A New Mom’s Guide to New Year’s Resolutions

By: Pamela Brill

Happy New Year! If this is your first year as a new mom or if you're expecting, you have a lot to celebrate. Not only should you take pride in bringing a new life into the world, but you should pat yourself on the back every day for a job well done of caring for your newborn.

But as any new mom knows, taking care of a baby requires a lot of hard work. Sometimes it may even feel as though you are short-changing your own health and well-being (sleep-deprived, anyone?). In an attempt to change all that, we turned to the experts and share their advice on how to improve the quality of your own sleep, diet and physical well-being, so you can keep up with the demands of new motherhood without missing a beat.

Getting Those Zzzs

What new mom wouldn't benefit from some more sleep? If there was ever a part of your pre-baby life that you would miss, it would be how much undisturbed rest you had.  "Sleep is such a touchy and complicated issue," says life coach and social worker Kacey Kaufman (www.kaceykaufman.com).  "Of course, we want to aim for at least 7-8 hours a day, but this is often a pipe dream for the new mom."

Instead, she advises, try to heed the time-honored advice of 'sleeping when the baby sleeps.' "Let the dishes pile a little. As maddening as it can be, a little mess isn't that important. We have to take care of our basic needs first, or we are not able to be our best selves for our children and for ourselves," adds Kaufman.

Knowing how much sleep you can by on and learning what works best for you is another helpful tip. "You know how much is too little or too much for your body and your happiness," says certified professional coach Katie O'Brien (www.katieobrien.com). "But a lot of it can be out of your control, so do what you can do get the adequate sleep for you." Skimping on sleep for housework isn't prudent, so put down that dust rag and fluff up the pillow. "When you wake up, you'll have twice the energy to tackle those chores later," she adds.

Eat Right

Following a sensible diet can be a challenge when caring for a newborn; between round-the-clock feedings and diaper changes, who has the time—and energy—for a well-rounded meal? And while your intentions to cook may be good, it's not always easy to follow through.

"New moms might, on one hand, feel a greater incentive to eat well to be healthy for their baby and to be a good role model," says Jennifer Bright Reich, co-author of The Mommy MD Guide to Your Baby's First Year. "But on the other hand, new moms might be so tired and stressed that it's hard to take time to eat well." To help moms with that task, she recommends the USDA's Choose My Plate (www.choosemyplate.gov/about.html) as a valuable resource for eating right.

Eating small meals throughout the day can give sleep-deprived moms the energy burst they need—as long as they are making healthy choices. "I loved adding smoothies to my diet to add extra nutrients, and they were easy to drink on the go," says O'Brien. And breastfeeding moms should be sure to factor in extra calories, so having healthy snacks on hand either right before or after nursing is recommended.

Fit and Fabulous

Getting back into your pre-pregnancy shape is the goal of many a new mom, but adapting your exercise regimen to fit your new lifestyle can often deter even the most determined woman. To get you into the right mindset, consider the positives of resuming your postpartum workout. "Exercise is as close to a 'magic pill' for health as you can get," says Reich. "It boosts mood and energy and decreases stress and anxiety." For those having difficulty getting back into the swing of things, she suggests making exercise a priority. "Recognize that exercise will help you get more energy, not less."

If you're unable to go to the gym, consider adding a new partner to your workout routine: your baby. "Use their weight for extra resistance or do lunges outside with your stroller," offers Kaufman. "It's all about getting creative in finding solutions to the time constraints as opposed to focusing on the problem of lack of time."

And if you're having difficulty getting started or staying consistent with your exercise routine, remember to cut yourself some slack. "The biggest mistake I see moms making is pushing themselves too hard and stressing too much to lose the baby weight," notes O'Brien. "Ask yourself, 'What did I like doing before I became a mom?' and try incorporating a mild version of that into your new routine."

Personal Goals

At the end of a long day with a new baby, moms have more than earned some time to themselves—and taking those precious moments for one's self are essential to staying healthy and happy. "There's not a lot of 'me' time for moms entering the world of motherhood," says O'Brien. "But it's important to find what fuels our souls and add bits and pieces of that to our routine when possible."

Reich seconds the importance of recharging your batteries, so to speak. "Take some time to think about what really 'fills you up.' Those activities will help fill your emotional tank and decrease your stress," she says.