May 2022 – After the NICU

Jenny R. McCormick, Senior Editor PreemieWorld

We say it. We preach it. But do we practice it? That’s right. I’m talking about self-care. While practicing self-care might sound fine and good in theory, you might be wondering how on earth you would make that happen. As a mom to a preemie, you probably can’t remember the last time you showered, let alone practiced self-care. Here are some easy tips to help you avoid mom burnout.

Just say NO: We have been conditioned to think that saying no is a negative thing, and we don’t want to stir up criticism. But saying no can be empowering and is healthy in many situations. You can start by saying no to unwanted visitors, to a booked social calendar—and definitely to having a sparkling clean house at all times.

Say and repeat: “I am good enough.” So many of us are stuck on the idea that being a good parent means being a perfect one. Nope! If you fed, clothed, and cuddled your baby today and didn’t burn down the house, you’re doing great!

Ask for and ACCEPT help: Self-care NEEDS to happen, but you can’t do it alone. Like so many of us…stubborn….moms, asking for help is really hard, but it’s got to be done. Take your friend up on that hour of babysitting. If your partner is in the picture, make a schedule to allow both of you time for self-care, baby care is a two-person job so both parents need to provide support.

Get your body moving: Whether you need to exercise more often or just want to shake up your regular routine, choose activities that motivate you to exercise consistently. Take an outdoor yoga class. Try your hand at Tai Chi. Buy a Pilates DVD to do at home. You can even make exercise a family event by adding an element of fun, like having dance parties in the living room with your kids or going roller skating.

Lack of time isn’t a reason to not practice self-care. Here are some great ideas when time is limited:

  • Go for a 20 minute walk, with or without your baby.
  • Talk or text with a friend or counselor.
  • Journal for 10 minutes in the morning or before bed.
  • Keep a daily gratitude log.
  • Meditate for 5-10 minutes before you fall asleep or while your baby is napping.
  • Sit on the couch and do absolutely nothing for 10 minutes.
  • Get a massage, a mani-pedi, or anything just for you.
  • Take up a hobby, like knitting or crafting, that you can do in short spurts here and there.

Even just devoting five to 10 minutes a day can be life-changing. The key is to do it consistently, and to pick something that you find personally valuable. Everyone’s self-care routine is going to look different. Do what works for you.