Simple ways to set yourself up for more ease as a new mom
All of us moms have been there… sleep deprived, shower deprived, starving (with no food in the fridge to eat) and just all “touched out.” This does not have to be the norm and there are some small steps that can be taken over time to shift from constant reaction mode to a bit more self-love, self-compassion and even prevention mode! As a mom of 3 small children, I get the demands of it all and I still experience timeframes of depletion but they are becoming fewer, shorter in duration, and further in between.
I decided to put together a list in order to share some ideas and practices that have worked for me. Try out 1, a few or maybe all….that make sense for you and your family!
- Wear Baby/Toddler. I can’t tell you how many times carrying my kiddo has saved me; allowing me to make a snack/meal, clean, manage my business (computer and phone tasks), and even chase around another child. The carrier has also allowed my baby/toddler a sense of comfort and security by being next to me, as a result, more harmony and less fussing. There are a lot of carriers available from wraps, ring slings, to a carrier such as a Lillebaby, Ergo, Tula, etc. I recommend that you try out some different ones to see which would work best (baby wearing groups may offer the option to try before you buy or maybe a friend has one that you can test for a day); the key is to ensure it is ergonomically appropriate for your little one.
- Set up a station or better yet set up a basket! This should include your necessities to breastfeed, entertain other little ones, and nourish yourself. Here is a wonderful blog post on what can be included in a nursing basket by my friend Sandi Hoover. Add books to read to your older children (it is a great time to read to them as you nurse your little one). Take it one step further and create a small basket for your other children; include crayons, coloring books, puzzle, small car to push, special treat, etc. Then he/she can carry around and use it at special designated times like when you need to nurse your little one or maybe when you need to prepare a meal or just when you need a 5 minute break from chasing him/her.
- Make Yourself a Priority. I know, I know….this seems impossible for some if not most days, especially as a mom of multiple children and/or a newborn. For many years, I would give and give until I hit a wall and over time that just became too much; not only did it impact me physically but also mentally and emotionally (not to mention family members around me). Therefore, I have come to the realization that until we care for ourselves, we cannot truly take care of others on an ongoing basis and giving them our best without self-care; preferably by incorporating small simple steps each day to sustain ourselves. I have ebbed and flowed with doing this over the past years but I continue to get better and can more easily feel/recognize when I need to focus on myself, if only for just 10 minutes, in order to come back to the best version of myself. When I am not caring for myself (and I am not saying that you have to spend hours doing this rather just minutes throughout the day), that is when I feel aggravated by my child’s tantrum or him/her not listening to me, or I cry at pretty much anything. Some very quick and easy ways to feed your inner-being daily to support wellness:
- Deep Breathing. I like the 16 seconds practice (take a deep belly breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, breath out for 4 seconds and, hold for 4 seconds…repeat a few times). You can even remove the parts where you hold your breath for same effect. This is really beneficial at certain times of the day, especially in the morning, to start off the day well. Many times, I will call my older children into the room and we all sit down in a circle and do some deep breathing such as I described above. It can help clear our minds, relax us and ground all of us. Plus, studies have shown that this abbreviated mediation process can also help our children do better in school…definitely a WIN-WIN
- Meditate. Meditation or deep breathing are very powerful and have great health and wellbeing impacts even if you only do it 5 minutes each day. I like to mediate at least 10 minutes every day. Many times I will do it when I am nursing my baby or if she is sleeping on me or near me (it’s kind of a 2 for 1 and definitely another win-win situation). You can also put in your ear buds and listen to a guided mediation if you are new to it and/or challenged with clearing your mind. The opening up and clearing of your mind daily for just a short period of time can reduce anxiety levels, improve memory and concentration, increase more positive feelings, reduce blood pressure and so much more.
- Start a Gratitude Journal. List out what you are grateful for; including the things about yourself, your significant other, children and friends that you like and are grateful for. Gratitude and appreciation can generate more positive feelings, bring more good things to you and also help you feel more present in your life.
- Have Healthy Foods and Snacks available. When I eat junk then I tend to feel like crap. As a result, I become tired and irritable. So for me, having quick, easy and healthy options available fuels not only me physically but also mentally. Here is a sampling of some key foods I have available or prep each week:
- Protein bites
- Hard boiled eggs
- Turkey Sticks (nitrate free)
- Hummus & Gluten Free Crackers or Carrots
- Easy to eat fruit (with no prep) such as: blueberries, grapes, banana, apple, strawberries.
- Make up meatballs and freeze
- Smoothie ingredients
- Quinoa Salad
- Coconut Fudge Treats
- Incorporate supplements into your daily routine. Our bodies during and after pregnancy are going through some huge adjustments. It actually takes more calories to breastfeed your baby than to actually grow your baby inside. Crazy! Additional support with supplements such as a high quality fish oil, kelp/iodine (thyroid health), whole food nutrition, placenta encapsulation, iron (if deficient) and vitamin d to name just a few can support your body as it goes through these significant transitions. In my early postpartum days/months I could definitely tell when I was not eating enough and/or not taking my added supplements….my mood fluctuated, I was tired, and my digestion was poor. Once I became consistent with my supplements, my overall demeanor was more balanced and I felt more confident and able to navigate being a mom of 3.
- Expect Less. Especially in the early months, it is extremely healthy from a mental perspective to reduce your expectations on what you can or will accomplish each day. Selecting maybe 1 small thing (as you will have the time intensive dynamic of taking care of another human being all day) that you want to accomplish such as: taking a shower, a load of laundry, dust a room, prepare supper, etc.
- Give yourself Grace! You are doing an incredible job of caring for your family and there can be times of feeling overwhelmed, stress, anxiety and sometimes even depression. Being responsible for another human being that is fully dependent upon you and others is a tremendous responsibility; adding the fact that you are navigating sleep deprivation along with fluctuating hormones, possibly other children….lowering your expectations and caring for yourself become essential. It is said, 9 months in and 9 months out to truly find your groove. If it takes more or a little less, that is perfectly fine. Each one of us needs to determine our limitations and needs. By giving yourself grace (aka…stop beating yourself up) is essential…it can lower your expectations and then as a result lower your stress level.
Melanie is the Wellness Coordinator for Willowsong Midwifery Care, a Certified Health Coach (through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and AADP), and more importantly a mom of 3 small children. She is very passionate about empowering moms and children in attaining overall health and wellness and loves supporting Willowsong Families with health classes, free initial prenatal consults, information via blogging and much more! Melanie approaches health from a holistic perspective, meaning that she believes each component of our lives creates our overall health and wellness. You are welcome to connect with Melanie anytime via email (Melanie@Food4Thoughtdm.com).
Please don’t just take Melanie’s experience…as always consult with your medical professional and your own self understanding when making health decision; Melanie is not a medical professional, a nutritionist or dietician. She does not hold a degree in medicine, dietetics, or nutrition. Melanie makes no claim to any specialized medical training, nor does she dispense medical advice or prescriptions. This content is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease, preconception or pregnancy health. It is intended to be provided for informational, educational, and self-empowerment purposes ONLY. Please consult with your doctor or wellness team if you have questions and then make your own well-informed decisions based upon what is best for your unique genetics, culture, conditions, and stage of life.