7 Necessities for the New Mom and Her Sanity

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.

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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.

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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!

Coordinate Your Crazy: Hacks for Moms and Working Sistas 

Life is busy. Every member of the family has a schedule. I drop Bates off every day at school, and I always wonder how I made it to my desk when I get there each day. (Photo below is right before drop off – and Bates is wearing PJs because it was freezing and hardly anything fits! Mom lessons – keep buying play clothes before the current ones don’t fit. Still learning!) 


Whether you work or stay home, there is always something to be done and not enough time to do it! Here are some ways I’m managing life’s craziness – and it’s ALWAYS a work in progress:

1. Put everything in your brain on paper and keep notecards or a notepad in a central area. 

I have a notepad on our bar in between the living room and the kitchen so it’s always near by! (For example – right now it says “alterations, CVS, think of more dinners” haha!)

2. Schedule it or it won’t happen. 

Organize the things you wrote down by urgency and importance. Now, tomorrow, later. Schedule the “NOW” things during your day. 

If something can’t fit, it goes on tomorrow’s list! Remember – Rome wasn’t built in a day!

3. Coffee!

Try two cups instead of one for extra oomph. It releases dopamine – and sometimes we all just need a little more HAPPY to push through our tasks! Sip it, grow wings. Repeat!

4. The “Reminders” app on your iphone. 

Forget to take your medicine? Forget to feed the dog? Set it to remind you when you pull up to your house or at a certain time! Or you can be like my Grandmother and put your medicine next to the coffee pot – surely you won’t forget it then! (See step 3 above.)

A recurring meeting at work? It can remind you when you pull up to the office! It can even remind you not to blow your budget when you pull up to Target – but let’s get real – that probably wouldn’t work in this instance. Because give us ALL the things at Target.
5. Dry shampoo 

No description needed. It’s simply every mom’s best friend. Because long showers are few and far between – much less blow drying time!

6. YNAB (You Need a Budget)

Let’s face it: Budgets can be a beast. Especially for a new married couple. YNAB has helped us see where our money is going! I like to spend – and YNAB tells me when I can’t and when I can because EVERY dollar has a job in a category. I cannot overstate what a game changer it’s been for our financial life! It’s an app – google it. Get it. Learn it. Watch what happens! (Hat tip: @laurenbarbalich, aka supermompreneur!)

7. Clean Sheets on Sunday. 

Change them on Sunday. I know it sucks – but when I make it something I do every Sunday as I prep for the week, I sleep like a princess and wake up feeling like I already did one thing that sets me up for the week. Because doesn’t a set of clean sheets make everything better? (Add a few drops of lavendar oil on your pillow if you really want to be wowed!)

8. Turn on the dishwasher

I talk about this a lot! There is something about it being on. When everything else is going to heck and I am feeling overwhelmed, I start there. At least the dishes are getting washed! And when it is humming I think – yay free sounds of productivity! (I went a year without one – and let’s just say they have a special place in my heart!)
9. 30 minute home workouts. 

No one deserves to live in the place of wanting to get healthy but feel like they’re paralyzed. I’ve been there. I am convinced that doing them at home through a streaming app is the ONLY way to stay consistent for the rest of life. Workout fads go away, but apps on your phone are forever – you get what I mean? That’s why I host my own virtual accountability groups. I believe in them that much! I’ve worked out consistently since February because of them. Life is too short to not slay your health goals. You only have one body! 

10. Prayer.

There is something profoundly peaceful about knowing you don’t have to handle life all alone. Because life can get hard. When I was at my worst during my postpartum depression, I would send up prayers because it’s all I knew to do. If I didn’t know 1) God was for me; 2) He sent Jesus to die for me so I didn’t have to wander alone; and 3) that he had my back through it all… I’d probably still be in that pit. Prayer and the Bible got me to where I am – solid and confident! Try it! And feel free to ask me about my journey to knowing Jesus. We can have a virtual coffee date!

5 Tips for a Healthy Marriage… with a Baby!

Here are just a few things we’ve learned since having a baby. We’ve only been married a handful of years, but so far these have really filled our cup!

1. Staycation Dates

I have always heard “date your spouse.” This can sometimes be hard with a baby or multiple kids in the house! A night out for dinner is always lovely, but let’s face it – sometimes it isn’t in the budget or the schedule (especially if you have a sleeping babe).

Well you are in luck! You don’t need to leave your house to spend quality time together! We’ve been known to make our backyard an Italian restaurant with a picnic blanket and pesto grilled fish, or our living room a movie theatre with popcorn and M&Ms. We even recently baked chocolate chip cookies together in the kitchen at 9PM. We truly caught up with one another over our kitchen island. The cookies were a little burnt and not really circular, but that didn’t matter – they were made with love. It was really only just 30 or 40 minutes of time, but we now have a wonderful memory!

