By Contributing Writer Brandy Ferguson
Most moms will admit that those first few weeks after giving birth are the most challenging, and as a mom of a newborn myself, in spite of the fact that he's our eighth, I am no exception. Due to new demands of caring for a tiny baby and trying to figure out how to keep our home and family balanced, all while trying to recover, we very quickly find ourselves sleep-deprived, hungry, feeling run-down, perhaps lonely, and often, can't remember when our last shower was.
If this sounds familiar, don't worry. You're normal!
No matter if you've just had your first baby, or your eleventh, it's important to remember that in order to be the good mother you desire to be, you must take care of YOU, too!
- Remember that this season of motherhood is temporary. It's such a short phase, and goes by so very quickly. Enjoy the slowed pace, and try to focus on snuggling, nursing, resting as much as possible, and caring for you and your new baby.
- On the other hand, the occasional outing is therapeutic for new mothers, too. Getting out allows us a healthy diversion, social interaction, and reminds us that there is life beyond the baby's feed/wake/sleep cycles.
- Recognize that trying to balance the needs of a new baby with the rest of the family's needs will not be an overnight transition. It takes time to adjust.
- If this is your first child, I cannot stress enough how wonderful it is that you can take a nap whenever your baby sleeps. Never again will you have this opportunity; take it. Mothers of many children are often unable to take an afternoon nap, but it's possible to still find a quiet window somewhere in their day to sit down and rest. Even surrounded by children playing, a tired mother can prop her feet up while snuggling her tiny baby and just relax a couple of times a day.
- For middle-of-the-night feedings, with our first baby, I thought I needed to get out of bed, get my newborn, sit in a chair to nurse, then put him back to bed. But I realized quickly that that is usually unnecessary. A mother can very easily nurse her baby while sitting semi-upright propped up with pillows, and even if not fully sleeping, can continue to rest while the baby nurses. I also keep a bassinet/travel crib close to my bed so that when the baby is finished, I can lay him back down with ease, and still don't have to really get up.
- When mothers responded to the question on Facebook, "As a mother of a newborn, what is your biggest challenge when it comes to taking care of yourself?" they almost unanimously answered "eating". I'm always surprised how much my appetite decreases just after giving birth, but even more surprised by the fact that I really do forget to eat. It's so important that mothers remember to eat. We get so busy taking care of our tiny, precious one and trying to remember to feed everyone else, that we forget about ourselves. Not just because we need the extra calories for making milk, but mothers need to remember their own nutrition because it's important for our own health.
- Don't forget to drink! Keep a water bottle with you wherever you go. Take a glass of water with you to bed at night. Pack a water bottle in the diaper bag.
- When you do remember to eat, focus on healthy proteins, whole grains, and fresh fruits and veggies. I'm not the biggest fruit fan, so I sometimes have to drink mine. Make smoothies if/when you can (or if you have older children, teach them how so they can do it for you and the rest of the family, too). Sometimes I buy Odwalla or Naked or Bolthouse Farms green juice to keep in the fridge, which makes it even easier to get some good nutrients in fast.
- Take time to spend with friends, sisters, and husband when you can. Struggling a bit as those hormones continue to change? Talk to those you can trust. It's helpful, many times, just to discuss with others what we're feeling as we're often reminded that we're not alone and that we are important to them.
- It's also important to take the time to process your birth story. Some moms struggle with this more than others, but discussing the baby's birth if you need to, with your midwife or doctor can offer a lot of clarity and even closure for a mother who experienced less than "the perfect birth" she had envisioned for herself. Remember that every birth is different, and while all births are not the easy, candle-lit version we might have had planned, all births ARE beautiful!
- Don't try to do too much too quickly!
- Walks, as simple as they are, are amazing at helping shed those post-partum pounds. The fresh air of the outdoors and sunshine offer healing to our minds and bodies. In a stroller, the baby often naps, giving us time to think, pray or just enjoy the stroll.
- Add other exercises in as your body adjusts and as you and your family adjust to new dynamics.
Preventing/Treating Mastitis Naturally
- All of the above recommendations will help prevent mastitis, and as a mother who has lots of experience with overcoming this, I cannot stress enough the importance of preventing it and treating it as quickly as possible. Rest, drinking plenty of water, and proper nutrition can help us avoid mastitis. But sometimes, it happens, even with our best attempts.
- At first sign of mastitis, favor affected breast, nurse often, and pump when possible.
- Immediately try any or all of these natural remedies: Drinking a gallon of water a day, drinking apple cider vinegar (mixed with small amount of juice if necessary), drinking 100% cranberry juice, drinking "superfood" green juice, taking extra vitamin C and echinacea, eating a LOT of extra garlic and/or taking garlic capsules, taking lecithin, soaking our breast in marshmallow root "tea", taking acidophilus.
- If you must, take antibiotics when necessary. I would rather take antibiotics to clear an infection than to have to stop nursing my baby due to an abcessed breast. If you do have to resort to using antibiotics, don't forget to help restore the good bacteria in your system by taking a good probiotic.
Time for You
- Another thing moms said they struggled with as a new mom was showering. Amazing how such a tiny person can rock our worlds enough to even make us forget (or not have enough time) to shower! But so many of us have the same story. The answer? Just find the time when you can. Remember that this is a short season, and for now you may have to wait until your husband is home from work, or until someone else is tending to the baby while you get a shower. Maybe you'll fit one in today. Maybe not. And either is okay. Do the best you can.
- When you do get a little window of time for a nice bath, try adding in 15-20 drops of lavender essential oil. Such great aromatherapy!!
- No matter how busy you are, don't forget that God is always near. He is ever-present, always listening. You're never alone. Instead of feeling guilty for not carving out a special prayer and Bible time in this season, know that each moment spent nursing in the middle of the night and while the house is quiet is a good enough quiet time with Him. Spend time in prayer and in His Word when you can. And know that He sees your work and He sees your heart.