When I was in the throws of the postpartum days, a friend graciously came over to cook us dinner and let me take a nap. I remember watching her from the couch after my C-section and being completely floored at the multi-tasking she was able to do. It was just basic (but wonderful) mom functions, but to me, who had yet to be diagnosed with postpartum depression, I thought she must have been given super powers and wondered how I would ever manage. (This is the type of overwhelm that comes with postpartum blues – it’s an overwhelm that isn’t normal.)
She was cooking a roast, chopping and simultaneously keeping her eye on the baby in the living room basinet (the Rock and Play, which is life if you don’t have one). I felt like I had to stare at him all day to make sure no one stole him, sneezed on him or generally impacted him at all. I was after all, his mother now, tasked with the giant responsibility of protecting and raising this little human. While he was perfect and wonderful, for some reason I was not. That same friend referred to this period as “the trenches.” Others refer to it as “The Fourth Trimester.” It is amazing in many ways, but it is truly, truly hard.
Newborn babies are so small that they need to be fed usually every 2-3.5 hours. And that already makes for a challenging state when you are dealing with a hormone-inflicted person! That said, now that I am out of “the trenches,” I want to make sure I document the things that really did bring me sanity and kept me going in hopes that it helps someone else!
(Note: These items are helpful for any new mom, but if you are experiencing any of these symptoms that I’ve linked from Postpartum Progress, please, please mention them to your doctor. You may be experiencing more than just the stress of newborn life — it may be that you have what many now refer to as simply “postpartum.” I know it’s hard to talk to someone out loud and put words to your symptoms. That’s why I was so happy to find that symptom list. I didn’t want to admit anything was wrong. I had decided I was just going to “power through.” However, my parents and grandmother pretty much had to make me go because they knew I just wasn’t myself. It ended up being hands down the best thing I did for my baby and my husband, and God used that season to break me apart and re-make me in a MUCH better way. He does use all things for our good, after all! Feel free to reach out to me if you are afraid to call your doctor and I can talk you through the steps, or at least provide you some encouragement!)
Without further delay, here are my top items for keeping a new mom sane!
1. Lavender Oil and Bubble Bath
In the early weeks with a newborn, being able to have 45 minutes by myself to take a bath or shower was always like an oasis or mini-vacation. A friend brought me this Lavender Bubble Bath by EO and it was just such a sweet act of kindness that I will always remember!
Using lavender oil on my pillow and my temples before bed also helped calm me down. (Newborns breathe very strangely at first and it makes you wonder if they are ok. I called my mom so many times in the night!) You can get 100 percent therapeutic grade lavender oil from my friend Brooke. You can get other versions that aren’t as pure, but still smell amazing, from various health food stores like Whole Foods.
2. Old Navy Oversized Tees and Sweaters
Praises for Old Navy. I lived in various colors of this t-shirt, this long sleeve shirt, and these sweaters, both during my maternity days and my postpartum weeks. And heck, I’m still wearing a lot of them with skinnies. They’re a life saver. Shirts are going to get ruined anyway, because as sweet as they are, babies will be babies! Spit up becomes normal and breastfeeding has its spills sadly. They aren’t a big investment, but still feel good and look semi-put together if needed. I ordered a size large or extra large in all of them. (You may think you need smaller, but go ahead and do yourself a favor and order as big as you can! You will thank me.)
While breastfeeding didn’t work out long term for us unfortunately (more on that later), I still had special tops for the early weeks when we thankfully could. If you plan to breastfeed, you’ll also want to invest in some button down shirts and dresses! (I love ASOS’s maternity and nursing lines).
Also, Lindsay from Sell Eat Love reminded me that the “front tuck” is trending again. You can even tuck light sweaters in just in the front and look instantly more polished! So once you’re a few months postpartum, don’t forget that you can invest in a pair of higher waisted jeans that really fit well and hold things in, and still wear these tops above! (I sure am!)
3. Living Proof Dry Shampoo
Who needs showers with this stuff!? My hair almost looks better when I use it than when I spend an hour fixing it.
That reminds me. Let’s face a fact: You just aren’t going to get as many showers with hair washes ladies! Even for me who washed my hair every day prior to Bates (what planet was I on?), washes became much less frequent in the early newborn days, and are not every day now. The price tag for the Living Proof Dry Shampoo is more than I’d normally pay… but trust me. This stuff isn’t your average dry shampoo!
Look at the opportunity cost: The time you will save from not having to wash your hair as often can be spent getting some extra Zs or with your kiddos. And this actually cleans your hair, while also smelling amazing! (And this is not an ad, just truth!)
Last Tip: I save this shampoo for when I am seeing other human beings. If I am just at home and want to pretend my hair isn’t as dirty (I am slightly kidding, but not really), then I will use this Psssst Dry Shampoo which works well too and is much less per pop.
4. Postpartum Workouts from Home
(*After you are cleared by doctor of course!)