2. Listen and ask questions.

At a marriage class recently, we were told to make sure we are really listening to our spouse. Not staring at your phone and saying “yeah” kind of listening – which I am guilty of… well, we all are at times I am sure!

I ask Barker about his hunting stands and what he thinks the season will be like. He asks me how I am feeling and if I’d like to share a glass of wine. We challenge you: Ask your husband about his day, and truly listen to his answer. I am trying to make sure to do this more and more! Husbands, ask your wife about her dreams – where she sees your family in 5 years, 10 years. It creates a wonderful conversation and leaves technology out of it! Another question example made popular by Pastor Judah Smith is: how is your soul? (Not just “how are you” – it is deeper than that and gets into the core of how a person is ticking at the moment.)

3. Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes.

This is such a great way for me to take a step back and remember that sometimes my feelings about a situation are often not quite an accurate picture of reality. (There, I said it.) If you put yourself in your spouse’s shoes, the new perspective removes some of the resentment and even hurt feelings. Seeing issues from another person’s perspective has always helped me in any relationship, whether it is a friendship or family!

4. Pray for one another.

I know this one can be a little hard at first – we are still getting used to it! You may not be able to find the words or know what to pray. Even if it is just a few lines, say a prayer for your spouse. There is so much power in that which husbands and wives do not utilize! I just imagine God tapping his foot and waiting for us to reach out, but we are alone trying to solve it ourselves! A good simple prayer I heard once is to simply pray that your spouse be made to be more like Jesus. That covers SO much since Jesus is awesome in every way.

There are also some great resources out there! For example, multiple people have recommended this book of prayers to me, but I haven’t had a chance to pick it up yet! I’d love to hear from you if you have other ideas for helpful prayer resources.

5. Keep a list of the ways God has been faithful in your life and in your marriage.

Was your child sick and healed or diagnosed properly and treated? Or did you worry how a bill was going to be paid, and suddenly something worked out at work or through some other means to pay it? Or did you survive a tumultuous year of straight CRAZY together? That’s God. Not just happenstance. Write down those moments the minute they happen before your mind tells you they are a coincidence or lets it slip from your marriage memory! Then when your marriage faces a problem in the future, you can reflect back on all of the times that God was faithful and know that he’ll be faithful again! He is the most important member of your marriage covenant after all – it isn’t just you two!

5 Tips for Meal Plan Success

Below are five strategies that finally helped me meal plan successfully. And y’all – it took me forever to learn. So give yourself grace! It’s all about the learning process.IMG_1568

1. Simplicity 

I always felt like meal planning was for overachievers and not something I could do. You know, the Giadas or Ina Garten’s of the world – not me. But I realized I had some silly idea that all of the recipes had to be world class works of art that were worthy of 1,000 Pinterest pins.

However, I’ve learned that the key to consistency is actually the opposite! Simple is less intimidating and it’s easier to start each week when the elements of your plan aren’t complicated. For example, hard boiled eggs or a banana and peanut butter are almost always my go to snack lately. And don’t underestimate what chopped onion, garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar can do to flavor your favorite vegetables or chicken in a sauté pan!

2. Make a list on paper of your meal prep steps.

Make a list of your steps with the easiest two items first. Once you do two productive steps and cross them off, like chopping fruit for smoothies or carrots for snacks, you think “Wow I did two things!” And then if you do another one, you think “Hmm that’s cool.” And then another, “Hey… I think there’s something to this!”

As you will see from my steps below, they are super simple. It only really is 7 steps. Chopped strawberries for shakes, hard boiled eggs and easy, fresh salads are staples in my plan.

3. Make an arsenal of recipes that work for your family. 

We have 10-15 recipes that rotate right now so that I don’t have to spend too much time thinking each week. I try to help my challengers do this too! Those who participate in my accountability groups get a handful of recipes that anyone can eat — even the kiddos! (You gotta like meat though!) Chicken dishes that can be cut up, chili that reheats well, or some other simple, seasonal dishes.

When you’ve tried recipes and know you can make them, it takes out some of the fear and procrastination from the process!

4. Use leftovers for the following days lunch.

You are probably thinking um, hello Captain Obvious! I know, I know. But following this principle makes things so much easier when you are meal planning! Things like stir fry, chili or a roast are great to reheat and take for lunch or put in a wrap or sandwich. Part of the overwhelm of meal prepping is having to think of so many recipes! When you eat your leftovers for lunch, you have already done half the work. Pat yourself on the back, friend!

5. Double it, sister.

Double your recipe and freeze some for a day when you don’t have it in you to cook! We all become weary at times and just need a cold beverage and a couch-sitting session after a long day. How nice is it to just pull something out and pop it in the oven? Perfect for a “This Is Us” night!

Happy meal planning!

Have a specific question related to health and wellness or being a mom? Or are you interested in joining my next accountability group? Shoot me an email at encouragementisbliss@gmail.com, a DM at @shannondirmann on Instagram, or simply comment on a post and I’ll do my best to get through them! I can’t wait to hear from you.