mindfulness for new parents

Mindfulness for New Parents

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Mindfulness for new parents, really? When you hear the word mindfulness you might picture someone sitting peacefully and uninterrupted, meditating. Now imagine the haze of raising a newborn – endless diaper changes, mountains of used burp cloths, sleepless nights – and the two just don’t mix.

You know that mindfulness is good for your mental, emotional, and even physical health – but you can’t imagine how to make it happen with a new baby. Thankfully, mindfulness doesn’t equal long periods of zen meditation. Mindfulness, according to renowned stress reduction educator Jon Kabat-Zinn, is simply “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” And isn’t that exactly what we crave as new parents – to soak in the experience without judging ourselves or the journey itself? In this post, we’ll share 5 easy mindfulness practices for new parents. 

What is mindfulness?

To be mindful is to pay attention to your thoughts, feelings, and life around you without going down the rabbit hole of all that extra inner commentary. People often equate it with meditation because meditation is a practice that enhances mindfulness in your everyday life, by teaching you to simply notice your thoughts instead of getting lost in them. When you’re being mindful, it doesn’t mean you don’t experience that stream of consciousness narrative. It means that when that inner narrative creeps in (as it always does), you simply notice that, too, without getting lost in it. 

It’s the difference between:

(Stressed new parent): Oh no, I didn’t change her diaper quick enough and now she has a rash. 

What do I do?! I’m the worst mom EVER! I can’t believe I didn’t notice that stinky diaper. Now she’s in pain and it’s all my fault. She’s probably in agony right now. Which cream should I use first?! What if she’s allergic to it? How do I know it’s working? What if the rash just gets worse and worse…

(Mindful new parent): Oh no, I didn’t change her diaper quick enough and now she has a rash. 

Oh, now I’m noticing that as soon as I saw that rash, I instantly blamed myself. I can take a deep breath and forgive myself because I know I’m doing my best. As I look at my baby, I see she grimaces when I gently wipe her, then she relaxes. I’ll let her bum air out a bit while I do some research on which cream to try first. 

Which version would you choose? Mindfulness for new parents means a calmer, more enjoyable experience.

The Benefits of Mindfulness

What happens when we approach life with an attitude of acceptance that mindfulness brings? When we simply notice what’s occurring instead of diving into the drama of it?

The benefits of mindfulness are well-researched. Here are just a few:

  • Decreased depression
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Reduced stress 
  • Increased emotional regulation
  • Better memory 
  • Improved cognition
  • Stronger relationships
  • Improved physical health (reduced asthma, chronic pain, type 2 diabetes, and more)

How to Be a Mindful Parent

Working mindfulness into your daily life can bring huge improvements to your parenting experience. Here are 5 ways to be mindful as a new parent. 

1. Breathing

You know that moment when your newborn is finally sleeping a decent stretch, and just as you feel a wave of relief it’s replaced by a wave of panic? You tip-toe rush over to her bassinet to watch her breathe, holding your own breath? We can’t give you a magic fix for the anxiety that comes with raising a newborn, but we can offer a suggestion: train yourself to check your breathing every time you check your baby’s. Use this timeless new parent moment to tune into your own inhale and exhale, aiming for a 5-6 second draw of each as you watch your baby sleep. Turn this panicked moment into a calming mindfulness practice, a quiet moment of deep breathing and gratitude. 

2. Self Care

Postpartum recovery and self care need to show up in the same sentence more often. Yes, this can absolutely mean a massage or a nice long herbal bath as a family member or professional tend to your baby. But it also means the simple things: eating, showering, brushing your teeth. You need to do these things no matter how intent a part of you is on self-sacrifice in the name of new parenthood. Instead of rushing through them, try to be mindful. Notice the food on your fork, the hot water on your back, the refreshing mint of your toothpaste. Notice how your body feels as you nourish and cleanse yourself. Paying attention to these simple acts build appreciation and as a result, you’ll be even more motivated to take excellent care of yourself. Win-win.

3. Walking 

Babies crave movement. After nine months in the womb swaying to your every move, the weight of being in their own body can feel overwhelming. When you find yourself pacing back and forth with your newborn during the witching hour, or slowly pushing your brand new stroller in the sunshine, practice being mindful. Instead of internally lamenting how long it will take to get your fussy baby to sleep, simply notice what’s occurring: My body feels exhausted, but here I am walking with my baby to settle her. There are dishes in the sink and laundry to be folded, but I’m taking care of her instead. She’s so tiny and beautiful. I’m exhausted but so in love. After she settles, I’ll take a nap, too. 

4. Feeding

Be it breast or bottle, pumping or SNS, feeding your baby is the perfect opportunity to bring intention and calm into your routine. After all, it’s sometime you’ll do 8-12+ times a day in the early weeks! After those first few days, feeding can quickly become an opportunity to zone out, scroll, or run through that never-ending to-do list. And there’s definitely no shame to those choices! We all need to zone out now and then. But if you’re able to bring mindfulness to your feeding routine even some of the time, you’ll see the benefits. To try mindful feeding, simply pay close attention to what’s occurring between yourself and your baby. How does it feel to lovingly mix up the formula instead of rushing through it? How does it feel as your milk lets down? Watch as your baby’s hands relax as she gets full. Feeding our babies is one of those mundane but magical acts, and mindfulness helps us witness the magic. 

5. Diapering

Yes, really! Changing diapers is something you’ll be doing a LOT of over the months and years to come. What does a mindful diaper change look like? Instead of rushing, take this moment to tune in. My goodness, what a heavy pee! You must be so well hydrated and well fed. I’m watching as I effortlessly slip on a new diaper – a week ago I got them backwards half the time! This really is getting easier. 

Mindfulness is all about paying attention. Bringing mindfulness into diaper changes means a somewhat dreaded chore becomes a sweet moment to slow down and return to the present moment with your baby.

Mindfulness for New Parents

Mindfulness is for everyone. Paying attention to our thoughts, sensations, and surroundings brings amazing benefits: better health, better brain power, better relationships. All of which new parents so deeply deserve. While it might take some work to get used to practicing mindfulness for new parents, it’s totally worth it. Mindfulness can help you savor the fleeting newborn phase, take better care of yourself and your loved ones, and not get lost in negative thought patterns. Most importantly, it can help you remember this time more clearly and with more gratitude. Parenting a small human is no small feat, and time can quickly pull you in. Mindfulness is the key to soaking in the magic along the way.