There are innumerable joys that come with bringing a child into the world.  My third child, Henry, came on Thanksgiving Day, and there is great significance in his arrival on a day dedicated to gratitude.  Three weeks have gone by, and while I am still enamored with my 7-pound miracle, the lack of sleep is beginning to take a toll. Some days are better than others, but there are numerous days where the tears flow from sheer fatigue. I miss the energy a good nights sleep ensured. I thrive on schedules, predictability, and sleep – all attachments you must quickly relinquish when you bring home a newborn. Prior to Henry’s arrival, I was proud of my established healthy habits that I call my health “hygiene” routine, which entailed:

Sleep: 7-8 hours of sleep a night

Nutrition: 2-3 weekend hours devoted to cooking

Physical activity: 45-60 minutes of activity 5-6 days/week

Mental: One hour/day dedicated to meditation, prayers, and reading

God Bless Henry, but he has hijacked my health hygiene routine. Breastfeeding 10-12 times a day can really suck up some time (no pun intended). However, with this being my third go around, I have learned it is critical to be deliberate with daily habits to maintain my health, and here are 5 I am currently practicing:

1. Nap. Just do it. Every experienced mom will tell you to nap when your baby sleeps, but seriously, ONE 30-60 minute nap a day will provide you with superpowers.  You may struggle with the desire to clean up your kitchen or simply take a shower, but a little rest goes a long way. It helps you survive two-year old tantrums and bathtime bedlam.

2. Re-enter the exercise world slowly. As soon as I was released to exercise with my two past pregnancies, I raced out the door to get back into running shape. What I neglected, was the work I really needed prioritize – pelvic floor and core strengthening.  With this third child, I have promised myself I will do nourishing activities which includes a daily, guided pelvic floor and core strength routine as well as a 30 minute walk – outside. While walking outside in December isn’t exactly inviting, the fresh air is rejuvenating.

3.  Eat.  You might even feel pressed for time to simply sit down and eat. Mornings tend to be the most time-crunched meal, but smoothies pack in on-the-go nutrition that both Henry and I need. Blueberries are one of the most potent brain-boosting fruits, so I down this drink with a hope of a memory enhancing miracle:

Brain Boosting Smoothie:

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup light soy milk
  • 1 T. ground flaxseed
  • 1 T. nut butter
  • 1 scoop protein powder
  • 1 frozen banana
  • ½ cup frozen blueberries
  • 2 cups spinach leaves
  • 1 tsp. turmeric (potent anti-inflammatory spice that may protect brain)

Directions: Place ingredients in a blender and blend. Drink quickly before your children can ask you for some.

4. Lean on your freezer & let go of high nutrition expectations.  Fish sticks, chicken tenders, sweet potato fries, and vegetables have prime real estate in my freezer.  Frozen foods are convenient, are equal in nutrition to their fresh counterparts, and simplify meal planning. I know I will be back into my weekend cooking routine someday soon, but for now, I am lowering my cooking bar, and my kids aren’t complaining.

5. Accept the modified version: I miss my morning meditation session, but I have found that I can get in at least 10 minutes of uninterrupted meditation time while breastfeeding. Clearly, this doesn’t replace the peaceful pre-baby morning time, but it does keep the habit alive. It feels encouraging that once I sleep again, that this mental hygiene habit has been sustained.

Most importantly, remind yourself, remind yourself, remind yourself that you will sleep again like a normal person. Be deliberate about what your body really needs and honor it. Keep a gratitude list, I can easily go down the not “enough” road (sleep, time, energy), but am better served to focus on what I have plenty of – which is family, friends, and support.

Parents, I would love to hear from you – share your tips for taking care of YOU during the early years of parenting.

Jennifer McDaniel

Jennifer McDaniel is a Registered Dietitian, Media Spokesperson, and co-author of Prevention's Mediterranean Table Cookbook. She and her team of Registered Dietitians aim to help their clients go further, make change last, and unlock their potential. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, and three young sons. If you are interested in working with Jennifer, please visit our contact page.