"It’s not that you’re not thankful for this basket of baby that you delivered (you are), it’s just that it’s a lot to take in at once."
There’s nothing quite like the subtle magic of a newborn: the way they smell, the way they move, how you’re so amazed they came from you.
But while the love is near-instant, so is the stress. From adjusting to your own hormones and your changing body, to figuring out how to survive on a few hours of shuteye and a grande iced coffee (with, ahem, a shot of espresso), becoming a new mom is a lot of work. And most of it? Well, you learn it on the fly and when you’re sleep deprived. Though the very idea of self-care might feel luxurious right about now, there are small acts of zen you can do that’ll bring you peace, clarity, and calmed nerves, all while taking care of your baby.
“As a new mom adding anything to your life can feel overwhelming, no matter what it is. I invite you not to think of meditation like a chore, or another ‘to do,’ but instead like a gift you are giving to yourself,” says meditation coach Ali Katz.
“Every time you take deep breaths, or think of a few things you are grateful for, you are filling up your reserves so that you can be the mom you always dreamed you'd be.”
Lynne Goldberg, certified meditation coach and co-founder of the app OMG, I Can Meditate! says meditation can help your brain: “Feeling a little foggy and unfocused? Or maybe you can’t remember where you put your car keys? It’s pretty natural to lose you mental focus after giving birth," she explains. “The good news is meditation has been shown to boost memory as well as mental clarity.”
Still not convinced to give meditation a try? Consider this: according to a recent study, in just four days of trying meditation for the first time, people saw improvement in their memory, their special processing, and executive functioning. So what are some meditation hacks you can do during and between countless diaper changes and feedings?
Here, experts give their best recommendations for busy new moms who need just a hot second for themselves:
1. Remind yourself to breathe.
Oftentimes when you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’ll hold your breath without even thinking about it. It’s a normal reaction to extreme stress, but it can cause you to hold a lot of tension in your body and in your mind. But actively reminding to breathe when you’re trying to calculate the time between feedings and do yet another load of laundry? Not likely. That’s why Katz suggests putting a note the literally says, ‘Breathe’ next to the changing table. “Whenever you change the baby's diaper, take three nice, long, deep breaths, or more if you can. It takes three of these to begin to settle your nervous system down, so no matter how tired and overwhelmed you are, you will be sneaking in a little peace,” she says.
2. Meditate while baby sleeps.
Even if they squeal, scream and moan for hours, when that brand new spankin’ baby of yours actually goes to sleep, it feels nearly impossible to take your eyes off of him or her. You watch their belly, the tiny twitches of their eyelashes and wonder how you can love a stranger so dearly. That’s why Anita Perry, the owner of Yoga Anita says to turn your mesmerizing into meditation. “It is so peaceful, watching a baby. Notice the baby's breath, the rise and fall of the chest, the little fingers and toes, the little smiles. Feel the love emanating from you to the baby and from the baby back to you. Wrap yourself in this positive love energy,” she says.
3. Practice being present while feeding.
While often difficult in the beginning for new moms, breastfeeding can be a powerful way to build a connection with your child. It is also a short period, each day, where you can sit down. Though your baby might only be a few weeks or months old, you might find yourself thinking about the theme for their first birthday party, if they’re growing at the recommended rate, or if you’re saving enough for college. Katz says to hold your horses, mama!
“Meditation helps us to stay in the present moment. Practice while you are feeding your baby. While they nurse or drink from the bottle use your senses to really be in the moment. Instead of dreaming about your bed (like I used to as a new mom!), really notice the sounds that your baby makes as they drink,” she says. “Look into their eyes, and notice their features. Feel their baby soft skin and hair. Smile at them, and be as present as possible.”
4. Use your tongue.
Let’s count how many hands (or frankly, body parts) you have to yourself when you’re a new mom. Ready? Yep, exactly: zero. Between holding your baby in one arm and trying to respond to endless text messages while you clean the living room with the other, you often don’t have the luxury of an eccentric meditation pillow to get in your daily ‘Oms.’ Spirituality coach and founder of Spirit & Spark Dallisa Hocking says to forget about your hands and instead, use your mouth to meditate.
“Place the tip of your tongue at the roof of your mouth and run it in a clockwise circular motion for 30-seconds. Now, reverse your tongue and run it counterclockwise for 30-seconds. Close your eyes and do this as you nurse or feed your baby. It will help to keep you relaxed and in the present moment,” she says.
5. Find the gratitude.
It’s not that you’re not thankful for this basket of baby that you delivered (you are), it’s just that it’s a lot to take in at once. It’s normal to feel this way, but being able to see those rays of gratuities in between those gray stressed-to-the-max clouds in your mind will help you exercise balance. Katz says to write a note that says ‘Gratitude’ and tape it to your bathroom mirror. “When you brush your teeth in the morning and evening, think of a few things you are grateful for. If we can begin and end our day with appreciation, it does wonders for our overall sense of well-being. And when we are feeling grateful we aren't worrying about laundry or cleaning bottles,” she says.
6. Set a reminder for self-care.
No matter how many times your besties, your partner, or Google reassure you that you’re doing an A-okay job at being a new mom, you’re always going to be your own worst critic. This negative self-talk can impact your confidence, overall mood, and happiness, so it’s important to step in when the inner-naysayers come up and put them to rest. “Set a reminder on your phone to go off every day at noon that says, ‘I am a great mom!,'” Katz suggests. “Trust me, three of the best things you can do to help you be the very best mom possible are to sneak in little mindful moments by taking deep breaths and practicing gratitude, to cut yourself some slack, and to trust your intuition. If you can work on those day in and day out you will be so far ahead of the game.”
7. Chant like a lullaby.
Even if you can’t find the time to close your eyes, connect your thumb to your pointer finger, and complete a daily meditation chant (especially with a baby hanging off your boob), Maxine Garcia, a yoga teacher and the founder BuddhiBox yoga subscription box, says you can come up with your own version of a chant and sing it to your little one. “Moms can chant meditations to their babies to rock them to sleep. Like a lullaby. Mantras were meant to be chanted or sung, and they carry uplifting messages of intent,” she says. Her advice for one? No need to learn hindi sanskrit, just use a positive affirmation like this Peaceful Life Chant:
“May health abound forever
May peace abound forever
May complete abundance abound forever
May auspiciousness abound forever
Om Peace, Peace Peace."
— Maxine Garcia, Founder BuddhiBox Yoga Subscription Box and On-Line Store, Yoga Teacher