Life as a new parent can be crazy! There are sleepless nights, round-the-clock feeding schedules, postpartum recovery for moms, adapting to an expanding family dynamic, and trying to get some semblance of your life “back on track” as you knew it pre-child.
If that’s not enough, most new parents return to work within weeks of giving birth. In the United States, the only law guaranteeing maternity leave for some employees is unpaid, so many new moms return to work sooner than they’d like. For many, paternity leave is out of the question. But it’s essential to take care of yourself so that you can take care of your family. An important lesson I’ve learned as a new mom myself is that parenting is a juggling act. Add in work, nutrition, and exercise—plus time for your partner and friends—and you’re looking at quite the challenge to find balance.
The good news? It can be done! Your family can flourish, and you can thrive without sacrificing work or your self-care. Here are 5 tips to balance work, nutrition, and life as a new parent:
1. Give Up Guilt
New parents are hard on themselves. You spend so much time and energy keeping your tiny human alive, give yourself a break! When you return to work, you may feel some “mom guilt” or “dad guilt” for leaving your baby at daycare or with a sitter. Instead, try to focus on how your return to the workforce is helping provide for your family. On top of that, give yourself a break when it comes to life at home. It may be hard to admit, but some things will need to change after expanding your family. Whether you’re accustomed to cooking dinner for your family every evening or keeping a spotless home, you may have to forfeit something to achieve your new version of balance. Avoid looking at your new normal as a defeat, or that you can’t “keep up.” Instead, try to view it as a change. For example, if you cooked dinner seven nights a week pre-baby, it may be more realistic to set a goal of crafting a home-cooked meal three nights a week. Balanced eating is an essential part of postpartum recovery for new moms, so relying on nourishing frozen meals will save time so you can balance your work responsibilities, good nutrition, and caring for your newborn.
2. Nutrition for New Moms
All new moms should eat enough iron to prevent postpartum anemia. Aim to include lentils, dark leafy greens, and meat in your diet to meet your iron needs.
This macronutrient is essential for recovery and to promote satiety (feeling full). I recommend including both animal proteins, like meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy, as well as plant-based protein sources, including beans and lentils, tofu, tempeh, and nuts and seeds.
This mineral is found in dairy (yogurt, cheese, milk), tofu, leafy greens, and fortified plant-based milk, calcium is especially important for new moms who are breastfeeding. Depending on how much milk is produced, some women lose bone density during this time, making it especially important to get adequate calcium.
Postpartum constipation can be an issue for recovering new moms, so be sure to consume plenty of fiber and drink water. Choose whole grains (over refined grains) and include fruits and vegetables to round out every meal.
Fortunately, you can find all of these important nutrients in healthy convenience foods. The frozen food aisle has expanded to include many nutritionally balanced options that can get new moms feeling their best postpartum, as well as energize new dads. Check the Nutrition Facts for Performance Kitchen’s frozen meals, and you’ll note that they include at least one serving of vegetables, protein, and fiber. Try their Tomato Basil Pasta with Chicken Meatballs for a serving of nutritionally balanced comfort food that’s ready in a matter of minutes.
3. Ask for Help
Whether it’s family, friends, or hiring outside help, having an extra set of hands is so useful for new parents. However, it’s not always easy to admit that you could benefit from help, especially if you’re usually independent. Freeing up time outside of work so you can spend quality time with your baby and family is important to help maintain a sense of balance. You don’t want to feel like you go to work and are constantly “working” at home too.
Here are some tasks you may want to find help for:
- Grocery shopping
4. Take Time for You
Sipping coffee quietly in the early morning, hitting the gym, reading, scheduling a manicure, or getting out for a nature walk are all nice ways to get some new parent TLC. Taking moments for you—outside of working and parenting—ensures you have time to feel like yourself and achieve personal balance in your weekly schedule. Adding “me time” to your calendar can also include taking care of your nutrition. Breastfeeding or not, it’s essential for new moms to nourish themselves postpartum with regular meals and snacks because pregnancy is so physically demanding. It’s equally important for new dads to prioritize nutrition in order to keep up their energy. Carve out some time to meal prep or food prep over the weekend so healthy food is always within reach. Choosing meals with lean protein, healthy fats, whole grains, and vegetables will help make the stress of parenthood just a little bit easier.
5. Prioritize Sleep (when you can)
You may want to indulge in a Netflix marathon after your baby goes to bed, but it’s more important (especially right now) to get adequate sleep. Once your little one is sleeping in longer stretches, you should too. As hard as it is, everything else can wait. As a new parent myself, I’m in bed by 8:30-9 pm most nights, which makes my son’s 3 am wake ups a lot more manageable.
Skimping on sleep can lead to irritability, increased risk of depression and anxiety, and a variety of other negative health outcomes. It may also make you more likely to crave and grab snacks like chips and candy in hopes of a quick energy boost—which will only compound fatigue and irritability. With enough sleep, you’ll find you feel more productive at work and present when you’re with your children—plus you’ll be likely to make better eating choices.
It will take some planning and organizing with your partner, childcare, and work, but you can balance work, life, and nutrition as a new parent!
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