Breastfeeding mothers typically receive consistent, practical, and somewhat staid advice: Eat right, rest as much as possible, drink plenty of water, try to get some exercise, don’t smoke or take medications without advice from your doctor, use a lactation consultant if possible and take care of your nipples. It’s all good advice worth following, but your emotional well-being also makes you a good mother – not just your breast milk. Since your mood can affect your ability to successfully breastfeed, you have an obligation to your baby, and yourself, to engage in self-care in these early weeks and months of breastfeeding. Compassionate Care Doula services wants you to be able to fully enjoy this time with your baby, so we’ve collected the following advice.
Make the time and then take the time
Since you may be feeding your baby every few hours, it can seem as though all you’re doing is sitting or lying down. However, that focused attention and dedication is not the same as relaxing. Ideally, you should set aside some time each day, to decompress. A bubble or Epsom salt bath is one way; in a pinch, settle for either a warm or yes, even a cold shower – this study published in the National Library of Medicine found that cold water can decrease cortisol levels, a hormone that when released, can increase stress. By contrast, that warm bath or shower is linked to better sleep.
Let’s face it, some babies make it easier to steal those 20 or 30 minutes to savor in a soothing bathtub. If you’ve been blessed with a more high-maintenance version, don’t despair. Take your baby with you in the bath; it provides a wonderful bonding opportunity, you can breastfeed, and many times a bit of warm aquatic therapy helps ease baby’s discomfort as well. Ensure the water temperature is ideal for your baby, and that you didn’t add any fragrances or other potential irritants. Take extra care if your baby’s umbilical cord if its still attached or has just recently dropped off.
If you’ve received any gift cards for self-care services, such as a massage or other spa or salon services, use them! It can be tough to separate your role as infant caregiver and host of a “baby buffet,” so the occasional reminder of your separate identity and femininity can boost your self-esteem. At home, you can use tools that guide you into practicing mindfulness, such as meditation and yoga, to help you cope with the demands on your time and on your body.
Finally, give your breastfeeding effort the patience it deserves. If you’re struggling, understand that you’re not alone, and the effort of feeding an infant every few hours is itself a feat. You also don’t have to go through this alone. Postpartum packages that include breastfeeding assistance from Dawn Oliver of Compassionate Care Doula can also provide insight and guidance to make chest feeding more comfortable.
Sort the stress right out of your home
One not-so-obvious tactic to employ prior to baby’s arrival is to sort, organize and declutter your home. Doing so opens up your space and even cleans out any negative emotions or feelings. Allow yourself to be a minimalist, and get rid of any items you haven’t used in months (or longer). If you can’t bring yourself to donate those plate settings that you never use, then weigh the benefits of renting a small storage unit for those and other largely unused or seasonal items.
If you didn’t have the foresight to do this ahead of time, or if your baby made an unexpected arrival, consider hiring someone to do this for you. Or, make good on the many offers you’re likely to receive such as “Just let me know how I can help!” You need help, so let them know!
The umbilical cord may have been cut, but you and your baby are still wonderfully and mysteriously intertwined. If you are tempted with any guilty thoughts as you make time for self-care, remember that what you do for yourself, you are also doing for your baby.
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Thank you! Blog post written by Lacie Martin she can be reached at Lacie@raisethemwell.org