By Sirena Van Schaik
Issue 150, September-October 2008


Becoming a mother is exciting and terrifying. First-time mothers are cast in a new role, and although they may have been preparing for it for months, many are overwhelmed by a newborn's needs and demands. Life revolves around the new being in their lives, and there seems to be little time for even the necessities of life, let alone for pampering. However, this need not be so-there is time to be pampered, even to pamper yourself.


self-care 101


Each day, do something you love. When my first child was born, I enjoyed doing needlepoint. It may sound strange, but I found it relaxing to sit in a rocking chair beside his bassinet as he slept and move the needle through the fabric. I didn't worry about the dishes or getting?the laundry folded, I simply relaxed my mind and body with something I enjoyed doing, instead of taking a nap.


In fact, don't feel obligated to take a nap just because baby is-some people just can't sleep during the day. If you're one of them, don't force it, and don't beat yourself up about it-just find some way to rest your body and mind without sleeping. Your body will let you know when it's tired. And remember to ask for help so you can get a few extra minutes of sleep each night.


If you can nap, do it often-a good time is when baby is sleeping.
To make those naps even more of a treat, place a warm flax-seed compress under your neck, or a soothing eye mask on your face. This will augment your much-needed sleep with the soothing comforts of spa treatments.


Take a steam bath. Long, luxurious baths are out of the question for most moms-bathing is little more than quick splashes of warm water between feedings-but that doesn't mean you can't use steam to cleanse your pores and loosen tight muscles. The easiest way to take a five-minute steam bath is to set it up before baby's nap. Turn on the hot water in the shower, and leave it on while you get baby settled and asleep. When your infant is happily snoozing, grab the baby monitor and head for the bathroom-which by now will be a steam room. Pick up a good book, flip through a magazine, or apply a facemask as the steam from the shower eases any tension. This is a wonderful way to pamper yourself without taking much time.


Take a stroll. While many people wouldn't see exercise as a form of pampering, it can be a great way to invigorate the body, mind, and spirit-besides, walking costs nothing, and can be done with baby. Fresh air will do mom and baby good, and provide a quiet time for both. So when the weather permits, bundle up the baby and head out to a local spot. On cool spring days, find a tranquil garden to stroll through, or a busy park filled with the sounds of children playing and laughing. Later in the year, take a quick jaunt around the neighborhood to enjoy the sights and sounds of fall. The destinations will be different for everyone, but the goal is the same: to take a much-needed break from the confines of the house.


Break out a good book.
Nursing an infant can be a long process, and you no sooner finish the breastfeeding routine than you're doing it all over again. Studies have proven that reading aloud to an infant helps develop the child's reading and language skills and is a wonderful bonding experience.1 Find old classics that you loved when you were a child, and spend nursing times reading aloud. The books might not be steamy romances or heart-pounding thrillers, but they're treasures in themselves-and you have the pleasant experience of quietly reading something like E. B. White's Charlotte's Web to a captive audience.




Dads: Pay Special Attention


Let's not forget Dad and the role he can take in pampering Mom. Fathers go through their own feelings of being overlooked, but it's still important that they focus some attention on the new mother.


Take the time to talk.
Dads, one of the easiest ways to pamper both Mom and yourself is to talk-about your day, her day, the baby's day. Talk about the emotions both of you are experiencing, and don't judge her fears, anxieties, or thoughts, no matter how strange they might sound to you. Be there for each other, touching as you talk, whether it's a hand on a knee, or shoulder to shoulder as you sit side by side.


Give her a break. This is very important, and it's not only about the baby. If the dishes aren't done or the laundry isn't folded, don't ask Mom why-just let her get to it in her own time, or better yet, pitch in! There are many things that need to be done in a new mother's day, and one of them is for her to take care of herself. Take time to watch the baby while she sleeps, or while she reads a new book.


Give a good massage.
Whether the occasional neck rub or a full back rub, the touch and comfort of such simple acts can provide all the pampering a new mom needs. Choose a time when mom can take a moment to enjoy it-usually when baby is fast asleep-and use lotions scented with essential oils to add to the experience.
Cook dinner on your day off. We know that you're busy with work as well as all the new duties of being a father, but for any tired and distraught mom, a night off from making dinner can be better than dining in a five-star restaurant.




Create a Mommy Care Package


Perhaps you've already been initiated into motherhood and you want to help ease the way for a new mother you know. Try creating a care package. The best items for such a gift are simple things: hand creams, body lotions and washes, face washes, even hand sanitizers. Add a few of the mom's favorite treats, both the guilt-free and the sinfully delightful varieties. A book or a few magazines are also good for periods when baby is sleeping and the house or hospital room is free of visitors. Pamphlets can be a good choice, but choose ones about the care of the new mom, not the care of the baby. And include a sheet listing the phone numbers of friends, family, and professionals whom she can call for support. If you add gift certificates for day spas or salons, make sure they have a long shelf life-they may not be cashed in for a year or so. Last, add some personal touches: a candle, a charm bracelet, or some keepsake solely for the new mom.


Mommy Care Packages can be elaborate or simple, expensive or not, beautifully decorated in a basket with streaming ribbons or tossed into a paper bag. Whatever the contents and however they're presented, the one theme that should shine through is that mom is still important. (Hint: You can even make one for yourself. Assemble it long before your due date and set it aside.)


three little words


For all my advice on how to pamper and be pampered, the most effective way to feel revitalized, relaxed, and loved is to be asked-and to ask yourself - this simple question: How are you? After all, every mother wants to know that she matters.


1. J. A. Watson and D. T. Allison, "The Significance of Adult Storybook Reading Styles on the Development of Young Children's Emergent Reading," Reading Research and Instruction 34, no. 1 (Fall 1994): 57-72.


Photo by Laura Joyce-Hubbard.