Self-Care as a Caregiver

Taking Care Of Yourself Is A Gift To Your Child

BY DR SHEFALY SHOREY

3 December 2021  |   4 min read

New parenthood can be rewarding yet laden with challenges. During this transitional period, new parents must learn to readjust their work-life balance and integrate infant care responsibilities into their existing set of responsibilities.

A delicate balancing act is often required due to the multiple roles that both new fathers and mothers possess. Spouse, family member, friend, employee. Now parent.

The complexity of adapting to their new role as caregivers to a child, which includes learning new infant care skills and meeting societal expectations can be potentially draining. This can lead to postpartum fatigue.

And one way to overcome caregiver burnout or avoid it all together is by practicing self-care.

Self-care is not selfish

Photos taken in collaboration with Kerry Cheah, featuring one of our ParentWise families

More than spas and alone-time, self-care is about ensuring that one’s physical, emotional, and social needs are met in order to maintain one’s overall well-being.

Most of us understand self-care practices as the simple physical things: regular exercise, healthy eating and good sleeping habits (as far as possible). But self-care also includes psychological (e.g. talk about feelings, express emotions), social (e.g. spend time with family and friends, find happy or relaxing activities), and spiritual (e.g. reflective journaling, attend a place of worship) practices.

As a new parent, focusing on the infant’s needs often comes as a priority, and parents tend to neglect personal self-care needs or dismiss self-care as unnecessary and selfish.

While feeling pressured to dedicate all their time to their newborn, many parents struggle to make time for themselves, and some may even feel guilty if they do so. However, self-care is important in allowing parents to recharge and have a mental break, and it ensures that parents remain physically, emotionally and spiritually healthy so that they can provide optimal care for their new baby.

Additionally, in the rush of adapting to their new parenthood identity, parents can easily lose their sense of self and self-worth. Therefore, taking time to practice self-care can remind new parents that they are more than a parent; that they are humans who have needs too.

Do it for your children

Research has shown that self-care also prevents caregiver burnout, boosts physical immunity, and is a protective factor of postnatal depression and anxiety.

Self-care ensures that parents remain physically, emotionally and spiritually healthy so that they can provide optimal care for their new baby

Being a good parent requires lots of energy, and the negligence of self-care can lead to the build-up of stress physically and mentally that result in weaker immune system, high blood pressure, increased irritability, depression, anxiety, and anger management issues.

Poor physical health, especially among breastfeeding mothers, will make it harder to cater to the baby’s needs.

Furthermore, parental depression is found to adversely affect healthy attachment in infants, and increase the risk of the child developing cognitive, behavioural, psychological, and social problems in the future.

Self-care is not a luxury but a necessity for both parents’ and baby’s health. As positive parenting requires huge amounts of patience, energy, and optimism, the practice of regular self-care is essential for new parents to first ensure their needs are met before being able to care for their child well.

I urge all the parents out there to practice self-care routinely and prioritize self-care seriously in order to provide the best start for their newborns and to maintain healthy family dynamics.

Dr Shefaly Shorey, PhD, is an Assistant Professor, Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore.

This article was first published on ParentWise. Developed by Temasek Foundation in partnership with SEED Institute (subsidiary of NTUC First Campus), ParentWise is a programme that offers curated evidence-based learning programmes and resources that parents and caregivers need to support their children. For more parenting tips and resources, please visit ParentWise at https://parentwise.sg/.