If you are a new mum or expecting your first baby in lockdown, firstly, well done! Pregnancy, birth and new motherhood all present a set of challenges even in the easiest of circumstances, so you are achieving something incredible. Every day is a victory! It is completely understandable that life may be challenging right now, so here are a few ideas on how to cope as a new mum in lockdown, to make those first few weeks a little easier.
1: The basics become the essentials
During lockdown, we have realised just how much the basics become the essentials. It sounds simple, but making sure that you are all fed, warm, healthy and rested is the foundation to build your newborn days on. If you are lacking in any of these areas, it will undermine any attempts to do anything more productive, and could leave you feeling stressed out or exhausted. Keep a water bottle near you at all times. Have easy to eat snacks in your dressing gown pocket, or by the feeding chair. Grab sleep (or at least, rest) whenever you can, recruiting your partner or childcare bubble to help.
2: Lower your expectations
The Covid-19 pandemic has of course meant that all our lives are changed enormously, but especially for new parents. You may have had ideas and hopes about how you wanted this time to be, places you would visit with your newborn, friends you would spend time with. When there is a large difference between what we hope for and reality, the disappointment can really impact on our mood. What can you do about this? Well, a really helpful strategy is to remind yourself of all the amazing things you are achieving (see below) but you also have to let go of some of the expectations you had about this time. If you find yourself grieving for the loss of expected milestones such as visiting a family member with your new baby, or having coffee with a few friends from your antenatal class, or going swimming with your baby for the first time, firstly try to acknowledge that it is OK to feel sad about these losses. Be kind to yourself. Remember that there are circumstances within our control, but plenty outside. We have no control over the course of the pandemic, or the restrictions imposed, but we have control over little choices we make day to day.
3: Stay connected
It is true that there are some benefits to being in lockdown with a newborn baby; unexpected and perhaps unwanted visitors being one of them. However, with limited contact to your closest friends and family, it’s easy to feel isolated and alone. Try and reach out every day, in tangible ways. For example, text messages are great and easy with one hand whilst feeding the baby, but why not try sending voice notes and asking your friends and family to send them back. Hearing their voices and them hearing yours (and maybe some extra baby noises!) may help you to feel closer. Send videos of you and baby, or set up video calls with mums you may have met at antenatal classes.
4: Make life easy
Set up as many systems as you can to make life as easy as possible for yourself in the first few weeks. Order a few weeks’ online groceries in advance. Create a 4-week meal plan and shopping list so you don’t have to spend time wondering what to have for dinner. Ask your best friend to set up a schedule of local friends willing to bring you food (check out Meal Train for an online way of organising this). Lay out comfy clothes for you and baby before you go to bed so you don’t have to think about it in the morning. Get into a routine with your partner on all the essential jobs around the home making sure it is clear who takes responsibility for each task.
5: Carve out time for yourself
Every new mum needs a break. Regular breaks, in fact. You can’t pour from an empty cup, Mama. Talk to your partner or those in your childcare bubble about how you can get some time for yourself. The best time to try and get an hour or so is usually straight after a feed, so you can delegate the changing and settling while you have a nap, or a bath, or listen to an audiobook.
6: Consider your achievements
As a new mum, your life is probably very different to before. You will have had a framework for understanding whether you are doing a good job, whether in work or not, and be able to measure yourself against this in some way. However, your new tiny co-worker is unlikely to give you clear feedback, and is certainly likely to need an awful lot from you, a lot of the time. This can leave you feeling as if you aren’t achieving anything, when the reality is you are doing an enormously demanding full time job! Find a space in a notebook, or on your phone, or better still in a dedicated notebook for new mums like Mama Notes, to write down three things that you have accomplished that day. There will be many more than three (!) but by highlighting things in this way, regularly, you are training your mind to notice them, which should have an impact on how you feel about what you are achieving. Which is a lot. Did I mention that already?
7: Take notes
A side effect of the pandemic, as of any stressful period of time, can be ‘just getting through it’. This is certainly an effective coping strategy, ticking off the weeks and focussing only on getting your head down and making it through til the weekend, but it means we are less likely to notice what’s happening around us. In early motherhood, especially, there are plenty of moments we’d like to look back on. It may not feel like it now, but looking back on these moments in a few months’ or years’ time will bring you so much joy. From the tiny moments (first wind-induced smile) to the bigger ones (meeting Grandma via video call for the first time), it’s really rewarding to have somewhere to record them. As with recording your achievements, find an easy way to do this, such as using your copy of Mama Notes, which has space to record brief notes every day in the first 12 weeks, and short journal prompts at the end of each of the 12 weeks.