The minute you become a mom you’re faced with so many questions about your baby’s health. From breastfeeding, cord blood banking and bottles to circumcision, vaccines and beyond, there’s so much to think about.
Plus, there are the decisions that also affect your health— physically, mentally and emotionally.
Here, experts sort through some of the most common conundrums new moms deal with and offer up easy ways to help make the choices a bit easier.
1. Exercise or sleep?
Even though you know a sweat session can give you energy and help you feel strong, you’re probably just too exhausted to muster up the stamina to get to the gym. In fact, 50 percent of new moms are still fatigued during the day even 18 weeks after giving birth, according to a study in the journal PLOS One.
On top of that, lack of sleep can affect two hormones that affect your appetite. When you’re sleep deprived your body makes more ghrelin, “the hunger hormone” that tells your body to eat and makes less leptin, which decreases appetite.
Research also shows that when we’re not feeling our best, we’re more likely to seek out pleasure in high-fat, high-sugar foods.
So if the choice is to either wake up an hour earlier to work out or to stay in bed, choose the latter.
When you don’t get enough sleep, “There’s just not enough time for those hormones to reach the levels that they should,” said Tamara S. Melton, an Atlanta-based registered dietitian/ nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND)
Aim for at least six hours of sleep and take a brisk walk later with your baby in tow to get your body moving.
2. Stick with breastfeeding or throw in the towel?
The first two weeks of breastfeeding are the most challenging because both you and your baby are still learning the ropes, said Jenna LoGiudice, PhD, a certified nurse midwife, registered nurse and assistant professor at Fairfield University’s School of Nursing in Connecticut.
Be prepared that it may initially be challenging or frustrating or you may not feel an instant bond with your baby.
“Understanding that sets you up to not feel like it’s failing early on,” she said.
Nevertheless, if breastfeeding becomes too hard, regardless of the reasons, and it’s affecting your psychological well=being, let go of your expectations and give yourself a break.
Remember that you still gave your baby plenty of nutrition, immunity and bonding.
“Some breast milk is better than none,” Melton said.
3. Sex or sleep?
Your doctor gave you the all clear at your six-week check-up, but that doesn’t mean you’ll feel ready for sex. If your partner can help out with the baby or around the house, it may restore some of your energy.
You’ll still be tired, but having sex with your husband is great for your relationship and your health. And the oxytocin release you get from an orgasm will put you on cloud nine.
“It will get you into a blissful oxytocin state and hopefully into a deeper sleep until the baby wakes you up,” LoGiudice said.
4. Ask for help or try to be a super-mom?
You can strive for perfection but you’ll just end up spinning your wheels. Moms who fare the best actually ask for help.
“You can’t do it all and you’re not supposed to,” said Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, a Chicago-based clinical psychologist and author of “Better Than Perfect.”
So ask a family member to watch your baby for a few hours, hire a babysitter or outsource chores like house cleaning, dry cleaning and food shopping.
5. Meet friends or make “me”time?
Being with your baby 24/7 isn’t healthy for either of you.
“You need to be up on that totem pole of priorities or else you’re not going to be the best mom possible,” Lombardo said.
When free time is hard to come by, you don’t have to decide between spending time with your friends or by yourself. Go get a pedicure or take a yoga class with your best friend. Or meditate for 10 minutes and then FaceTime with a friend.
6. Go on a date night or camp out on the couch?
“As new moms we’re so absorbed with our baby and how overwhelming it is for us, that we forget our partner feels really left out,” Lombardo said.
Making time for each other is important as partners and parents.
Although dinner or a night away may seem more appealing, if you can’t sneak out, a movie night or take-out at home works too.
“Even if you’re exhausted, do what you can to appreciate that time together,” she said.
7. Plan another baby or wait awhile?
Deciding on if— and when— to have another baby depends on your own situation. You may want to wait until you’re getting a bit more shut-eye at night or your finances are more stable. If you do decide to have another one right away, you may be surprised that it isn’t as challenging as you anticipated. And forget trying to plan the “right” time to grow your family.
“Maybe there isn’t a perfect time and that’s ok,” Lombardo said.
Julie Revelant is a health journalist and a consultant who provides content marketing and copywriting services for the healthcare industry. She's also a mom of two. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com.