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New mom? Here's how to look after yourself

Becoming a mother changes your life in an instant. From the moment your baby is put into your arms your priorities shift dramatically and that bundle of joy is all that matters.

All to often, however, new mothers say that they find it difficult to balance the needs of their child with their own needs. Yes, just about the first lesson of motherhood is one of extreme selflessness. But, at the same time, it's also extremely important for new mothers to look after themselves. As the most important person in your baby's life, you need to make sure that you're healthy, happy and fit so that you can take the best possible care of both of you.

Feeling a little overwhelmed? Here are six tips for all you marvellous mommies out there:

Eat right
If you're breastfeeding and even if you are not you need a balanced diet to keep up those energy levels. You can easily fall into the trap of trying to live on toast and tea, but this diet will soon take its toll. Try roasting a tray of ready-cut vegetables and grilling some chicken breasts at the beginning of the week so that, when you need a snack, there's a healthy one just waiting for you in the fridge. Eat lots of fruit and vegetables, lean meat and good fats. Don't count calories to lose the pregnancy weight. Now is the time to nourish yourself and your baby, so enjoy it.

As hard as it may be, avoid caffeine and alcohol as much as possible. And remember to keep hydrated with lots of water especially if you're breastfeeding. It's also a good idea to keep taking your prenatal vitamins while you're breastfeeding for that extra boost of nutrients.

Get some exercise
Your gynaecologists probably told you to wait for six weeks after the birth of your baby before you start to exercise again. But there's no harm in taking gentle walks as soon as you feel ready.

The trick to getting back into a fitness routine is finding the time. If you find it difficult to leave your baby, try to find mom-and-baby yoga classes in your area, or go for brisk walks with your baby in a pram or sling. As you grow more confident and your baby settles into a routine, try to find more regular gaps to do a combination of cardio, weights, stretching and toning to get your heart pumping and your body feeling great.

Get some sleep!
The first six months to a year of a baby's life will be an experiment in sleep deprivation for you. The best advice anyone will ever give you is to sleep when the baby sleeps. Let go of any other commitments you may have. Don't read or cook or email, no matter how tempting it seems. As soon as that baby's eyes are shut, put yourself to bed. Or, even better, sleep with your baby.

Take turns with your partner to have weekend lie-ins, enlist your friends and family to come and hold your baby for an hour, and grab a nap whenever you can. A little shut-eye will do wonders for your mood and your energy levels.

Take time for yourself
When your life is all about bottles and blankies and burping and bums, it can be easy to lose track of the outside world. Make sure you get some time away from your baby, even if it's only half an hour a week to have a decaf cappuccino at your local coffee shop or to read a book in the bath.

Get by with a little help from your friends
Remember how excited all your friends and family were when they found out you were pregnant? They're all even more excited now that you've had the baby, and they'd all love to help you out. Don't be afraid to ask for favours. If you feel like you're not coping, call them in and make them make tea and bring cake! Friends and family are just as happy to spend time with your baby as with you so, if you've asked them to come, don't feel obliged to entertain them.

If you feel that you are not coping
A rule of thumb is that if you're feeling overwhelmingly sad and that you are not coping or you're struggling to bond with your baby, you may have a case of post-natal depression. Speak to your GP, gynaecologist or therapist if you suspect that this may be the case, or you can contact the Post Natal Depression Support Association for advice or support.

Final word
To be the best mother you can be to your newborn child you need to be physically and emotionally healthy. As hard as it might seem, don't let your wellbeing take a back seat. Remember, you are the most important person in your baby's life!

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