“Get your endorphins going – that will help your mood and your sanity.” I had heard that a lot, but I didn’t really get what it meant. And as someone who spent a large part of her day thinking about what to eat for my pregnant and postpartum self, I didn’t believe it was worth it. But now that I’ve tried consistent 30 minute workouts, there is definitely something very real about the blood-pumping high you get after a sweat session. There is a burst of mental clarity, productivity and gratitude. The sun shines a little brighter! I chose home workouts because I had just had the baby. I couldn’t leave and I had very little time. (Nap time hustle is a very real thing.) So once I was cleared by my doctor, I began doing workouts with Beachbody On Demand.
This streaming library has more than 600 work outs, including maternity and postpartum workouts. The program I chose was 21 Day Fix, and it helped me lose more than 50 pounds of my baby weight. That’s why I like to share it now with my clients, many who are postpartum moms looking to take 30 minutes each day to feel good again in their own skin. Here’s a visual of the changes it helped me achieve! The after photos was taken around 6 months postpartum.
As a client recently told me, she likes to let the workouts stream on mute while she watches episodes of The Real Housewives because it goes by faster. Some people stream it on their iPhone at lunch at work! I love that. The workouts are where you are. Whatever it takes to get moving!
5. Wine… because you stayed wine free for 9 months. You earned it sister.
Enjoy a glass and watch a good movie or a show. Check out for a bit. You can take two hours to watch something good when baby goes to sleep. The world will be ok! (This was very hard for me to grasp. I was also limited to only one This Is Us episode per viewing session because I was so emotional. That show!)
6. Babywise or Sleep Training.
Babywise has brought so much peace to our family! I know this topic ignites fear or various opinions in a lot of people. And that is ok – we all have opinions. I plan to write a longer post about this and the steps to sleep train so that we can remember them for future kiddos, because when you are overwhelmed as a new mom you need some basic steps to get started or to make the best decision for your family — or you may give up. (I nearly did.)
The simple thing is this: you know what is best for your baby. Your baby should never be hungry in the name of a schedule. If your baby is crying and you’ve tried everything (change, burp, etc) so you know he is hungry, you absolutely feed him! But having your baby on a general schedule on normal days allows you to give him some peace and predictability. As the author of Babywise puts it, you are “giving him the gift of nighttime sleep” – and you are giving it to yourself and your family.
In the simplest form, Babywise (and many sleep training resources like Moms On Call) are based on an “eat, play, sleep” routine. The baby eats, plays for a certain period of “wake time” based upon his or her age, and then naps for at least an hour ideally. Then he wakes up to eat, and the cycle starts over again. This allows the baby to go down for a nap semi-awake, so he doesn’t need you to put him to sleep by rocking or milk. As a mom in the Babywise Mamas Facebook group put it, Babywise also allows you to “meet your baby’s needs in cycles before he knows he needs something.”
Finally, Babywise limited my anxiety because I knew that I was taking care of his needs on time and I could, to some degree, maintain some predictability. This helped my postpartum anxiety and depression significantly. I had a plan and a purpose – I wasn’t just existing, not knowing how much time had gone by since I fed him last. And if he was eating less or more than usual, or not sleeping well, I could be more aware of it.
Again, it isn’t for everyone, but it made all the difference for us. Now we can lay Bates down around 7:30 PM or 8PM and walk away to let him get the rest he needs to grow and develop. That is priceless. And I don’t mean to say that we don’t have sleep regression stages (more on that later and they are tough), but he has overall been a very great sleeper and I can’t recommend Babywise enough. Feel free to ask me any questions about our experience, and I’ll post more about that in the future!
7. Outdoor Sun/Walk
This seems so simple, but hear me out! Another friend of mind described the days with a newborn in the best way. She said it was early morning, and she remembered being up sometime around dawn holding the baby and staring at the light starting to come in through her window. Her husband asked her what was wrong and she simply replied, “The sun goes up, and the sun comes down,” and continued to stare blankly.
I resonated so much with that! Everything begins to blur together when you don’t leave your house. We are meant for community and fresh air! So get outside a little bit per day to get some Vitamin D. I had seriously low levels, so that was literally a prescription for me. To take a trip outside and get some air. It greatly improves your mood and how your body functions.
So whip out that new stroller and take a walk! After you pick out your stroller that is, which is a feat in itself. I used Lucy’s List to understand the different types of strollers and I also consulted friends. Who knew it would be such a brain teaser to choose! (Note: Ask your husband, partner or friend to help you put it together, since simple tasks may feel overwhelming at this time, and that’s ok! Don’t even get me started on the car seat. I stared at that thing and had no clue how to start using it, so I just didn’t go anywhere for a little while. Hormones sure are bizarre. But now that we do go out a lot, it’s so much easier. It’s just hard doing something so new and foreign!)
I hope these have been helpful for you mamas. There are a lot more, but these are some of my top recommendations! Know this: You will come out of your newborn season and you will look back on it fondly. Everyone is telling you that, I get it. But so much of your overwhelm is the fear of the unknown and it is totally normal. It’s a season that will be over before you know it. People told me that and I didn’t believe them. But you will! I promise.
Want to follow along on my real life parenting and health journey? Follow @shannondirmann on Instagram and let’s be friends!