Menu

10 essential ways new moms can improve their mental health

The important part here is to remember that this is just one season in your life.

10 essential ways new moms can improve their mental health

Being a new mom is hard. Demands are coming from all angles and it’s easy to feel the strain under increased pressure and anxiety. As if the outside pressure isn’t enough, there are things we do to ourselves that cause even more stress.


But that stops right now. Here are 10 things any new mama can do to preserve her mental health and happiness:

1. Ditch social media for real life

Those early days (and nights) of endless feedings, rocking and pacing the halls trying to soothe your newborn set the perfect stage for losing yourself in social media. Before you know it, baby is asleep in your arms and you’re still scrolling. While social media absolutely fills an important need for new moms—providing community and support no matter the time or location—it can also have a negative impact.

FEATURED VIDEO

Over reliance on social media can make it seem as if there isn’t a need for in-person support as well. And while the convenience of online communities can make it easier to reach out for help at times, there is tremendous value in face-to-face social interaction.

Particularly for new moms, having another adult you can spend time with in person can go a long way toward decreasing the sense of isolation that often comes along with this period in life. Whether it’s having a friend over for a playdate, or your mom tagging along while you run errands, few things are as good for the mental health of new moms as face-to-face time in the presence of supportive others.

In addition to the risk of decreasing real-life social interaction, social media overloading can also expose moms to harsh, judgmental behavior that can be quite damaging. The anonymity of social media can cause people to say things they would never say to another mom in real life. Responses to a post about ideas for how to help your newborn sleep are often filled with criticisms of the way the poster is raising their child. This is never helpful, but it is particularly damaging for new moms who have not yet developed much confidence in their mothering.

2. Change up your to-do list

To-do lists can be a mom’s best friend. With so many things to get done and so much swirling around in your head, combined with a nice dose of sleep-deprivation, it would be easy to forget tasks otherwise. But a traditional to-list is not always the best fit.

Generally, these lists have tasks assigned to particular days. Tuesday is the grocery store, post office and laundry. Wednesday is an oil change and vacuuming.

The problem is that life for a new mom is not predictable enough to determine ahead of time how much can reasonably get accomplished in a day. A rough night or particularly clingy baby can quickly turn a to-do list into a reminder of how much didn’t get done that day. This can cause unnecessary stress, feelings of inadequacy, and frustration.

So what to do instead? Change your conceptualization of the to-do list. Instead of it being one list that contains all of your must-do tasks, break it into two lists:

  • One list contains your daily required tasks. Things that absolutely must get done on a specific day—picking someone up from the airport, taking the dog to a vet appointment—go there.
  • The other list is a running, prioritized list of other things that need to get done but have some flexibility on when exactly they happen.

On any given day, you will now know what must happen, and then you can make a decision about what to pluck from the second list based on how your day is going.

Some days you may not be able to take anything off that second list, and that’s totally fine. Other days you may get more done than you could possibly have imagined you’d have time for, and that’s totally fine too.

The main point is your to-do list is now flexible and lines up with the reality of your day, rather than being rigid and causing distress when thing don’t happen as planned. New motherhood is all about learning to roll with it.

3. Trust your intuition

Studies have confirmed that intuition is not all in our head, and it is a real thing. Intuition is essentially all of the things we know without knowing how we know them. And for moms, it can be a powerful force in our decision-making process.

When we try to fight it or discount it, telling ourselves to ignore those feelings and concerns, not only do we cause undue stress trying to suppress something that is coming up automatically, but we potentially miss out on valuable information.

Now I’m not saying to trust your intuition over advice or information from medical professionals, but I am saying to start valuing your knowledge of your baby and trust your own mommy expertise.

4. Forget the snap-back

There are so many pressures new moms face, and bouncing back from pregnancy in a matter of weeks is one of the big ones. Rather than spending the postpartum period focusing on rest, recovery and bonding with our new baby, we are told to start the countdown until we fit back in our pre-pregnancy jeans. And when we find that it doesn’t happen quickly, we are frustrated and disappointed in ourselves. We view it as a lack of discipline or a sign that we’re forever doomed to a “mom bod.”

