So you’re busy nourishing baby, feeding constantly, loving endlessly, rocking religiously, how do you factor in YOU?
I fully admit I was rubbish at this. Grabbing crappy snack food, skipping meals, forgetting to drink and it took it’s toll on my body and my mind. So this section is about your physical needs and how to gently meet them.
So key to your health postnatally. Dehydration will pretty much affect every part of your recovery and healing including your milk supply. You can burn up to 1000 calories a day breastfeeding as well as the immense amount of energy it takes your body to produce one drop of breastmilk, as much energy as making 40 drops of blood. This stuff is the super food of super foods and it will take what is needed from you to provide to baby so you do need to try and look after yourself. Have a full bottle of water with you at all times and drink often.
Something else to think about is what you’re drinking alongsie water. If youre having coffees and teas, they will have the adverse effect on your body. Coffee will bring caffeine which will make you feel less tired but can affect your milk. I found when drinking even green tea, it was keeping my son up at night so I had to switch to decaff green and tea is a diuretic which will make you pee more. So try to balance the other drinks and make water your main source of fluids.
My fave postnatal book, The First Forty Days by Heng Ou has some beautiful recipes in it with the main focus being warm, soft foods. Basically your digestive system post birth needs some time to catch up with your changing body. Warming you up from the inside is so good for healing and brings such comfort and anything soft will be gentle on your system. Obviously we all reach for our fave long missed foods and that’s so fine! You deserve anything you want but being midful of what foods can aid our healing, bringing strength and energy is worth doing.
My personal fave postnatal recipe is chicken noodle soup.
Fry off some onions and garlic in a deep large saucepan. Add thyme, ginger, turmeric and anything else you like…sprinkle in a chicken stock cube and get a nice base.
Then add a whole chicken and enough hot water to cover with another stock cube, leave to boil usually for about an hour.
Remove chicken when cooked and shred chicken off the bone.
Add chicken back to the pan along with mushrooms, sweetcorn and egg noodles. Leave for a few minutes for noodles to soften and then serve.
This makes tonnes, so you can have throughout the day or freeze some for later.
So something The First Forty Days also covers is putting your phone down. In some cultures this is strictly adhered to and the Mum is bedded in with no tech so they can baby gaze and not be distracted while they bond. I think the modern Mum is unlikely to follow this but we do need some boundaries. If baby is sleeping and you feel sleepy, chances are you’ll look at your phone first, reply to a couple of messages, read a few emails, a bit of online shopping? And then baby is awake and rather than feeing rested you might feel a bit whirry as I call it, when I’m all stimulated and turned on with busyness. I don’t think this helps us at all in the early weeks. I don’t think anything is that urgent that it can’t wait. So it’s up to you but please consider the impact of tech on your ability to rest and switch off for a bit.
So I’m referring here to your naps not baby’s, although I guess they’re pretty intertwined. So something I know really annoys new Mums is saying ‘sleep when your baby sleeps’ because it often just doesn’t happen. In the daytime, it can feel hard to nap. Everything else is calling you, the to do list is glaring at you and it’s hard, really hard to switch off from all of that and sleep. Maybe total exhaustion will take you there, maybe it won’t. So I would say, unless you’re a natural napper, just take the pressure way off…you don’t need to nap but instead rest. No phone, no tv, just peace, a dimly lit room, maybe listen to some soothing music or a relaxation script and just dial down the noise, internal and external, and be for a while. Rest is still restorative, it’s in the name!
Me time vs company
So this one really all depends on your personality. I know that if I have some quality alone time and by quality I mean, doing something just for me, usually netflix and cake, I will feel sooo much better if I’ve had that time than if I haven’t. I also know that some Mums prioritise sleep and go to bed super early or do manage to nap with their babies so physically they’re doing ok but mentally, they don’t feel any break because if they’re not with baby, they’re asleep. So I think for nourishing the mind, some alone time or if you love company, a good phone chat, timing a friend to come over during a nap time, so you can have a total download, just doing a bit of adulting instead of mumming, can make all the difference.
What are you watching?
Something I’ve changed over the years is what I watch, listen to and read. What we consume directly affects our thoughts and therefore how we feel. If you’re in a challenging time with a new baby, life is feeling intense, I think the last thing you need is reading harrowing news or watching a crime drama. I know for me, motherhood heightened my already very sensitive nature and I just can’t hack those kind of programmes anymore. You are probably made of tougher stuff, I mean I could happily watch romcoms forever, but it can help to keep things light. Light reads and movies will bring on a joyful feeling and bring that lovely rush of oxytocin you desperately need during a cluster feeding evening. So it’s just something to be mindful of and I know lots of Mums save up some of their fave box sets to watch during those early weeks.
Going for a walk in the fresh air, has to be one of the simplest but most mood changing things you can do. Even on your worst day, if you can get out the house, even if it’s just to walk around the block, you will physically shift your energy and often the mind shift comes too. Baby will like the change of scene and if it’s been a particularly hard day, breathing in that air, feeling the sun or rain on your face, embracing the elements, if anything it will ground you, nature always does. If you can meet a friend for a walk, even better.
Again this is about shifting your energy. There will be many times as a new Mum, you will feel overwhelmed, grumpy, on the edge, exhausted and the rest. Any kind of movement will help change this. Whether it’s a walk round the block or if you want some ideas for in the house, have a stretch, jump up and down, shake everything, dance round the kitchen to your fave song, even a few minutes of this will move something and will bring renewed energy to the body.