A Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Self Care
The birth of a new baby brings tremendous joy as a family grows and welcomes new life into the world. Just as a baby is born, so too is a mother, and the postpartum period marked by so much happiness can also be a time of intense transition.
As a mother and baby learn the dance of breastfeeding, many mothers report feeling overwhelmed by their infant’s needs and the physical demands associated with breastfeeding. I’ve personally journeyed through the postpartum days of breastfeeding three times with my own children and have learned so much along the way. As a nurse and lactation consultant, I often share the advice below with new moms. I hope it can make the days of caring for a newborn a little easier and sweeter.
Here are my top five tips for thriving in the newborn days as a breastfeeding mom:
- Your Baby Feels Most at Home with You - Your newborn has spent the past 9 months growing and wiggling inside you. It’s no wonder that soon after birth, they seek out their mother not only for nourishment but for security and comfort as well. You have housed your baby in the womb throughout pregnancy, and in many ways, you are still “home” to this tiny newborn. To get breastfeeding off to the best start, place your baby skin-to-skin as soon as possible after birth. Expect to find him or her in that same place often during the coming weeks.
- Make a Nursing Station at Home – Plan to pick a comfortable spot in your house that you can set up with all the things you need while nursing your baby. In the beginning, feeding your baby can feel like a full-time job, so setting up a space to make it more comfortable for yourself can make your job a little easier. Gather things such as supportive pillows, drinks, easy-to-eat snacks, and the television remote for some entertainment when your baby is cluster feeding.
- Sleep When the Baby Sleeps – It may seem like everyone gives this advice to new mothers, but those daytime naps can really make a difference when you are waking up throughout the night to nourish your little one. Make sleep and rest a priority and plan to nap whenever baby doses off, even during the day. Remember the postpartum period is a time of recovery and your body needs plenty of rest to heal properly. Extra rest can also help if you are experiencing the baby blues or the emotional rollercoaster that often accompanies having a new baby.
- Eat and Drink Well and Often – New moms burn an average of 500 calories a day making breast milk and keeping up a healthy milk supply means many new mothers require extra nourishment. It’s easy to get caught up caring for the baby and realize you haven’t had a decent meal all day. Plan to keep healthy snacks on hand and aim to eat a little something when you sit down to breastfeed. Ideas include granola bars, cheese sticks, apple, and peanut butter, bean burritos, veggies and dip, and deli meats and cheeses. Keep your water bottle with you and don’t forget to refill it during the day. Eating well will help you keep your energy levels up and leave you feeling less depleted while breastfeeding.
- Let the Little Things Go – There’s a very sweet poem by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton in which she writes, “Oh cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow, but children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow. So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep. I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.” There is no more important task than snuggling and feeding your newborn baby. As hard as it can be, try to let go of the little things, such as housework, and fully enjoy this ‘season’ with your baby. As intense as it can feel, it is a season and one that flies by rather quickly!
For additional tips and support, attend the Lompoc Valley Medical Center Breastfeeding Support Group Meeting the 2nd and 4th Friday of every month from 10 to 11 am in the Board Room of the hospital, 1515 East Ocean Ave. The June 14 meeting will feature a discussion of tips for mother’s self-care during the newborn period. For privacy reasons, the group is open to females only.