Self Care: A Mother’s Day Gift to Yourself

“You can’t pour from an empty cup,” is a phrase that is said often in our office. Granted we mostly see families that are having some serious struggles, but this phrase can surely apply to most families with new babies. So why is self care so important when breastfeeding?

Coming from a scientific level, milk production is part of a complex system of hormones. First, by practicing self care, it helps to relax your body, and thus can help reduce your stress hormone cortisol (the fight or flight hormone your body produces). This can be important for breastfeeding because when cortisol levels are high, it can block the primary milk-making hormone, prolactin. Stress can also inhibit the other major milk hormone, oxytocin, when your body is overly stressed.

Oxytocin is often referred to as the “love” hormone, and it aids in bonding. It’s also responsible for the Milk Ejection Reflex, or what makes your milk “let down.” Many moms who are having a difficult time, or wearing themselves thin, can impair this much needed system for breastfeeding.

So what is Self Care? Self care can mean many things, and it does not have to mean going out for a manicure or spending hours at the gym. Sure it encompasses doing the things that make YOU happy. But it can include acts that you can put in your daily routine. Self care can be very unique to you and your journey, so dig deep to figure out what you are in need of at this time. Here are some key components that you might find useful when working on your Self Care.

Self Care

1) Sleep

This is a big one for many of our breastfeeding parents – let’s be real – all parents. We need sleep to reduce those stress hormones that put a wrench in our breastfeeding hormones. This applies to the wise old advice everyone tells you as a parent, “SLEEP WHEN THE BABY SLEEPS.” In the early days/weeks you should be grabbing it whenever you can and making it a priority. Let the house get a little dirtier than you like for some good old R&R.

2) Quick breaks

We aren’t going to start with the “usual” stuff … meditation and visualization can actually be very difficult to implement if you haven’t practiced them before. Self care does not have to be an hour- long event like a personal massage. Instead, start with a bath or shower, indulge in a favorite dessert or meal, go to the store ALONE, have your partner give you a foot or back rub. Even reading or some aromatherapy can be nice. Be creative and find the little ways you can help put some focus on you, the mom, to make you feel good.

3) Exercise

This one is big! Physical activity produces the release of neurotransmitters in the brain, like endorphins, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. These are basically all the main players in our “feel good” brain chemicals. You do not need to run a marathon to achieve these amazing benefits. You can do some light walking with baby, babywear, swimming, yoga – we even have some awesome companies that offer mommy and me classes here in Vegas! Other ways that you can get some exercise is by running around with your toddler or older kids. Or perhaps streaming a short home exercise video on the web.

4) Get Some Help

Find a neighbor, friend, postpartum doula, or mother’s helper to come over for a couple hours so you can take a nap and ask your partner to help you at night. Get creative! You can even barter with a friend (once a week she comes over and watches the babies, and then you switch). When your family wants to come and see the baby, let them come hang out for a couple hours on the contingency that you get a nap. Even for the exclusive breastfeeder, your support team can still facilitate you getting more rest in many ways: changing diapers, making sure you have water or food, burping baby and even holding/rocking them while you rest and bring the baby to you when they are hungry. There are a plethora of helpers to hire which include: Housekeepers, mothers helpers, and even a post partum doula. You can even start a fund during pregnancy, or ask for these intangible things instead of gifts for a shower, birthday or anniversary.

Who needs extra junk when we can replace them with TIME? Something that moms tend to be short on most days.

5) Therapist

The postpartum period is difficult and postpartum anxiety and depression are actually much more common than most people realize. You don’t need to have a diagnosable issue to benefit from meeting with a professional. Oftentimes, preventing an issue or simply seeking support from someone skilled in dealing with all the big emotions that come with being a parent is one of the most powerful forms of self care out there. There are therapists and counselors locally that actually specialize in Post Partum Mental Health. Ask your IBCLC or other health professional for a list of local therapists trained in working with Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMAD).

So fill your cup to overflowing because being a mom is hard!


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