As a mother, it often feels impossible to put time aside for yourself, especially while you’re breastfeeding! Even though breastfeeding has health benefits for both mom and baby, it’s as important as ever to practice self-care and focus on your own well-being. Meredith Fein Lichtenberg, owner of a Mother is Born Pregnancy and Parenting Services says, “Breastfeeding is work, and you have to care for your own body while you’re doing it.”
Breastfeeding can take its toll
We probably don’t have to tell you… breastfeeding takes a toll on your body! Did you know, when nursing, calcium is taken from your bones to ensure your breast milk has enough in it? Moms can lose 5-10% of bone mass in first 6 months they start breastfeeding. Mixed in with physical side effects nursing your bambinos, there are often mental stressors too. Just the act of popping your boob in a mouth every time you hear a hunger cry (or pumping for hours a day) can take away your sense of body autonomy. As a new mom, you are tied to your baby and their feeding schedule. And while there’s nothing more beautiful than sustaining life, it doesn’t mean it’s easy or that it’s wrong to have challenging emotions arise. The judgement, loss of sleep, and uneven distribution of parenting work that comes with breastfeeding, can also prove stressful to a new mama.
While there’s nothing more beautiful than sustaining life, it doesn’t mean it’s easy or that it’s wrong to have challenging emotions arise.
So yeah, it might feel super overwhelming sometimes. So why are we suggesting you take time for yourself when you already have too much on your plate?! While it can take time to start making it a regular habit; taking care of yourself is the best way to take care of your baby. In the first few months, when exclusively breastfeeding, your baby gains all its nutrients from you. However, if you aren’t taking care of your own body’s needs, you can easily get depleted and fatigued. That’s why we put together some top tips to make taking care of yourself as a breastfeeding mom a little easier.
7 self-care tips for when you are breastfeeding
1. Eat a healthy and balanced diet as much as possible.
Might seem super obvious but it’s easy to overlook basic nutrition. Even though you can eat almost anything without harm to your baby through breast milk, it doesn’t mean you should. If your body isn’t taking in the nutrients it needs from the food you’re eating; it will get them from somewhere else. It’s important to replenish your body with the nutrients needed to make sure both you and baby are happy and healthy! Call on your partner and/or friends and community to do meal trains. Request to receive healthful meals that are nourishing and satisfying. If you are still doing the bulk of the cooking, look into creating one-pot meals that last a few days. Kitcheree is an incredible dish from India that is easy to digest, super delicious and satisfying and can last for days.
2. Drink plenty of hydrating fluids
(This means stay away from sugary drinks or diuretics… a favorite hack we have for energy boosts is a 30 second cold shower, which has been shown to be as effective as coffee!) Staying hydrated is always important, but your body needs even more fluids to make breast milk. Aim to drink the amount of water you need each day for health and then drink beyond that, as you’re thirsty, throughout the day. A little bit of good quality mineral salt in filtered water for extra electrolytes is a great thing for your body, brain and baby!
3. Build a support system
Whether it’s a partner, a sibling, a parent, or a friend, or a new community of moms you find through a trustable social network, find someone who’s willing and eager to help you with the baby. This will come in handy when you need to sleep, to take a break, or practice self-care.
Ask for help. This can be asking for help from your support system or asking for professional help when you feel discouraged about breastfeeding. This is a natural process, but there’s still shame tied up in breastfeeding. If you’re having trouble breastfeeding, set aside the shame and ask for some help. It will not only give you confidence but it will ensure you and your baby are on the right track.
4. Rest whenever you can
We’ve all heard it before, when the baby’s sleeping, you should be sleeping. So do it! Ignore the dishes, put down your phone, look past the chaotic living room for a hot sec… or a couple of hours, and get some SLEEP! A good rest will help you feel replenished and ready to tackle your responsibilities. And remember that support system we talked about, ask them to come take over for a while so you can shower and get a good rest in.
5. Talk about your feelings
Sometimes it’s hard to be both blessed with the miracle of life, yet still feel resentful cause your nipples are aching and you can’t take a nap! It’s normal, but it doesn’t need to have shame attached to it. Talk your feelings out to someone you trust, a family member, friend, or health professional. Either way, it’s important to communicate how you feel. You matter, your feelings matter. When you have space to move the challenging emotions this can open more feelings of gratitude and presence.
6. Take time for yourself
This one, is the most important tip we could give you. Even if it’s five minutes a day to breath and go outside. Even if it’s a 10-minute walk or a 5-minute stretch in the morning. Habits are what stack together to set the course of our lives. Let your daily ‘space for self’ ritual be simple and easy to follow through on. Even five minutes a day can help you get perspective and stay on track. Even super heroes (and aren’t moms superheroes??) require a break every once in a while. Try to take a slightly longer break once a week. A break that isn’t sleeping or cleaning. Call on that support system and do something you actually like doing! Take a bath, go to lunch with a friend, get away from the baby and take some time to do something YOU LIKE! This will allow you to prevent burnout and return to your baby with replenished energy.
7. Practice letting go into gratitude
We phrase it this way to emphasize the importance of emptying out (releasing negative emotions through dance, yelling, journaling, talking to a good friend, etc) and then refocusing your mind on what you have in your life that’s worth appreciating. Too often we glaze over what needs to be moved in order to summon up genuine gratitude. Sometimes the practice of gratitude is simply appreciating what is “I feel tired and grumpy and haven’t washed my hair in a week – but I give thanks anyway.” Acknowledging what is and expressing gratitude for your experience is very different from covering up or denying your experience. A wise woman once said “everyone is grateful for a banquet… but when you’re hungry and can still be grateful? That’s the real trick.” Gratitude is a practice that can help open you to more presence and internal support without anyone externally changing. Sometimes it’s the inner shift that leads to implementing more of the previous steps and making sure that YOUR needs as a mama are being prioritized and then benefitting your baby & family.