Why self-care for moms is important from the inside out

Rachel Nicks, a certified doula and fitness expert, is an In The Know by Yahoo parenting contributor. Check out her site, Birth Queen, and follow her on Instagram for more.


When you hear that, what is the first thing you think of?

“How much time does it take?”

“Where does it take place?”

“How much does it cost?”

“Ugh, I wish, but I don’t have time.”

When I sat down to write this, I assumed it would be a breeze. I am a huge advocate of self-care and especially self-care for mamas. However, I found myself stuck, empty. I stopped and started a number of times and was finally able to start jotting down bullet points and facts, and then I stopped again.

I am returning to writing at 10:17 p.m. a few days later. My boys are asleep, I am finally eating dinner alone (not ideal, but who’s perfect?) with a candle (simple and effective self-care), an adult beverage (self-care) and silence (also major self-care). As I showered tonight with my face mask (self-care), I realized I was trying to pour from an empty cup. Can you relate?

This weekend, I had the gift of self-care and the opportunity to refill my cup, and now I can sit and encourage you to do the same. 

My approach to care is from the INSIDE out. I want to love what I see in the mirror — absolutely — but I must feel good first, and I want the same for you.

I am a mama of two boys, and I take my care very seriously from the inside out — and then from top to bottom. It is not always easy to make it happen, but I know how important it is for me and my boys. We all are working with different budgets and time constraints, but no matter how little money or time you have, YOU must come first. No one is good if mama ain’t good, PERIOD.

Take time to process the physical changes

Childbirth puts your mind, body and spirit through a great transformation. Take time to digest your birth and really ask yourself how you feel about it. Did it go the way you wanted? If it wasn’t what you imagined it would be, how is that affecting you? It is OK to be disappointed or have fear and trauma — or to be ecstatic. I often say motherhood is “E. All of the Above.”

Your self-care includes your physical, mental and emotional healing. Our culture does not give women the time and support they need to truly heal. We feel the pressure to jump right back into our pre-pregnancy jeans and do ALL OF THE THINGS.

Please remember, you were pregnant for 40 weeks. Your uterus grew from the size of an orange to a watermelon and, oh, created a whole human. So why do you think in six weeks you should be right back to “normal”? (Normal, whatever that is?)

If you choose to breastfeed, please remember that you will need to eat an extra 500 calories a day, and you might hold on to at least an extra 10 pounds around your belly button, tricep area and bra line for up to six months after you stop breastfeeding in order to create milk to nourish your baby. Hydration and good nutrition are so important for proper healing and milk production.

Find support for emotional changes

The terms “postpartum” and “postpartum depression” are casually thrown around, but I would like to really discuss PMADs, perinatal mental anxiety disorders. I am thrilled that we are starting to get more specific about what mothers deal with mentally and emotionally after becoming a parent instead of dismissing them.

Any woman can experience PMADs. A wonderful way it was described to me was any intrusive thought that prevents you from getting through your day. The ways these manifest live on a spectrum. The range is normal postpartum adjustment, baby blues, postpartum depression, postpartum OCD, postpartum anxiety and postpartum psychosis.

Self-care includes your mental and emotional health. Please never feel ashamed if you find yourself needing added support to navigate your postpartum journey. I think therapy is a wonderful tool for self-care. Asking for support doesn’t make you weak or a failure. Motherhood, LIFE, was not intended to be done in isolation.

Care for your postpartum pelvic floor

My next priority for a mother’s self-care is her pelvic floor and core. I suggest every woman go to a pelvic floor therapist to know how their pelvic floor is functioning and get suggestions for exercises or other care to make sure it is fully functioning. The core goes through a lot, to say the least. Please ask your provider if you have diastasis recti, the partial or complete separation of abdominal muscles after pregnancy. If you do, be conscious of how you work out postpartum. As a certified trainer in pre/postnatal fitness, I would suggest that new moms generally avoid forward flexion/crunches and high-impact exercise for at least three months. I advise daily kegel exercises and ab toning/diaphragmatic breathing.

Other incredible self-care ideas:

  • REST
  • Acupuncture
  • Therapy 
  • Epsom salt bath with a face mask and candle 
  • Perfume 
  • Manicure and/or pedicure
  • Massage 
  • Girl time 
  • Time away from your kids

I leave you with this. You are magic. You have superpowers. You are worthy of care, my dear Birth Queen.

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