both you and baby. And exercise will help you
heal from childbirth and get you back in shape faster. If it’s too cold or too hot, bundle
up or strip down and go for a shorter stroll during the warmest or coolest part of the
day.


2. Read. There are countless books on motherhood. From breastfeeding and postpartum
depression to sleep training and discipline, you are sure to find books that interest you.
One of my favorite books about motherhood is about how your relationship with your
partner changes. How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids by Jancee Dunn is funny and
really spoke to me. So much so that I made my husband listen to it on hoopla. But just
because you’re a mom doesn’t mean you need to read a book on being one. Read for
pleasure! Apps like hoopla are free so you can listen while you’re nursing/feeding or
walking around the house trying to get baby to sleep.


3. Write. Writing is therapeutic and allows you to express yourself (and this is a good time
to do it because your emotions will be running wild). You can write about anything. Start
a journal. Write a short story. This is also a great time to write in a baby book or start a
journal for your little one. I started a journal for my daughter after my spiritual advisor
told me she did this for her kids and gave the journals to them when they turned 18.
Such a sweet idea!


4. Make something. Are you crafty or artistic? Draw or paint a picture. Make letters for
baby’s room or sew burp cloths. If your baby is anything like my daughter, you will need
A LOT of burp cloths. If you love making food, cook a healthy meal or bake lactation
cookies to boost your milk supply.


5. Watch movies and binge watch TV shows. There are a ton of great movies and shows
about motherhood. Baby Mama, Knocked Up, Step Mom, Jane The Virgin, The Letdown,
just to name a few. If you want to laugh, Ali Wong’s Netflix special, Hard Knock Wife, is
hilarious (and pretty raunchy too). But, again, being a mom doesn’t mean you have to
watch movies/shows about being a mom. Rewatch your favorites or discover new ones
while you nurse/feed your little.


6. Eat healthy. Eating a well-balanced diet is always important but it is especially
important when you have a baby. You need energy, which your new sleeping habits will
not provide. And, if you are breastfeeding, your diet will affect the quality and quantity of your milk. Eating healthy is difficult (and can be really expensive), so make it easy on
yourself. Buy nutritious food that you can quickly make when you’re starving and baby
just won’t let you put him down. Or better yet, ask someone to buy healthy food for you
(see #10). And drink plenty of water too.


7. Spend time alone. This is so important but is very hard for some moms (like me). You
may want to spend every waking moment with your child(ren), especially during those
first few months. But that’s not healthy. Ask your partner, family member, or a friend to
watch the baby so you can spend time alone. Ideally, this time would be spent doing
something for you: taking a nap, going on a walk, getting a manicure, etc. But this could
also be a time to catch up on laundry, go to the grocery store, or clean the house.

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8. Spend time with family and friends. Having a baby can be lonely. Many women stay at
home alone during the first six weeks. They don’t want baby to catch anything and
sometimes it’s just difficult to get out of the house (because the second you do they will
be hungry again!) While it is a crucial time for you and your baby to get to know each
other and for baby’s immune system to strengthen, you need your family and friends.
You need them so you can feel like yourself. You need them because you need adult
interaction. You need them because they are your support system. This is especially true
when you are feeling lonely, depressed, or anxious. Telling someone how you feel can
alleviate those emotions and encourage you to get help if you need it.


9. Get together with other moms. There are a ton of groups and activities for parents.
Getting involved will get you out of the house (and to a place that is safe for a new
baby). You’ll probably learn a lot, receive great advice, and you may even meet a new
friend. Ask the hospital where you delivered for a list of their support groups or look on
their website. Most have breastfeeding support groups and some have groups focused
on perinatal emotional health. A quick Google search for “mom groups in my area” or
“stroller tours” will also help you find a place to hang out with other sleep deprived
mamas.


10. Ask for help! Yes, it is okay to ask for help. I think it should be encouraged! Whether you
need someone to watch the baby so you can have alone time or need help with
housework, ASK! Asking for help does not make you a weak or incapable person. In fact,
I think it makes you the opposite. Everyone needs help. It really does take a village to
raise a child, so find your village.

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Jess McCarthy resides in the St. Louis area with her husband and two children.