It's impossible to breastfeed on demand and keep a rigid, time-blocked schedule. Maybe that's obvious to you, but I thought I could at least try to schedule in blocks of time to do my work. Hah!
I would consider myself a productivityist and wanted to keep my work life and family routine as normal as possible post-baby. It’s been almost four weeks since birthing little Douglas, and I’m learning a new approach to being productive with a newborn.
The one word that comes to mind for me is flexibility. Instead of being strict about what gets done and when, it’s about flowing through the day. Taking everything that comes your way in stride. Not stressing about perfection or crossing everything off your to-do list.
Taking a flexible approach to productivity has saved my sanity! Instead of focusing on biohacking my schedule and body to machine-like perfection, I have adopted a more fluid approach. On the outside, it may not look like my prior productivity, but all of those small adjustments during the day add up.
Here are some practical tips I’ve learned during this first month postpartum while working full-time:
1. STOP taking the advice of 98% of the productivity gurus out there. Yes, really. For the most part, they are males without the responsibilities of a breastfeeding new mother. I’ve only come across a handful of females, and they either have older children or no children. You need to find out what works for you and ignore their tips—they don’t apply to mothers who are caring for newborns and toddlers simultaneously.
2. When baby goes to bed, go to bed. No more binge-watching Netflix. Even if I'm not tired, I stop what I'm doing and go to bed. My baby sleeps (on-and-off) for about 8.5 - 9 hours. If I want to get enough shut-eye, this is the only way to do it. Nope, I cannot choose the ultimate time based on my circadian rhythm. I can't always reach my blue-blocking glasses. And, I forget to track my sleep half the time... screw it!
3. When baby naps during the day, do something else. As soon as my newborn goes to sleep after nursing, I set him down or have someone else hold him. I stop doing computer work—even if I'm in the middle of a big project—because I know I won't have many "baby-free slots" in the day to get in active time, cooking, housework, showering or preparing a meal. This can be frustrating because you do not have control over what gets done and when, but at least it’s getting done.
4. Take care of yourself first, even if baby cries. Those of you following an attachment parenting model might disagree with me. (I tried that approach with my first baby, and it was crazymaking!) Self-care is very important to me. If mama ain’t happy, baby ain’t happy. When it’s time for me to do my weekly at-home facial or take a relaxing shower, I do it. I let the baby cry for a few extra minutes without stressing. He’ll forget about it as soon as he’s back on the boob.
5. Prioritize your fitness levels. Yes, I’m that crazy postpartum lady that showed up at the gym less than one week after delivering my baby. I don’t think that’s a smart move for most women, but I do think it’s crucial to begin a gentle exercise program as soon as you feel ready. Go ahead and ask someone (grandma, grandpa, significant other, best friend, babysitter) to watch your newborn while you get in a good sweat for 30-60 minutes at least a few times weekly. It will make you feel like a normal person again, apart from your postpartum identity.
6. Good nutrition and supplementation is even more important than during pregnancy. I know how tough it is to get in a good meal when your baby is nursing all day long or cries when you set him down for a quick minute. I still manage to eat as well as I can by batch-cooking when baby naps or having quick Bulletproof foods on-hand that I can prep in five minutes or less. I also continue taking my prenatal vitamins and additional supplements to aid in postpartum recovery.
7. Don’t compare yourself to any other supermoms! Too many of us read about other supermoms online who seem to balance it all and make motherhood look effortless. What we don’t see is that they either have a lot of help or only make new motherhood APPEAR effortless. I’ve had a screaming toddler and a famished newborn bawling just 60 seconds before a client phone call, but I come across as focused and calm when I get on the phone. Having a newborn is more than a full-time job...it’s a 24/7 gig!
My intention with this article is to let you know that you are not alone and that there are more of us out there who are trying to juggle staying productive while being a new parent. There’s no perfect formula, and it will take a lot of trial-and-error before you discover what works for you. Then, it will change from week to week. Be open to the experience of bonding with your newborn and family during this time.
Don’t stress about a few extra dust bunnies or not getting everything done on your to-do list. By lightening up and relaxing your expectations, you will notice that you still manage to get the most important tasks done while also taking great care of yourself and little one(s).
Your Turn: How do you manage the first few postpartum months when you also have a lot of household or work responsibilities? Any tips to share? Tweet me or email me to tell me about your experience!