Adjusting to Motherhood: Supporting Emotional Health Through Physical Health

By Amber Parker, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist

When caring for a newborn, many moms enter a self-sacrificing mode that focuses on baby’s needs first.We often do not realize how important it is to also make sure our needs are being met. Prioritizing our own well-being is a valuable way to take care of our baby, because a more stable and healthier mother can be more responsive to her baby’s needs.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to support yourself after having a baby. As a psychologist, I help moms improve their emotional health. However, the mind and body are connected and deficits in one area will inevitably affect the other. The following are specific physical self-care actions that will also support your emotional well-being as a new mom:

Making Sure You Drink Enough Water Each Day

There is a reason why many hospitals give new moms those large containers of water to sip throughout their stays. Dehydration can have a serious impact, both physically and mentally. When we are dehydrated, our brains can function less effectively. It is harder to concentrate and complete tasks. Our memory may be negatively impacted. Dehydration can even lower your mood. Drinking water is a simple way to support your postpartum adjustment and make sure you have the cognitive and emotional resources to cope. So, keep a water bottle nearby at all times. Some water bottles come with dials to track how much you are drinking. You can also use an app on your phone or keep a tally on a chalkboard, dry erase board, or calendar. When you reach your full amount for the day, you also experience the psychological benefit of achieving a goal and the positive emotions that arise. How much water is enough? Current recommendations are 72 ounces for adult women, 80 ounces for pregnant women, and 104 ounces for breastfeeding women [Source: Healthline].


Maintaining Blood Sugar Levels By Eating Regularly

Glucose provides fuel for our brain, so we need food in order to function at our best. Did you know that every decision you make, large or small, depletes the level of glucose in your brain?
As a result, keeping our blood sugar at a steady level has cognitive benefits, but it is also important for regulating our moods. The popularity of the term “hangry” demonstrates the link
people have observed between their mood and their level of hunger. Low blood sugar can lead
to anger, anxiety, depression, and other negative mood states. Manage your blood sugar by
eating on a regular schedule. As a new mom, you will want to keep it simple. There is no need to
cook fancy recipes or spend hours preparing food. Keep healthy snacks on hand. If your partner
is looking for a way to help, ask him or her to prepare snacks for you. If you can afford it, buy
pre-sliced vegetables or other pre-packaged snacks to save yourself the prep time. Aim for
things that you can eat with one hand (assuming you will probably be holding a baby with the
other). Try to incorporate protein and fiber. Avoid simple carbohydrates (such as sugar-filled
treats) that can make your blood sugar spike.






The one piece of self-care advice that is frequently offered to new moms is “sleep when the
baby is sleeping.” There is a reason why this statement continues to be shared after hundreds of
generations. Adequate sleep provides a foundation for optimal functioning, affecting both our
general sense of well-being and our cognitive abilities. When we are sleep-deprived, we are
quicker to become irritated and less patient with life’s little bumps. As a new mom caring for a
baby with ever-changing moods and constant demands, having the ability to tolerate discomfort
and mishaps is a tremendous asset. Sleep is a direct way to enhance that ability. Do try to take
naps as a new mom. At times you may have to let the laundry wait or leave the dirty bottles in a
pile so that you can sleep instead. Practice making your own need for a sleep a greater priority
than having a clean house or completing some other household task.
These simple strategies provide a way to nurture your physical self after the birth of your baby, with clear benefits for your mood and emotional state as well.



The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of your physician or licensed health care provider. You should consult your physician or licensed health care provider before engaging in any exercise activity described in this article to determine if it is right for your needs.