Here’s the thing: Pregnancy permanently changes some things about our bodies. Even if you return to your pre-pregnancy weight, those jeans may never fit your new hips again. All of the dieting and exercising in the world is not going to reverse this change in bone structure.

So yes, exercise and eat a balanced diet to keep your body healthy and your energy levels up to meet the physical demands of motherhood. But stop wasting time and energy focused on this unrealistic idea that your new self is inferior to your old one. It’s new and different, and that is totally okay.

5. Stop comparing yourself to other moms

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Oh goodness, he could not have been more correct when it comes to moms. Any time I am feeling pretty good about my mom skills, a quick scroll through Facebook can bring me right back down.

Her house is way cleaner, she’s doing a better job than me. Her kids get along so well, she’s doing a better job than me. Her hair and makeup are done, she’s doing a better job than me.

While we may logically know that most people carefully choose and filter what they share on social media, we still find ourselves engaged in negative comparisons that can result in anxiety, depression, and lots of self-criticism.

Although this happens most frequently on social media, we can easily fall into the comparison trap in real life as well. Other moms at the park that seem to be managing their children better or women who look more put together at Target can all start that comparison cycle going in our heads.

When you notice this happening, I suggest taking a deep breath and telling yourself that you don’t know the full story based solely on outward appearances. Things are always more nuanced than they seem. And remember: YOU are the mom your children need. Perceived flaws and all.

6. Stop comparing your baby to other babies

Just like every mom is different and excels in different parts of motherhood, every baby is totally unique. Yes, your friend’s baby may be sleeping through the night already, but yours is doing way better with solids.

Or yes, your cousin’s neighbor’s friend’s 8-month-old is walking but has yet to take an independent nap. Keeping this all in perspective is key. Kids develop at their own rate and in the time that is right for them. But that’s hard to remember when you feel like your baby isn’t doing what she is “supposed” to be doing.

One of the biggest sources of this anxiety is developmental milestones. Remember that these milestones are rather broad and no two children will follow the same timeline. They will get there in their own way, and all you can do is support them as they develop.

So rather than comparing your baby to another baby, compare him to himself. Is he learning new things as time goes on? Then he’s doing great, and so are you!

7. Appreciate your body (and all it’s been through)

Let’s take a moment to think about all that your body has just been through. Depending on the specifics of your situation, things that your body may have endured include: Fertility medications and treatment, morning sickness, growing a new organ (yes, the placenta is an actual organ that your body is able to manufacture on demand), growing a human being, managing excruciating pain without medication, spinal injections, major abdominal surgery, and providing all sustenance for a rapidly growing baby.

That’s a lot. And it’s reasonable to expect it to look a little—or a lot—different than before.

While it’s easy to spot the flaws you see in your current body, focusing on them will serve only to increase your dissatisfaction with your body. Instead, try focusing on gratitude. We know that a gratitude practice has tremendous mental health benefits, and making sure to include some body-centric gratitude can go a long way towards making peace with the body you’re in.

This doesn’t mean you can’t have weight loss or fitness goals, it just means that they are well-balanced with an appreciation for what you currently have going. Like strong arms to carry your body. A voice that allows you to express yourself. Eyes that let you take in the beauty of your child. Focus on these things with regularity, and you will notice a shift in your body-related stress and anxiety over time.

8. Leave time in your schedule for “nothing”

Adjusting to life with a new baby is hard in so many respects. One particularly difficult aspect is learning to temper your expectations of yourself and redefine what productivity looks like on a daily basis.

Once you’ve healed from delivery, it can feel like you’re ready to get up and out and going again. You crave interaction with adults and a return to some sense of normalcy and routine. This is a totally normal and understandable desire, but unfortunately, the reality of caring for a newborn is that normalcy and routine are somewhat out the window for a while. If you were used to being on the go and running at full speed at all times, this can be quite the shock.

