How do you take care of you while caring for baby?
Breastfeeding is hard work! Being a mother is hard work. Combine the two together and things become a bit overwhelming. Here is the thing, we have to learn to prioritize self-care for mom. If we fall apart, everything and everyone falls apart.
After having my daughter, I quickly found myself stuck in the cycle of constantly taking care of her and neglecting me. My identity became Mom and that was all I cared about. This was even more complicated because I was breastfeeding and she constantly required me for eating.
You can’t function in mommy mode all of the time
When I transitioned to exclusively pumping, I had to work even harder because I had to pump her milk prior to being able to feed her. Needless to say, I soon realized that I could not continue to function in mommy mode all of the time. I had to take care of me so that I could be the best mother possible for my daughter.
14 months later, I’m still learning to take care of me. I created a list of reminders, unique to breastfeeding moms, to help me to remember to incorporate self-care into my quest of balancing being a mom, a professional, and just plain old me.
Self-Care Tip 1: Utilize down time during feeding and pumping sessions.
When my daughter was a newborn, I spent a lot of time feeding, and eventually pumping to feed her. This time is crucial for me to do small daily self-care tasks. It is not always possible to think about yourself while feeding or pumping, but I have found that early morning and evening sessions are ideal times to do something for me. Sometimes it is as simple as sitting in silence or scanning social media and not thinking about my to-do list. Feeding times can be very important to your self-care journey.
Self-Care Tip 2: Identify books or shows that you can read ahead of time.
Prior to giving birth, my favorite thing to do to unwind, was something I called “dumb dumb” time. This consisted of me binge watching a good show and eating good food with zero distractions.
Of course this is impossible to do with an active toddler running around the house. By the time she is down for the evening, I’m exhausted and my tv ends up watching me. At the height of my pumping journey, I was spending two plus hours a day connected to my pump. I identified shows and books I was interested in and used them to motivate me to pump.
All moms need me time!
I soon looked forward to my nursing sessions because I only would access the books or shows during that time. This allowed me to have “me time” while also providing for my daughter. Some days these pumping sessions became the only me time I had.
Self-Care Tip 3: Practice mindfulness.
According to Psychology Today mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. That simply means living in the moment, paying attention to your senses and feelings, and not dwelling on your past. Mindfulness can be a simple meditation or guided imagery exercise. Studies have shown that those who practice mindfulness, are overall more mentally and physically healthy. Taking a few minutes a day to practice mindfulness can help your endless to-do list seem much more manageable.
Check out these links below for simple mindfulness exercises.
Self-Care Tip 4: Set self-care dates.
As you are planning out your schedule, be sure to include time dedicated to taking care of self. This can be as simple as getting your hair or nails done, or going to the grocery store alone. It is important to remember that if you are not performing at your best as an individual, you cannot be the best mother. When breastfeeding, it is so easy to get lost in the schedule of feedings, diaper changes, and household chores. As you make self-care apart of your daily routine, you will start to see the valuable benefits and your stress level will begin to improve.
Self-Care Tip 5: Utilize your support system.
As a new Mom the hardest thing for me to do was give up control. I wanted to know every little thing about the care of my baby. If things did not go as planned, I would be an emotional wreck.
I quickly learned that I had to let go and allow my support system to support me! I had to accept the fact that daddy was going to do things his way. As long as my daughter remained happy and healthy, I needed to be ok with his way. Take time to step away from your baby and get out of the “mommy fog.”
Allow your support system to step in so that you can clear your mind. Whether it’s taking a shower, walking around the block, or having date night, it is ok to take timeouts from being a mom.
If you are in a position where you have little to no natural supports, look into online communities or look into free parenting resources in your area where you can build your support system.
Self-Care Tip 6: Make a schedule.
It’s ok to accept the mess. Earlier I discussed making a schedule that included scheduling time for yourself. Now I’m going to say it is ok to deviate from your schedule! A schedule is a guide and if you fail to be successful with your schedule, there is always tomorrow.
Enjoy your time with your little one
Dirty laundry, a mess on the floor, or dirty dishes do not make you less of a mother. Some days will consist of cluster feedings, no sleep, and a fussy baby. Allowing yourself to stress about what you didn’t get done adds additional and unnecessary stress.
Try to focus on enjoying this chapter of motherhood because it goes by quickly. In the end, you will cherish the memories of your baby; and whether or not your to-do list gets done, will not matter.
Self-Care Tip 7: Remember you are enough.
Don’t feel pressured about the numbers. One of the common themes I see popping up in my newsfeed is the debate about how much a breastfed baby should be eating and/or whether a mother is producing enough milk.
I remember stressing about this exact topic and it led to me supplementing with formula when I probably didn’t need to. It also caused me to feel much more stressed than I should have felt.
As long as your baby is producing adequate wet and dirty diapers, you are enough!
Being stressed about your output can actually impact your milk production. Also friends/family members who never breastfeed or breastfeed for short periods of time, will have all kinds of opinions about what your baby should be doing and everything that you are doing wrong.
This made me feel like an inadequate mother and I became obsessed with my production numbers. Identify little things you can do daily to help alleviate your stressors and know that you are enough!!
Establishing good self-care habits early on can help you be the best you, and in turn, the best mother. Breastfeeding is not easy, but it is doable. Practicing good self-care can help you to achieve your breastfeeding goals.
Are you practicing self-care as a new, breastfeeding mommy? What are some of the things you do?
You don’t have to do this alone.
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