Sleep deprivation and anxiety can wreak havoc on new parents’ immune systems, especially in the winter months when we tend to stay indoors. Working with newborns, its imperative that our team remain illness-free, so who better to ask for wellness tips for parents than our our night nurses and newborn caregivers?
Here’s our team's best advice for staying healthy as a new parent:
Stay Hydrated: “Water, water, water!” says BJ Edmunds, NCP for over 2 years. Keeping properly hydrated allows the body to fight infection, maintain proper digestion and remove unhealthy toxins efficiently. Remember that coffee and sugary drinks can actually dehydrate your body, so if you have these drinks, be sure to counter the dehydrating effects with –you guessed it- more water. We like to keep one of these water bottles on hand to measure exactly how much water we're taking in.
Saline + Vaseline: You’ve probably heard that saline solution, which is simply warm water with salt dissolved in it, can be used to flush out nasal passages and fight off colds and flu. But there’s a second step that can be even more helpful. As Joy Becker, LPN, our Nurse Recruiter recommends: “Use Saline in nose daily, then apply petroleum jelly at the opening of your nostril. The saline flushes out any germs and bacteria and the petroleum jelly helps protect germs from going into your nasal passages, which can help prevent colds and sinus infections.”
Take a sauna: A common misconception about saunas is that they work because we’re “sweating out toxins.” While yes, we're sweating out dirt that's on the surface of our skin, actual toxins are eliminated by our liver and kidneys. What does happen in a 10-15 minute sauna though, is that you bring your core body temperature up making your body a terrible place for germs to live! You’re basically inducing a short fever that kills off harmful bacteria. Recent studies show that sauna use does help keep us healthy and as the Mayo Clinic says, is "linked to an array of health benefits". Believe it or not, you can actually buy your own sauna on Amazon and install it yourself.
Sleep – by any means necessary: “Sleep when the baby sleeps” sounds good in theory but often doesn’t work in practice. Almost all new moms and dads experience sleep deprivation and for parents with older children, or those with little or no parental leave, daytime naps might not be an option. Additionally, because we’re in a constant “alert state” caring for baby it can be very difficult to wind-down and sleep when the opportunity actually does present itself.
To help get the restorative sleep that helps us mentally and physically, meditation can help. One easy method is the “4-7-8” breathing technique popularized by Dr. Andrew Weil. The basics of this technique are below, but we highly encourage watching this video demonstration:
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
Vitamin D is the real hero…not Vitamin C! In looking at over 82 studies, Vitamin D is the one supplement shown to protect against the common cold in all age groups. You can find vitamin d in dairy and cereals but a free way to get Vitamin D is to go out in the sun for 10-30 minutes a day. Vitamin C and echinacea are good too, but you can’t just drink a bunch of OJ at the first sign of a cold, it has to be consistent supplementation for 3-4 months to make a difference in the severity and length of a cold. The ideal scenario is to use Vitamin C, D and echinacea together all winter but if you can only 1 thing, remember good old sunshine!
Get Your Flu Shot as Early as Possible: Receiving the flu vaccine before flu season is a pre-emptive strike against the flu. An added benefit is the protection the flu vaccine gives your infant. According to the CDC, one study showed that giving flu vaccine to pregnant women was 92% effective in preventing hospitalization of infants for flu.