Over-scheduling and expecting that you’ll get too many things done in a day is a setup for disappointment, frustration and distress. Instead, it’s a good idea to start exploring what productivity looks like for you now in this phase of life.

Perhaps it’s making progress on getting baby down for an independent nap. Or getting a load of laundry washed, dried and put away in the same day. Or figuring out how to get everything together and loaded into the car on your own. Or making a homemade meal once a week. These things may have seemed trivial a year ago, but right now they’re big accomplishments that should be honored as such.

Unrealistic expectations will not motivate you to accomplish more. In fact, the resulting unhappiness may actually decrease your motivation and lead to even less being accomplished. Not to mention the emotional toll it takes when we fail to live up to our goals. Right now you cannot change the intensity with which your baby needs you and your time. But you can certainly adapt your expectations to fit your reality.

9. Remember, this season doesn’t last forever

I spent a long time trying not to get caught up in the “Can we really have it all?” debate. I felt torn and unsure of the answer. But then I heard the answer that made the most sense to me: Yes you can have it all, but not all at the same time.

Different times of life require that certain aspects of ourselves come to the front and others have to step back a bit. So right now, mothering has moved to the top of the list, which means other things are going to get bumped. You may have to scale back the amount of time you have for socializing or pursuing hobbies or work hours. Now, of course, this will look different for everyone depending on your needs, preferences and resources.

The important part here is to remember that this is just one season in your life. Things will change. You will have more time for yourself again soon. Your baby will get on a schedule, and you’ll be able to plan around naps and bedtime. You and your partner will have date nights again.

While you’re in this new phase, try to appreciate it. There will come times you’ll long for days spent at home with your baby and miss the unscheduled time. Those other parts of you will have their moments again soon. For now, enjoy being mom first.

10. You’re making progress every day, mama

When you’re in the thick of new mom life, it can feel very hectic, unmanageable, and overwhelming. It’s hard to see the path you’re on, let alone trust that you’re actually moving forward. But you are.

Each day you’re getting closer to feeling confident in your mom skills. Each day you and your baby are growing together. It’s not linear growth. Sometimes it’s two steps forward and one step back, but hey, that’s still progress!

Learning to let go a bit and trust yourself is key. Trust that you are enough for your baby. Trust that you will feel like yourself again. Trust that you will make it through. Trust that you are a great mom. Trust the process.

You might also like:

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Shop

Sorry, you can’t meet our baby yet

Thank you for understanding. ❤️

In just over three weeks, we will become parents. From then on, our hearts will live outside of our bodies. We will finally understand what everyone tells you about bringing a child into the world.

Lately, the range of emotions and hormones has left me feeling nothing short of my new favorite mom word, "hormotional." I'm sure that's normal though, and something most people start to feel as everything suddenly becomes real.

Our bags are mostly packed, diaper bag ready, and birth plan in place. Now it's essentially a waiting game. We're finishing up our online childbirth classes which I must say are quite informational and sometimes entertaining. But in between the waiting and the classes, we've had to think about how we're going to handle life after baby's birth.

FEATURED VIDEO

I don't mean thinking and planning about the lack of sleep, feeding schedule, or just the overall changes a new baby is going to bring. I'm talking about how we're going to handle excited family members and friends who've waited just as long as we have to meet our child. That sentence sounds so bizarre, right? How we're going to handle family and friends? That sentence shouldn't even have to exist.

Keep reading Show less
Life

My 3-year-old is eating peanut butter toast with banana for breakfast (his request), and we are officially running late for preschool. We need to get in the car soon if we want to miss the morning traffic, but he has decided that he no longer wants the food that he begged for two minutes earlier. What started off as a relatively calm breakfast has turned into a battle of wills.

"You're going to be hungry," I say, realizing immediately that he could care less. I can feel my frustration rising, and even though I'm trying to stay calm, I'm getting snappy and irritable. In hindsight, I can see so many opportunities that fell through the cracks to salvage this morning, but at the moment… there was nothing.

Keep reading Show less
Life